Leaving handsomely paying job to start a digital marketing company: Story of ACT 360

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Though the traditional form of marketing still holds the major chunk of market share in Nepal, digital marketing is starting to see silver lining.

In 2015, a group of three friends Amod Niroula, Cheteze Tamang, and Tenzing Samdup took up the courage to leave leave their handsomely paying jobs and start a digital marketing company. Having worked in reputed tech companies for years on SEO, social media promotion, and brand building, they had started their own company in December that year.

They had started the company with just 150,000 rupees in total (50 thousand each by three friends). They had started the company with a motive to provide complete services on the web, social media, digital advertising and branding services.

The company is getting popular these days for the services it offers.

“While starting a company, you put your own money, work all the day, and at the end of month, you even don’t get a salary. It doesn’t feel that good, when you used to earn handsomely earlier. But, you need to keep going seeing the long run,” shared Niroula recalling the early days.

The challenging beginning

The time they were starting, most were unaware what digital marketing was. “Even now, people do not understand what digital marketing is. They don’t understand the number of Facebook page likes is the number of their audience. But, it is our responsibility to make the clients understand,” shares Niroula.

“The traditional form of marketing was just about advertising and sales-focused marketing. Advertising is just one part of marketing. Only the foreign brands who introduced their products in Nepal exercised brand-focused marketing. Almost none of Nepali brands did that,” says Niroula, adding, “We have to make clients understand what sort of digital media to use for what objectives. That is a challenging part. We have to go through months of negotiation process before finally making a deal with clients.”

Getting the first client was not hard though. They had not even formally registered the company when a client approached them. But, as they needed to have a bank account, PAN number, and every other legal works done, they did everything quickly and began working formally.

After about 6 months of starting the company, they got an opportunity to get into ‘Enterprise’, a business accelerator program run by Nepalese Young Entrepreneurs Forum (NYEF). It provided them with all needed mentorship and ideas about properly running a startup.

Present scenario of digital marketing in Nepal

“Earlier, people used to question why digital marketing, but now, almost everyone knows they need to carry out digital marketing. Though people are mostly aware about the digital marketing (Facebook marketing especially) they still don’t have much idea what needs to be done for digital marketing,” he says. “Unlike television commercial or newspaper advertisements, they don’t know what to follow particularly for digital marketing, they don’t know the entire breadth of whatever is available in digital marketing, and how a business can be promoted digitally,” shares Niroula about clients’ sentiments.

“We do share to all of our clients that digital marketing can’t work without digital marketing strategy. And, we can’t come up with digital marketing strategy without a proper marketing strategy. So, in most of the cases, we have to work with the clients from marketing strategy itself. We need to work overall 360 degrees. For some clients, we even do their branding,” he shares.

Target clients

Currently, the clients of ACT 360 are mainly those who can pay premium. The company has been working with banks and financial institutions, auto-dealers, restaurants, etc.

Challenges in digital marketing industry

Digital marketing is an industry not explored in Nepal that much, and not many are familiar about this. Most banks are not ready to facilitate payment on behalf of tech companies as they are not yet clear on the policies. So, digital marketing agencies still have to go through various such challenges.

Niroula says that Nepal Rastra Bank, the central bank, still doesn’t understand technology. The growth of industry is solely because of the requirement by time, he adds.

“It’s still emerging. But it’s going to be very competitive. The advertising rates are going to be more expensive. Digital advertising is going to be more like mainstream media,” opines Niroula. “The scope of companies like ours is very big. There are lots of things to be done. There are many opportunities, and challenges,” he adds.

“Getting quality manpower is another challenge for us,” says Niroula.

“Not only in Nepal, government and policy-makers are backward everywhere. It’s innovation and market needs that drag them and push them. Media and people should push government for such changes,” he says.

Hiring team members

“We see ourselves as the family of superstars,” says Niroula, one of the co-founders and Managing Partner at ACT 360.

“Whomever we hire, we see if they are capable of being superstars. We look at their willingness to learn They should be fun and innovative. They love to enjoy the work, and spend the time in the company with fun. They too should ensure the customer success. Only will then we make the hire,” shared Niroula.

“You also need to have good communication skills. You need to have that zeal and enthusiasm. We teach them the rest,” he says.

While joining a company, you need to come up with an open mind and willingness to learn new things, he says.

The WOW moments

There were many WOW and NO moments in their journey.

“In the beginning of second year of our operation, we made a single project contract worth all the revenues we were able to make in the whole first year. It felt like we did everything worth our one year of journey in a single contract. From that, we were amused that we reached such a point to do such works,” Niroula reminisced with pride.

“It showed us hope and showed direction where we can go if we were to progress that way,” he added.

Another WOW moment in their journey was hiring a first developer in the company, as making the first hire is the most difficult job to do. “Before that, we were totally confused on how to make a hire, whom to hire and how to work with a new team-member who is not our own friend,” Niroula expressed.

Started from 3 co-founders, as many as 18 youths are currently working under the company.

Last fiscal year alone, they worked with as many as 57 clients on digital marketing and brand promotion.

The brighter future ahead

“It’s still difficult to say exactly where we will reach in the span of next two years. We will most likely establish a company in United States. If grown as expected, there will be around 80 people working under ACT 360 in the duration,” shares Niroula about the future of the company.

To the aspiring entrepreneurs:

The startup trend is just beginning in Nepal. It’s easy to get resources now. Earlier, there were none to approach to and discuss about starting a company, take ideas and mentorship. It was hard to get mentors.

Now, many are willing to start something on their own. It’s good thing.

Nowadays, there are many role-models in Nepali entrepreneurial market. It’s wonderful to have role-models. In the earlier generations, there were no such role-models. It’s also because of them that many are aspiring entrepreneurs.

While we were starting two years ago, we couldn’t consult with anyone on starting a company, especially in a society that expects you to have a job. We also used to be in dilemma if others steal our business idea.

I ask new-comers to have a BIG dream. If you are to start a company, you also have to be prepared for every challenge. You need to have knowledge about the field/industry. You need to know the finance and accounting. If you don’t know this, you won’t understand where the company is going, and whether it’s making profit or loss. Why do we start a company? Of course, to earn money. If you don’t know how much money you are making, it will not work out.

You also need to have organization skills, and have work division.

It’s always better to join and work in a startup for few years if you are planning to start a startup. Be the first staff that startup hires. You will end up doing the same thing when you actually start your own company.

You need to have field knowledge, organization skills and finance literacy prior to starting a company.

Startups for a better Nepal!

Presentation: Basanta Kumar Dhakal

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