SUSWA is implemented with technical assistance from Niras Finland. Niras Finland is one of Niras International Consulting’s main offices in Europe – You can read more on their website here, or the interview with the SUSWA Home Office Coordinator with Mikaela Kruskopf here.
Many Niras colleagues were involved in the bidding for the SUSWA project, not least from the Niras Nepal liaison country office. As Niras Nepal staff are the geographically closest Niras colleagues to the SUSWA team, the Field Specialist in the SUSWA project sat down with Neeranjan Rajbhandari and Swechya Mathema to discuss their roles and that of Niras Nepal.
Niras Nepal office 10 years!
Niras Nepal office was founded in 2013 and in the decade since, it has participated in more than 100 bids for projects – with SUSWA being one of the more recent wins.
Niras Nepal is a liaison office, which means their main work is business development, and support e.g., the tendering for any (incoming) project in Nepal, and work with Niras’ offices from all over the world when doing so.
Neeranjan Rajbhandari has worked in the Niras Nepal office since it was founded and currently works 50% of the time. In November 2022 he was joined by Swechya Mathema, as well as a part-time accountant.
Neeranjan has a long and interesting career in Agriculture with agronomist studies from India and a Ph.D. from Hawaii, as well as many years of work in agriculture research in Nepal, before being asked to join Niras to support a tender in the WASH sector by meeting stakeholders and collect information.
My main task is to fulfill the requirement of having a local presence, a point of contact, and a first source of information in the country, to look after Niras business in Nepal. I do a little bit of business development through sourcing and going after tenders.
One of the most satisfying things is that when I started working for Niras, nobody in Nepal knew what Niras was, they would only comment on the name, as it means dry or hot or desert-like in Nepali, literally ‘without any juice’, so not a very positive word.
Now, almost everyone in the development sector in Nepal knows Niras, there’s been a really big change in the past 10 years.
The SUSWA tender is also a fun memory, as everyone wanted it so much, there was a lot of discussions and interactions with NIRAS colleagues, and both Mikaela (Project Manager from Niras Finland) and Antti Inkinen (Director of NIRAS International Consulting Asia & Pacific based in Manila, Philippines, who I report to) visited Nepal for the SUSWA tender preparation.
Swechya has a master’s degree in Economics from the University of New South Wales, Australia. She also lived in Cambodia for her higher studies with her family since her father is working as a consultant for the ADB. Before joining Niras Nepal, Swechya worked within the business development portfolio in SNV. A move to Niras Nepal has allowed for more diversified clients in different sectors and a lot of great opportunities, but Swechya stresses that “business development is an aggressive field!”
Neeranjan and I work in a very complimentary way, as networks are what matters for business development and so two networks are better than one, and finding the right people is easier. A lot of work goes into finding the right people, so this is worth spending time on and using networks to crosscheck people. We want to go beyond CVs so we can be sure that they will actually do a good job, not only be good enough to win the tender.
Neeranjan also has institutional knowledge of Niras Nepal and his seniority is also sometimes needed when dealing with different institutions.
One of the best things working for Niras is that business development is really our main priority and focus, not just an add-on to our job descriptions.
But what does business development mean?
Swechya explains that it means they look out for new opportunities for projects in Nepal, that Niras can bid on, and then participate in the tender team and support the Niras office (e.g., Niras Finland for SUSWA, NIRAS UK for CASA) to try to win the project.
Business development includes, for example, gaining intelligence, and meetings with clients, stakeholders, donors, and like-minded organizations to see what is happening in different sectors that we are interested in. A lot of the work is preparation, pre-positioning, and identifying key experts for new pipeline opportunities. Once the Terms of Reference for a project have been released, the work shifts to work on proposals, bids, methodologies, and finally submitting together with the Niras office leading the proposal.
Despite Niras Nepal not being actively involved in the projects once the tender is won, they are invested in the success of the projects, and able to support the projects, especially during start-up phases with advice and logistical support. Participating in key events of the ongoing projects helps in understanding the sector issues and challenges, and being able to prepare for even better business development in the future.
Niras Nepal is tightly connected with the rest of Niras
The Niras Nepal office is under the Asia Pacific Niras office headquartered in the Philippines, which works on both business development in the region, as well as manages a number of especially ADB funded projects.
We all share information, work together, and support bids in other countries in the Asia Pacific region and keep all Asia Pacific offices up to date on opportunities. We recently supported a bid in the Maldives and the Philippines for example. So far we have worked mostly with the Philippines, UK, and Finland offices. Working for Niras is a very supportive environment, everyone is helpful and easy to work with.
Niras as a working organization is very impressive. After the last internal reconstruction of ‘One Niras’, everyone is connected and you get a response within minutes. We all support each other and the Tender database for bidding and forming teams for working on tenders is really good. Sometimes we are perhaps too connected with many meetings every month, but the information flow is good and we have good knowledge of what others are doing.
The past 6 months have been a bit of a lull, Neeranjan shares. Still, he is optimistic that within the next six months, Niras will win a couple of projects in Nepal and start work with completely new clients, with Niras Nepal office staff potentially doubling in size after the next big win.
With 8 large (over 30+ million) projects currently in the pipeline, both Swechya and Neeranjan firmly believe – the best is yet to come!