The fifth edition of the NewBiz Business Conclave and Awards was held on September 21 at the Soaltee Crown Plaza Hotel, Kathmandu. Leaders from the private sector, banking fraternity, government officials and top professionals attended the event. Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada, minister for finance, graced the event in the capacity of the chief guest while Nepal Rastra Bank’s governor Dr Chiranjibi Nepal was a special guest on the occasion.
The theme of the conclave this year was ‘Banking Strategies and Disruptions.’ “Nepal’s banking system needs to evolve into a modern system, in keeping with the times, which will help develop the country’s economy. The banks should expand their investments to small and medium-sized enterprises to help sustain Nepal’s financial sector,” the finance minister remarked.
The governor, in his speech, said, “Only 40 percent of Nepal’s population has access to a bank. Banks have to take an initiative to reach out to the remaining 60 percent. The banks function on deposits made by the people. Therefore, they need to be responsible and not lend aggressively.”
Earlier, Madan Lamsal, chairman and editor-in-chief of New Business Age and Aarthik Abhiyan National Daily, said in his welcome speech, “We think banking strategies and disruptions is an appropriate theme for discussion because Nepali banking is struggling with several challenges.”
The event, organised by New Business Age Pvt Ltd, had also invited Tamal Bandyopadhyay, strategy advisor at Bandhan Bank Ltd, India to deliver a keynote speech. Bandyopadhyay touched on the importance of adopting new technology, adding, “The Government of Nepal has targeted a high economic growth rate. It has presented a monetary policy to encourage the banking sector. Thus, banks have been lending at a high rate, which is not beneficial in the long run and will lead to an increase in bad debts. Stakeholders such as Nepal Rastra Bank and the Government should be aware of this.”
Sanjib Subba, CEO, National Banking Institute, conducted the panel discussion on the topic at hand. Nepali banking sector’s elite joined him on the dais. The other four panellists were Anal Raj Bhattarai, former banker, Anukool Bhatnagar, vice-president, Nepal Bankers’ Association and CEO of Nepal SBI Bank, Sashin Joshi, former CEO of Nabil Bank and Maha Prasad Adhikari, CEO of Investment Board Nepal.
Subba raised an important question to the panel. “Are we relevant? I think this is the key question that we, as the banking sector’s stakeholders, need to reflect upon. How can we stay relevant to our lenders, borrowers and to the economy at large?”
Joshi commented, “The kind of banking we’re doing right now in Nepal is very archaic. The sort of banking that was being done perhaps 20 to 30 years ago is what we’re doing currently. The world has moved ahead.”
Bhattarai offered a more positive outlook, “If you look at Nepal’s history, from 2015 to 2018, the banking sector has grown tremendously. The total deposit of all banks, which was around $17 billion in 2015, is now approximately $28 billion,” he opined.
Joining the discussion, Bhatnagar mentioned, “Nepal’s social fabric is of a unique composition, wherein one-third of the population lives outside the country and transfers money back home through banks. The way the regulators are coming up with rules and standard operating procedures is very much appreciated. We have a smart smile on our face when we hear a news story about the likes of HSBC and others being fined in billions of dollars. In Nepal, we feel much more secure.”
Adhikari emphasised the importance of foreign direct investment (FDI) to Nepal’s economy and remarked, “The government has prioritised FDI and it has clearly mentioned it is willing to clear any bottlenecks relating to laws or policies. Since the government has offered a direct commitment, I believe our FDI will grow in the near future.”
The eagerly anticipated awards followed the conclave. Over 23 awards were handed out in 10 different categories.
“In order to select the winners, we set up a high powered jury incorporating business leaders, economists, management gurus and professionals. New Business Age salutes all the members and chairpersons of different panels of the jury for their hard work as well as to those who are selected for the honours,” Lamsal had said earlier.
Distinct juries were formed for different awards to ensure impartiality and freedom from bias. The juries based their decision on a plethora of parameters and arrived at the winners after much deliberation.
Lifetime Achievement Award to Ganesh Bhakta Saakha
Ganesh Bhakta Saakha, founder and Chairman of Saakha Group of Companies was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Business Excellence for his long contribution to the development of the industrial sector and entrepreneurship in the country. Saakha, born in 1986 BS, joined his father’s trading business in 2008 BS upon returning from Mumbai after completing his business education. Saakha believes that his life as an industrialist started from 2041 BS onwards after his venture into large-scale industries such as Nepal Paint Industries, Saakha Metal Industries and Unisa Polychem Industries.
In the 1980s, Saakha Group entered into garment production and later in 1983, the group established Nepal Paints Pvt. Ltd. in technical collaboration with a Korean franchise. In 1995, Saakha Steel Industries was founded which produced ToR-steel using a Luxemburg-based franchise. 15 years later, the company upgraded its plant to produce TMT bars. Today, it is one of the leading Nepali steel manufacturers. In 2001, the group bought a 33 percent stake in Chemidrug Industries, which is one of the oldest Nepali pharmaceuticals established in the 1970s. Saakha Group is also engaged in the import of automobiles, dyes and chemicals, solar products and prefab houses. Real estate, finance and education are other areas of business where Saakha Group has invested.
Below is the list of the winners: