“I believe this is the right time to start a business in Nepal” – SHREE GURUNG, DIRECTOR (PARTYNEPAL.COM) ￼
When we came across Shree Gurung, we knew it was something we had to share. Shree is one of the most prominent event management & marketing entrepreneur and lately the most recognizable social/ political activist in Kathmandu. Having started his journey with PartyNepal, he is now the Director of the company and is also involved with DurbarMarg Development Board as a Project Director where he is credited with the success of the DurbarMarg street lighting project. Besides being an active entrepreneur, he is also involved with several social and political activism campaigns and communities. As of now, he is coming up with a new project ‘Octave Kathmandu’, a multi-functional terrace lounge which is opening in Durbarmarg soon. So, TNM caught up with Shree to talk about his upcoming project, the current political situation, and the solution ahead. Excerpts:
TNM: With a history of more than 12 years in various types of events, PartyNepal is one of the oldest and most popular event management companies in Nepal. How did your association with PartyNepal take place?
SG: Founded in 2003, PartyNepal is one of the most renowned event management companies in Nepal. However, I was not one of the founders. After completing my film studies in Bangalore, I came back to Kathmandu and joined Master’s in journalism with a focus on investigative journalism. Being pretty good in multimedia stuffs, photography, video editing, designing and computers helped me in making factual films regarding political and social issues which were of my interest. I joined PartyNepal when it had been closed for 6 months. But then, Rabin (one of the founders of PartyNepal) who was my brother’s friend approached me and discussed the state of PartyNepal at that point of time. That’s when we decided to collaborate and redefine PartyNepal again.
TNM: What compelled you to make such a radical career change?
SG: There really were so many options and thoughts going through my head during that time. But I always wanted to work here. I wanted to establish myself in Nepal because there were few businesses around with ample opportunities floating in air. However, my father was skeptical about me on returning back because while working for Microsoft at a call-centre in Bangalore, I used to earn quite a lot of money. We both knew that if I don’t work hard and establish myself in that situation after coming back, I’ll have to walk away. Not to sound clichéd, but I wanted to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond.
TNM: After you joined PartyNepal, what did you focus on to make PartyNepal stand out from the competition?
SG: My vision for PartyNepal wasn’t just throwing parties but to redefine the overall party scenario of Nepal. While it was wonderful that a lot of focus was on the natural wonders of the country, there was far too little attention paid to domestic tourism, which was still experiencing serious growing pains. Hence, we started a project called ‘PartyNepal Outdoors’. PartyNepal Outdoors was basically targeted towards corporate sectors where we were taking huge number of people to tourist spots like Pokhara and Chitwan. It was the biggest mobilization of domestic tourism. Even, Mr. Deepak Raj Joshi, the current CEO of Nepal Tourism Board, lauded our effort because it was the biggest mobilization of domestic tourism. People were uploading pictures and sharing their stories on social media which in turn influenced others to travel. Besides, we also continued to expand in other sectors. We came up with various events like Durbarmarg street festival, Kantipur Pariwartan, and NCell road show, among others. In the same time, we also started conducting various team building and other training services for many corporate houses.
TNM: PartyNepal grew quickly and became a well-respected player in the competition. But, it’s mostly silent now. Has the company lost its mojo now?
SG: PartyNepal is more into client servicing now. After the dissolution of the company, I decided to buy the company. After I bought it, I wanted to shift my focus on other things rather than commercial parties. However, PartyNepal as a brand is one of the most renowned brands in Nepal. If you look at our Facebook page, we’ve got 17k organic likes. That alone explains our popularity. Besides, we are opening the first outlet of PartyNepal.com – ‘Octave Kathmandu’ in Durbarmarg shortly.
TNM: Please tell us more about this new place. We’re sure our readers would be excited to know.
SG: Well, Octave Kathmandu is a multi-functional terrace lounge that’s opening shortly inside the premises of Hotel Woodland in Durbarmarg. The terrace lounge will have two sections – outdoor and indoor.
