GOPAL KAKSHAPATI:OF AMBITIONS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
One of the most influential people in my life was my father. Even though I was very young when he passed away I remember that he was a very clever person but very soft spoken and kind hearted at the same time. I had never seen him scolding anyone. There was a sense of calm in him and he adapted to situations very well.
I was also a bookworm when I was a child, I’d have my nose buried into books all the time. The best thing about it is that different books teach you different lessons .I preferred autobiographies because I liked how people went through in their lives. For instance Nelson Mandela’s book teaches you a lot about patience and how to get along in any kind of situation.
The teaching of Buddha’s also helped me develop a broader perspective. I used to read and understand the lessons which used to make sense to me. When you read books you are inspired by the sayings and that calms you as a person.
Gopal Kakshapati’s father passed away when he was very young, that’s when he moved with his mother, elder brother, and sister to the then hippie central of Kathmandu: Jhonche. Accommodating into another family wasn’t easy, but they managed to make ends meet. Gopal Kakshapati’s elder brother, Shyam Kakshapati, began working early and opened up a small grocery shop when he completed his SLC. Gopal soon followed suit and involved himself in the same store.
“I always wanted to study anthropology,” explained Gopal Kakshapati who majored in Economics. He then thought of getting into interior designing, but that didn’t really work out either. “Getting into the restaurant business was pure coincidence.”
Their business of a small grocery store in Ratnapark paved ways towards Café De Park, a small restaurant that served western cuisine; hamburgers and pizzas, nothing too extravagant. Nevertheless, it was something new and it set the stage for what would become the biggest fast-food franchise in Nepal’s history till date; Nanglo. Café De Park evolved into the Nanglo Café and Pub in 1976 and moved to Durbarmarg where it reigned supreme for almost 38 years.
We were very young when we started it and, to be honest, there were no particular strategies that we implemented. We weren’t economists or researchers, we didn’t do any surveys either. We started with passion, and we continued with patience and discipline. Without hard work and consistency no business can sustain itself.
Life has its ups and downs, for everyone. I really don’t think there has been any particular point in life which has put me down for too long, you just keep going.
People used to look down upon us and call us names because we cooked food and washed used dishes. We were not welcome in a lot of places but we did not let it get to us. You have to believe in yourself and stick to what you do.
Had we given up and let people’s opinions define our potential, I do not think Nanglo would have been what it is today. We persevered through the social pressure and stigma for almost a decade and it was difficult but we were never quitters.
Over the years, his ventures diversified. One of the biggest achievements under his belt is the biggest beauty pageant in the nation, Miss Nepal. Organized and conducted by the Hidden Treasures, where Gopal Sundar Lal Kakshapati is Chairman, Miss Nepal has seen over two decades of success.
Back in the days, girls only mingled with the girls and the boys hung out with the boys. There was a distinct division and that was the way it was. it went on for quite a long while. There were several leadership training programs that we would conduct when I was the President at Kathmandu Jaycees, and it was terribly difficult to find female participants. They would always find an excuse to misconstrue leadership as involvement in politics. Nevertheless, I was adamant to get female members into the program because it is necessary to empower the youth, which includes both the sexes. After a whole lot of observation, I assumed one way to attract female participants to these programs was if we added a hint of glamour factor to it. That would mean disguising it as a beauty pageant. Although it required some persuasion, I got the rest of the committee members on board the idea. I even managed one of them to go with me to India and watch the 1993 Miss India. As luck would have it, we met the Editor of Femina Magazine, who offered to send some people to help out with the initiation of what would be Miss Nepal. But I thought it would be better to create our own team and do it ourselves.
This would be a massive undertaking, one filled with apprehension and uncertainty, but we had a team that was up for it. I brought together people I knew who were capable of different things.
The first Miss Nepal was completed under Kathmandu Jaycees. But for an organization that changed Presidents every year, it would have been difficult to keep Miss Nepal going consistently. There had to be a dedicated entity to carry it out. That’s how Hidden Treasures came into fruition in 1995. Later, Kathmandu Jaycees and Hidden Treasure collaborated together in order to organize Miss Nepal and it has worked pretty well so far.
Today, Miss Nepal is a formidable entity which has become a household name. Nevertheless, it did go through shaky times. From last minute rehearsal mishaps to agitated pressure groups shouting slogans against the beauty pageant; Miss Nepal did not have it easy at first.
Life has its ups and downs, for everyone. I really don’t think there has been any particular point in life which has put me down for too long; you just keep going.
Despite an easygoing lifestyle and philosophy, Gopal Kakshapati is extremely passionate about his work. And it is important when you’re undertaking a massive empire. Nanglo has become a massive franchise, one of the most prominent and longest running in the nation. Still, they have been able to maintain a staggeringly impressive employee turnover of 15-20 years.
Two things are to be kept into consideration while working with me, one is sincerity and the other one is perfection. I believe that without this you cannot be consistent. Without sincerity and the need to achieve perfection you stagnate. Discipline brings order while its absence brings disorder and chaos. The discipline he expects from his team Gopal demonstrates in his daily lifestyle.
I wake up by 5:15am and make sure I get to the gym by 6am and make it to the office by 9:30. Then it’s the usual working day till 5:30 in the evening. If I do not have events to attend to I go home and have my dinner at 8. I have a pretty simple lifestyle.
Becoming a successful person requires a fair bit of luck, but even more skill and determination. Things weren’t any different for Gopal Kakshapati. His story isn’t a rags to riches fairy tale that came true overnight. Nevertheless, over the years, being able to manage people has been a major part of his success.
You have to be a good human being and be emphatic. Being honest with what you do and the ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes makes you a better manager. I respect the value of my work and I make sure I dignify other people’s work. Our employees value us and choose to stick with us because we respect their work sincerely.
The difficulties of balancing a hectic lifestyle, particularly one where you are constantly in the periphery of the most beautiful women in the country, with a steady personal life is a gargantuan act.
I did not start Miss Nepal just to glamorize the concept. I used glamour as an added incentive so more women would opt to join in on what in actuality is a platform for leadership development for the youth of the nation. It’s far from being all about glamour. Fortunately my wife supports and understands me a lot and lets me be. If you know what it takes to be in your profession and are crystal about it with everyone it helps a lot to be more balanced and manage it well.
You have to be a good human being and be emphatic. Being honest with what you do and the ability to yourself in other people’s shoes makes you a better manager.
One thing I know for sure is that you should be liberal and let people make their own decisions. So when I raised my children I never interfered with anything. My daughter wanted to study arts and I encouraged her to do what she is most passionate about. My son wanted to be a chef after he finished his school. I was surprised, but I encouraged him to pursue what he wants. He finished his degree and now he manages the restaurant.
I think the key to social success is liberty and you give and take the liberty. Both parties should understand the concept and should not misuse the freedom.
As Miguel de Cervantes once said “In order to attain the impossible, one must attempt the absurd”, maybe that is what spurred Gopal Kakshapati to start Miss Nepal despite the naysayers. It could very well be the prime factor that set him on to the path of success.
There are a lot of moments that liberate me and make me happy and feel like I am successful. I don’t stop, though, and I always want to make sure I keep doing things that are innovative and new.
PHOTOS: BIBHAS M. SUWAL