Five years ago in September 2008, beed management had just been registered and Mahendra Mainali our lawyer friend had handed over the registration documents. To start out, we planned a retreat at Park Village with the first eight members of beed to develop a strategic plan for the company, wherein we adapted brand visioning tools and emerged with a brand positioning statement and a series of strategies. All the brand attributes were in place and subsequently the logo emerged. Excitement levels were high and the beeds were ready to rock. Little did it matter that there was no client at hand or in sight.
IDEA BEHIND THE BEED NAME AND LOGO
The iconic beed logo emerged with the letters in small case to reflect humility and subtlety, and the letters joined together to reflect a tight knit group, team spirit and bonding. The word beed was adapted from the vedic word ‘vid’ – (‘the expert’ or ‘one possessed with the knowledge of the Veda). I was then writing a column under the nom de plume Arthabeed for eight years in Nepali Times, and the brand beed had some recognition in the market. The iconic “tika” represents the three lines of sandalwood worn on the forehead by many Hindu priests in South India and was the final icon to our brand. We used the tika in presentations, to substitute the star in ratings and it remains the guiding image of what we do. In many instances it was heartening to hear investors asking each other, “How many tika did beed give the company?”
The beed brand was used extensively, not only in naming our offices and products, but to express ourselves. In a country where people carry fan type business cards, with multiple designations, we chose to refer to all our people as beeds, so that each is able to create an identity without being stereotyped into a particular designation. Our management trainee program was named aspiring beed, and the internship program beedtern. We rated blue chips companies as beed chips and we called our eco-system planet beed. Our obsession with the word kept people reminiscing on the high-school prankster days where belonging was so important. We therefore fitted every definition of the Tribe as defined by Seth Godin in his book.
SETTING THE BEED STANDARDS
The consulting business is often viewed with skepticism, and knowledge is not really respected as a resource that needs to be compensated for. In addition, Nepali habit of not keeping a promise of payments is something we don’t need to elaborate upon. beed learnt this the hard way, we lost money. We did not get paid by friends we trusted and even a multinational known to bully service providers. People in Nepal were willing to spend good money on dinners after a presentation but not on the presentation. This did not deter us, we worked hard, telling potential clients that we were like a cab, you get in and the meter starts ticking, so its not free. We also drew parallels with branches of medicine like oncology and neurology, where you go to the doctors knowing very well that they will give their best, but the cost is premium. The costs are high because of the high quality resources that are deployed and the high cost of tools.
In a country where the value of consulting is determined by daily Nepali rates that are pathetically low, beed kept fighting for approval as exceptions. Once again we had to draw parallels with the medical industry where patients get a consolidated package bill after surgery that is not broken down into the hourly rates of surgeon or nurses. When surgeons operate, they don’t care how long it takes, they ensure delivery. We had to compete with retired people who had decades of experience, and whose consulting earnings would be a top up to their pensions and not their full time commitment. We survived and we will still survive. Our endeavor is to positively transform the consulting marketplace, pushing people to output related delivery rather than getting lost in the accounting of daily rates and person days.
STARTING OUT – BEED INVEST
beed’s journey has been full of innovation and advancement. beed invest was the first operational portfolio management company in Nepal and introduced the very concept to the country. We brought in international practices of stock analysis and investments and the market looked up to us with credibility as did the regulators. After the stock market crash, our guarantee portfolios sunk, but we paid off each one of our investors. In a country, where running away with money and not keeping promises is common, we stood by our values of integrity. We have always believed that if we are to compete in the global market place, then credibility is not on a scale of one to ten, it is binary – either you have it or you don’t.
