Nepali women from different walks of life are making headlines with their soaring aspirations, breaking through the gender-ceiling every now and then.Women in Nepal from all age groups and backgrounds are constantly smashing stereotypes and changing the game. Men have been at the top of the corporate ladder for years, dominating the world of business. Today, women are sitting side by side and establishing their businesses as household names in a variety of industries, including publishing, technology, fashion, broadcasting and beauty.

Living recognizes three such women who have been audaciously ambitious yet driven by purpose and meaning.

 

Udita Seksaria Golchha

Udita Seksaria Golchha, is the Director of a couple of ventures in town Parties-R-USS, Dream Team Events, Happy Mamas/Fitstop - Partner and Pre-natal fitness trainer and Beyond the Hanger - Co-founder/Curator and has been unstoppable ever since. A die-hard entrepreneur at heart, Udita helps people define what true entrepreneurship is and what it takes to be a leader, and helps people dispel the myths of businesses.   

Coming from Bombay, how challenging was it to adapt to the Nepali lifestyle?
It wasn't easy. The transition took me years. The lifestyle took very long to adapt. 9 pm used to feel like curfew time. I used to wonder where do friends chill? How do people entertain themselves? Kathmandu wasn't like how it is today right? Back in 2003, when I moved here, there was nothing. There were no clubs, no bar culture, no house parties’ concept; there were very few restaurants; basically, nothing to do. But the city grows on you. Once I made friends here, life got easier. And slowly over the years, the city evolved, the lifestyle changed, and today, I find this place no different than Bombay or any other metropolitan city.

How did you end up starting these companies and what was the idea behind each one of them?
I started all my ventures to fill a gap which I saw was missing in the country. I had my first born in 2006, and from his 1st birthday to the 3rd, his birthday parties were theme related. At the time, a child's birthday celebrations were just a regular lunch or something, no one did concepts as there was nothing available here, except bad quality basic balloons. Sourcing everything in Bombay, I used to carry all the decor materials, gifts, packaging everything from there and plan his birthday. In the 3rd year, it hit me that if we get nothing here, why hasn't anyone started something like that here, a store with party props and supplies? That was my "aha" moment. I ran this idea with two of my friends who had similar aged kids and realized they had the same issues. Hence, the birth of PARTIES-R-USS. We started with a small store. The first ever party supplies store in Nepal. Soon, we found ourselves in demand, to organize the whole party itself for busy parents. So, from running a store, we got into planning entire birthday parties from start to finish. These parties didn't just stay restricted to only kids' birthdays, we started getting offers to plan and decorate for all other occasions and over the years, as the party culture grew, so did this company. After that there was no stopping; opportunities kept falling in my lap and bigger events, corporate events began coming our way. We had to extend the Parties-R-USS brand and start an event planning company. Thus, DreamTeam Events was born. And today, we do extensive party set ups, corporate events, weddings, etc.
Happy Mamas/Fitstop Fitness started when a friend and I were just not losing weight after our first born. We just casually discussed during a play date that there is absolutely nothing in Nepal that provides prenatal and postnatal fitness for pregnant women and postpartum. All it took was an idea and boom; around 2010, we started Happy Mamas - a fitness center for women run by women - one of a kind. We trained in prenatal and postnatal fitness, got our certification from the U.S. and started programs pre and post pregnancy. This concept demanded more. Women who came to us, wanted more. We couldn't stay restricted to only pre and post-delivery. My partner/main trainer started various fitness groups and personal training programs like P90, etc. One of a kind, the only one at that time, independent fitness center was Happy Mamas. Over the next few years, with men wanting to join in, we had to branch out the company, into a 5-star gym, which today you know as Fitstop, located at Labim Mall.
I was always into fashion and offbeat clothes, but never happy with what was available here. Nepali girls are fashionable, no doubt, but it just wasn't me. Every time, I travelled out of Nepal, I shopped for the entire year and got back. That's how it was, for most girls it is like that even now. The fashion explosion in India happened over 15 years ago, but Nepal had not experienced that boom. Finally started Beyond the Hanger - the pop-up shop in 2017 with my co-sister. In this, we have pop-up shows every three months wherein we call multiple designers from India and have them showcase their season’s collection. Trendy, updated, affordable fashion. 

 
Do you think your personal life is affected by your professional life? And how?
A woman's life is not easy. While men have their businesses, women have their work, home, in-laws, kids, social obligations and many more responsibilities. This juggling and balancing job is not meant for a man, while women try their best to do all these duties perfectly. So definitely, my personal life is affected by my professional life. And I'm sure all working women agree with me here. You schedule your meetings and jam your day with meetings and work, just so that you can be home second half of the day, to spend some time with your kids and family. Then there are home responsibilities as well which you have to look into. No household can run by itself, you have to contribute and give some time to organize. By the end of the day, you are so exhausted, that there is no relaxed time to spend with your spouse or even have the energy to get dressed to go to a party. Social obligations are also important. And a woman has to do all of that, cover all bases. And in all these responsibilities every single day, where is the time for selfcare? That is the last thing a woman would prioritise for herself when there are so many other important things on your plate every single day. So surely, life is not easy for a working woman. Yet, I know, each of us has it in us to accomplish it all.

