Connecting the world
- Dileep Agarwal, Managing Director of Worldlink Communications, is one of the first few to connect Nepal to the wider world through web.
“I wanted to continue my studies but I’d say that I did my Masters on the job.”
Sep 4, 2015-He was a third-year student of Biochemistry in the US when he decided to return to Nepal for the summer and start a business—what happened next, was nothing short of a success story. Dileep Agarwal, Managing Director of Worldlink Communications, spoke to us about his journey.
What aspirations did you have while growing up?
When I was younger, I wanted a career like my father’s, he’s a research scientist and a professor. We travelled a lot for his work and I enjoyed that too. So, in all respects, I wanted to be like him.
So, how did you decide to start up your business then?
I had one year left to complete my degree in the US and I had my own plans in motion. While most of my friends decided to join Wall Street, I was headed to medical school to become a high-end research scientist. That was also the time when my elder brother had finished his engineering studies and was planning to start an e-mail service in Nepal. He had done all the research, but once he got a job in the US, he gave up on it. So, when I came back to Nepal for my summer vacation, I decided to give it a try myself.
Jumping into the business world when barely out of college—how did you take that step?
The thing is, I didn’t think too hard. One of the biggest problems that people have is that they think too much before taking a leap. I agree that you need to think, but you shouldn’t over think. In fact, I would say that when you’re young, you shouldn’t think at all. What’s the worst that could happen? You’ll break your leg? You’ll recover—it may take time but you will. I could have failed, lost a few years of my life but life would still go on, and so, I just took a risk—and it all started from the summer of ‘95.
What happened next?
I didn’t have the funds to hire employees so I took on two of my cousins as partners, left the business to them and went back to finish my degree. In January 1996, my cousins exhibited in the first CAN InfoTech, and we got an overwhelming response—we signed up around 500 customers. Back then, I used to buy modems in the US and ship them to Nepal.
The day after I graduated, I was on a plane back to Nepal because I was the only who knew the technicalities of the business. I wanted to continue my studies but that never happened—I’d say that I did my Masters on the job (smiles).
What difficulties did you face?
The biggest difficulty was to get funding to start the company—I needed computers, modems and other equipment that were very expensive back then. I needed around $2,500, and luckily my university gave me a grant to do my thesis in bio-chemistry back in Nepal. It was the first time in our college’s history that they allowed a student to use the grant outside of the US.
Since you started so young, do you ever feel like you missed out on anything?
Oh yeah, definitely. When all my friends were backpacking through the US and Europe, I was back in Nepal working. In the beginning, I used to work fervently day and night, but the thing is, I enjoyed what I was doing, and now I don’t have any regrets—I was part of something completely new and different.
What’s the one thing that keeps you going?
After 20 years, what motivates me now is when I provide good quality internet service to people and see it changing their lives. I think we’ve helped connect a lot of buyers and sellers and a lot of people have benefited from that—travel agents, hotels, cyber cafes—all these sectors sprung up and created this new industry all over Nepal. I still get reports of people who depend on our service to stay in touch with their family overseas, and when the service gets disrupted even for a day, they feel something is missing. That’s the kind of thing that motivates me to work harder every day.
So, after all these years, what have you learnt about yourself?
When I was younger, I was oozing confidence, maybe even over-confidence. I used to think that I could do anything. But as time has passed, I’ve realised that I have imperfections, and I’ve learnt to embrace them and learn from them. It’s definitely a journey.
What advice would you give to those that want to do something of their own?
I would say, don’t think too hard and don’t think too much. Take calculated risks and don’t be afraid to fail because that’s the only way you learn. Enjoy the learning that you get from failures.
Agrawal was born in Gaur, Nepal.
1992 Academic achievements
Awarded full scholarship at Bates College, USA.
1995 The calculated risk
1996 The business takes off
Graduated in Biochemistry and returned to Nepal.
2004 Awards and accolades
Awarded Best Young Entrepreneur by FNCCI.
2006 Top of his league
Recognised as Best IT Entrepreneur at boss TOP 10 Business Excellence Awards.
2012 Passing knowledge
Constantly gets invited to many events and conferences to share his knowledge and experience.
Published: 04-09-2015 14:10