RAJENDRA KHETAN High Profile, Low Presence

From high profile business leader, industrialist Rajendra Kumar Khetan, who knows ins and outs of Nepal’s long economic, social and political transformation, chooses to work quietly. Although he prefers to remain in a low profile, he is still one of the most informed men in the town

Oct. 24, 2019, 1:16 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 13 NO 06 ,Oct.18 –07 Nov., 2019(Kartik.01, 2076) Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

As founder of Apple Steve Jobs said, "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it."

Steve Job’s saying applies in the life of prominent industrialist Rajendra Kumar Khetan, who also holds the view that one can find satisfaction when he or she works the way he chooses.

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Born in 1970 in Makhan, a core area of Kathmandu's old city, Khetan, an elder son of renowned industrialist late Mohan Gopal Khetan, has seen all the transformations, including socio-cultural, economic and business of Kathmandu Valley and Nepal. He still keeps information on broader areas.

Completing high school from Adarshsa Vidya Mandir, a boarding school of Lalitpur, and higher education from Tribhuwan University affiliated college, young Khetan emerged as a successful entrepreneur achieving accomplishments one after another in his business, profession and personal life.

"My eighty percent school friends are from local community. We used to have conversation in Newari. However, I was gradually losing that part of my knowledge and skill," said Khetan.

Starting his journey from a traditional family business and part of its modernization or corporatization, Khetan was also a part of political transformation after 2008 when he was elected a member of Constituent Assembly.

Over the years, Khetan saw a major shift in the business and industrial sector. From being isolated and confined to a city to getting widely connected with a population of over six million, Khetan has been an eye-witness of the transformation of Kathmandu Valley and Nepal.

Growing up in a Marwari family, a traditional business family, industrialist Khetan even saw his family business has moved from trading to industry, service and banking sector to become a corporate house. Initiated by his father late Mohan Gopal Khetan, he was a part of the expansion and modernization of his business.

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Chairman of Laxmi Bank Ltd, Khetan’s Business Group is 170 years old. Established in 1848 AD in Kathmandu, Nepal, as Kisun Ram Purna Mal, the business group is now fully equipped with modern amenities.

Conducting the business from Makhan Galli, Khetan’s earlier generations were busy in trading. However, they did import the goods and machinery from England, America and Germany.

With the new avenues open following the political liberalization of 1990, his father late Khetan expanded his business in different sectors including industry, brewery, service, insurance and banking, aviation and tourism sector joining hands with multi-national groups.

Comparing old Kathmandu and early days, Khetan sees enormous opportunities coming for new generation in financial and service sector in the most modernized city of Kathmandu.

Although more competent and qualified internationally exposed youths are coming in the market, Khetan’s home learned education continues to help him to flourish and expand. Grown up in the core Kathmandu, Khetan also speaks local Newari language which is his advantage.

"Our city turned into metropolitan as a small trading house became a corporate house. Our economy is big.”

Inheriting his family business, he sees the transformation is for the sake of better with strong formal sectors. Gradually, the non-competitive and non-advantageous sector has gone.

“We are strong in construction and service sector. We have developed a lot in these two sectors. Frankly speaking, Nepal has now all kinds of facilities required for multi-national business. We have now huge numbers of high paid and moderate people which has impacted a lot. It increases consumer demands and consumer choice. Nepal is now heading to consumer economy. From monopoly market to free consumer based economy. This is a big change. There I build circle consumers," said Khetan.

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Khetan Confinement

Dynamic and persuasive, Khetan used to be a person with high social presence. However, the situation has changed and now Khetan lives in low profile escaping from all kinds of big gathering. Instead of spending more time in public appearance and functions, Khetan spends more time managing companies in the financial sector like Bank, Capital Market, Micro Finance, Mutual Fund & Life & Non-Life Insurance from his office room form the sixth floor of Khetan House.

"After the death of my father, we jointly operated the empire for seven years. Later we have decided to lead the areas of our interest. I used to be very close with with different kinds of people. People have been more likely to see me and I was more or less like a spokesperson of business community," said Khetan.

The dissolution of first Constituent Assembly abruptly brought change in the life style. "After the dissolution of CA, there was a great social change in my behavior. I was a very active member of CA. I was a vibrant member of private sector and I often used to be a spokesperson of business sector. I was overwhelmingly overloaded in previous time. I have decided to remain busy in my business. It was my choice. I choose a peaceful life. I attend less than fifty percent of the party. If someone calls me or sends me message, only after that I meet people," said Khetan.

He holds the view that prospects of economy are good. Red tape and corruption have gone up. Labor and tax policies need to be changed. "White-color workers have also increased as blue color," said Khetan.

Married to Sarika, Khetan has two daughters. One has completed the graduation and other is at the high school. Decorated artistically in style as good as any executive office of head of corporate around the world, Khetan directs his business and other affairs through his two mobile phones.

"I am avoiding other activities. I want to fulfill my family and social responsibility. I also attend senate meeting of KU, chair Agrawal foundation and family affairs. I do appear in some of meetings of consular corps," said Khetan, who was also a former dean.

Khetan, an honorary Consul General of Portugal to Nepal, engages in the diplomatic activities. Khetan's daily official chores begin at 9 in the morning and end at 5 in the afternoon. He meets people and his executives at his office quietly. In his hay-day, Khetan maintained attendances in all different activities.

President of Nepal Britain Chamber of Commerce, Khetan is president of Agrawal Sewa Samaj, a charity organization of his community. He is also performing the role as a mediator in his own community. Khetan is a Senator of Kathmandu University.

