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Entrepreneurship in Nepal

Entrepreneurs from any part of the world including Nepal should start off with a lot of new ideas, plans, and enthusiasm. However, many harsh realities of market get struck to people at times diminishing the real-life potential for emerging businesses.

In countries like Nepal, the growth of middle-class population gradually uptakes, the many untapped opportunities waiting for to be seized are left from becoming favorable due to its respective market scenario. For an example, the biggest concern until few years back in Nepal, Nepal suffered from huge electricity cutoffs that became normal and as a part of our life. In fact the digital market industry is moving upwards but the problem of making proper legislation and policies continues to impact both seller and buyer every day. Also, the everyday happening of unethical business syndicates, politics inside business, high governmental interest policies, and weak workplace ethics raises differences between the theoretical aspects of entrepreneurship to that of which is experienced and exercised every day.

Countries have started exercising technological revolution and what is known to be as modern in the society; we still lack the understanding of applying sophisticated cultures while it comes to doing business. Foremost, we lack in planning and vision; we have little knowledge and expertise on where to start or how to execute a business for the long run. Other developing countries like Nigeria and Taiwan have established as a developed country by flourishing things with use of advanced technologies, tools and equipments leaving the creative to generate new ideas, Nepal still struggles with providing itself a positive and prolific market. Thus, it reflects on our contracting economy.

To a positive side, government today is stable and isn’t as gloomy as it was hundred years ago. Times are changing. Business schools are encouraging students to become more skillful and open about every topic comprehensive to understanding the 21st century business scenario. Adding up, we have witnessed groundbreaking success that shows innovation and positive experiential business ideas. Entrepreneurs, both experienced and aspiring, have acknowledged the importance of learning, experimenting, and taking a leap of faith. We look forward to businesses getting noticeable expansions they deserve in Nepal.

Entrepreneurs as they go onto this journey can both experience and become an inspiration that have acknowledged the importance of learning, experimenting, and seen their faith. We look forward to businesses getting noticeable at expansions they deserve in Nepal.

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Four things to do to build relations

When you tell your friends, families and other acquaintances that you have decided to be an entrepreneur, one of the advice they’ll probably give is, “You need to make connections.” When you finally become an entrepreneur, these words are merely reminders. But what is tragically lacking is its application: the wisdom. 

What is going wrong then? We just want things for ourselves, and we fail to realize that building relations works two-ways. 

” Networking is not a take-first and give-second relation, but it’s rather a give-first and take-second relation.”

We should not only focus on what we can get but also focus on what we can give. When you understand this concept, we have solved the first part of the puzzle; we are on the path of building strong relations.


(Source: www.media.licdn.com)

Relationship building, like every other marketing tactics, is something that grows eventually and evolves over time.  You have to realize that relationships aren’t built in a day. You might say, “Okay we understand this, but how do we build this strong relationship?”


Make yourself visible

The founding stone to building strong relationships is your visibility. If you are not visible enough to your peers, colleagues, fellow competitors, then I’m afraid you’re doing it wrong. After all, it’s not about attending events, parties and exchanging business cards. 

“Your card will be just another card in the stack, and will probably be never referred to. It’s about what you are going to do about the card.”

Most people go wrong here; they don’t follow up on contacts and fail to realize that every business card is an opportunity.  Send him/her a text or e-mail. A simple: “Hey nice meeting you yesterday. I really liked our discussion” won’t hurt anyone. When you have continuous communication with your stakeholders, you have become visible.


(Source: www.pad1.whstatic.com)


Meet Expectations

Once you have become visible, your next aim is to build trust. Your potential business partners, customers, peers must know about you and the service you provide. Once you do, you have created an expectation level on their minds based on what you have communicated with them. Now, this is the leverage point, if you can satisfy their expectations, your relationship with them will start to get stronger. Many Market researchers have pointed out that customer satisfaction and ‘delivering what we promised’ has a positive relation. If you deliver what you promised, you build credibility. Let’s say if you can provide high-grade organic coffee in the right amount and the right time to coffee houses around the Kathmandu valley, then you have built yourself to be a credible supplier.  You are someone they can rely on, and less the chances that they will turn to others.

