This story begins with a rebel Purna Bahadur Shakya; a rebel but with a cause. The fire within to do something is blazing as strongly as it could and he is working all kinds of odd jobs just to avoid the family business. But, fate had it, he was indeed working in the jewelry business; his family business. Now, you can divert a person for a while but you cannot always keep it that way. At the back of his mind, he was still planning on what can be done and how can it be done. The fire was fierce now than ever.
Passion will move men beyond themselves, beyond their shortcomings, beyond their failures.
After successfully educating his children and now with the luxury of pursuing his dreams, he decided to start a production factory. Married young, he had a benefit that he had his son with him to get the wheels rolling. Machines were brought from Calcutta and thus began the journey of Allied Food Industry.
In the Image: Purna Bahadur Shakya along with his wife Late Chandramaya Shakya
Come to this day, Allied Food Industry (AFI) has been running smoothly and is growing towards being a household name. Now, it’s the new generation’s young guns who are the two pillars of this foundation; the ones looking after the company and lifting it even higher. Both brothers, Kashyap and Rahul (the grandchildren) were raised in Sikkim and received their schooling from Gangtok. While Kashyap got his engineering from India and his MBA from KUSOM; Rahul pursued business studies at KCM and later got his MBA from Leicester, UK. Both had it in their minds that they need to start on something that’s their own but no concrete decisions were made at that time. Kashyap had worked in Gorkha Brewery for 4 years and then he had been working in Dabur. But irrespective of the fat salary, it was at this moment when that fire ignited again to start on something of his own. Rahul then was working as an intern in Barclays but the desire to work on his own projects was getting larger than ever which brought him back to Nepal.
In the Image: The Shakya Brothers
Coming from a typical business and research background, he had already started researching on what can be done. Upon research, he found that UN had come and researched on their products and was putting together the same formula that they use and using it in their relief programs across South Africa and India. This made him realize the potential and the demand for the products that were produced in their factory. He quickly discussed with Kashyap about restructuring their company and taking it to greater heights. Both brothers came together as one and were planning to do the above.
By this time, the company had already marked 17 years of its journey but was making more losses than profits which was why the family was discussing to make use of it in another way. Kashyap then convinced saying that so much of effort, time and energy have already been invested; why not give it a chance more and pick it up. This is how these two young guns entered into the family business. But, as they say, the beginnings are always difficult. Though having knowledge about marketing and branding, it took the brothers 2 years to re-design, conceptualize and work on the new product, a baby food. A paradigm shift was made, which separated those early 17 years and the 3 years after. Allied Food Industry took off again as a restructured company which was re-innovating the ways things were done in the food industry here in Nepal. Their skill-set helped them to start another venture which is in a whole different industry; the service industry. PYCUS – a brand consulting firm which does strategic brand development for needy organizations and within the short span of 2 months has already acquired 5 clients. Now, Allied Food Industry and PYCUS are the two companies that these brothers are working on.
If you believe you are ready and have the skill set to enact; any idea of yours can be incubated sooner and executed faster.
While they had existing products at AFI such as turmeric, cumin and chili powder, rice flour, buckwheat flour, millet and maize flour they wanted to widen this range and act on the gap market; thus came two new products: Mam Mam; a baby food recommended for children above 6 months to 2 years and Himalayan Digestive; a breakfast cereal of a different kind from the regular ones available in the market.
During the shift, Kashyap had found himself to be in some sort of financial crunch as he had been working with big companies getting a regular salary and there were only certain aspects that he needed to handle. Coming from a strong marketing background learning accounting was a challenge but once you start it becomes manageable and the same happened with Kashyap. Rahul, made the shift as he has always valued freedom and originality above all. He shifted out of inspiration to do noble work that would bring about a change in people’s lives. But, now that both were working for themselves they both needed to be the marketing guy, financial guy, the mechanic, the driver, the designer, the labor; everything that there was.
Entrepreneurship requires you to be a jack of all but at least master of one.
The journey for these brothers has not been an easy one. Mam Mam one of the new products of AFI was rebranded, redesigned and reformulated; this was not another “taking goods from one basket and simply putting it another.” The tedious work of restructuring took 1.5 years to be done. It was recently launched and was pacing itself among other brands but all of a sudden, the tragedy of April 25 happened. Soon after that, the blockade hit them hard and put a setback in their business. These rough times had made it really hard for anyone to work but they kept reminding themselves that this will pass and good days will return; this spirit of theirs helped them to scrape through the rough times and grow strong than ever.
Bad days are like passing clouds; they will come but they will also go.
Throughout this journey, the product launch of Mam Mam was one of the beautiful moments for all. Holding the first batch of the products in hand was exciting not just for the brothers but for all those involved in the process of making it. Another moment was when they were able to help people during the tragedy of April 2015; they had raised the money from every available source and were producing the baby food which was enabling many parents from all places of Nepal to feed their new born child/children; they had then tied up with Save the Children and again produced Mam Mam in bulk which again helped a lot of parents who were in need. And at such time being able to help another person was a huge moment for the brothers and the company.
It has not been an easy ride but the brothers have been patient and persistent in what they are doing. They are mobilizing the resources abundantly found here and creating products out of it and whenever bad days hits they always remind themselves that these are passing clouds; they will come but they sure will go.
All along this journey, there are two unsung heroes; Utta Man Shakya and Yamuna Shakya who are the other two pillars of the foundation. Utta Man Shakya has been a huge help to the company both morally and financially as he envisions the same as the rebel; having a production plant here in Nepal. Yamuna Shakya has been taking care of the company since past two decades. Breaking the stereotype and getting hands on with business along with being a home maker sure is a huge feat to accomplish. And to this day, she still manages and looks after the company.
In the image: Utta Man Shakya and Yamuna Shakya
There is a misconception among youths that only starting from the scratch is what entrepreneurship is; but, their story only adds to the point that re-establishing and re-innovating what was already there is too entrepreneurship and you cannot simply narrow it to only one concept. Entrepreneurship is about being a free-thinker, learning new skills, tackling challenges, creating, innovating and re-engineering the ways things used to get done before. And, yes it is a great time to enter the market but never be an entrepreneur just for the heck of it as it is neither healthy for you nor for the industry that you will get into. Enter with a vision and work tirelessly to achieve and transform that vision of yours into reality.
The grandfather now 85, visits the factory once in a while and goes back home in peace after he observes how things are being taken care of.
Written by Sagar, The Octopi