Nepali Times
Chain reaction


Bhatbhateni Supermarket opened a new branch in Maharajgunj this week. This is not just any old store, but Nepal's first international-standard supermarket equipped with escalators and lift, climate control, bar-code readers and security gates. It offers a goods exchange service and also refunds money for defective items.

At a time when many Nepalis are hesitant to engage in new business ventures, owner Min Bahadur Gurung has found Rs 750 million to invest in the new store, construction of which began two and a half years ago when no one was investing in anything. He plans to open more shops in Koteswor and Itahari later this year, and after that has his eye on Pokhara, Bhairawa, Butwal and Dharan.

"This is the time for the private sector to prove their competence and assure the government of their individual initiative and entrepreneurship," Gurung told Nepali Times after his shop was selected Company of the Month for September.

In 1986, with an investment of Rs 35,000, he opened a one-room, road-side shop selling cheese, curd and bottled drinks in Bhatbhateni?a far cry from today's multi-storey supermarket that sells everything from groceries to designer clothes and expensive jewellery, with assets worth more than five billion rupees. In those days he worked as a clerk in the New Road branch of the state-owned Nepal Bank while his wife ran the shop. He is the only male member of his family who didn't joint the army.

Gurung says his motivation for the new shop came from Nepal's forthcoming 2010 accession to the WTO, which will allow foreign supermarket chains to open up here. "When there are options, customers always opt for better services and facilities, regardless of who owns them," he says.

His company has more than 600 employees, drawn mostly from Khotang, his home district in eastern Nepal. In the future he wants to create job opportunities for village farmers of other districts. "I also have a 10-year plan, which is basically to create a market for agricultural produce," he says.

His target is to open 100 stores across the country in that time, with at least one per district, and create 50,000 new jobs. These shops would lend money to villagers to set up agricultural cooperatives and provide seeds and fertiliser as required. They would then buy back the crops, with any surplus going for export. Eventually, Gurung wants to venture abroad and open stores in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and sees an opportunity to market Nepali products abroad.

Gurung's business has already established an enviable reputation for its accessibility, range of products, quality, value for money and service. He claims to sell both Nepali and foreign goods at the lowest possible price. His daughter, a graduate from an American university, now helps run the business. His dream, apart from wanting to see his own business prosper, is for Nepal to develop into a modern, wealthy nation within his lifetime.

"If we are honest and work hard to achieve our goal, we can achieve it," he says. "But we need a collective effort to develop the country. I don't want to die a citizen of a poor country."

See also: Strictly Business by Ashutosh Tiwari, 'Lessons of Bhatbhateni', #178

Four steps to success

Four points that have made Min Bahadur Gurung a successful businessman:

1. Start small. Mistakes committed when a business is small are not big: They can easily be corrected and lessons are learned without wasting much money and time.

2. Trust: Making a quick buck at the hapless customers' expense may be tempting, but the market rewards those who project consistently trustworthy actions. People, after all, buy and sell with those they trust.

3. Curiosity: Be alert, you know a business is going downhill when owners start exhibiting a know-all attitude and are closed to different viewpoints.

4. Focus: Gurung is clear about his focus: to sell Nepali and foreign goods at the lowest possible prices. He avoids distractions. All he knows is how to sell and has succeeded by doing only what he does best.

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

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)