Two years ago, Nepal experienced its most devastating earthquake in more than 80 years. Thousands of lives were lost, and many more lost their homes and livelihoods. Slowly, the community has been able to recover and rebuild their lives and businesses. Today, we hear from Anz “Anuj” Bajracharya, Director of Treks, Tours & Mountaineering at Imperial Nepal Treks about what he remembers from the day the earthquake hit, the impact it had on his company, and how he has restored and grown the business with a little help from the Internet.
The Imperial Nepal Treks team. Anuj is sporting sunglasses in the front row.
Tell us, what do you remember from April 25, 2015?
It was a quarter to noon on a Saturday, and my family and I were going to the movies. I was driving a car in the middle of the road. First there was just a shake, then there was another quake. Then there was panic. We couldn’t go back to our homes because walls were falling down, the roads were falling down.
For four nights, we lived in the car on the road, cut off from communication. No mobile phones, no telephones, we didn’t have any contact or way to talk to my parents or our relatives. All that time we had no information about our families and friends. It was so sad to see the destruction around us. But we were the lucky ones. The Imperial Nepal Treks team didn’t lose anyone. Everyone in my family and my wife’s family was okay. Our house didn’t totally collapse, though we eventually had to demolish it.
What impact did the earthquake have on your business?
Nepal’s economy heavily depends on tourism, so the earthquake affected all of us in the industry. Most of our guides were from Gorkha, the epicenter of the earthquake. And no tourist wanted to visit Nepal then, so we had to stop our business for a time. We almost gave up, but we didn’t. Slowly people from overseas started emailing us again, saying they wanted to visit Nepal. Many wanted to help with reconstruction efforts, so we helped with these campaigns.
At the time of the earthquake, you had a team of nine people. Today, you employ 30 guides who are permanent employees. How did you rebuild and grow your business in this short time?
Our business comes not from Nepal but from abroad—Singapore, the United States, Canada, Australia, and other countries. I knew the best way to reach people was through the Internet.
For many visitors, their first question is, "Is it safe to go up to the mountain [Everest]?" The online community helped us recover through word of mouth, recommendations, and reassuring reviews. What our guests tell us and share with others online after finishing their trek matters a lot.
Being found on Google Search is also important for an online-based business like ours. After the earthquake, I saw companies investing in AdWords. I talked to my partners and colleagues and said we should give it a try. We rely on online marketing to reach our customers, and AdWords is a large part of this.
Given what you’ve been through in the past two years, what’s your advice for other entrepreneurs?
Everyone wants a quick result, but we should learn to wait and watch sometimes. Business is not always about earning money, sometimes it’s about how we pause, learn, and adapt. Before I was working for Imperial Nepal Treks, I was a professional drummer. Because tourism is such a big industry here, I adapted to the market. I changed my profession and became a website designer for tourism businesses. You don’t have to always be a professional IT person or a business person to succeed.
What’s next for your business?
Our success with Imperial Nepal Treks really motivated us to do something new, so in 2017 we registered a new company, Ecstatic Himalaya. A lot of this is possible because of Google AdWords, which has helped grow our business. While Imperial Nepal focuses on opportunities for budget-conscious and backpacker trekkers, Ecstatic Himalaya will focus on more upscale and customizable itineraries.