By Gaurav Aryal
Every journey is a reward. No matter how painful a journey may become, it takes one to a destination where one really wants to be. Deepak Malhotra has had a journey with more bitterness than anything else. Executive Chairman of International Marketing Services Pvt Ltd (IMS), Malhotra’s journey as an entrepreneur has been full of upheavals.
He has tried his luck in numerous business ventures. Though most of them did not perform well, Malhotra is now on a safe haven of business. He thinks he is half the way towards achieving success although some of the sectors like housing where he has invested are not doing well. For Malhotra, success comes along with recognition, public relation and active involvement in work. IMS is the authorised distributor of Samsung mobiles for Nepal. IMS has its sister concerns that import, market and sell mobile phones and provide after-sales services.
Along with IMS, Malhotra is part of numerous businesses mostly in partnership such as Silver Valley Developers Pvt Ltd, a housing development company and Ebisu Jewelleries, a jewellery showroom at Durbar Marg. He also imports SWC branded watches. All these companies are under an umbrella corporate house – the IMS Group.
Malhotra was in his school days when he started understanding the nitty-gritty of doing business. His father owned a hotel named Mansarovar when there were less than a dozen hotels in Nepal. Malhotra says that he started looking after some of the responsibilities in the hotel when he was still a school kid.
It was in 1979 when Malhotra began a business of his own. He started off with importing watches. Malhotra, who has an avid interest in travelling, was on a tour to Hong Kong when the idea of trading clicked. He claims he did not borrow a single penny from his parents to start off his trading venture. Malhotra, however, recalls borrowing Rs 50,000 from his friends as the seed money for his initiative. He studied the market and the profit prospects and made a sole decision.
It was just the beginning for him. Soon, he diversified his business and started importing products other than watches such as motor parts, salt, gold etc. Although it as his own brainchild, Malhotra believes, he drew subtle inspirations from his father to enter the corporate world.
Malhotra ventured into numerous sectors in the years that followed his trading initiative. It was around the mid 1990s when he produced three Nepali feature films. His first movie was Chahana, and the second was Sauta. He further invested in two other cinemas, Sannani and Ragat, along with a partner. He recalls, “None of those movies did good business. The movie market had not flourished in Nepal back then. And, I also realised that movie making is not my forte.”
Then came the carpets. As carpet export was burgeoning, Malhotra was attracted to the lucrative business of wool carding and exporting carpets. However this too was short-lived. Then he began importing salt from India and selling it in the Nepali market under the brand name of Himali Noon. Malhotra claims that this initiative of his was able to break the monopoly of the state-owned Salt Trading Corporation (STC). “My entry as a new salt trader had created competition in the market. The consumers benefited from the reduced price of salt,” he recalls. Then the government introduced a vicious plan to drive away the private player to give the monopoly over salt trading back to the STC.
In 1998, Malhotra turned his hands to the paging business. There were five companies offering pager services, but Malhotra’s DTI Paging had an edge over them as it provided its services throughout the country. But it seems he had entered the paging business at the wrong time. Mobile telephony had entered the country a year in advance - in 1997 – and the idea of paging soon proved obsolete. This was another setback in his business career.
Malhotra saw a huge prospect in what had killed his paging business – the mobile phones. And soon, he started importing handsets. He recalls those years when, unlike today, the import of mobile was not open. During those days, one had to acquire a license from the Ministry of Communication to import mobile phone sets. Mlahotra got this license and started importing handsets manufactured by brands like Nokia, Panasonic, Motorola and Samsung. In 2001, IMS was appointed the authorised distributor of Samsung mobiles for Nepal. Since then, it has been importing and selling Samsung mobiles in Nepal. With the giant leap of Samsung brand worldwide, this brand has regained its number one position in Nepal too, according to Malhotra. With the growing popularity of the Samsung brand, Malhotra’s has a steady business. He has taken a positive turn, after facing one failure after another.
Though the Samsung watches were discontinued and renamed as SWC Watches, his company is trading in this Korean watch brand even today. Meanwhile, with the boom of the housing industry in 2008, Malhotra invested in the housing sector as well. Silver City Apartments is under construction under his builder Silver Valley Developers. However the housing sector too is not doing well at the moment.
Malhotra believes that most of his past business ventures failed because he went after his whims and tied up with the wrong partners. However, he thinks most of his past ventures failed because of external factors rather than any weakness in his managerial skills. “The trading business that I initiated is doing well even today,” he says, “All those incidents taught me that it is useless to venture into a new area without properly understanding it.” So, he suggests others not to start any project without understanding its fundamentals. He also prescribes to do those things which can be kept in a tight grip and not try to do everything at once.
Malhotra is happy with what he has today. He is determined to continue the mobile phone trading. Along with it, he is planning to step into new sectors where the entire country sees prospects –tourism, hydropower and agriculture. He believes these are the best three sectors that can push Nepal towards development. However, he expects the government to create basic infrastructures so that the private sector can do the rest.
What would he be doing had he not entered business? “Probably, I would be in politics,” he says jokingly, recalling his days at Shanker Dev Campus where he did some student politics. “If I failed in politics, I would continue my father’s business,” he is quick to add. He now indeed has plans to invest in the hotel industry too. Malhotra says he is an independent citizen and thinks that a businessperson should not be involved in active politics.
No matter what life brought to him, Malhotra believes he never left the policy of truth. At the times of difficulty, he says he received the support from his close friends and family members. “They always have trust and belief in me,” he appreciates them.
The only regret he has in his life is his inability to recognise the pretence of Rasendra Bhattarai. Malhotra says he wasted his time and resources believing in Bhattarai, who proved to be nothing but a hoax at the end.
Malhotra believes that management is the most important element in running a business house. So, he has dedicated all his management, distribution and marketing tasks to the management team while he looks after the financial matters and monitors as well as guides the team.
He plans to hand over some of his responsibilities to his son who is soon returning after completing his studies in the United Kingdom. However, he wants to remain an active part of the business before he retires at 70. “As of now, the decision making is centralised in me. But I will be soon giving the decision making authority to my son,” he shares his plans. There are around 200 employees working under Malhotra at present. To cheer up the employees, his company has provisions of declaring the employee of the month and also the employee of the year. He says those who win these titles get attractive incentives. The company also organises various motivational programmes throughout the year, every year.
Malhotra is a sort of workaholic. He spends his weekdays working while he loves to spend his Saturdays with his family. However, he prefers completing his pending works on Saturday. Malhotra likes to keep himself socially active. He is also the senior Vice President of Club Fifty where cohorts in their 50s take part in various philanthropic activities. The club organises free health camps in the villages and distributes aids like wheelchairs to the physically challenged people.