Last Thursdays with Ranjit Acharya, Advertising Entrepreneur

Ranjit Acharya is a well-known name in the field of advertising in Nepal. With an experience of more than two decades, Mr. Acharya is the founder, owner and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Prisma Advertising. He also resides as the Director of Media Hub and Managing Director of Neel Barahi Films. Besides being an entrepreneur, he is also a motivational speaker and has been training students to managers on personal growth and development under the program named “Success Mantra”.

Mr. Acharya, who believes that breaking one’s own comfort zone and challenging the self as the first step towards success, shares that his first turning moment in his life came when he was flunked in grade eight. When he flunked in grade eight, his grandfather motivated him to look at the failures from the positive side by saying that he would be the only student in his entire class who would be studying the same subjects twice. This lesson, which he took it by heart, helped him excel the class the following year and started his journey of positive thinking and facing failures as the stepping-stones towards success. This is still his success mantra.

A lyricist of a bunch of songs, Mr. Acharya shares that he has shared his experiences and mantras through his songs as well. The lyricist of motivational songs like “When you see difficulty in every destination, I see destinations in every difficulty. When you see mountains in every roads, I see roads in every mountain”, he believes that an entrepreneur is the one who sees opportunities in every challenge.

A very hard worker, Mr. Acharya started his work experience during the winter break of grade eight, when he used to walk all the way from Kalikasthan to the Airport to learn about cargo business at the Himalayan Travels’ office. He mentions that it was a good learning experience and he loved his salary too, which was a bowl of egg noodles every day.

He got the taste of his first real business experience right after finishing his SLC, when he agreed to establish a medicine distribution company for his brother with a capital of Rupees 50,000 and a single room at Sanchayakosh Building at Tridevi Marg, Thamel. He faced a huge challenge when he came to know that all the medicine business in Kathmandu operated in credit. With his limited capital, he could be out of stock with two major buyer’s order and run out of both cash and product for sometime, which was bad for business. So, he applied a new technique to sell his medicines in cash. He first identified 10 major medicine retailers and started visiting them casually without mentioning them that he ran a medicine distribution company. After sometime, when the retailers became familiar and were at ease with him, he told them about his business and offered to give them 2% discount out of 5% that he got himself. But, he made it clear to them that he was unable to provide them with goods in credit. The relationship built with the retailers over time added with the 2% discount offer worked right for him; the retailers accepted his offer of dealing in cash. Thus, he started, probably for the first time in Kathmandu, to distribute medicines in cash. In a short period of one and half years, he was able to expand the business to a larger flat in Chhetrapati with 18 employees working for him.

His real career, as an advertisement entrepreneur started in this office at Chhetrapati, when one day a glucose company owner came to visit him to market his products. Since glucose is not made in Nepal and rather ordered in bulk from India and packaged by local companies under different brands, the owner of the glucose company named Glucolin, had visited his office to receive orders before getting his summer stock, which was the main sales period of the year. But, Mr. Acharya declined to do business with him remarking that his product was not advertised and people were unaware of his product due to the lack of it. Upon hearing such a remark, the owner of the Glucolin, with sheer delight, shared that they were preparing a TV advertisement with Mr. Santosh Pant, one of the famous TV producers of that time. Mr. Acharya, who had already built his interest in the advertisement business, got a bit jealous, as he wanted to do something like that himself, and asked the owner of the Glucolin about the story of the advertisement. Upon hearing a typical concept, he commented it to be a failure if done as planned, and offered to give him a better concept and shared it to him on the spot. When the Glucolin owner liked his concept, Mr. Acharya offered to design and execute his advertisement in a cheaper price if the other was ready to invest in it. The Glucolin owner after discussing with his brother called Mr. Acharya the very next day to tell him that they had dropped Santosh Pant from the advertisement and wanted to work with him to develop it. Upon hearing this, Mr. Acharya was happy but at the same time he was scared, as he had no previous experience or knowledge of movie making, advertisement, script writing, or whatsoever. However, with sheer determination he decided to go ahead with the deal.

