Carrying on the family legacy and making a personal mark are two areas to balance for many next generation entrepreneurs from business families.
“Shaking off family labels is always an external thing. Internally it is up to you to do what you want to do on your own,” says Rabindra Bhakta Shrestha, CEO of Prestellar Ventures. Prestellar Ventures is an early-stage venture capital fund that seeks to partner with passionate entrepreneurs and disruptive startups across South Asia and ASEAN regions.
Shrestha is a third generation entrepreneur of the NE Group, a family business conglomerate active in various verticals including hospitality, consumer goods, and financial services which was founded by his grandfather Hari Bhakta Shrestha. According to him, being born in a business family has its own quirks and perks. “Although I have my own business, I will always be introduced as Hari Bhakta’s grandson or Ravi Bhakta’s son,” he said, adding, “But it is a label that I am proud of and this has encouraged me to work harder to maintain and grow my family legacy.”
Born in 1986, Shrestha has spent most of his life away from home. From a very young age he was admitted to boarding school and later sent to London to complete his schooling. He completed his undergraduate degree in economics from Stanford University and his post-graduate MBA degree from Wharton Business School. “I have been living away from home since I was in grade one and being in boarding school in different cultures was a major challenge for me,” Shrestha mentions. Nowadays whenever he has time Shrestha tries to be with his family.
A book fanatic Shrestha, spends most of his leisure time reading books and cooking. “Most of the people won’t believe when I first say this, but I love cooking,” shares Shrestha. “Nowadays, I don’t have much time but I whenever I can I try to cook for my mother on Saturdays.” An avid traveller, he claims that it is very nice to be able to travel but admits that sometimes, when you travel all the time for work, it becomes very tiring.
Shrestha always thought of becoming a businessman and to continue his family legacy. “Most kids want to become pilots, engineers and doctors, among many other mainstream professions when asked at a very young age. But I remember having a strong urge to be a businessman since an early age,” he says. Unlike other kids, he used to see his grandfather as a superhero. He wanted to do what late Hari Bhakta Shrestha did who was his biggest inspiration. “When I was eight, I used to go to the office with my grandfather just to watch him work and listen to what he said,” he recalls. “I was really fascinated with his talk and the work he did even though I could not understand a word at that point of time.”
After completing his undergraduate degree from Stanford, he started working at City Bank as an investment banker. He worked there for two years and returned to Nepal to work in his family business. “While working in the US, I thought that I was being groomed to get into my family business. And, the more I delayed, the slower I will be in terms of taking the business up,” says Shrestha. So, he came back at the age of 24 and worked with his grandfather and father for three years.
The first business that he set up under his family business was Azzabko Ice-Cream which was well received in the market. According to Shrestha, it was like a baby to him as it was his first project in Nepal. It was a very rewarding experience as he started everything from scratch. “I was the person who wore multiple hats just to make sure that my team was working well,” he says. “I feel very thankful to the team that the ice-cream brand has been doing very well in the market.”
After three years working in the family business, he again went to the US to pursue his post-graduate degree. He set up his own trading business in the US. After sometime, he thought it would be better to be someone at home rather than just another person in a foreign land. “I returned to Nepal after the completion of my post-graduate degree last year and since then I have been engaged in many family projects as well as my own projects,” says Shrestha.
Although he looks after many family projects, he gives most of his time to Prestellar Ventures which he started with three other partners. “We invest in companies with a ready team, product and recurring revenue that have the ability to disrupt industries and scale quickly,” he mentions. “Further, we provide companies with the operational and sectoral expertise of our advisory and entrepreneurial boards who are proven industry leaders and company builders,” he adds.
Prestellar Ventures has already made a couple of investments across South Asia and Singapore. The company has been looking forward to invest in Nepal. Its goal is also to support aspiring entrepreneurs who don’t have resources to start their own business.
Five to ten years down the line, Shrestha sees himself starting his own family. From a professional standpoint, he wants to have multiple businesses on his own along with taking his family business to the international level. “I think coming from a business family you are always trying to make your own mark in business,” he says, adding, “Along with making a mark on my own, I see myself carrying the legacy of my family and growing the business to an international level.”
Shrestha joined Entrepreneurs Organisation last November. Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) is 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 the current chapter strength of 51 members.
According to Shrestha, his experience in EO has been amazing so far. “I joined EO to gain the right mentorship from the older members whom I really respect,” he mentions. According to him, joining EO has been one of the best decisions that he has taken so far as the organisation enables young entrepreneurs to network with professionals around the country. He says, EO also provides a platform for international networking which has been very beneficial to him.