Those Extra Miles

Shrestha is also the Co-Founder of SastoBook.com and SastoDeal.com, and is coming up with new ventures very soon.

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Text by Abhinav Das Shrestha
Photo by Satyan Shrestha 

In 1980, there were only 7 ophthalmologists and 16 eye beds in Kathmandu, and around 1,000 surgeries were performed annually. In the following 3 decades, eye care infrastructures and trained human resources rapidly increased giving birth to over 20 eye hospitals. Despite this, 18.5% of total population is still living with blindness or low vision.

Though a 15-minute surgery can cure cataract, a medical condition in which the lens of the eye becomes progressively opaque, the condition account as the cause for 62.2% of the total of 94,765 number of blind people living in Nepal.

At the wake of this situation, Suraj Shrestha, Founder and CEO at Anthropose, a for-profit social venture formed in 2014 with a mission to create viable and sustainable solutions to address the deep-seated problem of blindness in Nepal, has ventured in providing free cataract surgery to people with cataract living in rural Nepal.

How does your company create viable and sustainable solutions to blindness?

Everything we do here, we do it from a humane perspective. ‘Anthropos’ means ‘human being’ in Greek, and ‘e’ at the end of the name signifies ‘extra drive’ and ‘extra effort’ required to go ‘extra mile’ for progress and change. Pursuing the slogan, ‘Get, Give and Change’, our company contributes in providing free cataract surgery to needy people of rural areas from the funds collected with the sale of 10 pairs of sunglasses.

 Why did you start Anthropose as a for-profit venture?

We cannot undermine the importance of profits, but I believe we don’t have to confine ourselves within its periphery either. Upon returning to Nepal after my under-graduate studies, I noticed how NGOs were heavily donor focused, and once the donation stream started to constrict, it was hard for them to do what they did efficiently. I believe, businesses are the only entity that creates and multiplies its resources, and can be one of the many solutions to pressing social issues. It’s about tapping into efficient, ethical and sustainable business practices to create a self-sustaining eco-system that benefits and gives back to the society in large.

What are the challenges faced by Anthropose till now?

Political instability and 2015 earthquake followed by unofficial economic embargo are upsetting issues that have hit the new-startup like us that has a social commitment to fulfill. Additionally, there is too much of brain drain, and it has increasingly become difficult to hire right person. All of these factors have affected the investment environment of the country, which at the moment, does not seem to be very friendly.

“WE HAVE MEANS TO SUCH WORLD-CLASS SOLUTIONS, AND SIMULTANEOUSLY, WE HAVE ONE OF THE WORST-CASE SCENARIOS OF THE PROBLEM. THE UTTER IRONY INDEED.”

Who or what has been your biggest influence in shaping your career to date?

Especially, negativity in people has influenced me or has rather, driven me. Even when I was abroad, people questioned my decision on returning to Nepal. Similarly, people showered me with skeptical remarks when I shared that I wanted to do something in the e-commerce sector. I wasn’t very sure when I started, but with determination, success arrived.

Who do you look up in your life?

I look up to Dr. Sanduk Ruit, an award-winning eye surgeon of Nepal, and the man who has set-out a ripple across the world. Some other people are Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos and Elon musk. I also appreciate work of some of the new startups likes FuzzFactory and ArtLab. They’re really challenging the way things are done here, and showing how small startups can put out astounding outputs.If you could give prospective entrepreneurs two pieces of advices, what would they be?

If you could give prospective entrepreneurs two pieces of advices, what would they be?

First, perseverance is very important no matter what you do. You may not get what you want within your stipulated timeframe. It might take even months or years but you have to make sure that you are gradually growing. Second, you have to fully understand the value you are creating. If your value isn’t very clear, then you might not be going anywhere at all.What according to you are the success metrics for running a social enterprise successfully?

What according to you are the success metrics for running a social enterprise successfully?

Basic metrics are often quite similar and simple. But as you go on, you realize that there are several other external elements that challenge these very founding metrics. So, you always have to be flexible and be ready to adapt to change.

Any words you live by, or that drive you, or that hold meaning to you?

As a matter of fact, there are so many. But one particular saying that I have held on to over the years is, “Old doors won’t open in new ways.”

What is in store for Anthropose in the future?

From a bird’s eye view, we want to be the company that changes the face of the industry at large. In the immediate future, we are bringing out prescription and power glasses for our customers. Besides, I will also be delving more into IT because there is a greater scope.

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