The country’s fiercely competitive gemstone business is a hard one to get into. But one young entrepreneur has risked it.
Carving your own niche as part of a new generation in a family run business is tough. But Prasun Jalan, Director of Urja Ventures which operates Gitanjali Jewels Nepal is one who knows how to do it well. Established in 2012, Gitanjali Jewels Nepal has maintained a notable presence in the Nepali jewellery market in a relatively short period.
Born in 1986, Jalan always had a passion to try and explore new things. He completed his undergraduate degree in management from the University of Mumbai. “Everyone of my age at that time went to Bangalore or Pune for further studies. But I wanted to explore myself, so I went alone to study in Mumbai,” he mentions.
While in Mumbai he worked part time job at his uncle’s company. Little did he realise that the job was going to change his life. “My classes used to be over quite early and I had nothing to do the whole day,” he says, adding, “So, I decided to join my uncle’s company as a part timer. With time I came to realise that it was a very big company and it was also engaged in trading of commodities.”
His interest in stock markets, commodity trading grew more intense with every passing day. “Slowly I started to gain insights into the stock market and to my surprise I was given the responsibility of handling an independent bullion trading unit,” he shares.
Jalan, who started working at the young age of 19, was an active bullion trader in Indian Exchange. Immediately after completing his bachelor’s degree, he did a three-month training course in investment banking. “After my investment banking training was over, I was offered a job at Goldman Sachs. Luckily I got through the interview and landed there,” Jalan recalls. “Nonetheless, I did not realise that I held a position in the bank which was beyond my academics until I got onto the floor.”
After working for Goldman Sachs for two years, he came back to Nepal leaving his well-paid job to start something on his own. “On returning to Nepal, I got engaged in my family business and knew about the working culture in the country,” says Jalan. In 2012, he finally started his own venture in the jewellery business.
He says he sees the already mature jewellery industry and the presence of big players who are already known in Nepal as the biggest challenges for anyone who wants to enter the jewellery business. He says breaking into the circle is like a lion entering into another lion’s territory inside a jungle.
“Initially it was a very big challenge for me as my family was not into this business and usually in Nepal, the jewellery business is run by generations of the same family,” mentions Jalan. According to Jalan, Nepal is among the few countries that manufactures 24 carat gold jewellery. Nevertheless, he says the government of Nepal is yet to recognize the jewellery business as an important sector which has high potential for growth and export. “Our vision is to utilise the expertise of Nepali jewellery craftsmanship and export the products globally,” he shares, adding, “But unfortunately there is a lack craftsmanship and we are not being able train people accordingly.”
An avid food lover, Jalan loves to try new cuisines and doesn’t miss out on any new food items while travelling. He loves to travel and meet new people. Away from work, he likes to spend most of his time with his family and friends.
Jalan who lives in a joint family set-up at Thapathali is married to a radiologist. According to him, his family has always supported by his choices. “When I told my father that I wanted to do something on my own and not join the family business, he was very supportive,” he says.
Jalan became a part of Entrepreneurs Organisation (EO) on December 2016. According to him, EO has changed his life in a short span of time. “In EO we have a monthly learning session where we get an opportunity to learn from professional trainers,” he mentions. “It is like going back to university while you are at work.”
The EO is a global, peer-to-peer network of more than 12,000 influential business owners with 160 chapters in 50 countries. Founded in 1987, EO is the catalyst that enables leading entrepreneurs to learn and grow, leading to greater success in business and beyond. EO Nepal, founded in 2003, is one of the chapters among the 160 chapters of the global organisation which has 51 members at present.
According to Jalan, age was never a problem for him as he started working at the age of 19 and now he owns a business at the age of 31. “If I wasn’t young and was an old mature person then I don’t think I would have taken such a risk and entered the jewellery business,” he opines. “The initial few years were very difficult for me as I went through a lot of loss but I believe this is how a business works.”He believes that age is no bar in running a business. “There is no specific age to be in business. There are CEOs at the age of eleven and there are people who become CEOs at the age of 80,” he says.
“One should explore all opportunities before you zero down to one single thing and as per my experience until the age of 35 you can take maximum risks in your life,” says Jalan. One thing that he regrets is coming back to Nepal a little early without much professional experience. He stresses on the importance of having professional experience to add efficiency to any work. He says that Nepal needs people with high-levels of international professional experience. “I came back to Nepal with a very short experience. I think Nepal really needs experienced professionals in order to move forward,” he opines.
On the storefront side of things, Jalan says that very few Nepalis come into the jewellery store with full knowledge about the products they want to purchase. So his company not only sells products but also educates customers on the quality and design of the jewellery it sells. He also introduced a first of its kind scheme in Nepal whereby credit card holders of Nepal Investment Bank, Global IME Bank and Nabil Bank can purchases jewellery items from the company at zero percent EMI upto 18 months.
According to him, the market is gradually changing and the demand for designer jewellery is on the rise.
The future seems limitless for this young businessman. Jalan has an aim to take his jewellery business to the top spot in the domestic jewellery market. “We are the fastest growing jewellers in the country right now. Over the next five years I want see my company become a prominent jewellery house in Nepal,” he says.