Popular vs Successful Companies

It is estimated that 2020 onwards there will be a funding access of well over 100 million USD in Nepal which could potentially be channeled for investment in startups, SMEs and the entrepreneurial sector. But with the current rate at which the startup ecosystem is progressing, it seems unlikely that our local market can tap into this opportunity by offering globally competitive innovations, products and services.

In retrospect, even though the market has witnessed a sudden upsurge in the number of entrepreneurial celebrities in the media, we need to question if they are truly famous for the success of their endeavours or just because of the glamour of starting something new in a nascent market ecosystem like Nepal?

Some of the most successful startup ventures to have gained momentum in the Nepalese market as of late, are mostly FDI, namely, Daraz, Oyo Rooms and Pathao. So why aren’t we being able to innovate and produce services like the next Uber and AirBnB from our home ground? To find the answers, we will have to dig deeper into the cultural context of our country and assess the way in which entrepreneurship evolved as a part of the process.

One of our recent field trips to Bhaktapur highlighted a prominent trend that might be familiar for most Nepalese people; which is our rent seeking mentality or the trend of safekeeping ancestral property and land worth millions,while simultaneously living a very simple, deprived and frugal life.In this case, a simple village couple who owned 10 ropanis of land valued at approximately 5 Crore Nrs were renting it out for Nrs 11,000 a month, when they could actually sell it for its optimum value, keep all their money in a fixed deposit at a bank and earn around 5 lakhs each month as interest alone. But, the fact that these types of stories are no exception to our country’s socio-cultural set up, is a matter that could be interlinked with the general hesitation we have in taking risks and adopting entrepreneurship as a way of life. So, is it really our country’s culture and historical background that has been preventing us from fostering a highly competitive entrepreneurial mindset? Or is it because people are disinterested in competing with global brands due to inferiority complex and complacency?

In retrospect, we are actually blessed to belong to a country that can be categorized as one of the most laid back places to start a business; where we have the liberty to garner national media attention,social media buzz and a widespread word of mouth marketing of one’s product/service upon initiation. Where else can a new founder or a CEO gain such limelight in the likes of praise from the state government, the intellectual community and the entrepreneurial circle of a country, while having their full feature article get published in the national newspapers praising their initiative even before starting to make sales?

But, ultimately, true success can only be measured by the profit earned, competitive edge and the long term sustainability of a product and/or service, which currently has a huge scope for improvement in the Nepalese context. Until then, we need to empower the innovators, the creative minds and the risk takers of our society to not shy away from putting in the hard work to materialize their ground breaking ideas into a profitable and impactful business venture, because its about time Nepal produced the next Jack Ma and Jeff Besoz, and we’re desperately waiting for that day to arrive.