Om Rajbhandari, chairman of Comfort Housing, Comfort Cares and Brihat Investments is one of the pioneers in the field of community living and planned housing in Nepal. Despite his busy schedule, especially during the current real estate expo in Kathmandu, he opted to talk to emerging entrepreneurs because he felt that sharing his journey with the youth would make a difference in their lives as well as his own. As someone who believes that social capital is much more important than financial capital, Mr. Rajbhandari shared his story of starting as a small-time agent to being an authority in real estate business in Nepal at the present time.
While growing up, he wanted to be a lawyer, as immortalized in his primary school classnotes. However, when he completed his secondary school, as it is customary in every Nepali household, his parents wanted him to be a doctor. During his days it was not up to him to decide on what he wanted to do in his life. It depended more on his parents. He acknowledges the difference in this generation compared to his as young people are now able to choose their own career path. Hence, Mr. Rajbhandari was very close to pursuing a medical degree but it did not happen later owing to different circumstances. Nonetheless, he started his career in 1985 as a medical representative for an American company. This career path was not supported by his family because they wanted him to become a doctor, not a sales person to a doctor. But he was determined to take on the opportunity and pursued the career. His father was an employee at the American Embassy and his sister was living in the US. He also had the opportunity to go to the United States but he opted to stay in Nepal and do something for himself and his country. He had a very successful career as a medical representative and was promoted to higher levels during the nine years he spent in the company because of his capacity for hard work and his marketing skills. He was offered the post of regional sales manager with the area of work including India, but instead of taking the position, he decided to quit because the position would require him to be away from Nepal.
Having come from a non-business family, he did not have the capital to start a business so he had a difficult time opening one. The people’s revolution of 1990 had just ended and the country was in the phase of development. Hence, Mr. Rajbhandary along with his friends then decided to get into construction business. They named it CE Constructions and the initial capital was of Rs 75,000 which was his saving of the Providence Fund. CE stands for Committed Entrepreneurs. They were a committed group of entrepreneurs and thought that entrepreneurs should be allowed to grow and innovate. The first job they won was building transformer poles for Lumbini Development Bank. Although, CE construction was a newly established company, Himalayan Bank granted them a loan of ten million rupees in two phases, one as capital and the other as overdraft. Mr. Rajbhandari believes that banks need to give loans on entrepreneur’s potential and business plan, rather than on traditional basis of collaterals. He believes that with time, the committed entrepreneurs become competent entrepreneurs and that held true for his own company too. They were approached for more work and people’s expectation on them was growing. However, being a company and following all the procedures, the profit margin was extremely low as the company had to pay the engineers, accountants and other office staffs. In this scenario, as CE construction was thinking of expanding its work, the concept of Comfort Housing was established. More research was done over the internet on this idea and they expanded their knowledge on it.
In the early days of Comfort Housing, Mr. Rajbhandari used to visit the sites with his customers several times a day. He used to look after the entire department because of the lack of manpower. He developed a video film explaining the concept of community living and comfort housing. All his hard work paid off but it took around 2 years for him to sell his first project .The second projected started in Budanilikantha. With the help of the data collected in the first project, he invited several potential clients and to his surprise the booking started on the second day itself. But, the problem arose when the booking didn’t turn into sales. This turned out to be a major problem because someone else couldn’t buy the same property because of prior booking. Those properties were sold in around 6 month’s time. The third phase went really well for Comfort Housing with 700 visitors in a week and people ready to buy and pay the money in advance. During this phase, Mr. Rajbhandari had a difficult time as he served his clients on a first come first serve basis and did not offer favors to his relatives over his customers. We developed the system of community living by launching the concept of vertical living which was basically the apartment housing. With the success of comfort housing, Mr. Rajbhandari received due recognition.
Mr. Rajbhandari believes that patience is the key to being successful and getting recognition. Comfort Housing received a quality award from USA and an appreciation letter from the then Prime Minister of Nepal. He helped build the infrastructure for the community police in the area where his project of Comfort Housing was started. Due to his involvement in making the community better, he was awarded the best community service award from Nepal Police. Similarly, he was awarded Best CEO of 2010 by the BOSS magazine. He developed the concept of Strata management for the first time in Nepal, which includes joint ownership and management of common properties, like lobby, driveway, lawns, etc. He also started security business which was basically used for the security of Comfort Housing.
Brihat Investment was developed by Mr. Rajbhandari in order to promote entrepreneurship, especially in real estate business. He brought about a policy where any of his staffs who have worked with him for three years would be allowed to start their own business. He would invest in their venture and hence share the profit. His goal was to create 30 entrepreneurs within 5 years. Similarly, he also collaborated with educational institutes in the US and Thailand to start real estate education in Nepal. Currently the institute is producing its 4th batch. Brihat Investment has also been publishing a newsletter on real estate since three years. This newsletter gives the general public a good knowledge on real estate business in Nepal. Similarly real estate course was introduced in the Masters level at Ace Institute of Management and Apex College as well.
He feels that to be a business leader one has to get involved with both social and professional institution by balancing both. He is also involved in many social organizations like Nepal Ambulance Service, Rotary Kastamandap and others.
He believes that his success is because of his hard working team who has the capacity to run the business in his absence. He believes that knowledge is a very powerful tool, not a private property and hence should be shared with everyone. Knowledge, Trust, Responsibility and Authority comes in process and hence cannot be ignored.
LAST THURSDAYS WITH OM RAJBHANDARI
Date: August 25th 2011 | Venue: Hotel Dwarika’s, Battisputali, Kathmandu