Nepali Times
Strictly Business
Lessons learnt


This month is my last as the CEO of Himalmedia. As I look back on the last 27 months of restructuring work and turnaround challenges, all of which have been completed for now, here are three lessons that I have learnt and applied.

Board is the boss: The state of corporate governance is abysmal in Nepali private companies. That sorry state comes about not because of malice on anyone's part, but because of ignorance about what the governance of a private sector firm entails.

But an astute CEO need not despair. His primary task is to think of himself as an agent who's been appointed by the Board to represent the interests of the owners of the company, that is, the shareholders who have put in money to earn returns. This clarity about why he's there makes it easier for the CEO to filter important decisions through the lens of this question: "Is this decision in the interest of the shareholders?" If yes, proceed. If no, rethink and revise.

This mindset on the CEO's part makes it easier for him to have good working relations with the Board, which can then provide advice, guidance and necessary doses of skepticism. Conflicts that many Nepali private firms, notably banks, have between their CEOs and Board members boil down to the former's inability to repeatedly communicate their own job description to the Board members.

Persistence is important: I used to think that communication was very important. It is, but not as important as persistence to see challenges through over a stretch of time by focusing single-mindedly on the results. Almost all managerial accomplishments are about getting things done. As such, quietly determined persistence on the CEO's part signals to staff that the results matter more for the company than just communicating back and forth and getting along with one another.

To get the results, one can rant and rave and scold employees. Fear works very well to get outcomes in the short run. But it will fail to develop the long-term capability and the professional confidence of the staff to deliver results on their own, without anyone hovering over their shoulders.

For long-term stress-free results, a CEO has to initially set himself up as a patient coach who will let some employees make mistakes, stumble, not get results for some time, before making sure that they have mastered the art of getting their act together to start delivering results. An initial investment of coaching pays for itself many times over.

Culture matters: Culture has two parts: one facing inward, and the other facing outward. Inside the company, the CEO can use his role to share information with all, be approachable to staff, be transparent about important HR and management decisions that affect staff, and focus on creating an environment that values sharing information quickly with one another. The more information the staff members have about their company, the more they feel that they know what's going on, and this knowledge helps reduce the level of internal politicking.

Company culture that faces outside has to be customer-centric. This means that all staff, from those who create the goods to those who ship the goods to the customers, are thinking about a single question: how can we please the customer so that he does repeat business with us?

At Himalmedia, though we have been able to get the internal culture of openness working, we still have a lot of work to do to be more customer-centric. Still, at a media company, balancing what advertising customers want with the obligations of being a respected, independent public watchdog is a task that is challenging for any manager.

1. Karma
This is an insightful article. Thanks Mr. Tiwari

2. Bhagirath Yogi
Wonderful insights, Ashu! Your insights are really inspiring after having worked for one of the leading media houses of Nepal in one of the most turbulent times. We know what type of physical and mental threats you and other colleagues at Himal Media had to endure during these times. All the best wishes for your new responsibilities!!! Wish you could continue your weekly column at the NT! Best,

3. Sagar
Thank you oohi Ashu for your leadership and guidance of Himalmedia, the finest media house of Nepal. All the Nepalese have benefited from your work. Of course, having enlightened stakeholders such as the Dixits are must have made your task much easier. In some ways, your tenure was one of the worst for journalism in Nepal and especially at Himalmedia, what with the Maobadi attacks on the editorial staff and the labor tensions and difficult negotiations. The fact that Himalmedia and its publications remain the yardstick of fearless and respected journalism in Nepal speaks volumes about its writers, editors and management. I wish that the company continues to flourish even after your departure. Also our best wishes to you in your future endeavors. Your ideas and thoughtful management skill must find good use in the burgeoning corporate sector of Nepal. Finally, please do keep writing "Strictly Business" column. It is not only informative but also instructional. Kudos for a job well done!

4. sarath guragain
You know when people wish good luck or best wishes in such occasions, they dont really care if the one being wished actually does get good luck. You just say it without even digging into what you really say. But honestly, Ashutosh, I havent met you or spoke to you in person, but Himal Media is a better media house today because of you. Thank you, I mean, really thank you. Don't stop writing. I wish you the very best, Harvard man....

5. Sargam
I don't pretend to know how it will play out, but your tips will sure enough come in handy. And while I run errands I ask myself who will bankroll the construction of Nepal. A world living on tick. Look at that junketing of Nepalese delegation to Copenhagen. They know full well that the lolly they are spending is not their lolly. This masquerade makes me ginger up talk with a few jokes of my collection about the businessmen by saying, "They are nerdy, knowledgeable gnomes nattering new numbers nonstop." Maybe that is my way of treating them as knavish platitudinizers!?!

6. Maesdam
such a ..................................................................................................................................Oppurtinity and challenges of management in nepal ................

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)