I researched bacon producers in Nepal when we planned our hiking trip. I came across the Facebook page of Kathmandu’s Urban Food. I was immediately struck by the fact that the look of their company reminded me very much about how Woodys was started. It strangely “felt” the same.
The day after our arrival in Kathmandu, the young and dynamic CEO and co-founder of Urban Food, Ayush Rajbhandari picked us up from our hotel for a factory visit. It was he who made the booking for us at the Dalai-La Boutique Hotel.
When we walked into the hotel, I told Minette and Tristan that I felt like Omar Sharif walking into a scene in precolonial India – so perfect and authentic is the ambience. I suddenly felt very old when nobody knew who Omar Sharif was.
Ayush put us in touch with Deewaker Piya’s Travelines who turns out to be the best tour operator in Nepal and who became the creators of our entire Nepalese adventure and friend.
We drove through the streets of Nepal and we had the privilege to hear how Urban Food was created. A brainchild of him and his brothers, the company was created for exactly the same reason as Oscar and I created Woodys, 8 years ago. Natives from Nepal, their father has been a trader all his life and like Oscar and me, they too saw how easily agencies to distribute products in a region are lost. As was the case with Oscar and me, the decision was made to create their own brand, producing their own products and so, own their own destiny.
The concept is simple and brilliant. To provide a network of high-quality Nepalese food outlets in the form of a retail outlet and a number of fast-food carts under their brand, supplied from a central factory where quality and innovation are owned and controlled by them.
Looking at the interior and the theme of the Urban Food Fast Food outlet, the strong American influence of the American educated Ayush becomes clear. The set of complete works of Shakespeare in his office gives away the fact that he majored in English in his undergraduate studies in Texas. The Beatles playing in the background, the aroma of exquisite American fast food served with unique Nepalese influences along with traditional dishes blending together to form a winning combination. Many of the dishes being so unique and authentic that the recipes come straight out of their mom’s kitchen.
I sat listening to Ayush enthusiastically recounting the start of their business while enjoying the most amazing hot dog I ever had in my entire life and realized how privileged we are to be with a company that will become legendary in its quality and amazing dishes and grace travel magazines around the world as a “must visit and experience” for travellers to Nepal.
The similarities with the creation of Woodys could not have been more striking than when we visited their factory. Here Ayush and his brother slept in the rooms adjacent to the factory that later became their offices and after work, they would do a 45-minute hike up a hill next to the factory. While setting up Woodys I hiked up Table Mountain sometimes every day and Oscar joined me whenever he was in Cape Town on epic hikes.
At their factory, I was again struck by the authentic nature of this amazing company. The bacon brines are skillfully blended by hand by their production manager. Two secret ingredients are added which took me by surprise and taught me the valuable lesson of how easily a signature can be created by adding the one extra “secret and totally authentic” ingredient. The amazing staff who worked on a holiday, the key to the success of these young entrepreneurs.
We forged a strong bond and set plans in motion that will not only see Ayush visit Woodys in Cape Town and spent a week with us where trials have been planned to continue to learn from each other. Future projects have been agreed upon for Nepal and India which will see a close tie between Urban Food and Woodys Consumer Brands.
On the way back to our hotel we stopped at the famous “monkey temple.” Ayush told us about the Buddhist philosophy of the ebbs and flows in life. How life is a constant flux and the challenges we experience now will pass.
My mind was with Woody’s and my friends back home. I remembered the day at Woody’s when Oscar called the management team together and told us that we only have cash left to trade till the end of the week. He informed us of the measures underway to resolve the challenges and then asked this question. “How do we respond to such challenges?” Yesterday, at this spiritual place I remembered him say, “We respond by doing our work and the different takes of today as best we can and focussing on that and nothing else.” The ebbs and flows of life will take care of themselves.
Gratitude filled me. For the grace to have overcome the past challenges. Faith that we will be able to face any in the future. Oscar is my friend, brother, and partner. Will, James, Adriaan, Roy and the Woodys family. The unfathomable opportunities are ahead of us. The privilege of being with friends like Ayush and Urban Food and experiencing the birth of another legendary company that not only understand how to produce bacon and exceptional food but also, and even more importantly, the art of living!
Random photos from an amazing day: