START UP NEPAL! The Time is Right!

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START UP NEPAL! The Time is Right!

                                                                (Source: middlechildcatholicpriest.files.wordpress.com

In 1990, democracy was reintroduced in Nepal. That momentous development helped open up the market to foreign investors and businesses and also helped Nepali businessmen think about exploring markets abroad. The post-1990 era should have been the ideal startup period for Nepali entrepreneurs and investors, but the market infrastructure was still very rudimentary, and then the Maoist insurgency obliterated all hope. Things have improved in fits and starts since, and 2015 should have been when it all got going. But then the earthquakes and the economic blockade created doubts even amongst the optimists. 

 

(Source: www.aljazeera.com

Still, even with 2072 BS representing for many Nepalis a lost year, entrepreneurs feel we may finally be turning a corner. Indeed, many believe there may be no better time than now to kick-start ventures. Everything is in place: from a pretty decent support system and increasing numbers of investors to the requisite technical infrastructure and access to markets across the border, the startup environment is big enough and fertile enough to nurture Nepal’s startup seeds. 

 

Onward and upward 

History has suggested that the economy of a country can grow rapidly after hitting rock bottom, and economists believe that the only direction that our country can go is up after the years we have lived through. Ashutosh Tiwari, co-founder of Entrepreneurs for Nepal and an economic expert, says that although there might be some hurdles in the short term, the economy could be humming along within 10 to 15 years. But for that to happen, infrastructural development needs to be a priority. Nepal can learn from Japan’s past, for example. The resurgence demonstrated by Japan post-WWII, where it rose to become the second largest economy of the world until 1991, shows how things can be done. Following the devastation they incurred during WWII, Japan desperately needed to rebuild from scratch and train all their focus on achieving economic goals. Fortunately, because trade policies and trade relations had improved in the post-war years, the Japanese were able to bounce back. Today, Nepalis too want to get going, spurred on as we are by a growing sense of confidence in ourselves and in our products. 

(Source: collegeservices.nacas.org

"Although there might be some hurdles in the short term, the economy could be humming along within 10 to 15 years.  But for that to happen, infrastructural development needs to be a priority,” says Ashutosh Tiwari."

 

(Source: i.guim.co.uk

Investment climate 

“Nepal has now become a preferred destination for investors from both within and outside the country. The market, with a population of 29.2 million, is large enough,” says Pashupati Murarka, president of the FNCCI. He adds that there are several sectors that have yet to be tapped and that investors still have at their disposal many sectors they can diversify into, a situation that is unique to Nepal. “The present time bodes well for investors because market competition is still not very fierce, and a golden period will soon follow,” he says. That is perhaps why Nepal has seen the number of investors grow rapidly in the past decade. Local companies like Biruwa Ventures, Avant Ventures, True North Associates, Asian Ventures, Brihat Investments, Kriti Capital and iCapital represent but a few of the new group of dedicated startup investors. There are also international investors, such as One To Watch, Dolma Impact Fund and others, who have been active in the scene for some time. According to Angel. co—a leading global angel-investment platform—there are today more than 13,000 foreign investors who are interested in the Nepali startup ecosystem. These numbers indicate that if there exist businesses with a proven track record and sound business plans, then investors are ready to throw their hat in the ring.

 (Source: kigyotv.jp

“The present time bodes well for investors because market competition is still not very fierce, and a golden period will soon follow,” says Pashupati Murarka.

 

 Great ecosystem 

(Source: greatatmosphere.files.wordpress.com

 

Over the past decade, the startup community and the overall ecosystem have evolved despite the political chaos. 

“There is a thriving startup community raring to take the plunge and test their ideas,” says Suman Shakya, a prominent serial entrepreneur, mentor to a number of startups and a key figure in the ecosystem. While there have been setbacks owing to the blockade and earthquakes, he insists that there has been a spurt of activities in the last month, wherein some startups have responded with some interesting solutions to the problems the blockade has engendered. 

 (Source: birt.actuate.com

To add to that, there is a growing sense of camaraderie among the youths and startups as a result of the crisis, and the communication channels among them have opened up more. Furthermore, the community is being supported by international-level players such as Google Business Group (GBG) Kathmandu and Startup Weekend. GBG Kathmandu, for example, is helping professionals by sharing Google technologies that can help businesses reach their goals. Shakya is optimistic that the government policies will help foster the startups and that technological advancement will render archaic rules and regulations useless. A gamut of parallel activities aimed to foster entrepreneurship, says Shakya, should also propel the country towards a much-needed economic revolution.

 

“Shakya is optimistic that the government policies will help foster the startups and that technological advancement will render archaic rules and regulations useless. A gamut of parallel activities aimed to foster entrepreneurship, says Shakya, should also propel the country towards a much-needed economic revolution.”

 

Supportive programmes 

The current Nepali startup environment has seen a proliferation of entrepreneurial programmes and startup-related events—such as Ncell App Camp, MIC Pre-accelerator Program, NYEF Bootcamp and many others, which are seeking out the Elon Musks of Nepal. Numerous hackathons to encourage idea conversion, such as Hack-a-lash, Open Nepal Hackathon, Hack for Nepal, Hack the Quake, Violence against Women Hackathon (on the national level) and the NASA International Space Apps Challenges (on the international level), take place frequently now. There are also accelerator programmes such as Rockstart Impact, by One To Watch, and Enterprise, by NYEF, which provide intensive mentorship-driven training programmes to create fast-growing businesses. They nurture talent through highly focused curricula and provide exposure to investment networks and access to seasoned mentors. There are also incubator programmes that help startups by taking care of basic problems such as lack of office space and of short funds and also provide consulting services. And knowledge-sharing and networking programmes, such as Entrepreneurs’ Talk (E-Talk), Startup Grind, Udhyami Bhetghat, Startup Bhela and so on, have been extremely beneficial for entrepreneurs.

 

(Source: aerialwaters.com

That said, there are still quite a few issues we need to take care of. Many Nepalis still believe that it is better to play it safe and bank their future on a government job or find work abroad. We need to encourage youngsters to follow their passion, and we need to support their initiatives. The government, for its part, needs to start shredding red tape: for example, it needs to do away with the tedious rigmarole that companies have to put up with just to register a company, a process that can take as much as 17 days. In India, for instance, registrations can be done, through a web portal, in a few hours.

And despite the growing number of aspiring investors, the ones who have actually made it is disproportionately dismal. To nurture early-stage funding, the culture of angel investment has to be developed among the senior executives and the business community. Similarly, many of the assistance programmes should focus more on helping startups get things done, rather than on just providing inspiration. 

But these are not insurmountable problems. The climate looks good and the seeds of entrepreneurship have already been planted. All it calls for is the right kind of nurturing.

 

“The climate looks good and the seeds of entrepreneurship have already been planted. All it calls for is the right kind of nurturing.”

* First Published by the author in M&S VMAG

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