Nepali Times
"I did the calculations, and took a calculated risk"


TOP GEAR: Sherpa Adventures' brand athelete Lakpa Rita on the summit of Chomolungma last year.

Tashi Tsering Sherpa should look harassed. There is only eight hours of power a day, his new generator hasn't yet arrived, and thousands of samples of a new quarter zip jacket for the Spring 2010 season need to be shipped out to stores in the US by Thursday.

Yet, Tashi is cool. He has worked around the problem and feels confident he can meet the deadline. His workers don't look over-worked and concentrate on precision laser cutting machines that slice through high-tech fabric.

"Every country has its own risks," Tashi explains, "but Nepal is actually quite competitive, importing raw materials is smoother than Vietnam or Bangladesh, it's my backyard so there are no barriers to doing business and there is a pool of skilled garment workers."

This goes against conventional wisdom. At a time when many investors have shied away from Nepal because of security concerns, power shortage and labour militancy, Tashi has not just returned to Nepal, but has decided to set up the world headquarters of his Sherpa Adventure Gear company in Kathmandu.

"I'm not a fool, I didn't come here because I felt I needed to score karma points," says Tashi, "I came here because there is a high return on investment. I did the calculations and took a calculated risk."

Tashi is building a new five-storey flagship store that is nearing completion in Naxal. It will house his research and development unit, have two floors of a one-stop shop for down jackets, sleeping bags, tents and trekking gear and the top floor will have a bed and breakfast. The complex is set to open in June.

Tashi, 53, ran his garment-export business in Nepal till 1989. When he saw the writing on the wall with WTO coming he sold everything to move to the US. He found himself a niche in the adventure gear market and decided to take on the big boys, offering the same quality at a slightly more affordable price tag.


He was working out of a garage, outsourcing his manufacturing to Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan before deciding to scale up. Noted American adventure clothing designers helped him, and he launched the Sherpa brand and its distinctive 'endless knot' logo.

"I know, it was a huge leap of faith to return to Nepal," Tashi admitted this week after being selected by Nepali Times as Company of the Month for April. "But it's not about me, I'm just the custodian of the brand."

Tashi has no illusions about the problems Nepal faces, but takes it as a given. "There are some things about this country that drives you up the wall, there are some days when I ask myself what am I doing here. But my past is my future."

He has handpicked some of Nepal's best garment workers. Sherpa runs a tight ship and keeps everyone motivated by spending a lot of time on the factory floor, discussing and solving problems. It helps that Sherpa has control of the whole production chain from design to sourcing the raw material to manufacturing, packaging, marketing and export. His daughter and son help out from the US.

To market the Sherpa range of products, Tashi has enlisted 'brand athletes' like celebrity climber Lhakpa Rita Sherpa who has climbed Chomolungma 11 times, extreme alpinist Joe Puryear, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa who has the climbed world's highest mountains from the north and is attempting the south route this spring, and Everest marathoner, Nima Yangjee.

Sherpa Adventure Gear insulation jackets, fleece hoodies, technical jackets and base layers, and even woolen hats with their proud Made in Nepal tags are now available in stores across the US, Taiwan, Japan and Europe.Asked how come he remains so upbeat about Nepal, Tashi replies with a hearty laugh: "Optimism is human nature. You do your arithmetic, and you weigh that with the emotional attachment to your homeland."

Previous Company of the month:
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
July 2008

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)