Saroj Khanal was at the height of his acting career in the Nepalese film industry when he left for the United States in 1997. It came as a shock to many as he was doing very well. His movies were successful and he rivaled well with Rajesh Hamal and Bhuwan KC. But, Khanal wanted a change and left for the United States.
“The circumstances in the country were quite bad,” says Khanal. “The country was turned upside down by the war and I didn’t want my children to grow up in such an environment.
In the United States, Saroj Khanal has spent more than 15 years working in the restaurant industry and organizing various events in the country. But now, as his children have grown up, Khanal, giving up everything he had in the United States, has returned. But he is not there to revive his film career. Although he knows it’s behind him, he’s here to operate his family business and create a legacy away from the big screen.
“It was always inevitable that I would go home. Now I hope to do something in agriculture that can inspire the younger generation.
Learning from the American Dream
When Saroj Khanal was in the United States, he had seen how chicken was a part of people’s daily lives. Compared to Nepal, where people mostly eat meat only on Saturdays, in the United States, people eat it daily.
“When I realized that, I wanted to see how the chickens were produced there. After a few years in the United States, I was able to go to a farm.
When Saroj Khanal went to the farm, he was blown away by the difference from the poultry farm run by his family in Nawalpur, Nepal. It was huge and had a biosafety feature which meant the chicken mortality rate was significantly low. When he visited these farms, he realized that the way poultry farming was done in Nepal was wrong.
“I’ve been to three huge farms in the United States. That’s when I realized how profitable the business could be if it was well run. The visits also taught me the dangers of doing wrong.
Back home to build it better
With all this in mind, Saroj Khanal returned home and with him brought the technology needed to take Khanal Poultry to the next level. The first thing he did after arriving in Nepal was to focus on biosecurity. He wanted his chickens to be safe and to make sure they were, he made sure anyone entering the coop was thoroughly sanitized.
“What I also did was install air conditioning in the chicken farm, which made sure the temperatures didn’t go above 28°C,” says Khanal.
The second thing Saroj Khanal focused on was water. Nepal’s water, although natural, is not good for these meat birds. So he started to purify water by spending more than 10 million rupees to set up a purification plant.
Finally, he reduced the number of people working on the farm. But, before doing that, he installed everything he needed inside the farmhouse to help me downsize.
“People can transmit different diseases and that’s what I wanted to prevent, so I stopped more than two people from entering the farm. I enter myself rarely when I do, I follow all protocols.
The farm, according to Saroj Khanal, has almost 500,000 chickens of different age groups as he believes his farm to be one of the biggest farms in the country. But even when he follows all the safety protocols, chickens are dying, which shows how fragile the company is.
“The death rate was quite high at the beginning, but with the time and effort we put into it, it has come down because now only two in a hundred die.”
Khanal Poultry also has its own hatchery and feed, which has helped the business a lot. He says the food is prepared after consulting a chicken doctor who tells them what nutrients they need to add to ensure the chickens are healthier.
“We left no stone unturned to make sure we produced the best chickens in the country and I think we did.”
But to make things better, Saroj Khanal says the industry needs help from the government. He hopes that in the future, the government will develop supportive policies to ensure that major market players do not control prices.
“We have to get rid of unhealthy competition.”
After the success of poultry, Saroj Khanal now wants to try his hand at farming and plans to grow lemons on more than 10 hectares of land. He says he wants to show the younger generation that things can be done in the country if they use the necessary technology and effort.
“If I am able to inspire the younger generation to do something in Nepal, I believe I will have left a legacy that will show what I have done as an actor.”