Add personal touch


Your customer will speak out for you. Because your customers are your best salespeople, they advocate about your brand and product to new people and bring you, customers.  For startups looking to build brands, it is important to see how even the big companies develop relationships on a personal level. Construct working relationships with your suppliers, partners, and customers in person. People will build strong relationships with people rather than with your business or brand. If you ever were a Yamaha user, remember how the customer service calls you to remind that it’s time for servicing your bike? You might have been thankful to them, even if it was for a moment, and it is only a sign that your bond grew stronger. 

“The benefits are more visible if you are able to communicate with your customers on a personal level. “

Use the power of the internet

If you miss out on using the tools of the internet in today’s world, I’m afraid building relationships can be very tough. Make a strong presence in social media. Do not only share about your products or service, but also post and share articles your followers might enjoy reading. It’s also time to use email marketing again. (Sounds a bit old school?) When someone reads your email, s/he will have your undivided attention, unlike in Facebook where your message might just drown in a sea of posts and messages of your customer’s home page. 


(Source: www.elephate.co)

So, it’s time to convert your knowledge into wisdom and amend things that you did wrong. One thing you should realize is that building strong relationships is not the same as just making connections.

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What’s Value proposition and why startups need to focus more on it?

Most startups in Nepal limit marketing only to their Facebook and Instagram pages, flooding their followers with information, which will probably get ignored. Startups need to stand out from the crowd and posting information on their ‘walls’ is not going to help every time. Marketing is a tactful art of communicating, and when communication is in question, startups need to realize that it needs to happen from both parties involved – you and your customer. A founding stone for a strong marketing plan is a well-constructed value proposition.

A value proposition is a positioning statement that clarifies why customers should buy your product or use your service. It describes how you solve existing problems in a unique way and how your way can benefit the customers. 


(Source: scowsoftware.com)

A value proposition must answers these questions:

Why should customers buy from you?

How is your product different?

How will customers benefit from your product? 

What products do you offer and to whom?

Let’s construct a simple hypothetical value proposition for a hypothetical noodle manufacturing company ‘Chau Chau’ by answering these questions:

“We believe in solving even the smallest of hunger (Why should customers buy from you?), for which Chau Chau comes in different flavors and exciting packages (How is your product different?). It is healthy and can be prepared under 5 minutes (How customers will benefit from your product?). We happen to make great masalas and great noodles in different varieties for anyone, anywhere (What products do you offer and for whom?).” 

It seems simple, doesn’t it? But it’s this simplicity that becomes complex when brought into action. A value proposition must be such that your target customers can understand and appreciate. It should be something that customers can reciprocate and communicate back to you. It’s about communicating with your customers without any words, pictures or graphics but only with the value, your service provides. 

A well-constructed value proposition is a blueprint for any marketing plan and it definitely serves multiple purposes.


What’s your super-power 

For startups, constructing a value proposition is not an easy task.  Many startups are still in the dark about the value their businesses are providing or can provide and how they can stand differently from their competitors. The process of building a value proposition is a lengthy discovery about your own business. It’s about realizing where your true strengths lie and building your value around it.  Three decades back when Chaudhary Group (CG) entered the ‘ready to eat meals market’ with Wai Wai, it built its value around being among the first noodle companies which were tasty, easy to prepare and cheaper in comparison to foreign imports. Today, it is well known that Wai Wai is an integral product in the lives of many Nepali people and Wai Wai builds its values around it by polishing the human aspects touched by Wai Wai. (This can be understood better through this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWfp5OYA1BY


(Source: www.realclearscience.com)

Who do you want to help with your super-power

Secondly, it answers to who our target customer is. If you’re thinking: “Hey, what kind of an entrepreneur doesn’t know his target customers?”, it does help to identify our customers and create a detailed profile on them on the basis of their wants, choices, and behaviors, but the real value in making value propositions is to reflect these values in our work and connect with the target customers. When we develop a value proposition, we promise on delivering a certain value. The proposition serves as a reality check: Are we delivering what we promised?

