Mahanta Shrestha, Founder President of Non-Resident Nepalese Association (NRNA), is a successful entrepreneur in the United Kingdom. He led a bilateral trade mission to Nepal to explore investment opportunities in both countries a few months ago. Shrestha talked to Ishor N Rijal and Sushil Singh of NepaliSamajUK.com on the NRN movement, its journey up till now, his business undertakings, among others. Here we have the excerpts:
NepaliSamajUK.com (NSUK): You have played a key role during the genesis of Non-Resident Nepalese (NRN) Association. How have you faired in your objectives?
Mahanta Shrestha: During 2002, I, along with some other like-minded friends, had established the organization here in the UK. During then, and still now, I have been constantly telling my friends that we have to work in tandem for the welfare and betterment of Nepalese living abroad, help the needy ones, do something good for the motherland; but not ask for something from others and government. It’s our main motto to be in connection with Nepal in some ways. Now also, I have urged the NRN friends to work to these effects. Even during the NRN’s second convention, I have underscored the need that we should work towards the vision of new and prosperous Nepal.
NSUK: What is your take even as the NRNs are lobbying strongly for dual citizenship and with other demands to Nepal Government lately?
Shrestha: Right from its genesis, I’m of the opinion that we should work in hand-in-hand to help each other and the Nepalese in need. I’m also pressing hard that we should not always talk of the list of what we want, rather we should zero in on what we can contribute to the country. My view is that in the long run, the country herself will turn to us to fulfil our demands. It’s not the right time we keep bargaining over what we want.
NSUK: Recently, a bilateral trade mission also wrapped up its visit to Nepal for possible investment opportunities. What was its actual ‘mission’?
Shrestha: The entente between Nepal and UK is uniquely special and over 200-year-old as well. In this context, the mission itself is our success. It is the materialization of our over three-year groundwork in view of exposing and exploring possible investments and trade potentials between the two countries. And also, it’s a pressure on the government to welcome and facilitate the foreign businessmen and entrepreneurs.
NSUK: What about investments of Nepali entrepreneurs in the UK?
Shrestha: Of course, the delegation has opened the avenues for possible investments in the UK too. I have also invited many of our Nepali counterparts to visit us to explore the possibilities. It can also be joint ventures here or in Nepal.
NSUK: Let’s talk about your involvement in businesses here. You have been recognized as a successful entrepreneur in the UK? How does it feel?
Shrestha: I feel proud promoting Nepalese culture, tradition and cuisine here in the UK. I am glad that some other friends are following in my footsteps. I have also been recognised and rewarded many times for all these. But, at the same time, I am also totally against the idea of advertising our Nepalese typical food with dishes of other south Asian countries. I have never blended them. We should not do so as ours have unique and different taste, and complete on its own.
NSUK: How was it when you started your own venture? Any difference then and now?
Shrestha: Certainly, the initial days when you start something like this are full of ups and downs. In my case, you can imagine how I underwent through as you are in foreign land; there is language barrier; food is different; and you have expectations from your family back home. I started my involvement in this field as a manager at Ealing Tandoori, which was opened jointly with late Krishna Bahadur Thapa. There, I got chance to accumulate very rare experience. After working there for five years, I started my own restaurant.
It was difficult in early days to manage it well. There was financial problem too. I had to struggle from the crack of dawn to midnight. Later, customers gradually began flocking in and we managed to open many branches, wide and far upto Dublin. It was all because of my experience and networking. And I believe that one should keep faith on hard work, and one day you will be paid off. In my case, supportive family is also the factor behind my success.
NSUK: You have also introduced Nepali beer in local market? How did you begin this?
Shrestha: It all started as I was considering some innovation as many colleagues from other countries, especially from India, were also doing such ventures during 2003. Obviously, since it’s a business venture, I was also attracted to it with some financial profit as beer has great market locally. I thought with the name Khukuri, I would be able to promote the Gurkha fighters and Nepal and her tradition too. Khukuri is our recognition as well.
NSUK: What are other sectors you are involved in for social and community cause?
Shrestha: I am involved in various religious, charity and trade organizations since long. I’m the founder president of Ealing Kathmandu Friendship Association (EKFA). I am also associated with World Hindu Federation. For many Hindu Nepalese and others, I managed to bring in and set up a miniature Pashupatinath Temple in Southall. I also helped build a memorial in commemoration of Sargent Balram Rai and Garith Evan, who died in a booby trap incident in Kosovo. I am associated with many charities which work for school education and other sectors in Nepal.
NSUK: What do you want to tell would-be entrepreneurs here?
Shrestha: You should not lose faith just because you could not get return asap. You must be prepared to put in your days and nights. Believe in God, keep on with the hard work and you will be successful sooner or later. Besides, you should not forget what and where you come from: that is your base and background.
NSUK: Any message to Nepalese community through our website?
Shrestha: We should remain united and help one other and those in need. It’s our Nepali culture and Nepalipan too. Besides, the new generation should also focus on education.