With no idea on how to go about making the TV commercial, he went to meet Mr. Siddhartha Shakya, one of the best cameramen of that time. Though he had never met the person before, he figured out his home and went to meet him. Upon meeting Mr. Shakya, he introduced himself and told him that he had no idea whatsoever about movie direction or anything but he has an advertisement to produce. When, Mr. Shakya humbly requested to see the storyboard, it was a complete new term for Mr. Acharya, yet he replied by saying that he had it all figured out in his mind and shared the concept with him. To his surprise, Mr. Shakya agreed to work with him in the project. This gave him extra courage to make a good commercial. Then with Mr. Shakya, he started looking for artists to fit his characters. There he learnt a big lesson. First he thought that he had to put the best looking artists in the commercial to make it look good and found people as such. But, by the time the commercial was half shot, he realized that it was going to be the worst as the artist were only best looking but amateurs and were not able to deliver their dialogues properly. His got his first lesson that as an amateur it was safer to work with professionals then amateurs, even if they don’t have better appearance.

On realizing that the advertisement was going to end up pretty bad, he used his creative mind and pitched a new strategy to his client. He suggested wrapping up the commercial as it is with the 15000 already spent out of the budget of 25000, and offered to make a jingle based commercial in the remaining 10000. Luckily, his client agreed to his idea. They shot a new jingle based ad the very next day. Then he took the video to one of the best video editors of that time by the name of Mr. Rabindra Mishra, who after finishing the editing commented it to be one of the best jingle-based commercials of Nepal. He didn’t believe in his words, so to endorse his words, Mr. Acharya took the video cassette to a video cassette rental store ran by one of the prominent media figures of Nepal, Mr. Bhaskar Raj Karnikar. With the aim of getting his feedback, he asked his brother to make a copy of the video, which he didn’t needed at the time, and asked him to turn on the TV during that period. His intention was to show the commercial to Mr. Karnikar, which fortunately grabbed his attention. He asked Mr. Acharya if the commercial was an Indian commercial with Nepali jingle dubbed over it, which is a general practice here with commercial of Indian products. This was the best comment he could get to broadcast the commercial. Further, the client also approved the commercial.

“Thanks to Rabindra Mishra, who had informed me that whoever releases the advertisement claims it, I registered Prisma Advertisement to release the commercial”, says Mr. Acharya. The Prisma Advertisement thus made its entry into the market with the Glucolin’s commercial release. The commercial was an instant hit and the Glucolin stock was out of market in no time. This created another big challenge to Mr. Acharya because the commercial had to be put off from broadcasting and he had no other client to pay for his already rented office space and he had already left the medicine business to his brother. This led him to look for other advertisement clients.

At that time, there were only limited media options for advertisement, viz. Gorkhapatra, TV and radio. So, he started looking for print ad clients and started doing similar jobs. During this early phase he got more interested in the sector and realized that there was a “need gap” in the market, and if he could figure out the need gap, then he would be able to succeed in his business. He claims that “need gap” is the basis for entrepreneurship. He claims that if one can identify the “need gap” between the client and the service provider and fulfill the gap, then the person can be come a true entrepreneur. This realization led him to identify the gap in the options of media for advertisement.

While working with the realization of lack of options of advertisement media, he once met an Indian man, who was the marketing manager of Lipton Tea. When he met this person, he was complaining about the lack of professional advertisement agencies in Nepal. On hearing this, Mr. Acharya inquired about his need, and was replied, “I need to do Direct Marketing of my products. I want to do In-Shop-Operation”. Mr. Acharya tells that he had heard about direct marketing but was unaware of the term “In-Shop-Operation”. In spite of it, he told the Indian manager that he can do that and introduced himself as the advertisement agency owner. Since he still had no idea what that operation meant, he further asked the Indian manager, what he really wanted in it, without letting him know of his ignorance of the term. The manager happily replied his necessity in detail, which explained to Mr. Acharya what he meant by the jargon he had used. He promised to provide him with a proposal and show him the sales girls, which Mr. Acharya did not have at the moment, after four days. He put all his energy to meet the necessities and pulled this project off successfully. After that in next two years, Prisma became an expert agency to provide direct contact campaigns like institutional campaigns, school campaigns, door-to-door campaigns, roadshows, in-shop-operations, etc. He was able to provide the need gap in the market and by the year 2000 Prisma was getting almost 60% of the total work of multinational companies’ working in Nepal.