How do you think women entrepreneurship has changed over the last few years in Nepal?
Women entrepreneurship has greatly increased over the last few years. This growth is so overwhelming. Today, I believe, we are at a point where every single woman I know, is doing something of her own here, however big or however small.Some started small ventures from home to keep them occupied and making a few bucks; some took over their husbands or family businesses or some started their own companies with an innovative idea.But all in all, the motive was to be independent. It is so vital to have your own credibility and income. It provides a sense of pride and empowerment. It is all owing to the power and encouragement we, as women, give each other.  

Today, I believe, we are at a point where every single woman I know, is doing something of her own . Some started small ventures from home to keep them occupied, some took over their family businesses or some started their own companies with an innovative idea. 

How do you define success? What is your take on the ways to achieve long-term success?
An innovative idea, the need in the system or lifestyle, recognizing that gap and filling that need at the right time, is the path to success. Just pondering, overthinking and procrastinating upon an idea is not going to lead you to success. Passion. Being passionate about your work or what you want to do, is absolutely essential. A successful business may earn you name, fame and returns initially, but it won't be stable and you won't grow, if you don't love what you do. Faith. Believe in what you're trying to achieve, in what you're trying to create, what your final goal is, along with your core values; it will always lead you to long term success.More than success, it will lead you to fulfillment, pride and satisfaction. My motto - Always aim for the moon, so even if you don't get there, at least you will be among the stars! and that's your happy place.   
 
Whom do you attribute your success to?
My parents. They always encouraged me to follow my own callings. From a very young age, they had given me the freedom to experiment my own choices and I've been doing my own little ventures since my teens. Entrepreneurship was inbuilt I feel.The faith in myself embarks from there.

What advice would you give to women who want to start a business?
Go for it. Believe in it. Work hard and work towards it passionately. Don't let men bog you down. It's not easy out there, but hold your own. I'm a living example.

 

Surabhi Khaitan Chaudhary

Surabhi Khaitan Chaudhary, Director of Unnati Cultural Village, Chaudhary Foundation, has been strongly focused on developing the Unnati Project which is related to skills and livelihood development whilst preserving the traditional arts and culture of Nepal. Surabhi, who is also the Chair and Co-Founder, Trustee – The SAATH Project (South Asian Association for Tran-Cultural Heritage, has been empowering the women of this nation by creating an equal, inclusive and dynamic platform through Unnati, and is now full-time committed to enlarging the scope and vision of upscaling the traditional artisanal industries ranging from theater, arts, crafts, language, habitat and culture starting from Nepal reaching out to South Asia’s legacy enterprises.  

How did you adapt to the lifestyle of Kathmandu after coming from Bombay?
Kathmandu surprisingly was not a very difficult transition, Nepal is enchanting and mystical, it has its own beauty. I have also been very drawn towards spirituality and nature so both played a catalytical role in helping me settle here sooner than I expected. Another big change was the way of life, its far more relaxed and not as rushed as the bustling city life of Bombay. Friends and family have time for you.    

Who is your role model both in personal and professional life? What inspires you to go to work every day?
My biggest strength and guiding factor from childhood to date has been my mother. She multitasks and balances her life beautifully, making time for everyone and everything. As we grow older and new responsibilities and role plays emerge, it’s essential to create the right balance whilst giving your best. Another stellar example of someone who lives life efficiently and effortlessly has been my father-in-law. It’s been an absolute privilege having him as my mentor and guide. I look up to him for all decisions I make both professionally as well as personally.
My work has evolved ever since my affiliation with my father-in-law started at The Chaudhary Foundation. He has tremendous insight, knowledge, his strategy planning and financial discipline are some of the key learnings of working with him. It inspires me to go beyond what is expected, every day we set ourselves a new benchmark.   

How do you think women entrepreneurship has changed over the years while you have been involved with Chaudhary Foundation?
Women entrepreneurship has always been there. In most parts of the world from grassroots to urban communities, women have been multitasking from family planning to generating income for their households. Awareness and value for their contribution in development of society is what has taken momentum in recent times. 
In the Chaudhary Foundation, we have launched a project called ‘Unnati’ an initiative to empower women led enterprises by creating viable and sustainable income generating activities for them. We have worked very closely with various women led groups, created a platform for market engagement, facilitated trainings on leadership and over all development of entrepreneurship and opportunities. We have seen a tremendous transformation in our few short years of being involved with the grassroots communities.      

