Nepalese dreams live on in Tibet

KATHMANDU: For most people staying in Lhasa is for business or leisure, but for Champa it is a family tradition and dream.

Originally from Kathmandu, Nepal, Champa has worked as a restaurant manager in the Tibet autonomous region’s capital since 2000 and started running one of his two South Asian restaurants, Namaste – a salutation among Buddhists – in a traditional Tibetan house, in 2005.

“I fancied Lhasa as my grandfather, who was a businessman, looked for opportunities in Tibet during the 1950s and found his life partner in Lhasa.”

Following in the footsteps of his grandparents, Champa not only married a Tibetan woman but also found the meaning of life from his successful catering business.

“Nepal neighbors Tibet (autonomous region) and we are doing pretty well. We have many things in common,” says the 36-year-old.

“We want to provide customers with the special tastes of Nepal and India, so they can enjoy the various cultures.”

He added the restaurant in Lhasa ensures its pricing is affordable to locals because “the restaurant survives here not just for a profitable purpose”.

“We always think of the customers and treat them well with real Indian dishes,” Brem, 40, a Nepalese cook who has been working at Namaste for eight years says.

“We have many things in common, especially our cultures. Lhasa is a wonderful place to live with nice, local people.”

According to Champa, Tibet is a tourism destination for people from across the world, and they often eat in restaurants.

“It is a good place for business, because many people in Lhasa enjoy eating Indian, Nepalese, and Western dishes,” says Champa’s wife, Samki.

Local authorities show a supportive attitude toward foreigners operating businesses in Lhasa, according to Samki.

Getting all the paperwork done to run a foreign-owned restaurant took six months in the 2000s, but now only takes about three months.

“The determining factor for success is being in the right place at the right time with the right people. This is what we call karma,” Samki says.

Besides policy support from the government, there are preferential financial policies such as interest-free loans of up to 6 million yuan ($977,600) available to foreign-owned businesses, Samki says. Namaste started with three Nepalese cooks when it opened in 2005.

The restaurant now employs 40 people, including 13 Nepalese, most of whom have learnt to speak fluent local language.

“We don’t have plans to expand our business. Instead we encourage our staff to learn from the Nepalese cooks and open their own restaurants,” Champa says.

The restaurant has added Nepalese, Indian, Western, and a few Chinese and even Cantonese dishes to the menu since the end of 2006.

“We also introduced Islamic cuisine for Muslims. On some auspicious days on the Tibetan calendar, we only offer vegetarian dishes,” Champa says. (Credit: China Daily)