The Man at Work

October 18, 2015 , by Rujika Tuladhar, Leave your thoughts
An eloquent speaker, Pavitra Bajracharya is a diligent man actively engaged in numerous activities. His prominent role as President of Nepal Retailers' Association during the major earthquake in Nepal is what puts him apart from his businessman contemporaries. In a private audience with him, he shared his accomplishments and message to the public through us. Excerpts:
Tell us about your current involvements.
I am a Proprietor and CEO of Right Mart Pvt. Ltd., a modern retail store, that is my main business. I am also an Executive Chairman of Jorganesh Bachat Tatha Rin Sahakari Sanstha. I am President of Nepal Retailers’ Association. In addition to that, I am involved in a number of activities and organizations. To name a few, I am Chairman of Olympus Club, a social club (established around 2025 B.S.) in Om Bahal where I was a member since my adolescence, Chairman of Newah Guthi, an organization for upliftment of Newah, General Member of Consumer’s Welfare Forum and Ward Civilian Forum. Apart from that, I am involved in Management Committee of the public schools around Basantapur. I even worked as Ward Chairperson for 15 years in a row (concludes with a grin).
How do you juggle all these?
Time can be managed even when I get engaged in numerous places. It depends on my responsibility at each area. I give most of my time for the mart and cooperative. My other engagements do not need my continual presence, may be once a week or a month. Most of them need by input or decision making as a counsellor. I make my schedule and allot time to each of my involvements by squeezing in time as far as possible.
Who would you like to be known as a person: a businessman or a social worker?
I would rather be called a social worker than a businessman. A businessman is mostly concerned with profits and margins. But I prefer to be considered as a consumer as well even while I am doing my business. (He regales a poem — Abou Ben Adem by Leigh Hunt — he had read when young)

Abou awoke one night from a deep sleep and saw an angel descended from heaven writing in a golden book. He said he was listing the names of people who love the Lord. Abou asked if he made it, nay said the angel. Then put me as one who loves his fellow men, Abou said. The next night, the angel came again and showed him the names. Abou Ben Adem’s name topped the charts for he loved mankind. Almighty loves them who loves his children. This poem has been an inspiration for me and shaped my personality.

My early on involvement in social activities in my area gained me trust and popularity. I held the position of Ward Chairperson thrice. The first time, even though I was an independent candidate, I managed to get nominated and became the youngest ever person to hold that post. I did not treat or favour anybody in particular. I feel that even a representative of any party after occupying a post ought to work for the benefit of all irrespective of his/her affiliation. I feel considerate towards everybody, even those who come to take loan from my office. I am aware that people who are already economically frail come for loan and I do not want to burden them further if their position is not stable enough. I feel my work must not inconvenience others or cause them loss.

I started my business as young as 10 years old. I used to sell grocery items such as rice, oil, biscuits and other food articles. This early on engagement has certainly had impact on me and shaped me accordingly.

What is your take on the recent blockade?
The hoax about the blockade is rife. Such blockages usually don’t last long. However, in instances like these, the consumers have the tendency to buy surplus goods in order to store for the future. This in turn actually accelerates the shortage in the market. It is the foremost request to the consumers not to buy in excess as it is only going to increase the demand and cause shortage. This is the real reason for the price hike later. Otherwise, we do have stock of consumable goods for the time being.

The government has monopoly in petroleum products. Of late, the price of petroleum is decreasing in international market and the government is hoping it to get even lower — a reason why there is no adequate stock. Our government has capacity to keep 70 lakh Kl but only one third of it was kept for stock because of the fluctuating price. This is why our stock depleted faster in this sudden unexpected blockade.

In case of private business, they have their upper hand in grocery and other consumable goods. They put stock in abundance lasting for at least three months. It is times like these that consumers ought to be phlegmatic, only then market price will not be hiked. In economics, we study that the market is governed principally by two factors: demand and supply. When the demand increases and the supply decreases, there will be price hike. This will lead to shortage in times like these. The extent of blockade is actually dependent on the consumers’ attitude towards such situation.

Tell us about your role as president during the earthquake and how this situation differs from then.
During the earthquake, people feared to enter their houses to cook. So, few opportunists sold their food articles for double or treble the normal price for the first few days. People were agitated by the strong aftershocks that did not seem to recede and were sceptic of famine. But at that time, my role as a businessman-cum-social worker emerged. Being the president, I called for emergency meeting. I asked the shopkeepers to keep their shops open. Few of them declined because the tremors had not stopped and they feared lest their shops collapse. I convinced them that as shopkeepers, to open shops to consumers would be providing relief of a different sort from our side.

Relief is not merely monetary or other goods. Even then during the interviews, I announced that we have enough stock to last few months. So, the consumers ought to buy only what was necessary. Then, there was no supply of goods for nearly two months! But the scenario returned back to normal sooner than anticipated. If we can placate the consumers, they will not do panic shopping. My interview went nationwide with a positive note and so consumers did not have to face terrible price hike.

Come festivities, price hike is seen to be prevalent in many cases. What do you have to say about that?
Time is ever changing. Earlier, Dashain and Tihar used to be welcomed with much hype. It was the time when people used to have better food and buy new clothes. So, businessmen used to seek profit then. Our condition is not like that now. The government will open convenient shops at specific locations in Kathmandu. There must be greater supply for festivities. This will at least alleviate indiscriminate price hike and even the price shall not see much fluctuation. If you have noticed, newspapers are bombarded with advertisement of holiday packages, car sales, mobiles with latest features, etc. Our needs and wants are also changing. So, people’s interests have shifted. Seeking for delicacies is no longer a fantasy for festivities.
Your words of wisdom for our readers..
To sum up, this blockade is because of poor diplomatic relations. Today, India has been able to paralyse us to show their discontent towards the new constitution. But whatever be the debate, the consumers are always there to suffer. Consumers can neither get vocal nor their voices are heard. Government ought to take actions to find solution in favour of Nepal and Nepalese. The leaders ought to solve the crisis without wasting time. We must learn the lesson not to be dependent on a single benefactor. Although China is obliging, their transportation is costly. (He remembers how he had to bring a container of goods through Calcutta bought in China. We are dependent to that extent!) So, solution from China will be quite challenging.

Our government is not enthusiastically trying to resolve this issue. It is truly sad. Instead the locals and businessmen themselves are trying to fix problems at the borders. Media is an important tool to build pressure that will reach the government. So we must emphasise to give positive pressure to government. We will celebrate life only if we can gain victory over problems. When there is problem, we must walk the path of solution and confront it being nonchalant.

Words by Rujika Tuladhar

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Categorised in: Interviews

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