Nitisha Shrestha: Never settle for less'It is very important for a creative director to be open minded and open to challenges. They have to be willing to take risks.'
As part of the family behind Panchakanya Group, it was only natural that Nitisha Shrestha would eventually take up a position within her family business.
But she had to find her own way first. After graduating from GD Goenka School in India, Shrestha went to the United States for her undergraduate degree, completing a Bachelor’s in economics from San Diego State University. She then moved to New Delhi where, in 2014, she co-founded Pastel Dreams Inc, a storytelling application. But, over the past year, Shrestha has been working in Kathmandu with her family’s conglomerate as its Creative and Corporate Social Responsibility Director. In this interview with the Post’s Alisha Sijapati, Shrestha talks about her experience in both startups and corporate settings, and shares the qualities that creative directors need to have. Excerpts:
How did the idea of starting Pastel Dreams Inc come about?
I co-founded Pastel Dreams Inc with a friend in 2014, two years after I had graduated from college. There were already a lot of educational apps in the market, such as Genius Kids Me and Story Toys, but all these apps lacked content created especially for the Asian market. So we decided to come up with an educational app that would fill that gap. We also wanted to tell stories. The storytelling idea wasn’t specifically catered to kids or adults; we just wanted storytelling to be more engaging, interesting, and fun. But eventually, we shifted our niche to kids. We have worked with authors, writers, narrators, and sound designers from all over the world. Our primary motive was to make learning as convenient and as interactive as possible by making use of animations and storytelling. We’ve also worked with a college in Pune and created a voice synthesis software. Once your voice is recorded, the software breaks down the voice into phonetic sequences, replicates the voice and uses it to narrate stories.
In 2018, you returned to Nepal and joined Panchakanya Group, your family business. How difficult of a decision was it to leave Pastel Dreams Inc and focus completely on your family business?
It wasn’t an easy decision to leave a company that I co-founded, but it was a decision I had to make. Ever since I stopped actively working for Pastel Dreams Inc, my friend/partner has been managing the company alone and is doing a wonderful job at it. The reason why I decided to return to Nepal was that my family needed me more in Nepal, and Panchakanya is my main focus for the moment.
From all the departments that you could choose to work in at Panchakanya, you chose the role of Creative and CSR director. Why?
Before settling in my current role at Panchakanya, I worked in each and every department in the company. I attended a lot of training and spent a lot of time understanding the different departments from the inside out. It was only then that I decided that the Creative and CSR department suits me the best. This is Panchakanya’s 47th year and the company has come a long way. When I first came in, I found that our brand name was more popular among older people. As the creative director, I am now working on making the brand resonate with the youth. I am working on different branding strategies that will help the company widen its brand presence.
The CSR department is also working hard to identify areas where we can truly make a difference in society. Currently, our CSR works in education, sanitation, health, construction and plantation.
What qualities do you think a creative director must have?
It’s very important for a creative director to be open minded and open to challenges. They have to be willing to take risks, and should be humble enough to know that they aren’t necessarily right all the time. They should also be a team player and should always be able to get in the target audiences’ mindset.
What are your future plans for both your companies?
With Panchakanya, the sky’s the limit. The company will be much more structured than it already is. As part of our CSR, we are already working with several organisations, such as Teach for Nepal and Childreach. We want to continue those partnerships and also work on women empowerment. Our creative unit will focus on coming up with branding campaigns and advertisements that will better position our brand.
With Pastel Dreams Inc, we want to introduce it in Nepal and create content that is specific to the local market. But to do so, we need to find the right team. The app is also currently available for iOS, but we want to have it on Android, too.
What advice do you have for management graduates who want to start their careers in the industry?
You should always follow your heart. Never be scared to fail. The key is to make mistakes, learn from them, and move on. If you have to be afraid of something then fear complacency. Always keep pushing yourself. Always be curious and porous. Don’t give up. Never settle for less.