Lockdown Economy Nepal in a Home Automation firm with Keyur Shrestha
The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Sujan Lal Manandhar
Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.
In this interview, we meet Keyur Shrestha, the Managing Director of Home Automation Nepal which is an organization that provides smart solutions to homes and offices. They have been operating in Nepal since 2009. Keyur talked about how the lockdown impacted his business. The travel restriction was the biggest challenge. They could not go to work or meet their existing or new clients. The cash flow was the next big issue as the business still had operation costs such as staff salary and rent. They could not test new strategies in the market either. Keyur spoke with other entrepreneurs to come up with solutions. They adjusted the remaining paid holidays of the staff members during the lockdown itself. They adjusted their rent and paid the staff 50% of their salaries for 3 months. The staff members also supported this decision. They even made some fake passes to travel to work during the lockdown. Now that the lockdown has been eased, they are making up on the sales they lost during the lockdown. They have completed many of their pending projects. In the coming months, they want to create more awareness about the importance of technology and the benefits of home automation.
Could you introduce us to Home Automation Nepal?
Keyur: I am Keyur Shrestha, Founder and Managing Director of Home Automation Nepal. We have been in business since 2009. We provide customized smart solutions to homes and offices. It is a bundle of security systems, lighting controls, surveillance cameras, home theatres, curtain control, energy management and more. We help our clients take control of their home through smartphones. The value we provide is convenience. It is very important that we understand the requirements of the clients. We are a team of 13 people.
What problems did you face during the lockdown?
Keyur: The problem during the lockdown was the lockdown itself. We were not able to go to work. We could not meet with new clients or continue our projects in hand. That was a big setback. The other issue was cash flow which I think is a common denominator for all entrepreneurs all across the world. We also had a big burden on operation costs every month. That was the biggest issue.
What strategies did you implement to solve these problems and stimulate your business?
Keyur: I think the best thing I did was speak to my friends who were also entrepreneurs and find out what they were doing to ease the situation. I remember clearly speaking to one of them and deciding to adjust the remaining paid holidays of our team members within the lockdown period itself. That was a good idea. Another important thing was talking to my team members and expressing the gravity of the situation. It was very welcoming to receive a positive attitude in return. For three months of the first lockdown, we reduced the salary by 50%. I did not face a lot of backlash for that which was good. There was a similar situation with our house rent. The people in my community have been very supportive. Another problem was getting to work. All of us (the team) got together one day somehow. We decided we could create false documents that we could use to convince traffic police to let us travel saying that we are from the construction field and we needed to get to work. Construction was one of the businesses that were allowed to operate during the lockdown. It was fun trying new things to get to work. We could not implement many strategies (such as advertisements) to stimulate our business because we could not test it in the market. We have a limited number of clients. We spoke with them and we got to know how they were doing. We asked them if they were ready to entertain us at their sites. It was very important for us to know what the clients were expecting and what they were not. We needed to be on the same page.
What was missing during the lockdown to help SMEs?
Keyur: The biggest thing was support from the government. We were really disappointed with what we were expecting and what we got. The tourism industry had some support but what about the other industries? There was no clarity in what help there was and how we could receive it. I actually got to know a few things only two days back. We found out that we could apply for loans at a small interest rate. That was it, take more loans. Compared to other countries, there was zero support from the government.
Now that the lockdown has been eased, how is your business performing?
Keyur: We have been able to continue our projects. We work with architects and interior designers for new construction projects. Since these people had started the projects before the lockdown, it was vital for them to complete those projects as early as possible. It is because their bank loans and other payments were pending. We were able to complete many of our projects and look for new prospects. It is still 50/50 in terms of sales. I think the digital and smart home culture in Nepal is growing. It continues to grow and it is not difficult to convince people. Most people are ready to meet others (with or without masks). It is not so bad now.
What is the outlook for your organization for the coming three months?
Keyur: The next three months is too early to plan anything big. We just want to be able to consistently perform week in and week out in the same circle of completing projects and getting new ones. We want to create more awareness of the benefits of the technology and the peace of mind it can provide to our clients. We simply want to keep working.
What are the things you need help within your organization?
Keyur: It is again awareness. This technology already sounds very high-fi as if it were from a Hollywood movie. We need awareness about how affordable the technology is and how easy it is to install and use. Awareness is the only thing we are focused on, hence we need value marketing. As for the government, I expect them to deliver what they say and make things easier for entrepreneurs to receive subsidies.
About the guest
Keyur Shrestha is the Founder and Managing Director of Home Automation Nepal. He studied B.E in Electronics and Telecommunications in Pune, India.