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Let experience teach and propel you forward

Since graduating from Harvard University and returning to Kathmandu in 2007, Ashutosh Tiwari has been active in both the corporate and developmental sectors in Nepal. Currently the CEO of Sherpa Adventure Gear-Nepal, he has also had the distinct honour of being identified as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. In this interview, Tiwari speaks about his diverse career, his management mantras and why failures and setbacks are inevitable and necessary. Excerpts:

You have had a very diverse career that has included stints in the private sector and I/NGOs. How tough is it to jump from one sector to another?

It boils down to the ability to learn new things and to challenge yourself. The world is changing in such a way that businesses are borrowing the best practices from the NGO sector, and both are also trying to learn from private and government sectors. Things are changing so fast and you need to adapt to the world. I would say I was lucky. Underpinning the luck was the willingness to learn and challenge myself and the ability to keep an open mind.

To stay on the topic, do you think with today’s universities making students specialise in one area of focus that it is getting harder to experiment with various sectors?

I think degrees are necessary for signaling purposes to the market, but beyond that it has no other purpose. I am not too keen on educational credentials. For instance, you may cheat and shine in your exams but your real test takes place when you have to work with other people. You need to be a group collaborator not a solo performer. You need to add value to the team and over time, your reputation will grow. These lessons you learn from experience, not necessarily in a school.

Sherpa Adventure Gear-Nepal is already a well known brand across the globe. What went on behind the scenes in making it stand out in the market?

Sherpa is a made-in-Nepal company and produces as wide range of high quality outdoor gear. The fact that the product is made in Nepal is very important for the buyers. First, the customers don’t expect something like this to be made here so, that’s the positioning.

But the key factors that have made Sherpa a success is that we as a company put high priority on timely shipments, international standard quality products, consistency and utmost professionalism.

There are other well known international brands in this business; how big of a challenge was it to thrive in such a competitive eco-system?

It’s always challenging and competitive. We always have to work hard and have to consistently come up with something new and novel.

We respect our competitors and are happy that the market is growing for everybody. We do not focus much on competition but we focus on getting more customers. We are always finding ways of providing them great service and greater value. As Sherpa is a made-in-Nepal product it is an added advantage to the brand.

How do you rate the professionalism in the workplaces here in Nepal? Is it evolving?

At Sherpa, because we deal in international markets, we have to have discipline. If Sherpa just had a small outlet like other shops in Thamel, we could have done anything and everything. But we have buyers all over the world and have to raise the bar constantly. As we are connected to the global market, we have to be professional and disciplined to cater to the customers.

Nepal has a culture where failure is frowned upon. How can this mindset be changed?

I am a big fan of mistakes and failures. We learn very quickly when we make mistakes. In our organisation, we are open to learning from mistakes and speak openly about it. If you do speak about your mistakes openly, the company becomes smarter. We should not blame and that’s how we learn and get better at things.

What are your management mantras?

I am a big advocate of coaching and mentoring. I think it is essential to encourage employees to step up to the place, help them learn from their mistakes and shortcomings and to ensure that they are constantly evolving. It is important to first focus on low-value work, which then allows a company to shift their focus on high-value work. You may be able to do a lot of things but the focus has to be how you can add the greatest value to a company.

At all times, the focus should be on adding value, regardless of where you work.

How do you deal with conflicts in the workplace?

You have to be friendly with everyone at work; there is no doubt about that. Generally, people have a romantic view that work is an extended family but I disagree. There will be people you don’t like at work and even a few difficult people. But these things shouldn’t affect you and the best possible way is not to take it on a personal level. At the end of the day, it’s about being professional. Your job is to create value and to push your company forward, not to win a popularity contest.

What advice do you have for fresh graduates entering the job market?

Start by being helpful. That is one way you can learn more and pick up skills. There are a whole lot of things a college won’t teach you. You need to learn by yourself.

Let experience teach you and propel you forward.

By Alisha Sijapati