Nepali Times
Strictly Business
Reaching the top


My Nepali friends working overseas, who are contemplating to return home, often ask me: "What does it take to make it professionally as a top manager in Nepal?"

I wish I knew the answer. Luck, as in being the right person at the right time doing the right thing, certainly plays a bigger part in Nepal than elsewhere else. So does persistence. But based on my observations, I advise these friends on the opposite: what it takes to limit and unravel one's supposed managerial success in Nepal.

Not developing a thick skin: Criticising others as a habit comes easily to most people. Indeed, once you start working in Nepal, it seems that this is a country full of experts, who are ready to tell the world how it should be run. And these experts always know your job and what you should be doing better than you do. As such, when you do not do what they want or if you do things differently, they pour criticisms, which can be, for the most part, baseless and viciously personal.

Managers who feel compelled to react to every criticism and provide answers to every critic end up wasting much emotional energy over trivial matters. It's much more prudent to take the high road: smile, thank the critics, and focus on carrying on with one's work.

Not confronting bullies and office politicians: In any organisation, there are the bullies and there are the politicians. Bullies are often easier to identify. They walk with a certain swagger. They believe that the organisation owes them a living. They are long-timers with an ingrained sense of entitlement. Take away their entitlement, and they lead the gang against you.

Office politicians are like hyenas: they thrive on conversational openings that help them drive wedges between groups and people. They drop hints, fill people's ears and take quiet delight in watching the debilitating effects of their gossip on colleagues' working relationships.

Managers who believe that they should not sully themselves by dealing head-on with bullies and politicians are rarely effective. My experience is that behind all their cunning and bluster, bullies and politicians often lose power when there's an open, candid and results-driven work environment.

Contracting a 'big-fish-in-a-small-pond disease': Once people think that you have reached the top of your profession here, interesting things can happen. Journalists call to interview you. Glossy magazines splash your (and your wife's) photographs all over. You are invited to various evening receptions. You fly to conferences in exotic locations to present 'authentic voices from Nepal'. You start referring to political bigwigs by their first names, and they return the favours. Everyone sees you as an expert, and you like even more they call you a baristha expert.

The trouble is, all this can easily go to your head. As such, it's only a matter of time before you start taking yourself too seriously. You start thinking that you really know everything. You then stop learning new things. You love to re-read your press clippings, and bask in your own self-reflected glory. And when you become drunk on arrogance, downfall will not be that far.

Successful managers are good at combining happiness with humility. Happiness- because the competition in Nepal is not that brutal. Humility- because no matter how much one knows, it's always small compared to what one does not know. This state of perpetual ignorance calls for a continuously learning mindset: talking to experts, taking courses, reflecting on mistakes, asking questions, admitting that you don't know everything, and always learning with a sense of an adventure.

Else, the big-fish-in-a-small-pond syndrome can inflict severe career damages.

1. who cares
"What does it take to make it professionally as a top manager in Nepal?"

- rule of law, profitable market. 

how good a manager is, all he/she can do is better than others, but it is impossible to change the fate of impossible investments.

so, the first responsibility for making profitable business goes to investors/share holders. they have to start right business then only the job of right manager begins.

all good managers can do is bring down the loss of those business which has no future, altering its fate is almost impossible.

investors have to choose the right manager, then the right ceo has to choose right helpers and so on.

"Managers who believe that they should not sully themselves by dealing head-on with bullies and politicians are rarely effective. My experience is that behind all their cunning and bluster, bullies and politicians often lose power when there's an open, candid and results-driven work environment." ...................... agreed 

"Journalists call to interview you."  

why journalists in nepal try to present no body as somebody. has this become fashion or just a competition between medias. 

"how much one knows, it's always small compared to what one does not know. "

very much true. 

2. Nirmal

It's a nice article, without doubt a helpful advice to do business in Nepal. However, I found little bit of that attitude that most countries which are enjoying economic growth recently, do have: This is Nepal(or anyone else) and Nepal is different.

I believe each country should have its own culture, gastronomy preserved whereas their technology and/or management should meet all global standards. There is where the key to successs of globalization lies.

Today, no business tycoon could find big technology/management gap between China or in some countries of the West(the west of the west), any graduated Indian computer programmer could resolve any problem related in any corner of the world, and in America anyone creative, elaborative, enterpreneurial with enough resources could enjoy pretty decent market share. Although these qualities seem particular, they have one thing in common: their influence is worldwide, not limited at all to particular frontier.

I know that we have qualified labor force, nepalis in general are hardworking people and always eager to learn. So, by now our labor force is quite attractive.

I insist again, what we need is to have basic things minimally facilitated If we are serious to do BUSINESS, by now only a handful of people make their lives doing business and you can see it's not been enough to energise the whole economy.

I can say things politely with utmost humility and If it is necessary in British English but I've seen that not always, being polite and very British, it works so I become pedantic.

It is interesting to find your article on this forum. I have always been surprised to find most of my friends who got highest technical degrees, spend most of the time in political gossip, or bring the irrelevant politicians to their technical program. Because if you invite a political leader in your event, a package is guaranteed. In the package, audience, and journalist or reporters are included. When such technical events are organized, majority of the speakers include political agenda in their discussions. The cycle continues, and you become great think tank, and you don't need life long learning module in your professional practice in Nepal, because it takes you no where.

We become pundit so fast, that we can allow pumping of water from aquifers 300 m below the ground to fill in the rani pokharai, or to use it for our daily need. We don't have to worry about subsidence that might take place 30 years down the road. We can predict Earth Quake will occur in Nepal within 10 years (just like the guy who said there will be natural calamity, and 200 million people will go to heaven on May 21, 2011, and is now looking for reason why did not it happen, and may later connect the EQ in Japan and tell that there was calculation problem). Our professionals in Nepal like Political leaders talk all subjective, and it does not need any evidence to justify, because you can slide your reasoning as you need later. It was what we call "Politically" true statement. Just look at the five points agreement this morning. It is all subjective, and everyone is happy.

We don't need evidence in Nepal, no one asks for evidence, what we need is emotional justification, and faith. We all need to know how to criticize your opponent, and your rival is based on your political background, not on your professional achievement. We can use heavy jargon learned through TV's opinion analyst. ... Life goes on.

Recently, I joined a forum on Nepal issues (in made for professionals) , and as soon as the forum was started, majority of participants so called professionals, jumped on the same topic: political gossip, and mutual celebration by criticizing Nepal Political Leaders who are on the opposite side of your alignment. They can not be asked for any evidence, and you will be bullied or abused. If you want to be professional, you have to either leave the forum, or indulge in political gossip by firing missiles of words to attack common enemy "Politicians".

So, if you want to perform professional work, then you should leave Nepal, because without political alignment, you won't get any job, because you need political alignment based connections to get any job unless you work in areas that does not involve politics. So, if you want to work in Nepal, try keeping yourself out of politics, and your ability to keep it out depends on type of biz you do. Good Luck.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)