It’s a late Saturday afternoon. The exterior hoarding board visibly reads ‘Central Kirana Pasal’ scribed both in Nepali and English. Many familiar faces, understandably some Aryans and Mongolians émigrés from one of the most populous spots of Asia, are busy stepping in and out of the building. And a few of them –mostly the male members– meanwhile standing right on the side walkway, are busy chit-chatting, munching and smoking. The most parking lot, in front of the shopping center, is obviously filled with seemingly new and sleeky autos.
After all, it’s a weekend and more adeptly, a shopping spree for most of the Bhutanese residing in Nashville.
This booming mart is run by an aggressively enterprising Bhutanese sophomore and it’s centrally located at one of the active off shoots of the Nolensville Road.
Among the Bhutanese youths in Nashville, Rudra Subedi, a gorgeous 28-year old lad is perhaps the busiest guy in the town. While most of his peers are already into hourly wages he preferred to take a different road in an entirely new set-up !
Hailing originally from Lamidara, Tshirang Bhutan, lived in Beldangi-1 under UNHCR-fed refugee camp for nineteen years in eastern Nepal and now in Nashville, Tennessee, Subedi hustles back and forth in his medium –size grocery shop precisely to attend every ‘fidgety’ customers. His mornings and evenings are largely busy and at times he says he has to skip his tea and snacks.
Subedi says he realized the urgency of opening a shop at a comfortable location largely because of the inability of the many Bhutanese folks, new or old alike, to get most of their needs at one place. Meantime, in view of pulling in hapless hoi polloi especially those who are sick, old and unable to drive, his centrally located business center has been a plus as most of them could easily walk up to his store. Hence, his midday business is equally thriving!
From ‘paan’ (betel nut with lime and leaf) to ‘chatpatey’ (a mix of puffed rice and spicy hot ingredients) his business caters to a variety of grocery items chiefly of Bhutanese favorites. Further, to apparently appease the rising demands he has stocked choice of Nepali goods and potpourri of various traditional and cultural items. Usually medium and small size designer clothes can be seen hanging on the frontier ceiling.
“With a small budget of $70,000 borrowing from my relatives and family members I decided to open this shop and my dream laid the founding stone on the first of April, 2013”, Subedi opens up with a serious note. “Now in the span of nearly two years and having paid off most of the money I am, by and by, heaving a sigh of relief. I believe the store now can fetch a sale value of nearly $150,000!”He radiates with a smile.
‘The new kid on the new block’ is getting busier day by day and his helping hands are his two elder siblings and old parents.
He manages his merchandise mostly the perishable goods like rice, cereals, beans and vegetables from Florida and New York. Most of the small and medium-size jeans, T-shirts, Nepali traditional and cultural costumes and other items come a long way from Nepal through couriers. He says a reliable friend of his in Kathmandu has been greatly assisting him procure Nepali goods.
However, at the end he hastens to register ‘all is not well’ when it comes to doing business in America. Besides having to sometimes grapple profusely under hectic times ranging from ordering stuff, checking market prices, making financial charts and contemplate on some arithmetic of profits, he also has to regularly confront a series of questions from the desk of Inland Revenue right after sending a sizeable chunk of money to Nepal for buying goods and services.
Despite all these odds he never wasted time to look back.
And upon being asked the very choice of this profession he gleefully replies, “It’s a concern of complete freedom— without having to stress under someone’s pressure”. However he is quick to add, “Of course being a layman in the big city with this new undertaking involves a lot of risk largely because of the continuing domination and overshadowing of the commercial giants like Walmart, Kroger, Patel Brothers and the likes. To keep pulling customers in, I‘ve to always meticulously check and compare the rising price of the basic stuff. As far as possible, I always try to keep the profit margin low. Getting the business down means it’s almost like grieving between the devil and the deep sea!” Subedi ends our tête-à-tête with a visibly cautious note.
His regular patron includes predominantly Bhutanese, some Indian and Nepali expatriates, few Burmese and a handful of Native Americans.
This young and escalating entrepreneur, if all goes well in line with his proposition, hopes to expand his business in future. He nourishes a strong desire to employ senior folks who are primarily denied of jobs due to old age and incompetency.
And yes, he also has a plan in mind to reach his business to Bhutan as well. Bhutanese clothes, wild honey and medicinal herbs are beginning to draw the interest of many Bhutanese residing in America.
He maintains a good rapport with the community members. Besides being a regular and good sponsor of community soccer and cultural programs, he also ,at times, extends his Samaritan hands to the needy and the doomed in the community.
Interestingly, a noticeable chunk of corporations in most of the States are in progress and many business -minded folks in most of the settlements across America are now, by and by, seeing a lucrative deal in this quite a larger-than-life investment (with reference to newly resettled Bhutanese). However, partnerships and contributions from among the likeminded fellas can build a sufficient pool of money to kick start a small business.
Subedi’s initial endeavor, struggle and smooth progress in the business should serve as a model and eye-opener to those wishing to switch from hourly wages to a small “commercial empire” of one’s own. Indeed, it cannot be a far cry.
Good luck to Mr Subedi !