If you don’t have an iPhone, you don’t have an iPhone

Ever wondered why the iPhone is the first phone in the minds of many when the word ‘smartphone’ appears?  The only reason can be the way Apple has presented the iPhone to differentiate it in the minds of the customers. Almost every cell phone company in the world has got a similar human resource, design skills, and technology that Apple has. Without any doubt, they are as capable as Apple but what sets Apple apart? Apple doesn’t sell a phone with a dual-core processor, 8-megapixel camera, 16GB storage, etc. etc.  They sell their value: their value is of a phone that captures your intimate and happy moments, that makes your digital experience undisruptive and a phone that stores your favorite music, important files, and memorable pictures.  This strong differentiation is the result of a well-constructed value proposition. After all, “If you don’t have an iPhone, you don’t have an iPhone.”


(Source: www.lisaprincic.com


It’s for your own league

The importance of value proposition for startups is the sense of direction it gives to the employees and to the business as a whole. A considerable number of startups struggle and even fail because their employees are confused about the visions and missions of the company. When employees understand the product we are offering and why we are offering it then the workforce remains clear on their objectives and are highly motivated. 

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Colouring Her Dreams: Shanti Shakya’s journey with Kakani Himalayan Natural Dye

“Simple Living. High Thinking.” Shanti Shakya ‘Dolma’ resonates the concept through and through. Her capability of handling the ups and downs and her perseverance in pursuing her dream is not only an inspiration to women entrepreneurs but even to male entrepreneurs who aspire to create something of their own. Shanti is the founder of Kakani Himalayan Natural Dye Pvt. Ltd. that produces natural dyes which are colored in natural fibers and then weaved into garments.

If you ever meet Shanti, you can tell how simple her life must be. However, under her ordinary appearance, there is an extraordinary story.


Youngblood

Shanti’s aim was very big for a 16-year-old girl who came from a village where girls her age were condemned to be married. Having grown up in a middle-class family in Kakani-6, Nuwakot, she completed her secondary level education and also gained basic computer skills after her SLC. “When I got my SLC certificate and completed my basic computer course, my aim was to start a business and have my own source of income,” says Shanti.


But it was hard for her. She did not find any opportunity and eight years later, she got married. Only at the age of 32, she finally embarked on her own path of entrepreneurship.

Motivation at 32

According to Shanti, there are two kinds of people who decide to become entrepreneurs. “The first ones are those who inherit their parents’ company and have sufficient resources to invest in their own venture,” says Shanti. “The second ones are those who face a deep crisis. The crisis can be anything, ranging from family pressure, low-income and failed marriages.”


“There are two kinds of people who decide to become entrepreneurs. The first ones are those who inherit their parents’ company and have sufficient resources to invest in their own venture. The second ones are those who face a deep crisis. The crisis can be anything, ranging from family pressure, low-income and failed marriages,” says Shanti.

It was crisis that made Shanti to take the decision to become an entrepreneur. Her family was in a dire economic condition when her husband’s two agro-businesses failed. “We had invested in a strawberry farm, and then a livestock farm. But both the ventures failed,” adds Shanti. “We had reached a situation where we couldn’t even afford the education of our child,” she recalls, “An inner voice told me that even I should be responsible for contributing to the family income.”

This was when her dreams as a child took shape.


The program that gave her the dream

At the time, Business Service Center (BSC) was launched in Nuwakot. Ran by Business and Professional Women Nepal, the BSC was a yearlong program that provided training in rural entrepreneurship for women. The criteria for enlisting in the program were: 1. The woman has to be literate 2. The woman has to be a permanent resident of the area, and 3. The woman must be married. The third criterion was there because “it happened that unmarried women who were trained were more likely to stay inactive after they were married off to other villages,” says Shanti.

Shanti qualified all of their criteria. And thus she joined the course. “When I was informed about the BSC program, I knew I had to take the opportunity,” she says.




The BSC was split into three courses: the Basic, the Advanced and the Supplement. In the basic course, Shanti was first taught how to communicate her ambitions to her in-laws, husband, and family. The basic course included time and energy-management for completing the duties of a mother, a wife, and an entrepreneur. Nepal being a patriarchal society, we can visualize the impact of this specific session.  The basic course also provided introductory methods of producing dye from the forest plants. “In the advanced course, the production process and final coloring of fibers were studied in-depth,” shares Shanti. The Supplement session included a course on creating a business model. Shanti was comprehensively taught about basic accounting principles to develop a financial model. She ardently shared her favorite part of the course: The marketing plan. “When I understood the principles of marketing, I understood why my husband’s past two ventures had failed. I found my target market and learned my point of differentiation. It felt as if my third eye had opened.”

