Winning Together

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Winning Together

Entrepreneurs and big businesses coming together to solve problems ensures benefits for both the startup ecosystem and the larger business sectors

For a long time, big business houses and startups have found themselves at the opposite ends of the business spectrum. Each has deemed the other a threat. Corporations have the resources, capital, and experience to seamlessly tap into a new industry, while startups have the agility and innovation that can lead to the disruption of the industry that corporations rule. Both sides have something the other lacks, but instead of warring over capturing the greater market percentage, both parties have increasingly come to realise that they could all be better off merging the unique skill sets that they each bring to the table. For corporations, startups have gone from being mere annoyances, and then serious threats, to the ultimate business partners. And for startups, corporations have gone from being a barrier to entry, to ‘big brothers’, partners and mentors.

The culture of startups and corporations joining hands has been gaining momentum in Nepal too. CG Holdings working with Pagoda Labs for all their website necessities and Ncell working with Young Innovations (a startup IT company) are a few instances. Likewise, corporations have also started supporting the startup ecosystem here by organising business accelerators and establishing investment companies. The Jyoti Group’s White Hat, an IT investment company, is one such initiative that has profoundly and positively impacted Nepal’s IT startup ecosystem. And all this has happened despite startups and big companies having very different business philosophies. Long-established companies have a trend of choosing shareholder interest and profitability over innovation and technology. Startups have a long-term commitment to innovation as the core driver behind their decision-making. And with entrepreneurship wired into their DNA, startup promoters are less likely to be held hostage by the prospects of profitability and shareholder interest.

Collaboration works best when all parties have a common target they can work towards. Startups pride themselves on their willingness to take risks and the speed at which they work; however, they frequently have to deal with lack of funding. In contrast, big business houses have the upperhand when it comes to sourcing finances, but outdated technology, and an averse-to-change hierarchical structure weighs down the organisation when it comes to adapting to the changes in the market. But by creating common goals, and collaborating, corporations and startups can overcome their inherent shortcomings--by making use of the skills of the other.

Mid-career pivoting to entrepreneurship is becoming more prevalent

The lure of startups is not limited to millennials, tech-savvy professionals, and coders. Many professionals who have spent years building a career are starting to leave their cushy jobs to become new players in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Some are leaving because of the push factors of their job (perhaps they did not find their jobs fulfilling anymore), and some people leave because they want to explore their latent desire of working in a fast-paced environment. Then there is the expectant cohort of professionals who hope to juggle both work and entrepreneurial endeavours at once.
However, it is not long before some of these hopeful individuals come to conclude that entrepreneurship is demanding. It demands hard work, sacrifices, and persistence, which is why transitioning from spending years trying to climb up the career ladder to starting one’s own business makes for a risky leap, with limited fallback options.

Making a mid-career pivot to a startup life is difficult, but not impossible. Today in Nepal, there are plenty of mentorship programmes aimed at equipping people who want to make this change. Udhyami Seed Camp, Startup Weekend, Nava Udhyamshala and KUSOM’s Idea Studio are just a few of the many mentorship programmes for budding entrepreneurs.

Those wanting to make the switch can perhaps get inspired by Nepalis who have succeeded in making the transition from the enterprise world to the entrepreneurial world. Before founding Khaalisisi, Aayushi KC worked a well-paying job at USAID Nepal. Similarly, Amit Agarwal, CEO of Janaki Technology, and the mastermind behind Sparrow SMS and Khalti, also worked a corporate job at Subisu before becoming a startup entrepreneur.

Given that every startup aspires to scale and become a well-known brand at some point, an entrepreneur’s possessing well-established skills and knowledge in marketing, customer relations, human resources, or procurement can only prove to be beneficial.

Government and development agencies are taking more interest in startups and entrepreneurship

In a narrow sense, entrepreneurship is just a small business or a startup that is disproportionately responsible for bringing a few changes in technology and disrupting well-established industries once in a while. But in the broader sense, entrepreneurship is the driving force of the economy. In Nepal, the government, NGOs and INGOs have recognised the broader implications of the startup culture and have made efforts to work with entrepreneurs. The government now provides assistance to individuals and businesses--via tax and financial subsidies--to increase local jobs and make the local market more competitive. And by helping with the setting up of businesses and industrial units in underdeveloped areas, the government hopes to succeed in promoting uniform development across the nation. 

Nepal Rastra Bank, for example, gives out loans to agriculture startups and small business enterprises at a subsidised rate of 5 per cent per annum. The government has also recently announced the launch of the Youth Startup Fund and other youth-entrepreneurship schemes. And major development agencies like UKAID, USAID, DANIDA, and JICA have also been supporting and encouraging entrepreneurs directly or in collaboration with other local organisations; and the International Finance Corporation has been providing financial help and technical knowledge to the Nepal Agri-Business Innovation Centre. 
Underpinning all these initiatives is a simple idea: When someone becomes an entrepreneur, there is one less job seeker, who will instead create multiple job opportunities. This is the type of job creation the government is seeking in order to attain the basic goal of economic development, which is why they regard encouraging entrepreneurship as vitally important. 


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