Leading from the frontMarketing comes naturally to Ramesh Thapa, who has been involved in the sector for more than three decades.
Marketing comes naturally to Ramesh Thapa, who has been involved in the sector for more than three decades. Starting his journey as the sales and marketing officer for San Miguel Beer in Pokhara, Thapa then worked in the packaging industry for several years.
Then, after moving to Kathmandu, Thapa joined Jagadamba Cement and served as an assistant marketing manager, before leading the sales, marketing and branding department at Arghakhanchi Cement since its inception. In this interview with The Post’s Alisha Sijapati, Thapa talks about the the role branding plays in corporate success and shares some of his marketing mantras. Excerpts:
You joined the cement industry in the later years of your well-established career, how difficult was it for you to work in a new industry, starting right from scratch?
When I joined Jagdamba as an assistant marketing manager, I had little idea about this industry and I knew I had to work extra hard and research thoroughly to sustain myself. For the first six months I spent most of the time in the field. I took rides with marketing officers and personally met contractors, dealers and other customers.
Also, I had to learn the technical aspects like the various types of cement, which was difficult in the beginning but I had no option but keep learning. It was a huge challenge because I had to gain the confidence of the dealers, maintain public relations, and understand the overall procedure of work.
When I started out, I was a fresher in Kathmandu and it was difficult for me to start PR right from the ground up. Now, it’s been almost a decade and I feel that I have been able to play my bit part in the industry’s growth, which is really satisfying.
What processes went into converting a new company like Arghakhanchi into a well-known brand in the market?
A few decades ago, cement industry was more focused on traditional type of marketing but things have certainly changed for good. Now, it is important for us to be visible in the market. Today, we don’t just deal with dealers but we interact with customers all over the country, whether it’s via TV adverts, billboards or the print media.
Thankfully, the process of establishing a brand was not as challenging as I initially thought it would be. Firstly, four years of working at Jagdamba was a greatest asset for me. I already knew what, why, when, how, who I had to deal with.
When I was offered this job, I knew I wanted to take it because I had already heard about the management style of the company and I knew how the cement was being produced. I was confident that branding this product wouldn’t be difficult as I was confident that the product would work well in the market.
Although, Arghakhanchi only produces OPC cements the demand has grown significantly since its launch. Large part of this can be attributed to not just the quality of the product but also the branding and the marketing. I take immense pride in that.
How important is it to have a well-known celebrity or a house-hold name endorse a product like yours that is just starting out in the market?
Arghakhanchi produces OPC cements, which is the strongest cement of the available varieties. We wanted to have someone who held the image of being strong and there was no one better than Sunil Thapa.
Fortunately for us, the Hindi movie Mary Kom had just released, where Sunil Thapa played the character of a tough coach to the wrestler. We knew then that he was the best person to endorse our product as he is both physically and emotionally strong.
Now, people know Arghakhanchi cement because of him. When we travel outside the Valley to promote our cement—people instantly refer to Arghakhanchi as ‘Ratte Kaila ko Cement.’ That has been a big advantage for our brand. People still don’t know what and where Arghakhanchi is but they know their favourite Ratte Kaila endorses the brand.
Sunil Thapa’s involvement has made a lasting impact for our company and it is because of him that we have built a brand name out of our company. So, yes, having a well-known personality endorse your brand can be a big bonus, particularly when you are just establishing your company.
There are many industries booming in the country. In comparison, the cement industry is more technical. How can today’s youth involve themselves in this industry?
It is true that the cement industry is rather technical than any other industries but one has to keep in mind that if you invest time—it is a very profitable business. There is a lot of scope in this industry. Our country has a lot of its own resources and if the youth get involved and tap that potential, there may be a day when we don’t have to rely on other countries for raw materials.
You have been a prominent figure in the marketing industry. What kinds of skills are required in a marketer?
There are two things marketing personas have to acquire—they need to be tactful in sales, as well as marketing the product. These two have to go hand in hand. There are a lot of competitors and you have to be smart. You have to think to how you can generate revenue. But most importantly, you need to have very good communication skills and need to master the art of convincing people.
What are your management mantras?
At work, I make sure that I fulfill my responsibilities on time and check if my employees are also doing the same.
I am generally friendly with everyone at work and I make sure that I draw the line. Sometimes, when you are too friendly, people take you for granted and I don’t let that happen. Rules are rules and everyone needs to follow them well.
What advice do you have for fresh graduates wanting to join the marketing sector?
First off, today’s youth are not very resolute. They seek money, power and success from the very beginning. It seems to me that they have forgotten to work hard and how to follow rules and regulations. I believe they need to understand that only hard work is the key to success. Also, the youth need to concentrate and focus on one thing at a time. Understand the market, find your own niche and become an expert in it, that is the only way you’ll succeed.