Feature

Giving family legacy a new height

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While most young Nepalis are flying abroad in search of opportunities, some Nepalis living abroad are making their way back home. One such person is Surabhi Raj Bhandari, Chairperson of Mercantile Nepal. She opted to leave her job in North America and instead join the family business in an effort to give her father’s legacy a new height.

Born and raised in Nepal, Raj Bhandari completed her high school education from the United World College in New Mexico, an International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, and then received her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Wellesley College in Massachusetts. After graduation, she joined the Global Markets arm of State Street Bank through State Street Professional Development Program and gained professional feats. “The one-year leadership development programme allowed me to rotate through three different teams, giving me the opportunity to learn about the different functions within Global Markets while also allowing me to explore my own capabilities and figure out what my professional strengths were,” says Raj Bhandari. As per her, she was promoted at the end of the programme and was transferred to the Toronto office where she was given the challenge to set up a brand-new Sanctions/Anti Money Laundering screening team.

“Over the next two years, I was promoted again and tasked with overseeing a team of 60 employees spread over five different countries.”

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After gaining professional competence and confidence, she decided to come back home in 2018. “I decided to move back to Nepal to join my family business—first, because I felt I was at a point where I could actually make valuable contributions to Mercantile by implementing what I learnt abroad into our business; second, after 10 years of living abroad, I wanted to return home and spend valuable time with my family, especially my grandparents,” she shares.

Currently, Raj Bhandari oversees Mercantile, a leading Nepali company that provides a wide range of IT products and services for both individuals and businesses. While she is definitely there to give her family legacy a new height, she says, “I am not trying to be my father, rather put in my own vision and capabilities to redefine the legacy.” She is working to launch Mercantile 2.0 in 2020, “One of my biggest tasks is to restructure and rebrand the company, both internally and externally,” she says.

The confident, vibrant and dedicated personality is still in a phase to impress her dad, and adds, “I have not yet ‘taken over’ though the plan is to transition into a major leadership role in the next few years. Although it is my family business, it has been made very clear to me by my father that I need to first fully learn the business and make contributions that make me worthy to be considered for a leading position. So, my focus right now is to learn as much as I can from my father, our CEO, business unit heads and the many other employees who have made Mercantile the industry leader that it is today.”

In her own observation, her father is truly among the most notable change-makers and thought leaders in the technology industry of Nepal. “His contribution to the Internet, digitisation and communications is unparallel and he is a huge role model to me and others in this field. That being said, my father and I have very different skill sets that complement each other to make an effective partnership. I feel confident that in time, under his mentorship and guidance, I can establish myself as a leader in my own right within Mercantile and the tech industry.”

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Raj Bhandari is also a beauty enthusiast. She launched her Instagram page @slay_by_surbs in 2016 with the goal to create a community of women with a shared interest in makeup and skincare. “I saw a gap in this space where I found minimal influencers who looked like me or dealt with issues a brown woman may face when it comes to these topics. My goal was to do my part to cover this gap and for a while, I focus solely on makeup and skincare tutorials. Over time, however, my page has developed further, and I use my platform to discuss a wide variety of lifestyle topics including travel, career, family and relationships,” says Raj Bhandari.

She finds it extremely fascinating how one can leverage social media not only to share their individual talents but also to create a global network of people who may never have crossed paths with otherwise. In regard to the future direction of the page she wants it to develop organically “I want to evolve it based on my personal experiences and the needs of my social media community” she concludes.

Text by Yunish Dahal

Photos by Hritik Shrestha

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