There will be an outdoor lounge with a dedicated DJ playing lounge mixes and some astroturf, not to mention a front-view to the bustling Durbar-Marg. And if you are less worried about the views and more about indoors, Octave Kathmandu will have an indoor club with a small lounge, a multi-functional hall and a bar. We will be focusing more on birthday and corporate parties rather than weekend parties. I hope Octave Kathmandu will serve as a refreshing terrace experience.
TNM: Could it be more hip?
SG: Well yes, actually. The place will have pool-tables and fussball, too.
TNM: Beside entrepreneurship, you are equally involved in social and political activism too. What was your pathway towards this effort?
SG: When I was growing up, social and political factors were the agent of influence. What was important to me was to make a difference. As I got deeper and deeper into the issues, I came to realize that it is possible to change people’s opinions and form a common ground to solve these problems by working together. Hence, this compelled me to get associated with a number of campaigns and efforts.
TNM: Speaking of now, although the new constitution has set a huge milestone, there has been a strong divergence of opinion within a lot of factions. How do you see this?
SG: The current crisis was bound to happen. Although the new constitution reflects aspirations of all Nepalese, it seems to have divided the whole country over issues of inclusion and proportional representation. However, people should understand the fact that a constitution can be amended. It’s not static but dynamic. There can be no reason that genuine demands won’t be addressed.
TNM: But despite the promulgation of a new constitution, the scenario is worsening every-day. People are fed up with the current crop of politicians and the deadlock on contentious issues is yet to be solved. Do you think our political consensus is to be blamed?
SG: Yes, this has been a wake-up call for all of us. If you look at our government, it is dominated by party politics and the syndicate of its wings. In Nepal, prime ministers are made by the parties rather than people; hence, the prime minister is more accountable towards the parties rather than the public. Politics, like other sectors, also needs a generational change. Older leaders should make way for the younger ones. However, in our country, they continue to occupy key positions and rarely provide chance to others. This is one of the many reasons why we’re advocating for a directly elected chief executive because a directly elected chief executive is the only system which makes the government above the party politics and secures people ́s supremacy.
If you look back, a majority of the population suggested for a directly elected prime minister during the public feedback collection campaign on the preliminary draft of the constitution. I personally believe that a direct popular election is more democratic and fair than the electoral system because it ensures that citizens’ votes have equal weight while it also makes the elected candidate accountable to the general public. Moreover, a directly elected official will align with democratic principles, represent citizens equally and encourage voter turnout. If we can vote in better people who would deliver better governance, then why not? A directly elected official would have better policies and services and address the growing aspirations of its citizens.
We are definitely in the rock- bottom scenario. However, once you hit rock bottom, there is no place else to go but up!
TNM: Based on the current situation, where do you see this country heading in the next five years?
SG: We are definitely in the rock-bottom scenario. However, once you hit rock bottom, there is no place else to go but up! Nevertheless, we have so many positives to take. We have all the resources needed for agricultural, industrial, tourism and energy revolution. All we need is one click amongst the concerned stakeholders to accelerate our economy. This is not just optimism but it is true, because the indicators are there. If you look at
the stats, Nepal will have more than 3000MW of electricity connected to its grid within 5 years. If we had accelerated our hydroelectricity projects five years ago, the momentum would have been different now. But with so many investments flowing in this sector, things will prosper soon.
TNM: Still, we are rapidly losing our workforce …
SG: Of course everyone wants a better life for themselves and their families. However, we are also producing a huge number of workforce (particularly youth) every year. If we can build their skills and provide them ample opportunities, then they will play a vital role in building social cohesion, economic prosperity and political stability. To ensure the active participation of our workforce in national development, they need to be supported and encouraged by the government, the private sector and the civil society.
TNM: Finally, what advice would you give young people today who want to start something on their own?
SG: I would say that, in spite of all the challenges and obstacles, you should be passionate and have realistic goals. For the last several years I have worked in client and PR related roles. Figuring out how I’d perform my role was never a problem for me because I’ve always loved interacting with people. I believe this is the right time to start a business in Nepal. Although starting something in adverse conditions can be a challenge, but it can also be an opportunity that you can work on.