‘Culture of openness creates synergy’

Jun 5, 2017-After stints studying and working abroad, Vidhan Rana returned to Kathmandu resolved to make it as an entrepreneur. In 2011, he co-founded Biruwa Ventures, a consulting firm which helps entrepreneurs set up businesses, provides them mentorship and offers co-working spaces—a breakthrough idea at the time. More recently, Rana has partnered to open up a new co-working space—Ventures Café—which has been visualised as working space-cum-restaurant which runs on the principle: Co-work, Chill and Connect. In this interview with the Post’s Alisha Sijapati, Rana talks about the evolving working culture in Nepal, how positive working spaces co-relate to productivity and his management mantras. Excerpts:

How was Ventures Café born? How practical is it in a country where the nine-to-five working culture is still deeply entrenched?

When we started out with Biruwa Ventures, we wanted to provide better working spaces for young entrepreneurs and offer them great packages. In 2015, Biruwa had a lot of co-working spaces in two building but that came to an end after the earthquake. We actually halted co-working spaces at Biruwa after 2015 because firstly it was not feasible for us to continue as we were just breaking even; secondly, the competition

was getting tougher; and lastly, Biruwa was already involved with many other portfolios. We realised that the idea of co-working space had its own cons because there were many who were afraid that other entrepreneurs sharing the space would steal their ideas. So, although the idea for Ventures Café was always there, we started working on it only in 2016. We wanted to do something out of the box, as these days young professionals aren’t really into the typical nine-to-five jobs. Their attention span is shorter—even if they work for 15-20 minutes with their headphones on, they will take a break and start socialising. Fusing a work space with a café provides young entrepreneurs a unique space and an open environment.

At Ventures Café you try to give entrepreneurs a great environment to work in. What factors create the perfect condition for working productively?

Productivity varies from person to person. Some people like to have privacy and we do offer such kind of spaces. Ventures Café is a semi indoor and semi outdoor facility which gives out a fresh vibe for young entrepreneurs to work in. As this is our first year as café owners, we want to analyse and focus on the quality of food and services we provide to our clients. These days, every café provides basic internet services. Although, we offer packages to our clients, they barely sell because customers are used to free and fast internet services everywhere they go. If you notice, people will work by themselves and socialise at the same time here. The working culture has changed quite a bit, and we try and offer a bit of everything that caters to different kinds of people, who work in different ways. 

Given your experience with Biruwa Ventures, what do you think large organisations and corporate houses can do at their workplace to make their employees more productive?

A lot of corporate houses now create open spaces so that people can socialise and work with one another in a holistic environment. That culture of openness creates synergy. In today’s world everything happens by collaboration. It is not just about the space but also about changing the working culture of an organisation too. Not long ago, if people chit-chatted while at work, they were judged even if the conversation was work-related and productive. These days, the managers are more flexible and tolerant. The friendlier you are in a large corporate house, the better. The idea of nine-to-five jobs is changing. It is good that the large corporate houses are slowly taking note of the mindset of their employees.  

A positive work environment no doubt is crucial for motivating employees, what other factors would you consider important for employee motivation?

At Biruwa Ventures, we don’t use the word employees; we call each other team members. We call each other team members because we are all working towards the same goal. We need to treat everybody as part of the family. Also, sharing and understanding the vision and mission of the organisation ensures motivation. When we hire someone into our team, we try to understand what their ambitions are, what they want to do, what they think rather than go after their academic and professional qualifications. In Nepal, the retention rate is low; it is a huge achievement if a team member works at the same place for more than two years. With the retention rate plunging lower, managers should not think just about how much output they can extract from their employees—they need to think beyond that. For instance, one of our team members is passionate about fish. So, to get him motivated, we bought an aquarium at work. Due to the aquarium, not only him but the entire office has become livelier. Little things like these, and a keen attention for details, really go the distance.

What are your management mantras?

Managers and entrepreneurs need to understand what the purposes of doing business are. A lot of people equate profit with the success of a business. Profit money is the result of successful business. If there is passion, even if you’re losing money, people will continue to pour themselves into the project.

Once you care about what you’re doing, the right people will naturally gravitate towards you.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

I think it is important to know what you want to do in life, understand where your goals lie. At the same time, you have to realise that business is not quick money—you need to have patience and persistence. It is good to have big dreams but you always have to have small goals. When you have big dreams and end up making mistakes, the losses will be massive. However, if you start small, you can recover and learn again and again from your previous mistakes. You have to think in the long term, short-termism will always result in failure.

Published: 05-06-2017 09:03

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