“When I understood the principles of marketing, I understood why my husband’s past two ventures had failed. I found my target market and learned my point of differentiation. It felt as if my third eye had opened.”


The start of Kakani Himalayan Natural Dyes

When the program concluded, Kakani Himalayan Natural Dyes was established in 2008 along with four other partners who were also in the same course. It took the team two years to perfect their dye. Each of them invested Rs.1000 each when they started.

They converted a supposedly ‘waste product’ into a conclusive product. Natural dyes are manufactured from wild plants and herbs, which are in abundance in the jungles of Shivapuri National Park. But the forest rangers and locals weed out these plants and burn them because they hinder the growth of forests by killing other plants and trees.

Shanti and her team all learned the basics of finding unique colours in the BSC program. They learned that Banmara, Tittepati, Chutro, Onions, ground nuts and Sal trees are the primal raw materials and each plant gives a unique colour. Plants such as Banmara, Chutro, Tittepati are widespread and generally considered problematic weeds.


Early days

In the first days of her establishment, they produced dyes with only one bucket and two iron pots. Copper pots were quite a luxury for her business. “Certain colours can be perfected only in copper pots. Back then, we had copper pots at our homes, but no one was keen on bringing it to the factory which was a small hut then. We always asked our neighbours for copper pots who were also quite hesitant to lend their copper pots. It was a tough mission to persuade them to give us their copper pots,” shares Shanti with a laugh.

Now her venture owns as many copper pots as she needs.


Change Fusion and the growth

Shanti shares that Change Fusion, an NGO working to assist social entrepreneurs, provided great support to her. “They organized bazaars where I could showcase products to my final customers. They even helped me gain foreign networks where I could export my goods. More importantly, they helped me setup a web page and a Facebook account to market my products online.” Today, her company exports these garments to Japan, Australia, and Chile.

“I have received a lot of help from many institutions and people to reach where I am today,” adds Shanti.




The local problem

Even though her products are of high-quality, she struggles to sell them in local market. “It’s not popular in local market. Nepali people criticize local products and without even testing it first, they accuse the products for not being of high quality,” shares Shanti. “I don’t know why people think wearing Nepali products shames them.”

“I don’t know why people think wearing Nepali products shames them.”

But her products are receiving praises from her international customers because of the quality and numerous health benefits her natural dyes and fibres provide.


Accolade and accomplishment

Kakani Himalayan Natural Dyes was nominated for the ‘Surya Nepal Asha Social Entrepreneurship Award’ in 2012. The award is given to recognize the Nepali social entrepreneurs who create value for ‘People, Planet and Profit’, and is given to five social entrepreneurs who have contributed for the development of society through empowerment and job-creation.




Shanti was unsure if her venture would bag the accolade because the winner of the award a year before her had employed almost 100 employees. In contrast, she had only 13 employees at the time.

She remained hopeful, however. Her venture was based on local production units, used raw materials that were commonly treated as waste and in a unique way, her venture was also helping to keep the jungle clean. And thus, she had a chance to win it.

And she did.

But she did not use the prize money of the award she won for her own. Instead, she bought big copper pots, production materials and a computer from the prize money with a greater zeal to grow further.


The present and the future

Her factory was partly destroyed in the massive earthquake last year, and so her focus is currently on rebuilding the factory. The small factory space left after the devastating earthquake was hampering the production. She aims to completely renovate her factory in a few months and continue full-scale production.

She is currently on a business trip to Bangkok to expand her business.

She has bigger plans for her venture and her daughter. Shanti wants to create a brand for her products and increase the production along with the types of garments she produces. Her daughter recently completed her higher secondary level education and is now interested in fashion designing.  She helps Shanti in designing garments and also looks after the factory and the accounts when Shanti is away. “She is the future of this company, I will support her desire to study fashion designing. After she graduates, with her knowledge in fashion designing and my expertise in dyeing, we hope to provide better choices to our customers.”

One thing we all can learn from this lady is perseverance and patience. Her hunger for knowledge and growth never seems to subdue.

