After meeting up with famous businessmen who took up the family business and raised it to another level rather than starting on their own, let us delve into their personal tastes and business matters.
Riken is the CEO of R B Diamond Jewellers, a multi-national diamond manufacturing company that spans across Nepal, Australia and China. Outside of his business, Riken is the Secretary of Maya Foundation, a non-profit organization for upliftment of the Nepali youth. He is also a member of Global Shapers Kathmandu Hub, an INGO which undertakes various social initiatives. Riken shares with us his story.
Tell us a little bit about your business.
We, R B Diamond Jewellers are primarily a diamond manufacturing and wholesale company. Our main plant is located in New Road, Kathmandu where we both manufacture and retail our products. In China, we have another manufacturing plant and in Australia, we have a retail outlet. We are planning on opening a new retail outlet in Lazimpat in a few months and also another branch in the US next year.
Tell us your success story.
Since the beginning, when R B Diamond officially started out in 1997, the company’s priority was to offer a unique product that retained value over time while adding intangible and tangible values to its consumer. We always knew that if you offer a quality product you always have the market in your hand. Besides that, the biggest strength in our business was and is our family. My dad, mom, my three mamas and my uncle and aunt were the pillars of our company. Even though the family was not well educated, they were high on trust, responsibility and work ethics. The result of the dedication from every member is what made R B Diamond what it is today. I always say you can teach business to a family but you can’t teach family to a business.
What is your secret of success? What makes you different from the rest?
The business today has a bigger mix of corporate culture but the main ingredient still remains the same, family. Today, besides my mom and dad, my wife Barsha, my elder sister Rina, my younger sister Riju, my brothers-in-law Ajay and Sudip, we all work as a team to run and improve the business. Our staff and interns are also like family to us. We laugh, play and work. I am also proud to be a Global Shaper from the Kathmandu Hub through which we carry out many social projects. Giving back to the society makes you realize that at the end of the day what really matters is being a good human being.
Tell us about some of the notable moments in your career.
While I was in the States, I received a scholarship to study Gemology in one of the most elite institutes of the world named Gemological Institute of America in San Diego, California. That experience gave me the tools I needed and a jumpstart in this industry. The designing and making of the Golden Peacock blouse and the Miss Nepal crowns are the highlights of my career.
Why did you choose to stay with your family business and not branch out?
Staying with my family business was a natural and logical choice I made since I was a child. So branching out never came to my mind. However, I do have plans of starting my own business too.
What is the best thing about your work?
The best thing about my work is being able to create something so beautiful and valuable in all terms, something that will last almost forever. Also, having the opportunity to take part in every step from designing and manufacturing to delivery is a unique experience.
Any advice and tips for newcomers?
The best advice that I would give to any newcomer is to be true to yourself and to your market. This is an industry that runs on trust. Therefore, take any necessary step to make sure what you give to your market is what you say it is.
Tell us a little bit about yourself outside of business. Your favorite shopping spot?
Regarding shopping, frankly, my wife does all my shopping for me. She knows what I like and what really suits me. And I have my younger sister who is a fashion designer who makes whatever she can for me. So that helps.
Your favorite brands?
I am not a brand person but I love Nike and Adidas, particularly in basketball shoes.
Your favorite place to eat?
Trisara and the Roadhouse Cafe. Japanese, Thai and Italian are my favorite cuisines. I also love momos.
Your favorite travel destinations?
I love travelling to Bangkok. My best friend lives there and that makes it all the more special.
Rahul is the Director of Product Development for Ace Hotels and Resorts, a group of hotels that includes the Ambassador Hotel (Lazimpat), Marcopolo Hotel (Kamal Pokhari), Trek-O-tel (Pokhara) and Club Himalaya (Nagarkot). In his office in Lazimpat, cheerful and modest Rahul shared with us his story over a cup of coffee.
Could you tell us a little about your business?
The family legacy was actually started by my grandfather almost 40 years ago with the old Ambassador Hotel being a house/room on rent for the embassies around at that time. Eventually, as rooms were added, it slowly turned into a guest house and as it grew more popular, it was finally established as a hotel. Now, with three generations to its name, the family business has really spanned out.
After completing my Bachelor’s degree in Business Operations from Stony Brook University, New York, I came back to Nepal and joined the family business around 2010. At the same time, my father was adding new rooms to Club Himalaya. I was responsible for the construction and interior design of the rooms; that’s how I got into the business. Alongside, I began my involvement in the management and operations of the hotel as well. I started out with the procurement department where I was responsible for all purchases/price control/quality control etc. I basically climbed up the ladder from there.
As of now, I am the Director of Product Development for Ace Hotels. Anything to do with construction/demolition, maintenance, handling new projects, is basically my responsibility and under my control. In terms of day-to-day management, I’m involved with Club Himalaya and will do the same for Ambassador Hotel in the near future.
Why join the family business? Didn’t you ever want to branch out and start something on your own?
Ever since I was a kid, I was pretty much born and raised in a hotel. We lived in a hotel till I was 13. The workings of a hotel were kind of in-built in me as that was the only thing I saw growing up. I never thought of being a doctor or an engineer or a musician or anything else. Even when I was leaving for my studies abroad, I knew I would come back to join the business.
What’s your success story?
I don’t think I have a success story yet but I think I’m halfway there.
The Ambassador Hotel is pretty much my baby. The road expansion drive that started in 2012 led to the demolition of the old Ambassador, but as the saying goes “Every change is an opportunity”. Of course, we were sad to lose the old building but this also gave us an opportunity to start anew. Both my father and I worked very closely with the architect to come up with what you are seeing today. After three years of construction, we are at the final stage of completion. As an artist feels the ownership of the art he makes on a blank canvas, I feel the same way about this hotel. After completion, The Ambassador Hotel will be my first success story.