After reaching a certain level of success in 2000, Mr. Acharya felt the need of learning, but since he was not ready to leave his company behind, the only option he saw was to franchise with better agencies. So, he went to India and met the CEOs of four international level advertisement agencies and offered to represent them in Nepal. But, when everyone agreed to his proposal, it put him in a dilemma to choose one out of the four. So, he chose to franchise with Ogilvy and Mather, one of the best agencies, and got associated with them in 2000. After the association, he expanded the office to accommodate from then 12 employees to 40, which got small by 2004 and had to move again. He started following Ogilvy’s training materials, campaigns, websites and other materials and also attended various trainings and conferences organized by them. Since there was an international agency’s branch in the market, he shares that he felt the necessity to reach a similar level to compete in the same market. And, the association with Ogilvy gave him just that. He took the risk and made it a success.

Mr. Acharya, who believes that an entrepreneur loves what he does and is hardworking and passionate, says that one also needs to diversify his/her business. But while diversifying, one must be cautious not to enter into a business that he/she is not an expert of, which means that the person needs to have enough knowledge about that sector. With such thoughts, he diversified his business from advertisement agency to a media-buying house called Media Hub, which has recently acquired Avenues Television.

He claims that if a person can make four levels of profits out of a single product, then that person is a great entrepreneur. He shares that he has been able to make 3 tiers of profits from a single product, so far. An avid speaker, Mr. Acharya had started giving motivational speeches since 1998 under the banner of “Success Mantra”, which is still carrying on with much success. He was able to convert his passion into another revenue source, and suggests others to do so too.

A devoted positive thinker, Mr. Acharya encourages everyone to think positive, and claims that positive thinking helps one identify opportunity in a mass of problems and challenges. And, this is what he says makes a good entrepreneur.




Q. You shared that at different times, you have agreed to take up works that you had never known about, and completed it successfully. Could you please share us how to develop that kind of confidence in us?

A. Basically, when you tell yourself that you can do it, you are challenging yourself. When you challenge yourself, you cannot lie to yourself as well. When you cannot lie to yourself and challenge yourself, then you will learn and explore. If you submerse a man in water, that man will do anything to breathe. This attitude to do anything for a single breath is a must in an entrepreneur and it cannot be achieved by others challenging you, but you need to challenge yourself for it. If you say you cannot, you will be throwing away opportunities. And, if one wants to grab opportunities, one has to take risks.

Q.   As you said that taking risk is one of the important natures of an entrepreneur, do you have any tips on how to avert challenges and develop risk-taking attitude?

A.  When I say that one needs to challenge the self to do a new thing, I also wanted to say that there is not shortcut to it. When a larva of a butterfly is trying to get out of the cocoon, if you cut the cocoon’s opening thinking you are helping it, then you are wrong. You will kill that butterfly instead because it is its process to become a butterfly from a larva. Until it goes through the entire process, its wings do not become strong enough to fly. Similarly, one has to go through the entire learning process to be successful. One has to work hard and do the preparation besides saying I can. But, there is not shortcut to it.

Q. While starting up, I think that one also needs to pull legs of others to go ahead of them. But it is unethical. How do you rationalize it?

A. While grabbing opportunities, you should grab opportunities, not pull others’ legs. If you have grabbed any opportunity unethically, it won’t last long. One should try to play and win rather than trying to defeat others. A football player who plays to defeat others sees eleven opponents, but a player who plays to win the game only sees the goal post.

Q. You mentioned that if one has the passion and work hard, one could achieve anything. However, if one does not have enough skills or knowledge to do so, then how can someone with mere passion and hard work be successful?

A. Everyone has an interest and potentials, but the person himself is capable of identifying that and no one else. And, everyone should identify his/her interest and potentials and pursue it with will power and hard work. Unless one has the interest in doing what he does, it will not be a success. However, one needs to understand what one’s interest are and what potentials do the person carry. Realizing that potential, one needs to prepare the way. For example, A. R. Rahman had a huge interest to sing, but he knew that his potential was to become a famous musician. So he prepared to become a musician. Once when he reached a stage of success and he sang, the he was listened to.

Transcript prepared by the wonderful team at Samriddhi