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Competition is a medium that shows us the correct trend that is going on to be in sync with the present. The secret sauce is always to invest in your business, improve, expand and be vertical

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Binay Bohra 
Managing Director, Vianet Communications

Binay Bohra, Managing Director of Vianet Communications, completed his computer engineering from Bangalore University in the early 90s. Around that time, the internet was an emerging trend. For him, to get involved in something new and fascinating which was taking the world by storm was exciting. On returning to Nepal, he decided to work with a company extensively focused on internet. In 1996, Bohra joined Mercantile Communication to start his career in the tech world. He wanted to be a part of the revolutionary transformation of the century.

In 1999, Bohra decided to open his own company. He says, “There was a huge opportunity. Although the internet was being introduced quite slowly, I saw that offices and corporate houses would soon need internet services and for that they would have to depend on Nepal Telecom and their wireline.” After much brainstorming with like-minded people, he decided to launch Vianet Communication.

While reflecting on his two-decade-long expedition, Bohra recalls how they started in just a single room and the subsequent growth. He says, “We knew there would be gaps, a loophole, so we sought openings. Hence, we wanted to reduce the price of the internet and for that, we started wireless connections.” Today, Vianet is a success story that did not come without its share of trials and tribulations, but Bohra stood tall in his endeavours, and continues to chart new trajectories in the fast-paced world of technology.

In this edition of Business 360, we spoke to Bohra to learn about his views on leadership. Excerpts:

How do you define a leader?

A leader is someone who has to lead by setting an example. You have to have the discipline to stick till the end to see the result. It’s a long-term commitment. One has to have the ability to portray their skills by staying true to their vision. It is about longevity.

Everyone at various points in their lives has to face ups and downs and these issues could be anything from man-made problems or natural calamities to taxation, or legal issues. These hurdles are actually the tests of your skills and experience.

Resilience is another key to leadership. One has to be resilient enough to manoeuvre through difficult situations and come out unscathed. Learning from past mistakes is also crucial. Most often, we make mistakes while learning and these are the times when one should be prepared for the countless challenges and not be scared.

Who comes to your mind as an ideal leader?

Leaders can be anyone in any walk of life. I was fascinated by Steve Jobs. His dedication to the concept that the product should speak for itself and the rest will follow is something I believe in. He was successful in developing products that were trusted by the people and Apple became the first trillion-dollar making company. The philosophy he had and the way he spoke for his products is something that I am always awestruck about. Secondly, it would be Elon Musk. He is a person who has been doing a lot in innovation and technology and one has to be a genius to pull off all that he has been doing.

Could you share an incident that tested your leadership?

Around five-six years ago, one of our workers passed away while fixing a cable. He was electrocuted. Regardless of the safety measures we adopt it is inevitable for accidents to occur. The family of the deceased were agitated because they had lost their loved one.

I could have sent anyone from the company but I felt that as a responsibility and accountability, I had to make peace and console the family myself. It was difficult for me to go and talk about it when the family was in grief but taking responsibility for other aspects was equally important. Hence, these incidents have made me more resilient and have helped me be more aware of my role.

How important is it to have a good team?

We have around 1,600 employees spread across all the districts of the country. There are employees who have been with us from day one and also those who have joined recently so we have to balance between the old knowledge and get refreshed with the new ones.

The saying ‘you can’t teach old dogs to learn new tricks’ is what comes to mind, meaning change is needed. New and fresh ideas are what make a company thrive. The bearing of your company shows credibility. All the team members are the stakeholders and having strategic planning and management is what makes the company thrive. Without a team actually nothing is possible.

How do you handle conflict?

There is always somebody who is not happy about something. Like how we say every coin has two sides, every situation also has two aspects to it. There could be issues at times but we must make every member of the team understand that there is a bigger picture and we as a team are working towards the same goal. Whenever there is a problem, we try to handle it by listening to the concerned people and we try to understand them and finally provide suggestions that are good for everyone.

The major aspect is that there has to be transparency within the company. If there is transparency, then people will be able to understand the situation more easily.

Which leadership style do you follow?

I don’t give the impression that I am in a hurry. I am quite laid back and more focused on the strategic building and weaving for the company. I am quietly confident and think in a long-term manner. Empathetic and consensus builder, I try to put context and help people unravel their potential.

Do you think leadership is inborn or acquired?

It could be 50-50; you are born, raised, and schooled differently but our DNA traits also play a role in determining what kind of personalities we can acquire. Certain things are genetic but how you accumulate all of those and change it into your strength is what matters the most. Experience counts the most.

When starting a business one usually does not know about the practical aspects of a business so one has to be willing to learn as time goes by. It is time and experience that show us the correct ways to work through any situation. Thus, I believe it’s a 30-70 kind of ratio because our environment and genetics are both strong players which determine our behaviour and outlook depending on the situation.

How are you dealing with competition in the market?

Competition is there and that is why everyone is on their toes. The internet is a very challenging business because it has to be on 24 hours. We need constant electricity to function and customer service has to be up to the mark. There is minimum entry barrier to become an internet service provider and you see many names coming up but everyone is not able to survive in this competitive market. For example, being a customer service-based business, if one entity decreases the price of the product then the whole industry has to adapt to be on the same path.

I believe that competition is good and as we are in this game for the last two decades, we have learnt that the market is ever-changing.  We have to walk, crawl and run according to the time and demand. Hence as a business model, we aim to provide quality services to our customers. Competition is a medium that shows us the correct trend that is going on to be in sync with the present. The secret sauce is always to invest in your business, improve, expand and be vertically integrated. We have gone through cycles and that has made us resilient.

Our experience has sharpened us over time. We are focused on our vision and mission to provide the best services to our customers.

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JUNE 2024

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