Fostering Entrepreneurship through Cooperation

Author(s): 

Since its inception in 2006, Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation (www.samriddhi.org) has focused on fostering entrepreneurship as a way of realizing Nepal’s prosperity. For Nepal, which has gone through a long period of armed conflict, one quarter of its population lives in absolute poverty and depends heavily on foreign aid for basic services to citizens. For these people, entrepreneurship offers a sustainable way to work through its problems. Like any country, Nepal has its own unique environment for entrepreneurs and hence the efforts required to foster entrepreneurship vary accordingly. The insecurity and chaos of recent political regimes present particular challenges to developing entrepreneurship. Additionally, because the social fabric in the past has segregated jobs based on caste and gender and profit is generally perceived as a dirty word, initiatives to foster entrepreneurship require intervention from multiple sectors.

Recognizing these conditions, some of the key areas to consider in improving the entrepreneurial environment in Nepal are these: implementing conducive government policies, building awareness and inspiration among young people, increasing education and business skills, creating networks and opportunities, providing start-up incubation, and ensuring access to capital. This task requires a multi-dimensional focus, which is not always within the capacity of a single organization and its programs. Therefore, in addition to their own interventions, it is important for organizations to identify and cooperate with partners that have competitive strengths in particular aspects of an entrepreneurship ecosystem. This cooperative approach of identifying essential components and specific groups that add value to the ecosystem is a more productive, efficient, and sustainable method of fostering entrepreneurship.

The entrepreneurial climate largely depends on the kind of policies in place and the enforcement of these policies. Studies like the World Bank’s Doing Business Report or the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World Report offer valuable insight into these conditions. While having entrepreneurfriendly policies is vital, the enforcement of these policies and reduction of the implementation gap is equally imperative. With a focus on economic policy and the business environment, Samriddhi works with several partners including the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (www.fncci.org), Nepal Business Initiative (www. nbinepal.org), Society of Economic Journalists of Nepal (www.sejon.com.np), local chambers across the country and other business associations to advocate for policy change. Through efforts such as the annual Nepal Economic Growth Agenda report and nationwide grassroots campaigns like “Gari Khana Deu” at www.livablenepal.org (roughly translated as “let me earn my living”) Samriddhi, together with its partners, intends to create a conducive policy regime where freedom of enterprise, safety of life and property, competition, and improved employee-employer relations are achieved.

Another important aspect of fostering entrepreneurship in Nepal involves creating an awareness of the opportunities and benefits of being an entrepreneur, which plays an important role in building up an entrepreneurial culture. In a risky and unstable country like Nepal, people tend to look for jobs or leave the country rather than engage in pursuing a dream. Many times, people do not even see entrepreneurship as an option. Samriddhi, Entrepreneurs for Nepal (www.e4nepal.com), and Birwa Ventures (www.biruwa.net) collaborate to organize events that share stories and lessons of successful entrepreneurs. These are held on a regular basis every last Thursday of the month where hundreds of youth and aspiring entrepreneurs benefit. Every year, more than 25 organizations and businesses celebrate the spirit of entrepreneurship during Global Entrepreneurship Week to recognize successful entrepreneurs for their hard work and innovative approaches. Efforts like these inspire more people to be entrepreneurs. Rotary Club, Change Fusion Nepal (www. changefusionnepal.org), Nepal Business Initiative, Radio Sagarmatha, and Samriddhi collaborate to produce weekly radio programs on entrepreneurship called “agi badun (Let’s move forward)” which serves as an awareness and policy change medium. Change Fusion, together with several partners, organizes the annual Surya Asha Social Entrepreneurship Award that recognizes upcoming and successful social entrepreneurs.

While programs to inspire entrepreneurship have been important, aspiring entrepreneurs need education and training in order to build their dreams. Arthālaya, Samriddhi’s school of economics and entrepreneurship, trains hundreds of university students in concepts and approaches to entrepreneurship. The unique setting for this six-day residential program not only explains what entrepreneurship, markets, and policies are but also offers the participants an opportunity to actually work like a real-time entrepreneur. This experimental market lab approach to education and training has already helped almost one hundred students to begin their entrepreneurial journey. Some universities have started offering elective courses in entrepreneurship as a part of their degree program. King’s College (www.kingscollege.edu. np) has recently started offering a master’s degree in entrepreneurship. Change Fusion Nepal offers training to aspiring social entrepreneurs while Entrepreneurs for Nepal conducts boot camps that detail the practical operational side of enterprise.

Samriddhi and its partners also work together to create areas where entrepreneurs and youth can network and share ideas. Nepal Business Initiative organizes a periodic event called IDO that focuses on innovation, dialogue and opportunities. Similarly, the events held on the last Thursday of each month serve as platforms for networking and exploring opportunities. Entrepreneurs for Nepal manages a Facebook group (www.facebook. com/groups/e4nepal) that connects almost 20,000 members with like-minded people. These efforts contribute towards creating networks necessary for entrepreneurial activity and make it easier for aspiring youth to find opportunities.

Biruwa Ventures (www.biruwa.net) has established an incubation center with advisory services that aspiring entrepreneurs utilize for a small fee. This allows them to gear up their business and operate for a short period until they become better established. Change Fusion Nepal has similar incubators that focus on social enterprises. These are just some of the initiatives that have started addressing the need for incubation services.

In addition, Biruwa Ventures and Change Fusion offer startup capital programs for businesses and social enterprises respectively. The Youth Action Fund administered by Change Fusion has helped several social entrepreneurs with startup. Samriddhi’s corporate partners like Brihat Investments, World Link, and F1 Soft have been offering start up funding to deserving youth with entrepreneurial ideas as corporate social initiatives. Nepal Young Entrepreneurs Forum, Confederation of National Industries Youth Forums, and Entrepreneurs Organization have a programmatic focus on startup capital for innovative business ideas. BEED Investment has made efforts to link proven ideas with scale up funding. Two corporate banks of Nepal, Mega Bank and Laxmi Bank, have started providing entrepreneurs with scale up capital without requiring collateral. These initiatives have helped several aspiring entrepreneurs to embark on their journeys to achieve their dreams.

Entrepreneurs for Nepal and Biruwa Ventures have jointly started mentorship programs and sounding boards for needy entrepreneurs. Brihat Investments, World Link, F1 Soft, Prisma Advertising, and several other corporate houses have been offering mentorships to young entrepreneurs in respective business sectors. These efforts provide much needed role models and pave the way for more opportunities in the future.

These are some examples of several cooperative efforts aiming to create an entrepreneurial society in Nepal. While these efforts only address selected issues and a small part of demand, they have definitely offered hope for a model that can be expanded and replicated to create an entrepreneurial culture in Nepal.

Robin Sitoula is Executive Director of Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation – a public policy institute based in Kathmandu, Nepal.



Publication Type: 

CIPE

Center for International Private Enterprise
1155 15th Street NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20005
Tel: 202-721-9200    Fax: 202-721-9250