Leaving behind the mindset “entrepreneurship is not for me”, Suraj Raj Pandey started working at the age of sixteen. He is today considered as one of the rising entrepreneurs in Nepal. Starting with a small tech company, he started his first company in 2016, Now at the age of 22, he is working as the Chief Executive Officer of Fibro, new entrepreneurship in Nepal making professional men’s wear.
He is currently studying B.Sc.IT at Islington College, but throughout his career, he has been equally involved in various environmental and ecosystem related activities. Pandey is still looking for what exactly motivated him to pursue entrepreneurship in Nepal in the first place. But he says, he feels motivated when he gets to implement what he has learned in any business and maximize its value.
How did the idea of Fibro come alive?
This was my personal quest. I was fortunate enough to have visited my friend’s factory in Bangladesh in 2017. What I realized at that time was that, in Nepal, many people imported goods from there and sold them here. Nepal indeed has a large market. But I also realized the opportunity, profit, and also a massive gap in the Nepali market.
Every year, businesses worth billions happen here. And I wanted to invest in the gap. I was questioning whether a person with an IT background shall start a business or not. But there was no brand that ordinary people could wear, and with these very thoughts in mind, I was inspired to start this venture.
Since the age of sixteen, you started your journey towards entrepreneurship in Nepal, who guided you into this field?
There are a lot of people who guided me; the list of names is quite long. Many of the experienced personalities in this field have been helpful when I needed guidance. But it is my father and mother who guided me relentlessly in my everyday life. Whatever situations I am in, their support and love are always there.
What virtues do you think one needs to become an entrepreneur in Nepal?
Talking from my own experience, I think the undying fire and passion in your soul is imperative. You need to have the strength to cope with whatever problems come your way. Entrepreneurship in Nepal is a mixture of everything — laughter, joy, tears, and sorrows. I vividly remember both the days of laughter and crying. If you are hesitant to take risks, it is highly unlikely to do well in this field. The fluctuations in work are a part of this journey.
The second virtue is to be able to recognize opportunities. We Nepalis tend to have a habit of complaining. “The roads are disgusting, Nepal is like ‘this’ and ‘that’, Nepal is poor and blah blah.” But, for a capable entrepreneur, all challenges are chances.
Third would be to have an open mind towards learning things. As you go on with your business, there will come a stage where you will think that only ‘what you say’ and ‘what you do’ is right. When that stage comes, you should realize that your career is about to decline. A true entrepreneur must move forward with a learning mindset. Also in response, compliments and criticisms both must be accepted with an open heart.
In your opinion, what are the downsides of starting entrepreneurship in Nepal?
The Nepali market is small. Especially, if we compare it with other countries; numbers, earnings, profits, all may seem small. The authorities, who make our policies, are not yet well aware of this. The policies made are only intended for large businesses and industries.
Another is that we don’t have many mentors. We have fewer mentors who would guide us on what should be done, what should be avoided. I have had the opportunity to learn with great experienced entrepreneurs but there are thousands of others who have not received the necessary guidance.
Lastly, there is a lack of continuity from the partners. If there is a slight problem, they will drop their hands. These are the aspects to be worked on.
It is said that investors in Nepal very difficult to find, how has your experience been?
There is a proverb in Nepali: “If you search, you will even find God, but if you don’t, you will not even find a stone.” It sounds right to me. There are people with money in hand, and wondering where they can invest it. But what we do is, we sit in our office room and look for investors while staying in our ‘comfort zone’.
How can we accomplish our works that way? We have to go to the investor’s office, attend its various programs and do networking. Yes, the investors are less in our country compared to the western countries, but people are there and we can approach them. Our ideas and visions should be right.
How do you think entrepreneurship in Nepal can grow and increase product value through networking?
First of all, our products should be of good quality. Second, the benefits we provide to the customers also need to be very good. Third, do not be ashamed. In our country, even big businesspersons who are working in big businesses don’t want to interact with customers themselves. Entrepreneurs shouldn’t hesitate to talk about what they produce. If the entrepreneur is to put as equal effort as the company manager, it will be easier for brands to get customers to trust them.
You are very active on social media. How do you advertise your products on it? Do you do any prior research?
Much of the marketing we have done right now, about our products, is on social media only. Social media is inexpensive; you don’t really have to pay for it, it’s practically free. Our target group includes men of 20-28 age group. We inform the clients or buyers regarding what they need and what’s best for them, what kind of products to look for, and what are the benefits of buying them.
At Fibro, we make all the plans, from production to marketing. And we post on social media, according to our plans. All of us hold meetings, listen to ideas and act accordingly. Thus we all hold adequate information about the products.
Regarding research, so far, my own experience has been helpful as I have worked a lot in the past. And the rest we improvise by interacting with the customers. We are always talking about what they need, what they want to buy, what they like, and how they like it, on social media and sometimes even on the phone. And we get feedback from our customers after they bought our products. Doing these things have been helpful until now.
Nowadays most brands are marketing their product through social media and digital marketing. What is the condition of Nepal’s present situation?
Today, social media has penetrated the Nepali market. It has become a platform for entrepreneurship in Nepal, where everyone has equal access and can interact with their customers and vice versa. In Nepal, I think, social media can be great and helpful because we don’t have enough money to advertise in magazines and hoarding boards. And I don’t think to do so is beneficial to us.
But the problem is that we are not able to make good use of it. We only know that we can post about our products, but we don’t have any idea about the analytics behind it. If we learn that, then we will be able to make better use of social networks.
Does social media work well for brands only? How can start-ups, SMEs or rural businesses use social media?
Social media gives the same access to all. If used well, it builds trust between your business and your customers. Even many brands are not being able to do so.
Any businessperson, first of all, has to understand their own brand and be able to explain it to the employees. One has to work extensively on the logo, color, font, and size because they do make a difference. After the entire concept is clear, the next move would be to take it to social media and then interact with your customers.
Your social media posts should be consistent with the idea, brand image, and promote the same services like the ones you are providing in real-time. For this to work well, the stability and continuity of the business are very important. When it comes to Fibro, instead of promising a lot and providing less, we provide a lot more than what we promise.