BEED’S SERVICE TO SOCIETY – NEF
Nepal Economic Forum (NEF) provided us an important platform to pursue our interest and for outreach. Unlike the practice of using a not-for-profit for managing statutory issues, we openly talked about how NEF was a beed promoted not-for-profit. Beeds proudly contribute to providing in-depth analysis in research for its publications. We are always flattered when people carry hard copies of nefport and nefsearch at meetings and cite data from them, and when we see references to them in research papers on Nepal. With neftalk we changed the way discussions are held, moving away from mascot inaugurated, formality driven functions that just deliver speeches. Our public service in providing all these for free continues.
THE CLIMB FORWARD – BEED ACHIEVEMENTS
We have been thoroughly tested, and have needed to show patience and perseverance. It was in early 2009, just a few months after we started, that we submitted a joint bid with Bank of Kathmandu (BOK) to International Finance Corporation (IFC) to manage the USD 14 million Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) venture fund. We won the global bid and it took us four years to pull it off the ground going through interesting phases of structuring within Nepal’s archaic laws and seeking approvals. At global forums people were astonished to hear our stories of endurance and now Business Oxygen, a Bank of Kathmandu – beed joint venture is poised to positively transform access to finance in Nepal.
We remained a Swiss Knife in a 7-11 Store. People started asking us: What don’t you do? In the past five years we have covered practically all important sectors in Nepal: agriculture, tourism, hospitality, hydropower, retail, financial services, educational services, medical services, apparels or Information Technology and Communication (ITC). We have worked across financing, marketing, Human Resources, branding, strategy, corporate compliances, administration and corporate communication. When we look at the impressive list of over 70 clients we have worked for in the past five years, we often wonder how we accomplished it all.
In 2012 we also started the beed leadership center to provide end-to-end solutions to the client. From coaching entrepreneurs and senior management team to providing interventions through leadership thinkshops, the quest to provide total solutions to clients continued. For organizations to maintain a healthy sustainable growth we identified soft skills interventions and managing leadership roles were the most important.
THE BEED CULTURE
The journey at beed has been fun. People joined beed to take on challenges not for money or getting fancy designations. A flat structure that promoted open communication and a relationship based on trust became the beed’s backbone. The pressure to deliver was immense and people grew fast at beed, as they started realizing the potential they had. Some left as they wanted to take on bigger challenges in life that suited their own choices. The activity on the facebook page of beed Alumni demonstrates the sense of belonging people had during their stint at beed, and continue to have.
“Fun” has always been the keyword at beed, and when it ceased to be fun it becomes difficult. The culture of participatory discourse was the center of everything. Retreats, parties, knowledge series and town halls promoted the sense of fun and camaraderie. However, when it came to fundamentals of discipline the no-tolerance policy was continuously in force as a reminder of the accepted norms of human behavior.
THAT EXTRA MILE – BEED GOES INTERNATIONAL
Crossing the international boundaries was something everyone in beed looked forward to. The big news was when we could contribute to a pre-feasibility of a cable car project in Rwanda. The beed inspired vision of building an eco-tourism corridor finally won over thinkers in Rwanda and an international bid was floated. beed won the bid and embarked upon it on May 2013, its first overseas assignment. In August 2013 another assignment in Bhutan started, and beed continues to be on the search of countries and territories where large firms are not interested due the size of assignments, and where a people-centric solution is warranted.
The journey of positive transformation requires bandwidth. One needs to be able to oscillate between a 30,000ft Mount Everest perspective of strategy and big picture, to the Google Earth street view of operations. From negotiating deals in board rooms in Washington DC to implementing them in Nepal in government offices. We need to be able to articulate the vernacular discourses of the villages in English to a global audience, and also to bring global discourses to rural audiences in a language and form they understand. In feasibilities for global companies, raising funds, conducting private public dialogue, or working on strategy, bandwidth becomes the key.
The beed journey has been challenging. But when we look back, we feel that we have been able to create an oasis of positive thinking, where we approach an issue collectively to get to the solutions rather than being part of the problem. Congratulations to each beed who has put in so much in collectively bringing about positive transformations in so many individuals and organizations. We look forward to many more anniversaries.