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5 Things Startups can do to Reduce Cost

For a startup company, resources are always going to be stringent. You’re in that phase where your revenue streams are still not secured but the costs are already assured. It’s like going fishing; you’ve already spent on your new rod, fishing line, and the bait, but you’re still not sure if you are catching any fish. ‘Catching the fish’ has always dominated conversations among entrepreneurs and on the agendas of meetings. We must realize that ‘Catching the fish’ is a gradual process, but let’s take a moment to analyze our rods, lines, and baits (Our costs). Are our expenses sensible in gaining a strategic advantage? Is it really necessary to cut these expenses?

Cost reduction for startups is less of a strategy for profitability and more of a strategy for survival. Here are few pointers to keep your startup’s costs down:


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Track Your Expenses


The first step in solving a problem is realizing that there is one; similarly, the first step in reducing costs is realizing where your money is being spent on

look into your financial statements and perform an in-depth analysis.  For that you have to ask these questions: What are the major areas that are taking the biggest slices of your cost-pie?  Can you eliminate a significant portion of these costs? What about your small office expenses? Are they not being given the attention they deserve?

http://(Source: www.frontier-ehr.com)

On the same note, I was talking to an entrepreneur from Chennai, India about how he minimized costs in his stationery business. He told me, “When I started tracking even the minute details of my expense, I figured that almost 9% of my total operating expenses was because of over-stocking (of books and stapler pins) and its maintenance.” He told me that he duly corrected it and had brought his operating costs down by 9%! 

Check your suppliers

Suppliers are one of the most important stakeholders of your business and your efficiency and profitability depend a lot on them. Give a special focus on choosing your suppliers.  One of the founders of Tune Gear Electronics and Technology (a Kathmandu based Telecommunication Service Company) shared his experience with me: “We needed to install solar panels of 2000 watts in Manang to establish a telecommunication network and we had to pay for each watt to acquire the solar panels. We met a supplier who was willing to sell us at Rs. 142 for each watt, then upon further research, we met another supplier who was willing to sell us for Rs. 100 for each watt, and finally we found out that we could get it for only Rs. 82.” One thing we can all learn from this story is that startups should always maintain a wide range of suppliers and compare their products. When you have a basket of suppliers to choose from, you already have an advantage. But it is not only the price at which they offer their products, but you should also check if your suppliers provide early credit discounts and their credit periods.

http://(Source: w5.siemens.com)


“Startups should always maintain a wide range of suppliers and compare their products. When you have a basket of suppliers to choose from.”


Make the best use of technology


(Source: i.kinja-img.com

If you haven’t thought of adopting some of the free (or cheap) and new technologies of your respective industry, it’s as good as living with sticks and stones. Let’s say you want to maintain a database of your clients, finances and so on. Working with pencil and paper for things you can do with the use of Information technology can only add costs. No matter how small your database is, take advantage of tools such as Google Sheets or Grubba that are free. The usage of technology reduces overhead costs significantly and increases efficiency.


Outsource or hire contract officials

As a startup, you cannot do everything on your own, and there will be areas where you’ll lack expertise and hiring permanent staff for the job can be very costly. When we hire a contract official or outsource, we not only hire or outsource the work to the best official, but our day-to-day involvement would also be minimized. This, in turn, will cut our costs significantly.

http://(Source: omegahrsolutions.com)

“As a startup, you cannot do everything on your own, and there will be areas where you’ll lack expertise and hiring permanent staff for the job can be very costly.”

Outsourcing comes with its own pros and cons. Many times outsourcing can be a very risky affair because sensitive company information must be shared and the dependency is solely on the third-party to complete the task. 


Think if you really need an office space

In the informational age, we have everything we need in a computer. We have database software to manage our data, we have pages and notes to write down important information, and we have e-mail and internet services to communicate, make a purchase and learn skills we haven’t mastered yet

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Rent accounts for a large portion of your fixed costs and many startups struggle to pay off their rent. Many successful businesses, both national like Sasto Deal and international like Microsoft, started from their garages. So unless it is really necessary, do we really need to rent an office space?

One final advice before I bid adieu: Saving time is as important as saving money. Startups need to survive new market trends, unexpected government regulations and still achieve growth. If you save time, plan your operations ahead and most importantly, have a ‘Plan B’, then saving costs will become a piece of cake.

“Both national like Sasto Deal and international like Microsoft started from their garages. So unless it is really necessary, do we really need to rent an office space?

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