Cover Story

KNOWING NIRAKAR SHRESTHA:  COMPOSED – ADAPTIVE – FOCUSED

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(EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR – LAXMI INTERCONTINENTAL P LTD.)

Orange Balls, Black Balls, Mango Tart and Chocofun shaped the childhood of many people in the country. Sujal Foods, the flagship subsidiary of Laxmi Group set the benchmark in the confectionary industry and grew to become a market leader.

“My grandmother was the real business person in the family. She used to wake up at 4:00 am in the morning every single day to make pushtakar is which would be sold later in the day,” explained Nirakar Shrestha “and all that while raising two children”.

In essence, that was where
it started for Laxmi Group,
a confectionery and dairy pioneer in Nepal. However, his passion steered him in a different direction of business which was followed up by a couple of twists and turns that set a different course from what Nirakar initially started on.

Hailing from the beautiful city of Pokhara, his father, Mr. Ganesh Bahadur Shrestha (Chairman, Laxmi Group), had always imagined his later years enjoying a hearty breakfast
in his own family run Luxury Resort/hotel overseeing the beautiful Phewa Lake. It
was in pursuing his father’s dreams that Nirakar went to Switzerland where he studied hotel & tourism management.

Unfortunately, back in Nepal and internationally things were taking a turn for the worse with adverse events like Insurgency, Royal massacre and 9/11 attack unfolding one after other during the early 2000s. With the country reeling amidst the turmoil, starting something in the highly capital-intensive tourism industry did not appear to be an alluring prospective especially when existing tourism related businesses were struggling to sustain leading to an all time low for the tourism industry.

As a result, Nirakar enrolled himself into a Masters Degree in Business Management
and at the same time exploring the opportunities of diversification into new ventures other than the Laxmi Group’s existing portfolio.

Now, like most kids, Nirakar spent his childhood scraping stair railings with anything that could resemble a shape of a car. But his passion for automobiles never seized to grow. As fate would have it, he stumbled across an opportunity that was right up his alley. Destined to follow the passion for cars & automobiles, the opportunity to turn his passion into a living rolled by and he went on to acquire the distribution of the Korean automobile marquee Hyundai. And so began the journey of Nirakar Shrestha who would steam head Laxmi Intercontinental P LTD., a company that would propel the often understated Korean brand into the a formidable contender and market leader in Nepal.

The success of Hyundai as an automobile brand and Laxmi Intercontinental as its distributor is unquestionable. The Hyundai Creta amassed a sales figure of a staggering 1365 units less than a year despite the massive blow that the earthquake and the unofficial blockade had on the Nepalese economy in 2015. The success of Hyundai in Nepal was further signified by the “Sales Excellence Award” Asia & Pacific Region that was presented to Laxmi Intercontinental P LTD. by Hyundai Motor Company, Korea in March 2016.

“Back in the early 2000s, the automobile industry was pretty much dominated by
pre owned cars and a few other Japanese brands. The rest were small fry.” reminisced Shrestha, “There weren’t proper channels of distribution and most cars were being sold on an individual basis through individual traders. Automobile business was not really a formalized and standardized business then. The focus was on just selling cars and that’s it. The customers who bought cars then would have to be skeptic about their power windows and EFI engines because they were assumed to be too complex to be tackled by the state of after sales know how in those days.That was the situation when we entered the automobile business.”

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Things have now changed significantly about which Nirakar continued to elucidate.

“With Hyundai, we took an initiative to make a paradigm shift from “just selling cars” to providing “mobility solution” for customers. We believe that customers do
not just buy cars, instead we understand
that they look for a solution to their mobility needs and that too in a continuous manner. We do the best to match their mobility needs by providing them great lineup of cars and a great after sales service to continually satisfy their mobility needs. By doing so, for almost a decade, we have established Hyundai as the market leader and one of the most trusted automobile brands in Nepal.”

Nevertheless, Nirakar Shrestha has
always been quick to pin the success of the company to the values that had been passed down from his family and the team that has stood with him. His leadership style and personality might not be conventional to that of a large business owner but it has been effective. You’ll be hard pressed to find him in a formal suit, mostly because it does not exude his true personality.

“Anyone who knows me will tell you I am
a calm, composed and mellow guy, and I agree. I’m not the type to pressure someone to do anything, let alone scream and shout. I would rather put myself in the other person’s shoe and find what it takes to get people to do what they need to do. Then I would go on to make an environment to make it happen. I believe in harmonizing goals and I’m grateful to have such great team who has stood by with their personal goals and aligned with company’s vision, this match can never go wrong.”

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It is this balance of composure and focus that Nirakar seeks in his team members. To assert this energy Nirakar engrosses himself as part of the team. “I don’t see the organization as a pyramid, it’s a line and everyone has to push together” he clarified in reference to his leadership style.

