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Interview


Biruwa: a place to grow your ideas, Global Entrepreneurship Week: Lessons from Nepali Entrepreneurs:

Nepalese are always mired with ubiquitous pessimism and hopelessness. Whenever we get together with friends or family we talk of how bad things are – complain about the government, the pollution and lack of basic necessities, inflation, cold weather, damp weather, and everything else in between. Therefore, it is always a welcoming opportunity to listen to individuals with a positive message and optimism. On November 17th, Sambriddhi Foundation, with support from Biruwa Ventures and other partners, recognized several entrepreneurs for creating jobs and being positive role models for the youth on the occasion of Global Entrepreneurship Week. For details about the event you can read the summary on Samriddhi’s website.

For pictures from the event, click here. Below I share some thoughts about what I gathered from the entrepreneurs who spoke during the event.

  • Look at every problem as a business opportunity: Karna Shakya, the proprietor of Kathmandu Guest House and the man behind the vision of Thamel, thanked the government for doing nothing in the country. Because the government cannot provide clean drinking water through Khanepani Sansthan, numerous entrepreneurs have the opportunity to provide mineral water to homes and offices in Kathmandu and make that a profitable business. Because the government is not able to offer electricity, entrepreneurs have the opportunity to sell solar panels, inverters, generators and a whole host of other devices. If we are to look beyond the pessimism the challenges we face provide unique business opportunities. Anil Shah, the founder of Mega Bank, encouraged young entrepreneurs to look at the likelihood of an imminent earthquake in Nepal as a possible opportunity to provide earthquake preparedness kits. 
  • The government cannot do much to develop our country: Karna Shakya also made a memorable quote relating to this point: “A politician destroys a 100 jobs, while an entrepreneur creates 100.” Our so-called leaders are busy fighting for power while thousands of Nepali youth line up every day to leave the country for foreign employment and education. Few make it back. Some of our politicians flaunt the success of their foreign trips by announcing that they were able to secure jobs for a few thousand Nepalis abroad thus making more people leave our country. Our politicians have become beggars. All they can do is ask for aid and help. They ignore the immense potential of populace and our entrepreneurs. What the government really needs to do is build roads, bridges, provide electricity and enforce law and order. For everything else, ingenious citizen entrepreneurs can provide the needed solutions.
  • Entrepreneurs are not just dreamers, they are people who can act on their dreams: Who among us has not sat with friends around a fire on a Friday evening and dreamt up a business? Ideas come to us in a flurry and we often talk about them with our friends. But when time comes to do something about it, we often fail. We fail to create a plan and start implementing it. We fail to take persistent steps in one direction. The central lessons from all of the entrepreneurs recognized in the event was that they had a certain goal in mind and followed up on that persistently. They did not give up because small hindrances came in their way. They found innovative solutions, they were unreasonable in some situations, they defied their families/friends and they made their dreams come true.
  • Entrepreneurs are never tired: Most of my friends who work in banks are extremely tired by the time they get back home. They are exhausted and their brains are fried. However, an entrepreneur never feels like he or she is working because they are doing what they love. For some entrepreneurs, their work is like entertainment. For young entrepreneurs, most of the speakers encouraged them to find an area of business that they are really passionate about. Sometimes, as Hari Bhakta Sharma of Deurali Janta Pharmaceuticals put it, this habit gets entrepreneurs into trouble as they spend less time with their loved ones. But, it is a price worth paying.
  • Entrepreneur bite more than they can chew, they live life on the edge: Entrepreneurship is not for the faint hearted. They takes risks. They hate 9 to 5 jobs. They like to defy expectations and break norms. Each of the speaker in the event had done something that their own friends and family thought was not possible. In Nepal, this is much harder to do because of our conservative society that fears risks. But this situation is in itself an opportunity. As there aren’t that many entrepreneurs out there who do work hard those who do the hard work have a high likelihood of success. When Om Rajbhandari of Comfort Housing dreamed of creating planned housing in 1992, it was a vision that no one properly understood. He started with an investment of just Rs. 75,000 that came savings he had slowly put aside. His dreams were big. If he hadn’t dreamt so big, we may never have seen such a massive change in the way we live life in Kathmandu and he may not have been a proud owner of nine housing projects in Nepal.
  • Don’t Listen to (ignore) the pessimists: There will always be those who will tell you that what you are planning is not possible. They will tell you will fail. They will tell you that you are unrealistic. Just don’t listen to them. Most of the speakers would not be a part of the program if they had listened to the pessimists. If Hajuri Bista of Navaras pickle had been discouraged by her relatives ridiculing her for making aachar, she would never have been known as the “pickle lady of Nepal” and the proud producer of 19 varieties of Navaras pickles.
  • Entrepreneurship is ever-changing and never-ending: Most entrepreneurs start with a vague vision in mind. What results is a more fluid and dynamic business. Especially in Nepal, with our constantly changing business environment, it is difficult to even predict your sales next month, your business needs the ability to be agile and adapt. Sujal Foods, the top manufacturer of sweets and confectionaries in Nepal, increased its sales at the height of the Maoist insurgency in Western Nepal. At a time when other businesses were closing or downsizing, Sujal Foods saw an opportunity and managed to adapt to the situation send smaller marketing teams and improve its sales.

Being an entrepreneur in Nepal is not an easy task. As the moderator of the event Ranjit Acharya put it, “Nepal is only known of the physical Mt. Everest in our country. But in reality we another even taller mountain, the Mt. Everest of government bureaucracy and challenges.” We have to honor these entrepreneurs who have scaled this second Mr. Everest, and provided valuable inspiration that beyond the pessimism lies opportunities and a reason to be optimistic about Nepal’s future.

Source: http://www.biruwa.net/2011/11/global-entrepreneurship-week/