I am currently interested in exploring Gender Lens Investing which is a paradigm of investing in companies that positively impact women’s lives
Trishagni Sakya is the Executive Director of the KGH Hotels. She currently oversees three properties in KGH Group: Maya Manor Boutique Hotel in Kathmandu, Waterfront Resort and Himalayan Front Hotel in Pokhara. Prior to joining the family business, she worked as a consultant in the World Bank Headquarters in DC researching the fourth industrial revolution and how developing countries are affected. She has also worked as an analyst in Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a US government backed development finance institution, providing $5-$1Mill loans to social enterprises mainly in India.
In the innovation space, she serves as a board member of Nepal Communitere and as investor with Safal Seeds.
Sakya graduated from Smith College with a Bachelors Degree in Economics and a Master’s Degree in International Development Economics from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
In this edition of Business360, Sakya talks about the five things that have impacted her work and life.
Best life decision
Investing in my education in feminism and using my voice where I can have been impactful series of decisions I have made. My journey in feminism began when I went to Smith College, an all-women’s college, in the US. I was around an ecosystem that supported women and didn’t treat us as a minority. I started seeing how the family system in Nepal is based on the oppression of women which then spills over to other spheres of life. When I came back to live in Nepal, I didn’t know how vocal I wanted to be with this new lens that I was seeing the world through. I was hesitant and scared because I knew that being vocal might ruffle some privileged feathers. I auditioned for the Vagina Monologues in Kathmandu which is a theatrical production of monologues raising awareness about various women’s issues stemming from misogyny. It was here in the midst of all of these amazing Nepali women where I found my muted voice. Ever since, I have not shied away from using it. Every decision that I take to learn more and use that voice (or sometimes just passing the mic) has been a great decision, albeit not an easy one.
Greatest source of inspiration
My father has always been my greatest source of inspiration. What I love about my father is not just that he is the most hard-working individual for his business; it is that he never stops using his energy for the betterment of the larger society. He doesn’t cocoon himself in one industry and one area, he invests as much time and energy in giving back to the society as he does in building hotels.
I was born late into my father’s life, when he was 45. He had already helped establish Chitwan National Park, Bharatpur Cancer hospital, written multiple books and started three hotels including Kathmandu Guest House. I have always seen my dad intensely involved in a project or another. When he was the national coordinator of the very first Visit Nepal campaign in 98, I used to accompany him to as many international conclaves and as many treks to remote corners of Nepal as my eight-year-old legs could carry me. I grew up watching and observing this amazing individual who has always elevated the game for himself and everyone around him.
He just celebrated his 79th birthday and is still as actively involved in projects like the Karna Positive Trust which encourages the youth of Nepal to enter into entrepreneurship. I consider myself extremely lucky to be born to such a star.
Taking care of the family business
Like many members of my family, I did not get a formal education in Hospitality Management. I did my BA in Economics and Mathematics and MA in International Economics and Development. I spent most of my adult life in a small person team of two to three people building financial and economic research models to project the future. I only came back to Nepal in 2017 to join my family business.
Coming into KGH was a complete change of gears for me. I went from sitting in front of a computer analysing data to managing 150 people in three hotels. While growing up, our education systems stress academic rigor and achievement but being able to manage people, their motivations, their expectations are soft skills that are not taught. I am still learning. I am extremely grateful to be around loyal colleagues who have been in the company for a long time. They have guided me with much humility and patience. My family and family friends who are a part of the business have been equally generous with their tutelage.
Beyond KGH Group
Since I worked in Impact Investment in DC, I am heavily invested in the innovation space in Nepal. I serve on the board of Nepal Communitere, an all-women led startup incubator/co-working space in Lalitpur who just got licensed to operate the FabLab in Nepal. Through Nepal Communitere, I was introduced to Safal Seeds, the first seed investment company in Nepal and invested in my first startup in Nepal, Orange Ball Pest Control. I am currently interested in exploring Gender Lens Investing which is a paradigm of investing in companies that positively impact women’s lives; this could be via investing in companies with more than a benchmark percentage of women in managing positions, or investing in products that largely benefits women’s lived experiences.
Hospitality business amid the pandemic
At this point, making sure that your business can survive the wave is the best way to sustain itself. Different hospitality businesses are unique in which they respond to the pandemic based on their target market and constraints; some have decided to temporarily shut down, others have decided to downsize or even to pivot. Even within KGH hotels, we have not employed one strategy. Kathmandu Guest House opened Museum of Nepali Arts (MONA) and the Bakery Room to pull in domestic clients; Maya Manor has downsized its operations and focused more on boutique events; Park Village is focusing on wellness tourism; Himalayan Front and Waterfront in Pokhara have focused on innovative collaborative staycation packages. We are all in a hurricane together and we need to let the dust settle in order to determine which strategy is better than another. The goal is to survive.