One man is fi nding success by revitalising the family owned business.
--BY AASHIYANA ADHIKARI
“It is very important for people to dream a little bigger,” says Ajit Bikram Shah, Director and CEO of Lotus Holdings. Lotus Holdings is a venture capital enterprise working in the area of business growth by mobilising both domestic and foreign investments.
A father of two boys, Shah was born in 1980. He completed his undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota majoring in chemistry and maths. "I went to the US planning to get into medical school," Shah recalls, adding, "But after completing my undergraduate degree, I realised that medical school was not for me as it would take the next 15 years for me to become a doctor." Before he returned to Nepal, he worked in a company called Seamonds, a full-service public relations and marketing communications agency for three years.
That was his debut in corporate America.
"After coming back to Nepal, I worked as a CEO for our own IT company," he says. "The company doesn't exist anymore as I made a lot of mistakes while running it," he admits. But the experience made Shah realise that he is more of a people's person, good at helping people solve their problems. "After that, I realised that my strength is connecting with people and worked accordingly," he says.
As part of the extended family culture, Shah lives in Jawalakhel with his parents, wife and two sons. His parents started Lotus Holdings about 26 years ago. During the early years, the company used to invest in real estate and housing. Later the company’s business expanded into carpet production and health care. Even though his parents were the ones who established Lotus Holdings, it was Shah who took the company into the area of business process outsourcing (BPO). The company has been providing BPO services to customers in US, Europe, UK, Middle East, Thailand, Singapore and other nations.
For the past seven years, Shah has been an active member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), a global, peer-to-peer network of more than 12,000 influential business owners with 160 chapters in 50 countries. Founded in 1987, EO is regarded as a kind of catalyst enabling leading entrepreneurs to learn and grow, leading to greater success in business and beyond. EO Nepal, one of the chapters, was founded in 2003 with a current chapter strength of 51 members.
Shah says his EO membership gives him a feeling of greater exposure and confidence in setting up business ventures even outside the country. "EO is vibrant platform for entrepreneurs, and businessmen, and many others from various walks of life from across the world," he mentions, adding, "EO binds people from different parts of the world, cultures and religion together giving you a sense of confidence that they are not alone."
Shah describes himself as a learner and lives by a quote from Nelson Mandela which goes, 'I never lose, I either win or learn'. "There have been a lot of challenges along my way. But every challenge has been a learning experience for me," says Shah. "I have made a lot of mistakes in the past and I still continue to make a lot of mistakes. Nevertheless, I work to improve every day that keeps me moving forward." He doesn't believe in regrets and says, "I regret nothing because I can't change it. If there is something I want to do, I really go for it regardless of the consequences," he adds.
An avid motorbike lover, Shah goes on a two-wheel ride whenever he finds the time. According to him, travelling has always fascinated him and last year he travelled almost 135 days mostly for work. "I do travel quite a lot as I like meeting new people from different quarters of life."
Shah feels that leaving his job in the United States and returning back to Nepal was a major turning point in his life. His life took another major turn when he decided to reset his company and start the BPO business. "All other businesses of Lotus Holdings were jointly established, but setting up the BPO was my personal decision. I saw a future in this industry and started working on it,” Shah says.
His company works with major retailers across the world and looks after the payments made by them to their suppliers. The major clients of his company include TATA (India), Target (US), Courts (Singapore), Big C (Thailand) and Family Dollar (US). "Our team is quite amazing and does a fantastic job," Shah shares. "The fact that they deal with companies bigger than the size of our nation's economy clearly justifies the kind of work that they do." There are currently 200 employees in his company and he plans to operate in double or triple shifts after the company hires 250 employees.
He bemoans the fact that people from other countries do not take Nepal seriously when it comes to work and business. He stresses on the need to change this concept. "The young generation is taking everything to the next level with the help of the internet and technology," he points out. "We are on-par with the rest of the world and the fact is yet to be realised." According to him, people here need to look at opportunities within Nepal as there is so much space to grow.
He has envisioned a profitable future for his company- to become a back office team for retailers throughout the world. And this is a key factor that drives him to work every day. "Nepal has got lots of problems and we lack essential infrastructure. But the prerequisite to develop a company like this is available within our country," says Shah. "We export intellectual property to foreign countries and I think the way forward is to benefit from our human capital," he concludes.