Shesh Ghale is a Mebourne, Australia based non-resident Nepali businessman. He has been listed as the 180th richest man in Australia (together with his wife Jamuna Gurung) by BRW News Australia with a fortune of $225 million. Recently, Ghale has been elected as the president of the Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA). Ghale, founder and chief executive officer of Melbourne Institute of Technology, under the MIT Group Holdings Nepal, has signed a management contract with Starwood Hotels and Resort Worldwide, Inc. to build a five-star property named—the Sheraton Kathmandu. He has also come up with some other investment plans in Nepal. Soon after being elected as the president of NRNA, he has pledged to promote entrepreneurship in Nepal. He spoke to Siromani Dhungana of New Business Age about his and NRNA’s future investment plans in Nepal. Excerpts:
As the new president of NRNA, what’re your priorities in Nepal?
First meeting of the newly elected committee of NRNA has decided to focus on employment generation and sustainable development of Nepal. To achieve these goals we will implement various projects. These projects include establishing a five-star hotel in Kathmandu that will assist in creating employment opportunities and thereby also contribute in economic growth. We will immediately start the feasibility study for constructing this five-star hotel. Along with that we are planning to bring other projects to help us in gaining our objectives.
What other projects that NRNA will push forward during your tenure?
We will put emphasis on mutual investment projects. I think NRNA should promote culture of entrepreneurship. During my tenure, we will be doing various activities that promote entrepreneurship in Nepal. These activities will be aimed at translating our slogan ‘Connecting Nepali for Prosperous Nepal’ into actuality.
NRNA is often blamed for ignoring blue-colour employees working in the gulf region in spite of their huge contribution to the national economy. What’s your say?
No. Their contribution to the country will be recognized during my tenure. We have decided to create a ‘Relief Fund’ for migrant workers who have been suffering in foreign land. The fund will be utilized in welfare activities especially for those who die, who get injured and who are shelter less in foreign land. I have pledged to provide Rs 10 million for the fund and I am hopeful that other friends will contribute to the cause. The funds will be ultiized once detailed working procedure is finalized.
Getting back to NRNA’s decision to invest in hotel sector, why did you choose this business sector to invest in?
We have good links with foreign star hotel chain brands for investing in hotels. I think we can introduce their expertise here in Nepal. Another reason is the existence of good business prospects for hotels. Non Resident Nepalis can make good profit by investing small amount in this sector. We will encourage new friends to invest in this sector so that the country will get new set of entrepreneurs.
But there is strong belief that NRNs should invest in infrastructure rather than hotel sector.
There are several obvious reasons why we decided to invest in hotel business. First, the hotel business can generate more employment in small investment. We can generate four hundred jobs if we establish a 200-bed hotel. Second, we can produce skilled manpower by operating hotels with international standard in Nepal. Human resources who work in standard Nepali five-star hotels, can easily get job abroad. Third, hotel business will have a multiplier impact in development. If we establish a hotel in a community, the entire community starts to get benefit from that.
Another reason is the investment in hotel business is easily transferable. Hotel business is one which helps generate foreign exchange reserve.
NRNA will not, however, undermine infrastructure projects. We will continue all infrastructure projects, including hydropower projects, during my tenure as well. Hydropower has been our priority and it will remain so in the years to come.
Are you also targeting middle-income NRNs during your tenure?
Yes, indeed. NRNA has planned to start a commercial agriculture project targeting NRNs of middle-east and Korea. NRNs are enthusiastic to invest but do not have much money can benefit from our plan of initiating commercial agro project. On the other hand, commercialization of agriculture sector is Nepal’s need of the hour. Nepal should tap potentials in agricultural sector since majority of the people’s lives in the country relies heavily on it. Commercializing agriculture sector will also help Nepal in reducing import of agro product.
You often emphasize on entrepreneurship for the prosperity of the country. Do you have specific plan to promote entrepreneurship in Nepal?
I am planning to join hands with young Nepali entrepreneurs to promote entrepreneurship in the country. I will create a forum for young entrepreneurs so that they can exchange experience with entrepreneurs from other countries. Also, NRNA has planned to provide a mentor for aspiring entrepreneurs. The concept of mentorship is introduced to synergize the expertise of the older generation with the energy of younger generation.
Entrepreneurship development is a time-intensive project rather than capital-intensive. The mentor has to spend time with younger generation entrepreneurs to share experience and to inspire them to do something worthwhile. We are confident that we can produce some good entrepreneurs by materializing this concept.
It is said that Nepali products are yet to get foothold in international market. How can we expand country’s recognition in international business realm?
We NRNs, who have already entered in international business sector, should act as bridge to link Nepal with other international markets. Collective efforts of government bodies and private sector can earn a good reputation for the country. The country needs to pay attention on creating brand name of some products in the international market. Some promotional activities will be also needed to this end. Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) has been putting effort to promote Nepali products in the international market. It has a separate Nepali Products Promotion Committee which has been extensively working to promote Nepali products. We will work in close collaboration with FNCCI and young entrepreneurs.
Do you have other specific plan for promoting Nepali brands in international market?
It is worthwhile mentioning here that we will be promoting Nepali products through ‘Made in Nepal’ exhibition in various countries. We have planned to organize such exhibitions in five countries in the first phase. Similarly, we will construct ‘Nepal House’ in various countries which will be helpful to inform foreigners about Nepal and Nepali culture. We have planned to construct such houses in Mexico, Belgium, UK, USA and Australia. We will gradually expand this concept to other nations and cities too.
How do you take recent accusations of involvement of political parties in NRNA’s recent convention ?
I want to clear it out that politics is our least priority in Nepal. We are all focused on bringing cultural change regarding entrepreneurship in Nepal. We have to increase productivity for the prosperity of the country and we will be involved in such activities but not in politics directly.