New Business Age

Nikita Acharya : The Urban Girl

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Acharya, who co-founded her own business at 19, is a testament to the innovation of youth.

Nikita Acharya, founder and CEO of e-commerce platform Urban Girl, encapsulates the saying ‘age is just a number.’ What matters is the dedication and passion towards the work. Nikita started her business at the young age of 19, a time when most people of her age enjoy their teenage years. From such a young age, she has been handling the overall operation of the business. She credits her team, without whom, the company would not have reached the level of success it currently enjoys. She also believes that team building is the most important characteristic needed to become a successful entrepreneur.

Born in Biratnagar in July 1993, she grew up in Kathmandu. Like all of her family members, she too did her high schooling in the science faculty. Although she was doing well in that field, she studied management as an undergrad as she was always drawn towards the subject.

Mischievous and outgoing as a child, she had never thought of joining the business fraternity. During the final years of her Bachelor’s, she worked in an IT company that was started by her friends. She also used to look at international e-commerce websites and realised that e-commerce was booming internationally. She then thought of starting an e-commerce business in Nepal. In December 2012, she and her partner Kiran Timsina started their venture Urban Girl by selling jewellery and accessories for women. Today, they also run Urban Cakes where they sell customised cakes. They sell products of Urban Girls and Urban Cakes through their e-commerce platform, UG Bazaar.

Initially, they used to bring all their products from the international market, but today, about 80 percent of their products, including jewellery, are made in Nepal. “We are utilising the skilled manpower of the country”, she says.

During the initial days, she remembers how people used to look at her with doubt. “I was only 19 when I started my business. So, I think people were cynical as they thought that I was too young to handle any business”, she explains. She remembers how people would not take her seriously during meetings as well. “Whenever my partner and I had a meeting with vendors, they thought that I was assisting him and were shocked to know that I was the founder of the company”, she says. However, that thinking has changed now. She believes that the change is due to her experience and because now people have seen her work. She says that it will be difficult, and people will doubt initially, but one should always continue doing their work and never give up.

When Acharya and her partner started their business, e-commerce was in its infancy in Nepal. So, people did not trust in their products. People would rather purchase items at shops as they could check the quality. Gaining trust was also a bit of a challenge for them initially. Later, due to the quality of their products and their service, people started trusting them.

“We started in a small room. Now we have our office at Mid-Baneshwor with around 55 employees”, she says, adding, “We also have our branch at Pokhara as well”. Acharya says “Operating in two major cities and being able to create employment opportunity for these 55 people is a major achievement till now”. With small, but continuous steps, they have been able to reach this place, she states.

She feels that with the use of technology, being able to help marginalised people is also an achievement. Today, they also train deaf people in Pokhara. In a very pleasant tone, she shares that today, they can make cakes, and it has become a medium to make them independent.

A millennial entrepreneur who is persistent in her work, Acharya believes that the entrepreneurship sector is booming in Nepal. People have started realising the importance of entrepreneurship. In her initial days, she says that there weren’t many women in the e-commerce sector she could look up to. She says that although women entrepreneurship is growing, there is still an insufficient number of young women in the new technology sector. “Not only women, but there is also a lack of young people in the market. Around 1500 youths go abroad daily and settle down there”, she says, pointing out the ratio of youths going abroad.

“The next thing is that our society is still somehow traditionally tilted”, she says. She further explains how we are following the same pattern of completing a Bachelor’s, getting a job and then marrying. “We have been taught this way, and it’s not anybody’s fault. Parents and guardians will need some time to understand entrepreneurship. So, it will take quite some time to change the overall entrepreneur field”, she adds. Nevertheless, she stresses that the sector is gradually growing.

Moreover, Acharya feels that support from husbands and family can help a women entrepreneur grow better. “Although I am not married, I have seen many examples. Those women who are supported by their families and husbands can progress much better”, she adds. Support, motivation and encouragement from them can boost their confidence. On the contrary, when somebody is criticised for doing something, then the person gets defeated. “Our capability is there, but these things motivate us to work and grow better”, she says.

She shares that sometimes she is at the office till 10 pm and there are also times when she has had to ignore family functions. In such times, she says that if her parents would not have understood and supported her, then her business would not have prospered. “So if parents give freedom to their daughters and support them, then they will be able to work more efficiently”, she adds.

A business that began out of her interest is now running successfully. Acharya feels that choosing business over doing a job has been one of her best decisions. Moreover, she also thinks that she would not have received this respect and recognition anywhere else.

Young, smart and energetic, she feels that youths are very important for the development of the country. Being a youth herself, she says, “We have time to take a risk, so we can try implementing our new ideas into action. Even if we make a mistake, we have time to correct and change that as well”. As most of the youths today are going abroad and settling there, it is challenging to find skilled manpower. If youths stay in the country, then they can also contribute to the businesses that are already established, she considers.

For young aspiring women entrepreneurs, she recommends that they go ahead and implement their ideas. The environment is favourable, and the government is also positive towards empowering women. She says that they are providing subsidies and the banks are also giving loans of up to Rs 1.5 million to women. Moreover, the media is also supporting women entrepreneurs by covering their stories. So there is a growing opportunity, she says.

However, she finds the lack of a e-commerce policy as a significant challenge. “There is no draft of an e-commerce policy”, she says, adding, “And there is no feasible entrepreneur environment”.

Acharya, who is an organised person, likes to read books whenever she is free. Her day starts by going to the gym, and the rest of her day goes according to the schedule. A friendly person by nature, she also likes cycling and playing badminton. Whenever she takes a break from her work, she likes to travel.

She believes that having a clear vision and consistency are other characteristics needed to become a successful entrepreneur. Despite that fact, she says that everybody is different from one another and has their own qualities. So, one must be able to embrace their quality and move forward consistently. She states, “We too faced many hardships, ups and downs, but we have been able to sustain till this date because we were consistent”.

In the future, she aspires to continue her business. “I will work hard and try to be an example to other people”, she concludes.

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