From a modest fast food outlet to chain of eight hotels and resorts across the country, Siddhartha Business Group of Hospitality has come a long way.
"I try to find positive aspects even in very adverse situations," says Laxman Neupane, chairman and managing director of Siddhartha Business Group of Hospitality (SBGH). This trait of Neupane has propelled his company forward and today it has become one of Nepal's fastest growing hospitality groups.
What makes Neupane and his group's success truly outstanding is that they made their mark by doing business outside Kathmandu and gradually expanded across the country.
Neupane never had any plans to get into the hotel business. It was his brother who inspired him to do something on his own which resulted in the opening of a fast food outlet in Tikapur on February 5, 1998. One year later, the outlet was upgraded into the group’s first hotel property under the brand Siddhartha. Afterwards, he opened a second Siddhartha Hotel at Nepalgunj.
Over the years, the seeds of his business which he first sowed by investing Rs 50,000 in a fast food stall in Tikapur have grown into SBGH.
With a chain of 13 hotels, resorts and restaurants across the country, the group is now regarded as a major player in the country's hospitality sector.
By encouraging relatives and friends to join his business, Neupane was able to expand it, which he says is aimed at creating a sense of ownership among every employee. “All managers working in SBGH outlets are our investors”, he mentions.
SBGH today owns 17 entities nationwide, which includes five hotels, three resorts, five restaurants, a bakery café, a hospitality training institute and a mart to supply the necessary utensils and accessories to those in the hospitality business.
Lately, the group has also ventured into the agri-business by establishing a coffee farm in Gulmi. For pesticide free coffee farming, the farm is engaged in animal husbandry as well. Meanwhile, the Siddhartha Institute of Hospitality and Career Development has been set up to produce the required skilled human resource for the hospitality sector. “We train those seeking to go abroad and those looking to working inside the country,” says Neupane.
The institute focuses more on practical education, whereby students can be independent with their skills. “We provide 100 percent job guarantee to our students,” he says, adding, “Once they are trained they don’t need to go out searching for jobs or platforms to invest in because we do that for them.”
Service comes first
For SBGH, maintaining top-class hygiene and quality service at its hotel properties and outlets are of paramount importance. Keeping up with the mantra of ‘Athiti Devo Bhava’ which means ‘guests are god’, SGBH believes in providing a godly retreat to its guests.
“Our overall concentration is on ensuring the ultimate satisfaction of our customers,” says Neupane. Be it the Hotel Siddhartha at Nepalgunj, which is in the process of being upgraded to a four-star property, or the new Siddhartha Resort at Chumlingtar, Chitwan, SBGH has been providing a range of modern hospitality services such as an all-day restaurant, lounge/bar facilities, personal care (gym, sauna, jacuzzi) and conference halls for MICE (meeting, incentives, conferencing and exhibition) activities, among others.
Likewise, its five multi-cuisine restaurants, of which three are located inside the capital, have been serving some of the finest Nepali, Indian and continental dishes to their guests, besides the MICE services. Similarly, SBGH has been operating in-house travel desks at its hotels to provide different domestic tour packages to guests.
“We have started to garner international guests through the in-house travel and tours services,” mentions Neupane.
Overcoming the Challenges
Over the last two decades, Neupane’s main mantra of success has been to accept challenges and move on. “The struggle and obstacles that I faced made me who I am today. While operating my hotel in Tikapur during the early years, I felt the need to expand the business to mitigate the associated risks. So, I moved to Nepalgunj and started Siddhartha Cottage in 2000,” he reminiscences.
While opening the first Siddhartha restaurant in Kathmandu in 2002, his partners left, and the company’s business was not up to the mark. It was the point when Neupane thought of quitting the hospitality sector.
“However, I realised that it would be impossible for me to restart this business if I left the sector,” he says. With this rethinking, he soldiered on with patience and dedication to give a new direction to the business. Neupane believes that business starters should work hard and wait at least for five years for the results they want.
A New Approach in Marketing and CSR
Interestingly, SGBH has not prioritised marketing and promotion like other hospitality companies. The group has continued to resort to ‘word of the mouth’ and maintaining strong personal contacts for marketing and promotion purposes. “Our focus is rather on accomplishing the plans we have made. Instead of spending money in advertisements, we have been investing in initiatives that fulfill our corporate social responsibility (CSR) obligations,” stresses Neupane.
Through its CSR arm, Siddhartha Association for Care and Responsibility (SACAR), SBGH is engaged in a number of areas for the greater good of the local communities. Its major CSR initiatives include construction of a fountain park at Kohalpur, helping thousands of flood victims with packed lunch boxes, distributing books and education materials to schools during the group’s anniversary and providing free education to children in some districts.
According to Neupane, the warm response and support from customers have always been sources of motivation for SBGH to provide quality services.
He thinks that advertising does not matter if customers like the service. “No customer will like hotels, resorts and restaurants of Siddhartha until they like the services, ambience and food,” he says, adding, “There might be times when we may not be able to serve that perfect plate to our customers, but to improve the quality of our service is something we always work on”.
SBGH has been exercising an effective teamwork strategy where all employees work in harmony to yield better outcomes. Currently, the group employs over 1,000 people across the country. Neupane considers his staff as the foundation of his group. He believes in good teamwork to accomplish the organisational objectives. Likewise, trusting the team members so that they are able to work independently is also another important institutional management aspect for Neupane. “I do not like to interfere in their work. They get equal opportunity for personal and professional growth,” he claims.
According to Neupane, this work environment at SBGH has enabled several of its former employees to become successful in other areas of business. “I feel proud when I see them winning the world”, he expresses.
SBGH, which has mostly focused on expanding its business in western and central Nepal, is now venturing into the eastern parts of the country. A new Siddhartha hotel is being opened at Birtamode, targeting people of Jhapa and people travelling to and from the north Indian states through Birtamode. According to Neupane, the hotel will commence its operations from Asoj this year.