Do you think your personal life gets affected by your professional life and how do you handle it?
Yes as the portfolio of our projects grow, it does get taxing to manage personal time and space with family. But I firmly believe that if one manages their time efficiently you can manage to balance it all. My mantra is to spend ‘quality time’ with loved ones specially my children. Spending time with them is also my biggest stress buster!

Despite coming from a family of corporate executives, how did you get interested in CG Foundation?
Before I got married, I had been part of the corporate structure for many years, so my transition into CG and a family business was rather smooth. It all started in my first year of marriage with the disastrous earthquake in 2015. I saw how overnight resources within our group were mobilized to provide relief to all the earthquake epicenters. We delivered over 3000 homes and 50 plus schools within a few months, whilst the government and other agencies were still collecting data and funds for relief work.
The power of responding to crisis and creating such positive impact is what deeply moved me. My maternal family too has been involved greatly in philanthropy, we are all in a position to make a difference and contribute in a significant manner no matter how big or small. I am now dedicated full time towards this cause.

Some of the achievements under CG Foundation under your leadership till date?
We have established the first cultural village, a creative center outside of Kathmandu that represents indigenous arts, crafts, dance, music and cuisine along with hospitality. We’ve started with Unnati Cultural Village in Nawalpur and shall eventually have several such centers across Nepal representing the various ethnicities of the country.  
We are engaging with various creative and cultural stakeholders of Nepal and across South Asia, and bringing Nepali arts into the international forefront. 

How do you define success? What is your take on the ways to achieve long-term success?
For me success is being good at what you do every day. You have to water the plant every day for it to bear fruit. Success lies in continuity and commitment. If you start lapsing it will show; you cannot stop. Success is not a benchmark or destination, it is a journey.

What is your personal contribution towards women empowerment in Nepal?
We have been affiliated with several women led organizations where a marked difference has been seen with the intervention of our training and livelihood initiatives. We have worked with rehabilitation of women who have been victims of trafficking and are now injected back into society and earning a dignified income. Young girls who are now pursuing higher education and aim to become college graduates and support their families. Women who had part time businesses are now working full time and have doubled their capacity of production and so on. This has all been through the organization but a lot of personal time has been invested in bringing these changes. Every group we work with we customize our programs based on their needs, so it’s always a new and rewarding experience for us.

Today the project has grown from livelihood generation to participating in competitive market spaces, creating women leaders and a strong support group for women within their communities.


How have you uplifted the art and culture through Unnati cultural village?
Art and culture is a by-product under the umbrella of creative and traditional industries. The talent that exists within rural ecosystems is part of the DNA of the people. We have created a single multi -disciplinary platform under which arts, crafts, dance, music, theater, languages and cuisine can be showcased, experienced and markets can converge. We have a cross pollination of master artists working closely with native artisans, an inter-exchange of designers, craftsmen, patrons and art enthusiasts who work closely together. The network we have built has widened the scope for development and enrichment of the arts and culture of Nepal.   

What is the next step for Unnati culture village?
The dream of Unnati Cultural Village is to establish one such center in every province of Nepal and eventually spreading its reach across South Asia. The dream is to bring creative cross pollination within the South Asian region and bringing Nepali art and culture on the international forefront.    

What advice would you give to women who want to venture out with their own company?
My only advice to them would be: believe in your dream and believe in yourself. The way and means will eventually present itself; never stop pursuing what you are meant to do, even if you start small, small steps go a long way in building strong foundations. Never compromise yourself in the process and don’t tolerate anyone compromising you, if your intention and heart is in the right place, everything will work itself out. Keep your head, heels and standards high!

 

Latika Golyan

Latika Golyan, Chairperson and MD of  ‘Made In Nepal Pvt Ltd’ 
(www.madeinnepal.com.np) and ‘Lekali Corp Pvt Ltd’ 
(www.lekalinepal.com) which has tied up with farmers and small scale entrepreneurs across the country, has been moving with the vision to reduce Nepal's trade deficit and to make Nepal's unique products known and available globally through various product divisions. 
She is an entrepreneur with first-hand experience in various businesses such as manufacturing, retail, hospitality, construction, agriculture and FMCG. She was born and raised in Chennai, India and completed her B.Sc. Joint Honors from the University of Leeds, UK and MBA from SP Jain University,Mumbai. She was Director of Golyan Group for over 15 years. She was involved in the conception and building of the Hyatt Place, Kathmandu that opened in 2021. Latika believes in creating businesses as a force for doing good. She founded Brand Mato which has been procuring and selling organic fresh produce from farmers across Nepal.She is also on the board of YPO Nepal - a global community of Business Leaders. She won "BusinessWomen of the Year, Nepal 2020" and has also been invited as a speaker on many platforms such as Ted.