"I do also spend some of my time to settle the family and property disputes of our community," said Khetan.

At a time when Nepal and France have been celebrating 70 years of establishment of diplomatic relationship, Khetan, Vice President of Nepal France Friendship Society, is also serving the President of Alliance Française de Katmandou.

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Past Involvement

In the past, one could find Khetan everywhere. Involved everywhere, from health sector to social, community business and politics, Khetan used to be a busiest person. Khetan worked among Champions on Policy Advocacy on HIV AIDS with Asia Pacific Leader's Forum -Nepal Policy Panel (APLF).

He was Dean of Honorary Consular Corp of Nepal for 2017/18. Khetan was Vice President of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce & Industry and also Management Association of Nepal.

For his work, industrialist Khetan also received many awards from different areas. He is the recipient of Honorific Order of Official da Ordem do Infante d. Henrique of Portugal, “Jana Sewa Shree” of Nepal, Go Da Ba 'III' of Nepal & ,“Sambhidhan Sabha” Bhibhusan of Nepal. Khetan accompanied Head of the State of Nepal to different countries periodically on official entourage.

He served as the vice president of Federation of Nepalese Chamber and Commerce of Industry. As he used to be so much active spending a lot of time in promoting business, social issues outside home, Khetan rarely found time to spare with family.

Until his father late Mohan Gopal Khetan was alive, his father shared work with him. Junior Khetan has had to bear an additional burden following the death of his father. Although he still heads different social organizations, business organizations and attends many functions, he maintains a low profile.

Looking at his dynamic and hard working character, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs late Robin Cook, during his visit to Nepal in 20-21 April 2000, said in public that Nepal needs more active youth like Khetan to make progress.

Khetan worked with different Boards & Committees of Government like Revenue Board of Finance Ministry, Information Technology Board of Ministry of Science & Technology, Tripartite Committee of Minimum Wages of Ministry of Labor, Board of Trade of Ministry of Commerce & Supplies & WTO Cell of Ministry of Industry & Commerce and Insurance Pool of Insurance Board of Ministry of Finance.

Khetan was speaker at ILO convention in Geneva as Chairman of Employers Council, FNCCI, Nepal. Khetan presented talks at Nepal Festival in London, UK, Lisbon Portugal & Non Resident Nepalese Association EU in Zurich & for Asia Pacific at Hong Kong on issues of Trade & Investment. Khetan was speaker at Management Convention in Hong Kong as Management Expert of Nepal.

High Presence To Low

He seems to be tired but not out. Khetan, who is now chairperson of Laxmi Bank, maintains a low profile and is confined, most of his time, with family and his business. Unlike in the past Khetan avoids parties and receptions. Even if he attends, he leaves earlier.

“I have been active in different works. However, I want to spend more time with family and business. Go for holiday,” said Khetan.

Khetan’s Own Journey

"When I started business 35 years ago, there were no housing and banking businesses like now. Everything came after 1990 as it was the year of opening Nepal broadly. There used to be three sectors traditionally in Nepal, agriculture, trading and industry and tourism. No one talked about housing, private banks and private airlines. It used to unbelievable for common people to think about it. I was the first board director of Himalayan Bank. We started the first private airlines, Himalayan Finance Company and Everest Insurance. My entry to business and liberalization of these sectors happened at the same time. Now everything changed, Nepal’s economy is enlarged and diversified compared to 30 years ago," said Khetan.

In the past, there used be monopoly in business. Only those who had knowledge and contact were able to grasp the opportunity. The situation is now that everyone has that opportunity. During the licensee raj, only a limited number of people held the business. Now common people can get it. We can become entrepreneurs if you have money and idea. There will be a very few scandals compared to size of economy.

"People like western lives. Our demand is master and technocrats, but we don’t have this. The supplier side of capable human resource is weak in Nepal and we are unable to find human resources required by the companies. There are low compensation. Universities, labor department can handle this," said Khetan.

If we retain human resources as our need, it will immensely help. “Your father studied in JP School and you went to AVM, both of you are able to compete in the market. My father has certain inherent quality Nepal you did so doing here. We have foundation, social linkage all come as advantage to do business. Will to do something here.”

Newcomers do not have financial linkage and financial foundation. They have to think many times. Only people are job seekers. We have huge numbers of youth who are capable to mange things. There are people who joined without knowing demand situation. This is a painful process.

"I am proud to say that ours is a first company to construct a building and introduce business house culture in Nepal. We have done so many things. There is a gap in supply of human resources. There is the need to take risk to be successful entrepreneurs," said Khetan.

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Khetan's Legacy

With nearly two centuries of presence in Nepal, Khetan Group was the first business house to introduce a new concept bringing all the industries under single roof or corporate culture in Nepal. Maintaining its stand, Khetan Business Group is going to another generation within the next decade.

With two brilliant and well educated daughters, Khetan is relaxed and relieved. Although his younger daughter is still in high school, elder daughter has graduated from European University with good academic scores.

"We are a group of lowest debt and more equity. Now-a-days more companies take debt and less equity. My daughters will take like I did but in different styles. When our father handed over the business, I followed some of family ingredients introducing modern corporate culture. Now, my business is running on completely corporate style. My daughters will not have to do more but to take well managed and well set up corporate houses. My nephews are there to carry on other sectors," said Khetan.

My daughters inherit my qualities. Elder daughter wants to do well in social entrepreneurship and academic areas," said Khetan.

As it is said time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

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