By Ram Khatry, Sydney
6 December 2016
Chairman of Tokyo-based TBi Group, Bhaban Bhatta, had to fly to western Nepal recently when a simple incident made the high-flying businessman question the way things stand or are done in his native land. Addressing a gathering of Nepali community leaders in Sydney, Mr Bhatta said he saw a lady, with a massive burden on her back as she carried leafy twigs for her cattle, confidently poise to capture the “footage” of his helicopter as it prepared to land in Baglung district.
The otherwise ordinary scene made the Nepal-born Japanese tycoon’s mind boggle.
He wondered how was it that an American-made iPhone, which was a rarity until yesterday, was in the hands of an ordinary woman living in one of the remotest and most undeveloped part of the planet whereas good polices never made it to her country? His point being that the country of his origin is not adapting to the changes (the best practices) taking place elsewhere in the world. A “smart nation concept” was the need of hour, he told the gathering, rather than hankering after FDI or industrialisation or other obsolete ideas which might have helped developed nations in the past but the world is past that bandwagon now.
Mr Bhatta’s parent company, Total Business Institute (TBI), is a corporate conglomerate that dobs into many lines of businesses – hotel and resorts, food and beverages network, aviation, travel and tourism, FMCG, ICT, media, infrastructure, trading, apparels and even education. The organisation claims it “believes in organic growth through responsible business practices”.
He may be the chairman of a global conglomerate today, but Mr Bhatta did have his fair share of struggle after he emigrated to Japan at 21 years of age. He does not shy away from his past, “I washed dishes, sometimes I worked as a waiter, I did everything, I even went around selling telephones.” During his Monday night speech, he referred to his “dish-washing” past more than once. He knew everything, he said, about the way farming was done in rural Nepal; his humble beginning was evident. It is only through his sharp business acumen that saw him rise and shine in Japan’s business sector.
So much so that he employs thousands of Japanese men and women in various “lines of business” he owns. “And 99 percent of my employees are Japanese,” he is proud of his contribution to the Japanese economy.
Citing France which attracts over 80 million tourists a year, Mr Bhatta said Nepal too must act smart to attract more tourists to the country. “Marketing is what we are not good in,” the vice-president of NRNA lamented. “What do the French have? They have two main things: the Eiffel Tower and Mona Lisa. We have thousands of properties like that but we are not good at selling,” he lamented. “Tourism will have the biggest role to play in the economic transformation (of Nepal)”, he noted. To this end, the country should engage in smart business promotion.
NRNA is a global body present in 72 nations with elected national coordination committees in most of them. Hence, the organisation has the base and network to harness the skills of highly-educated and trained Nepali expatriates living across the world. Its importance has even heightened since a 7.8 magnitude earthquake razed the mountain nation last year. At the moment, it is leading some groundbreaking projects right near the ground zero of the April 2015 earthquake.
Given its size and scope, the election for NRNA’s global leadership is nothing short of a typical parliamentary election. There is hardly any non-government organisation that goes through the unprecedented level of campaigning like the NRNA. As such, many made veiled comments that Bhaban Bhatta was in Australia yesterday in order to create a support base for his candidacy for next year’s election for NRNA president.
Mr Bhatta indicated not.
He was always in the “NRNA movement” though, the globe-trotter remarked.
Melbourne-based businessman and MIT Group’s CEO Shesh Ghale is the current global president of the organisation.