Different events in life play big roles in shaping the course of a man’s habits and lifestyles, which might explain Nirakar Shrestha’s devotion to his family. Life isn’t always a bed of roses and 2011 dictated
the patience and strength of the Shrestha family. After the birth of his daughter, major complications arose and she had to be put into intensive care for two months in a hospital.

“ANYONE WHO KNOWS ME WILL TELL YOU I AM
A CALM, COMPOSED AND MELLOW GUY, AND I AGREE. I’M NOT THE TYPE TO PRESSURE SOMEONE TO DO ANYTHING, LET ALONE SCREAM AND SHOUT.
I WOULD RATHER PUT MYSELF IN THE OTHER PERSON’S SHOE AND FIND WHAT IT TAKES TO GET PEOPLE TO DO WHAT THEY NEED TO DO”

“That was a difficult time for us, we would get to see our baby for 5 minutes a day and the rest of the hours we spent waiting for the next 5 minutes we would get with her the next day.”

The happy family now enjoys their time together. Nirakar Shrestha went ahead and painted us a picture of how his day as a father usually looked like, “My daughter won’t get out of bed until I wake her up, and to do that I have to sing songs to her, ask her what she has planned for the entire day and coax her to start the day. Her mom helps her freshen up then I’m incharge of making her hair and getting her ready for the day. And she needs a facial every day, so I take care
of that as well. Then it’s off to work for me until I get back home. I’m with my family till 9pm every day.” He ended with the widest of smiles.

With his priorities set, Nirakar’s in frequencies at social gatherings are quite understandable. “It all depends on what you prioritize in life, it’s a trade off;” he replied when asked about his choice of lifestyle. “Social gatherings are things I try to squeeze in if my time with my family allows it. My family is always my first priority and I think I like it that way.”

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On the business front, things have been going splendidly. Exemplifying the stature exhibited by strong companies and brands, Laxmi Intercontinental persevered
through adversities that came into the Nepalese economy in a plenty in the form
of a devastating earthquake followed up
by political adversities in 2015. Although the initial shock did shake the confidence, the company quickly found its footing and went ahead to fulfill their responsibility. Demonstrating that they aren’t just there
to do business, Laxmi Intercontinental P LTD. took initiative to find the whereabouts and condition of its team & their family and took care of the situation. Having taken care of the internal team they moved on to
a relief operation for those in needs at large. Within the 2 weeks of the earthquake, more than 2000 earthquake affected households were provided with temporary shelter, food supplies, medicines, clothing
& blankets. To support the relief operation, Hyundai Motor Company on initiation of Laxmi InterContinental P LTD. donated USD 300,000.00 to Red Cross, Nepal. In addition, Laxmi Hyundai team epitomized the concept of great customer service by providing a special support package for the customers who had their vehicle damaged by earthquake.

Furthering his efforts to help other areas affected by the earthquake, Nirakar co-founded a movement named Survivors and has taken initiative to rebuild 11 schools in Sindhupalchowk that were damaged by the earthquake of 25.04.2015. So far it has completed rebuilding of 5 schools and also has been working in ways to help with post trauma mental health for earthquake survivors.

Over a year after the earthquake things have settled down and it has been back to business, stronger than ever. Being part of one of the biggest automobile brands in Nepal, his endeavors are expanding to incorporate societal benefits as well.

“There are certain things that have affected my life in significant ways
and has shaped the way I look at life
and what I want out of it,” explained Nirakar, “Before I hang up my hat, I aim to work towards promoting equality in mobility for people with all capabilities and abilities and if I am able make any difference in their lives I’d be a happy man.”

“BEFORE I HANG UP MY HAT, I AIM TO WORK TOWARDS PROMOTING EQUALITY IN MOBILITY FOR PEOPLE WITH ALL CAPABILITIES AND ABILITIES AND IF I AM ABLE MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE IN THEIR LIVES I’D BE A HAPPY MAN.”

Nirakar Shrestha has played a key role in bringing Hyundai Motors on the forefront of competition, helping change the outlook of the market and changing the way the automobile trade used to be.Yet, as a person he isn’t the type to gloat in the pride of being seen as the owner or leader, but rejoices in working together as part of the team; which is a crucial aspect of what makes him such a great lead to work with. Furthermore, his composed and adaptive nature
has helped him roll with the punches and survive in such an unpredictable business environment such as ours. His humble demeanor might be misleading from his focused determination which has paved the way to success.

People have different meaning of success for themselves, “I still have not assigned the meaning of success for myself. You can’t really say you’re successful or not halfway down the line, it’s the end that ascertains someone’s success. And I’ve still got some time before I wrap things up. Maybe that’s when I’ll have an inkling of what success is.”

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