More than Meets the Eye
When one woman strives to go beyond the traditional notions of beauty, despite being a Miss Nepal winner and being one of the more recognizable faces in the country, into the uncharted and challenging world of entrepreneurship, it is a move that warrants a story. This is a narrative of how a young woman challenged notions, sorted out her purpose in life, and worked hard to get where she has.
Anushka Shrestha is beautiful, bold, and a lady with a purpose. An immensely popular face and Miss Nepal 2019, she is a media magnet and a prize for society – organizations hanker to have her working with them, both for societal initiatives and for-profit ventures. After the pageant is won people try to get a slice of a Miss Nepal – from promotional offers to simply having the joy of working with her, because she suddenly becomes one of the more recognizable women in Nepal. For many though the journey of transformation from an applicant to a pageant winner is hidden. And that is where most of the magic happens!
Having known her over a number of years I was curious about her transition into a “lady with a purpose” and a recent entrepreneur, and decided a meeting with her would be the best way to find out. “Coming from a family of job seekers entrepreneurship was furthest from my mind. But I guess the exposure, training, and mindset change that I underwent along with my colleagues during the Miss Nepal journey changed my perspective of life,” says Anushka, sitting behind a desk, dressed in a mustard yellow jacket. Her office is a reflection of the organized woman that she is and speaks volumes of the keen eye for detail she has.
She says something very interesting that catches my attention and I hurry to scribble down: “Miss Nepal is a bootcamp for life. The journey teaches one about goal-setting, timelines and time management, how to make the best of limited resources, problem solving, timely responses, and working within budget and tight deadlines. More importantly, it teaches to fail undeterred, and pick up from where one faltered. It also taught me how presentation matters. And, all I can say is it set me up for life!” Wise words from a woman who has a cool and clam head on her shoulders.
Anushka’s journey into pageantry started when she went to college for her undergraduate degree at Australian Catholic University. 2019 May. The hard work and discipline she exhibited while being crowned Miss Nepal Oceania in December 2018 made her come to Nepal three months later and give Miss Nepal a shot, which she won in May 2019. That lilestone being taken care of she spread her wings on the global stage at Miss World. She bagged three awards – Beauty with a Purpose, the Multimedia and the Head-to-Head Challenge.
Fast forward to 2020 and Anushka started thinking of ways of fruitfully combining her experiences at the national and international stage to solidify and grow her identity as a Nepali and to channelize her status into promoting the Made in Nepal brand. Her mentors prompted her to take a look at something extremely traditional – ‘the Pustakari’. Sceptical at first, Anushka took a trip to the familiar shop in New Road and tried the pustakari, a traditional superfood for generations. A sudden spark and some careful considerations later, a business model slowly started taking shape. Anushka came across willing individuals who saw merit in the idea – of transforming the traditional food into a niche product and marketed to the newer generation of Nepalis and also proudly to the region and the world.
That is when the tough part began – market study and target consumer base identification, the right product mix including experimentation with dozens of recipes to get that right mix of texture and taste, product packaging, marketing, deciding on variants and spinoffs, brand building and perception – it was an entire MBA course of sorts, the only difference was that this was real life challenge with risks and decision-making, failures and successes, and not a part of some class project in an institute.
What started as desire to put a traditional Nepali food item on the global map spiraled into a passion project with business dimensions that taught Anushka the ropes of entrepreneurship first-hand. And, she wonderfully sums up her journey till now in three important lessons.
Lesson 1: Start small and scale up – it is okay to dream big but the basis of a good business decision is to divide tasks among competent team members and focus on achieving small targets leading up to bigger results.
Lesson 2: Pay people on time and pay them well for the job – this lesson Anushka says she picked up from her mother. It is important to have the most important human resources on the team motivated with regular and timely payments that translates into increased commitment and accountability.
Lesson 3: Be consistent in terms of branding and marketing – the journey from raw materials to production and the final product is a story that will impact the minds of the consumers, when executed with honesty and commitment.
“You don’t need a crown to do good things in life, but a crown and a gown can amplify your good work by leaps and bounds” – Anushka Shrestha sums up with this. What a fitting end to a story that has just begun!