How did you adapt to the lifestyle of Kathmandu after coming from Chennai?
I was born and brought up in Chennai, India, and moved to Nepal when I was 21 years old. I spent my first two years building the customer base of Nepal’s largest knitwear unit in Biratnagar. Later, I moved to Kathmandu where I got involved in various businesses and played a prominent role in the family business. Prior to Nepal, I was working in Barclays, London and moving to Biratnagar was a significant change in my environment. Initially, being in Nepal was very different from where I came and it took some time to understand the deeply embedded culture of Nepal. But eventually I fell in love with the country and I feel blessed to be a part of it.

Who is your role model both in personal and professional life? What inspires you to go to work every day? 
My role model from a very young age has been my father. He taught me to dream big, never give up and always believe in myself. He also involved me in his business at a very young age and would discuss his work with me every day. His confidence in me was inspiring and it made me confident of myself and believe that nothing is impossible. He taught me to give and be a good human being and make a difference to the people around me. I believe each of us has a purpose to fulfill and make the world around us a better place. This belief has led me to do businesses that help impact the society around me.When you are aligned to your goals and have a purpose to fulfill it completely energizes you and makes you wake up every day excited and looking forward to playing your role in the best way possible.

Do you think your personal life gets affected by your professional life and how do you handle it?
Work life balance is absolutely essential. I believe in maintaining a balance between the eight dimensions of life: family, health, career, money, spirituality, personal growth, experience, and giving back to society.I feel if we ignore any of these dimensions we are thrown out of balance and are not living the best life possible. So, I try to do what it takes to keep this balance. I schedule my day in advance. My day starts with what I call my ‘holy hour’ where I write gratitude and meditate and then go for my workout. My kids are a very important part of my life and I make sure that I get time with them every single day.

How do you think women entrepreneurship has changed over the 18 years you have been in Kathmandu?
When I first started working in Kathmandu, there were not too many women entrepreneurs and women in senior positions. Many times, I have been the only woman in the room. Initially it was difficult to have senior male employees report to a female boss. But now I see a major shift and I am happy to see a lot more women in senior positions.

What is your personal contribution towards women empowerment in Nepal?
I feel excited to see the growing number of women entrepreneurs now in Nepal. I am aware of the challenges faced by new women entrepreneurs and I mentor as many women entrepreneurs as I can. My company is helping them by hand holding them and helping them market their products across the world.

Where did the idea to get into Nepali brands come from?
The idea was born back in 2006 when the Nepali Young Entrepreneurs’ Forum (NYEF) launched the“Made in Nepal” campaign to support and promote products and brands made in Nepal. It was a great social initiative to support small business owners who were working so hard to build the economy of the country and I saw the merit in this idea. The idea was genuine and evoked a sense of pride and self-reliance. Then in 2019, when the entire world was hit by Covid-19 and the borders were closed, it became clear to all of us that an urgent need was there to create demand for Nepali products not only internationally but also domestically to strengthen the economy. So, we started working on an e-commerce website for ‘Made in Nepal’ products exclusively to help small business owners. Through this website, we want to promote and create a need for Nepali products and showcase these amazing Nepali brands to the world.

How many Nepali brands are you catering to and how do you qualify them to be a part of your platform?
We are currently catering to 58 ‘Made in Nepal’ brands and are working on many other brands. We have a strong quality team that ensures these brands are able to provide consistent quality products.

What do you think is lacking when it comes to uplifting the Nepali brands and how are you solving this issue?
There are many Nepali brands which have great products. What is lacking is finishing, quality packaging, story creation, marketing and consistent quality of the goods.That is where we are getting involved. We help them in content creation, story creation, digital presence, marketing themselves, develop better packaging, better finishing and whatever else needed so that we can have a consistent quality of Nepali products which are on par with international standards.

There are many Nepali brands which have great products. What is lacking is finishing, better packaging, story creation, marketing and consistent quality of the goods. 

What is the next step for Made in Nepal?
We started with the domestic market. The next step is to look at niche segments in the international market.‘Made In Nepal’ already has a pet food division exporting dog chew to various countries (www.dogchewnepal.com)

Have you ever failed in your initiatives? What have you learnt from your failures?
Many times. I have learned that focus is very important and not to let your failures deter you. I have also learned the importance of Plan B and Plan C in all the decisions that we make.

How do you define success? What is your take on the ways to achieve long-term success?
Success to me is not just financial success, but also how we are able to uplift those around us. Success is growing slowly and steadily towards your goals. In order to achieve long term success, the first step is to ensure you have clearly defined goals, values, vision and mission for your company. Next is to create the best team possible to achieve this, motivate them, have set KPIs and consistently monitor all these goals.

What advice would you give to women who want to venture out with their own companies?
Understand your passion, your strength, your weaknesses. Set goals for yourself; believe in yourself and start somewhere. Ask all the questions you need to. There are many resources out there; all you need to do is look for them. When you really believe in something and you give it all you have, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.