What makes you different from the rest in your line of work?
Strong attention to detail, I’d say. Even though I’ve moved up in the management hierarchy, I still have my feet on the ground. I’m still out in the market purchasing everything from salt to gold. I double-check everything to make sure that it’s being done right.
Notable moments in your career?
After I completed the design and construction of the 27 new rooms in Club Himalaya, I was kind of nervous. It was my first project in the business and I was worried about it not clicking with the people. What if they didn’t like it? Any design is bound to be critiqued, but so far, the new wing that I’ve completed has been appreciated.
And currently, as the Ambassador Hotel is coming up, there’s quite a lot of buzz in the market about it and people say it’s coming up to be wonderful. My second moment would definitely be when the construction would be finished and we have all the lights turned on.
The best thing about your work?
I think it’s the diversity in the hospitality line. Besides from the day to day operation, you never know what you may come across. Being in the hospitality industry, it gives you the opportunity to serve people and make them feel special. I think the power to make one feel special is special.
Any advice for newcomers?
The hotel industry seems very glamorous from the outside but when you are in it, it’s really not. The difficulties and issues of running a hotel is something one cannot explain. The irony is that you have to be in it to know it. Since it’s a customer-oriented business, you have to be able to take both positives and a lot of negative criticism. Be ready for unseen challenges. Having said that, I don’t mean to scare anyone.
As my father used to say, ‘There is no substitute for hard work.’
Tell us a little bit about yourself outside of business. Music?
Apart from my involvement in the hotel business, I am also a part-time DJ. I go by the name of DJ Taremam. I do perform once in a while around different places in Kathmandu.
I’d say that I’m a sports enthusiast. I play a lot of Futsal. I also like boxing for my daily workout and I do enjoy mountain biking once in a while.
Yes, I love shopping! Ha Ha! I usually travel once or twice a year and do most of my shopping. So far my best shopping destination hands down, would be my college town New York city.
Brands and accessories?
For my sportswear I go for Nike and Adidas. For my day to day attire, I prefer Zara. Even though I’m not a watch fanatic, I enjoy a good watch.
I am a foodie. I love Thakali food. Besides Nepali and Thakali food, I also love Italian food. I love going to Tukche for Thakali food, Roadhouse Café or Fire and Ice for pizza, Grill Me for good steaks and Bawarchi for some Indian food.
Siddhartha is the Director of Abhinandan group, a chain of branded retail stores in Kathmandu. During our conversation in one of his retail outlets, Siddhartha radiated a calm and down to earth persona as we talked about his thriving franchise business and touched on his personal tastes.
Could you tell us a little about your business?
Well, Abhinandan group has nine outlets as of now. We are operating three stores in Bishal Bazaar, three stores in NLIC City Centre and three in Labim Mall. We’re also excited about opening a new launch in October for Esprit, an American brand. The construction for the outlet is already underway and we’ll be starting out with the autumn/winter collection.
Why did you choose to go into the fashion industry? Did your heart ever want to go elsewhere?
I always wanted to go into the fashion industry. I never really thought about doing anything else. Compared to other industries, fashion is dynamic, it is diverse. There are always so many choices and the trends are so dynamic.
Many businessmen choose to branch out from their family business and start their own ventures, what made you stay?
I made the decision to stay with my family business after my graduation. Fashion was where my heart was, and I was sure of it. As my family was already in the business, why branch out when I would end up doing the same thing.
Do you recall a noteworthy or perhaps a defining moment in your career?
For me, the year 2016 was a notable year of struggle and triumph. Soon after we had acquired the Franchise for Clark’s shoes, the 7.8 earthquake struck the nation. With the entire country in disarray, starting a new venture at the time seemed a bit of a risk. But we chose not to back out. As opposed to our original plan to book a single store at the mall, we ended up booking three new shops. And soon after, the border blockade made the situation even worse. But we stuck with our plan. And despite all the discrepancies, we got the franchise for Esprit in Nepal. And we do not plan to stop there. We hope to double our retail area by the end of 2017.
Is there something that makes you different from others in your line of work? Tell us your secret of success.
As a businessman, I am aggressive towards new projects and conservative towards my investments. I believe that if people are spending money, they should spend it right. As for my secret of success, I’d say: “Keep learning every day. Be honest in your work and be honest to your clients. Offer the right product at the right price.”
How do you see Nepal’s fashion industry in the near future?
As consumer awareness is increasing, I expect the fashion industry to bloom within five to seven years. The consumers are starting to realize that branded outlets offer better quality materials for almost the same price tag. The Nepali people are seldom window shoppers. They are particular about what they want and have good spending capacity. Also, the blooming malls here are a great place for tourists to shop leisurely.
Favorite place to shop?
Here in Nepal, Labim Mall would definitely be my favorite place to shop. The atmosphere just works for me and you’ve got everything that you need, all in one place. While travelling abroad, Hong Kong would definitely be my favorite place to shop. The shopping culture there is amazing.
I believe in comfort. I like apparels that let you work comfortably throughout your day. Esprit would be my choice for casual wear and I like Guy Laroche for formals. When it comes to shoes, I’d have to say that nothing beats the comfort of Clarks.
Though I enjoy all kinds of cuisines, I’d have to say that Italian is my favorite. I love to go to Mezze when I’m craving Italian. China Garden would be my favorite for Chinese.