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Work hard but smart

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Kathmandu, December 12, 2016: Rajan Babu Shrestha has been involved in Nepal’s automobile sector for the past 21 years, during which time he has worked for brands such as Toyota and Maruti. Now the CEO at Sipradi Trading—the authorised distributor of TATA Motors in the country—Shrestha is a strong adherent of decentralisation and delegation. In this interview with Alisha Sijapati, he talks about brand management, the working culture at Sipradi and the keys to managing a large workforce. Excerpts:

Being the authorised distributor of TATA, how has Sipradi maintained the standard and legacy of the TATA brand?

Sipradi Trading has been the authorised distributor of TATA for almost 34 years now. In these 34 years what we have realised is that the products we sell in itself is excellent and the services that we provide to our customers has been well received. What we really did here in Nepal to make TATA a strong brand is we repair vehicles anywhere and everywhere and most importantly, the spare parts are easily available and affordable. If you go to small cities and even villages, TATA is available at your service. I believe that TATA is already a major brand due its after sales services and it has a fair resale value. TATA is very well updated with smart technology and we keep trying to strengthen the brand by creating innovative marketing schemes and ideas. We also focus on providing trainings to not just our technicians but also to locals. We in fact, take our mobile training vans to local mechanics and provide them with trainings as well. I am confident that we are winning the trust of our customers.

What are your roles and responsibilities as the CEO of Sipradi Trading? What are the keys to managing a large workforce like yours?

The key to managing a large taskforce is ensuring that a system is set in place. If a company is to grow, it is imperative that is driven by a system, not by the people. If this is successfully implemented, you ensure that a proper culture is set and are not adversely affected by changes in personnel. Another thing that is crucial is ensuring that you have the right people occupying the right positions within the system.

As an employer you need to see if an employee has the right skills for the positions that are open. If that is overlooked, you are setting yourself up to fail.

As the CEO it is my duty to check on if the employees are accountable for their roles and responsibilities. It is my duty to promote the vision and values of the company, maintain and improve an open communication platform, encourage team work, and to respect and recognise excellence in performance. We delegate a lot of the responsibilities and are strong adherents of decentralisation. We give opportunities to employees to take ownership and prove themselves. Giving ownership brings some kind of positive pressure and motivation to the employees and I believe this changes the working environment too.

As your company becomes bigger, how important is proper delegation?

Proper delegation is extremely important. Sipradi believes in teamwork and we highly value and believe in it. What we do at our company is that we like to involve people, discuss ideas and delegate jobs accordingly. As we give heavy emphasis on setting up a proper system, we have a review mechanism to monitor the performance of the employees and to ensure if given tasks are completed with full value and dignity.

As TATA thrives more on sales and marketing, how do you select the best of the best candidates for your company?

As we have very strong system in place, what we really feel is there is no point hiring someone who is already experienced because they just won’t understand the system we work with. We prefer fresh graduates. So, what we are doing is, we visit colleges and observe students interested in this field. We give them proper training followed by a written test, presentation, individual interview and group interview. The process is very rigorous. If they do want to join the automobile sector, especially in the sales and marketing field, they need to have in depth knowledge about the product. We make sure that the candidates spend at least a month in the workshops, make them understand the engine and other technical sides and then send them in to the market.

Obviously, over time and looking at their performances, we gradually upgrade them. We have appraisal twice a year. 90 percent of the staff working at Sipradi started out as fresh graduates.

When handling such a large taskforce, labour problems often arise. How do you manage these problems?

Labour union has gotten mature over the years. The union is not as brash as it was about a decade back. We have maintained a healthy relationship with them.  There are regular updates and feedback back and forth. In terms of human resource, the labour union is very strong. Since we value our employees, we always try to reach out to their needs and review what facilities we can provide.

How important is trusting your employees with their tasks, as suppose to micro managing?

First thing first, always respect your employee–that is the one reason why most of the employees are satisfied working for our organisation. If you don’t trust your employees, they cannot bring the expected result. Like I said before, we really believe in decentralisation of work and there is a lot of cross-checking. But without trust, a company cannot run.

What are your management mantras?

It’s very simple. I really believe in simplicity. System, processes, everything has to be simple.

A lot of problems will appear if things are complicated. You should always work hard. Working hard doesn’t mean you try to break the walls with bare hands. You need to be smart and use proper tools to break them. Work hard but in a smart way.

What advice do you have for fresh graduates wanting to join the automobile sector?

You might fail as you’re starting out, but that doesn’t mean you stop trying. Failure is part of life. Failure is an opportunity to improve.