giving back to the people : karma tenzing nyangmi
We often hear and see that once the youth in Nepal go abroad for further studies, they don’t return back as they find a career that wasn’t possible back here. For some, getting a well-paying job becomes the sole motivation to not return back to their homeland. But, there are some who return back for good, even when they have everything going on for them in the promise land. One such person is Mr. Karma Tenzing Nyangmi who had a respectable job at Wall Street in one of the biggest capital companies, but he came back to use his expertise in the educational and social field of Nepal. He has his hands full with what he has been doing here and we wanted to hear a little from the man himself. Here is our conversation with him.
SO, HOW DID YOUR CAREER START?
I spent most of my childhood and primary education in Darjeeling and Shimla and Delhi. After that, for my further studies, I got in NYU. And after graduating, I got a bunch of offers. But the one that excited me was a small boutique firm where I learned foreign exchange once I was there from 2002 to 2016. Then, I applied for my PHD while I was working full time.
And on top of all that, I was also doing a lot of community service activities and went on to teach classes for BBA and MBA students.
AMONG THE FIRST THINGS YOU DID FOR A SOCIAL CAUSE WAS TO START AND PETITION TO ALERT MEDIA ABOUT THE CONDITION OF MIGRANT WORKER IN QATAR. HOW DID THAT PAN OUT?
I waited a long time before I did that, but it ended up being viral. This was in 2014 and as it was such a critical issue, I decided to take it further. I took all of my students, around 200 of them, and did a rally in front of the New York Times building and the editor in chief there at the time sent someone to get the signature for the petitions. After a week, the article was published.
We also did a big rally in Times Square and shared what was happening with migrant workers and it felt good to me, knowing that it was of some help to the worker as well. That is how I got into social and community work.
WHY THE SHIFT FROM THAT TO WORKING HERE IN NEPAL?
It started during the earthquake of 2015. We were planning on doing a few reliefs works here and there. So, we collected the donations and were sending it back to Nepal from the States. However, I didn’t want to trust the channels that it was going through because it wasn’t transparent enough and you didn’t know where the relief materials and donations went after you hand it over. So, I decided to come back to Nepal, move to my country and do something. We already had a family owned school, Kathmandu Valley School, located in Maharajgunj but we had already sold it. I bought it back from them and became the principal there.
Having worked in banking for the most part of my career, I opened up Oceans Savings and Credit Cooperative. Then, I have this lovely little cafe called MoMo Karma where we try to bring authentic tasting food from Darjeeling and Sikkim. I also got together with a few of my friends and opened an online magazine portal called Onward Nepal. The magazine mostly focused on human rights and activism.
So yes, I have a lot on my plate but it wasn’t an easy transition. It took some time but I was lucky to have the support of the people around me of course. I also do musical shows that are held in the US which are managed by me.
For me, the main purpose of having all these businesses is to give back and its more about CSR. I love the feeling I get from doing community work. We have opened up an orphanage with around 40 kids and it is completely paid for as we take our CSR values very passionately. I try to teach my students the way of giving back to people in an efficient way, I make sure it is there in the curriculum. Besides that, we have an organization called Rays of Hope that deals with street children and tries to rehabilitate them.
TALKING ABOUT MOMO KARMA, HOW DID IT COME AROUND?
I felt Kathmandu needed a Darjeeling styled MoMo restaurant with an authentic taste. So, once while I was at a party, I tasted some MoMos and I was just blown away by the taste. That’s when I met our Chef Rajiv and I told him why don’t we open up a restaurant and we work together. That’s how MoMo Karma came to be.
SO, TELL US ABOUT A GOOD KARMA: DOCUMENTARY. HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A DOCUMENTARY ON YOUR LIFE?
The Good Karma Documentary came in my life like how the title suggests. Back in 2008, there was this documentary filmed called Craig’s List Joe and while the guys were filming it, I was in Chicago and I used to share drives as I usually drive alone. That’s when I met the guys filming the documentary. So, I ended up being a part of their documentary and we became good friends. After I moved to Nepal and started doing a lot of social activities and volunteering work, these guys saw my work on social media and approached me, saying that they want to make a documentary on me.
At first, I thought it was just going to be a short 10-20 minutes documentary but they wanted it to be a full feature documentary about my works and what I’ve done up until now. So, then they came over to Nepal and stayed here for 1 and a half months with me. Most of the days were just going out on the field and documenting what I do. Its not only a story about me but it’s a story of Nepal and the state that it is in. It’s more focused on the concept of Fatalism, about how you blame your karma for everything.
SO, YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT EVERYTHING THAT YOU DO. WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
It actually comes naturally from within. When I was in the US, I really wanted to work at Wall Street and I had no idea how I would get there. But I was always passionate about it and eventually I ended up working at Wall Street. For me, it just seemed impossible at first but I kept pushing through to achieve that dream. As for the works that I’ve done in Nepal, some of it comes from patriotism as I wanted to give something back to the country. The earthquake back in 2015 was a wake up call for me to finally bring it out.
We also did a big rally in Times Square and shared what was happening with migrant workers and it felt good to me, knowing that it was of some help to the workersW as well. That is how I got into social and community work.
WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE, DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS FOR MORE VENTURES?
I want to focus on the ventures that I have right now and try to make them even better. For the next 2 years, I think I have my hands tied in terms of starting a new venture. Right now, one of my main goals is to improve employment; currently I have about 200 employees and I want to increase that. So, that’s my plan for the next few years so that we don’t have to send people abroad searching for job opportunities.
DO YOU HAVE ANY MESSAGES TO OUR READERS AND THE YOUTHS OF NEPAL?
Everyone says that West is where you need to go abroad to to make your life. Coming from a guy who has lived abroad most of his life, you will get to experience and learn a lot, but you have to come back and apply your expertise to your country so that it can have an economical growth. So go out, come back, and make a difference.