I had dinner over the weekend with a new acquaintance and now friend, Nakim. Nakim is a father, a community mentor, an entrepreneur, and a hilarious dinner companion. We previously met in Kathmandu in November when I was there on my annual EO retreat.
Nakim’s story is an unlikely one - he decided to attend college in Taiwan in the 80s. Traveling across the world for a few years after graduating and paying his way by whatever means necessary, he decided to open a travel agency in 1991. This was basically because he was disowned by his parents for marrying a woman of another religion. Everything was going great for a few years and then he was forced to shut down his business because of the Nepalese civil war and Maoist insurgency in the late 1990s.
Left with not too many other options, he decided to start another business, this time more closely aligned with his passion, films. Since 2001, Nakim has become ‘the father of film’ in Nepal, including owning more cinemas than any other person in Nepal. He has also produced more award-winning films in Nepal than any other producer or investor, co-founded the Himalayan Climate Initiative, and owns and manages a number of other businesses.
Three key lessons I learned from dining with Nakim include:
1) Hard work + in an industry you feel passionate about = success
Nakim shared with me that working in the film business has always been more rewarding for him than the travel businesses because it’s something he enjoys so thoroughly. He even joked that some days now he’ll watch 4-5 hours of Netflix – by the time his youngest son returns home from seeing his friends, Nakim has watched half a season of a new show and has half a dozen ideas for new films to produce. In his free time, he is always watching movies and now television shows, so he claims that this is a key reason for his success, “Working in an industry you love.”
2) There’s no substitute for commitment to quality
Nakim’s theaters, though they are the biggest in Nepal – and soon the first ones with 4K screens – are also the most expensive to build by far. He places fewer seats per square meter than his competitors, spaces the seats further away from the screen, and offers higher quality amenities. These all lower his profit margin, but all increase the repeat customers for his theaters. He says, “When it comes to customer experience, there is no substitute for providing the best experience possible. Everyone wants the best their money can buy, not always the best money can buy. There’s a difference.”
3) Life happens. You adjust.
Nakim’s older son, age 20, is a cancer survivor. Nakim was disowned by his family and they would not speak to him for an entire year after he married his wife. Nakim’s first business was shuttered due to civil war in Nepal. All of these things were out of his control. “What could I do? I just had to keep going,” he said.