Turning Water into Light

“The current power requirement of Nepal hovers at around 1,350MW at peak hours; the total power generation is at around 850MW, and we import around 400MW from India. If Nepal Electricity Authority distributes two million LED bulbs to its four million customers as planned, it will save around 100MW of power. Saving 100 MW of power is the same as generating 100MW of power which will take a minimum of 10 years,” says Gyanendra Lal Pradhan, recognised hydropower expert and entrepreneur and Executive Chairman of Hydro Solutions, Trishakti Cable Industry and soon-to-open Resources Himalaya Boutique Resort. According to Pradhan, 1200MW of power will be added to the national grid within the next three years, but after that we don’t have many projects. “Tamakoshi with 456MW will produce power within 18 months and it will be a huge relief. Chilime with 271MW will be ready within two and a half years, and the private sector will contribute 400MW within the same time, so we are in a comfort zone for right now. But we have to start new projects very soon if we are to avoid power shortage in the future. We are falling far behind in initiating hydropower projects of higher capacity,” warns Pradhan. “People say that Nepal has opportunities in every sector. This is a wrong notion. We don’t. No country in the world does. We have limited resources to work on. Some countries have only one or two resources, like the Gulf countries have only oil, but we have more than that. We have possibilities in a few sectors. We should identify those sectors, and focus on our strengths, not on our weakness,” he emphasises. According to Pradhan, there are two types of countries in the world, one that do not need any assistance from other countries and have their own capital to work with like USA or Japan. And then there are countries like ours, with limited capital, and thus there is need of FDI. “FDI is essential for Nepal; it is indispensable for rapid growth and development. We need more FDI in sectors like hydropower. We should learn from countries like Bhutan and Pakistan. Pakistan recently fixed a FDI deal with China worth 26 billion dollars for hydropower development. We need that kind of FDI to develop our hydropower sector,” says Pradhan. Pradhan explained that Nepali businessmen are deterred from investing in hydropower owing to reasons like not enough return on investment, conflicting and inflexible rules and regulations, and unhelpful bureaucracy. “The government only wants to trouble entrepreneurs. Political stability isn’t there and every new minister brings new hydropower policies. All of this has contributed to the sector not being investor friendly,” he explains.

The Beginnings:
Pradhan was born in Bandipur in 1960 to late Hira Lal and Santu Pradhan. Being born in a business family, he learnt about the basics of business at an early age. But growing up in Bandipur, he didn’t have any exposure to the world. “I didn’t experience electricity or vehicles or a telephone. I saw a light bulb for the first time in Chhetrapati, Kathmandu. We had to walk for six days to come to Kathmandu back then,” says Pradhan.He went to a local primary school in Bandipur, completed his schooling from Chitwan and then went to India for further studies. “I did my pre-engineering in Chandigarh. Actor Rajesh Hamal was my roommate at that time, and is still one of my best friends,” recalls Pradhan. He graduated in Electrical Engineering with Hydropower as major from Bhopal, India and then returned to Nepal. “I think that everyone, regardless of their financial background, should work for someone before starting their own business. First businesses usually fail. So I worked as an engineer for Amatya Group for three years, and then I worked as a contractor for transmission lines,” he shares. “People see me as a successful entrepreneur today, but behind this success are hidden a lot of failures,” says Pradhan. Manakamana Cable Car was one such example of a missed opportunity. He wanted to start the cable car project and brought an Australian company for survey and spent a good amount of money on it. The budget for the project was estimated at 200 million rupees, which was a huge amount, and he wasn’t willing to take that risk for his first venture. So he dropped the project. “Years later, when I saw the project materialise through other businessmen, I regretted not going ahead with it. I shouldn’t have left the project, there was always the option to add more partners and minimise the risk. That was a lesson”, he shares. While starting Butwal Power Company, his next venture, he took six prominent businessmen as partners and minimised risk. Investment was easy too. The total investment in the company was around a billion rupees. The project turned out to be a huge success. ।

Pradhan was the promoter of Butwal Power Company (BPC) with an output of 79 MW through different projects. He was the head of the entire project and later sold the company. Then he started Khudi Hydropower project (4 MW) which was completed in 2006. Later he developed Baramchi and Charanawati hydroprojects of 4MW each. “Currently, I am focusing on Modi Khola Project which is in its final stages, and will complete in six months. Construction of 43MW Ankhu is underway and it will complete in three years. I have also started the geological investigation for 164MW Kaligandaki Gorge Project,” says Pradhan. He also has investments in Chilime Hydro and is one of the biggest shareholders from the public sector. Pradhan is also a big player in capital markets. He has made investments worth billions of rupees in the capital market, chiefly in shares of banks, insurance companies and hydropower. Pradhan has also made his presence in the real state and housing segments. There are three ongoing projects Shivam Housing in Hattiban , Elite Colony in Sitapaila and Pavitra Aawas in Hattiban.

The Future:
Pradhan is also foraying into tourism in the near future with Resources Himalaya Boutique Resort, a safari tent luxury resort in Banepa. Spread over 200 ropanis of land with luxury tents imported from Africa, the resort will be operational in two years. After that, he plans to retire. “I will retire from the commercial sector. We make money all our lives and we don’t even sit back to enjoy it. I want to retire within the next five years and I want to sit back and relax. I want to enjoy the rest of my life, travelling, socialising and with my family,” he say.

Personal Life:
Pradhan is married to Bimala Pradhan, and the couple has a son and a daughter, Chetan and Nivita. His hobbies include reading books, cycling, swimming and travelling, and he has travelled to over 30 countries. He says he is inspired by Warren buffet and Jack Ma. Pradhan believes in working hard, but not too hard. “I want to be free in the mornings. I don’t keep any meeting or any work related things in the mornings,” he says. Pradhan was in Bhopal during the infamous Bhopal Gas Tragedy that killed thousands of people. “I faced and survived the tragedy. I saw death from so close that I never feared it again. As I am not afraid of death, I am not afraid of anything, whatever may happen in life. Death is a fact that should be accepted, not feared. My father taught me this, and the gas incident made me understand it,” he shares.

Success Mantra:
According to Pradhan, saving is very important, and most essential for growth. His first job was as an Overseer with the Agricultural Development Bank, and his first salary was Rs 574. Still he managed to save Rs 50 a month. “I was well off, I didn’t need to save, but I still did because I understood that savings are very important. According to him, saving is a concept, and people should not save surplus, but should save first and then spend the remaining. “Save money and invest it, no matter how small an amount, if you want to be successful. But saving doesn’t mean you should keep your money with you. If you have 10 million rupees, at the inflation rate of 10 percent, it will be only worth Rs 400,000 in 30 years. Even investment in gold is not profitable; you are losing money every year owing to inflation,” he says. So Pradhan advices everyone to invest in the capital market as it is one place where you can invest regardless of the size of investment, from thousands to millions, and is the easiest way to invest and make money. According to him, even students can invest in capital markets Ultimately, all that investment goes to productive sectors and helps the country as well. “Buy right and sit tight, this is the formula to succeed in the capital market. Buy good shares and have patience. If you buy shares carefully, you will never suffer losses. Succeeding in capital market is not about luck, its analysis, study and calculation,” says Pradhan who also gives classes on the subject. He believes that everyone should get good education, but not necessarily be at the top of the class. “Education solely doesn’t guarantee success in life, there should be balance between various aspects of life. One should make a definite plan and work on it, rather than foraying into many sectors. You have to continue what you start till you succeed. And later, you should retire and enjoy,” he quips. Pradhan also emphasises on contributing to society and nation. Pradhan has set up community cow farms and agricultural farms in various places, and supports numerous schools and campuses, old-age homes and a hospital. “Once you start to make money, you should make a habit of giving back. Only that will make you happy. Only receiving will never satisfy,” he opines.

Family is the most important thing for this seasoned entrepreneur, and says it is the foundation for success. “Your family life has to be good for your business to go well. If your family is not well, nothing else really matters, says Pradhan. According to him, there is no limit to success, but you should set a limit. “I consider myself successful and I feel content and happy. I want to buy a helicopter for myself, that’s on my wish-list. It’s not that I can’t afford it right now, but things have to happen smoothly. For success, you should definitely set a target, but your dreams shouldn’t be endless, it will only lead to dissatisfaction,” says Pradhan.