Nepal: Promoting Entrepreneurship by Strengthening Diaspora Ties

Posted by Mitul Desai
October 17, 2011
Busy Basantapur Durbar Square Premises in Kathmandu

“The obstacle is the opportunity.” That was one of the many important conclusions we reached in a unique Digital Video Conference (DVC) I moderated between Nepali-American business leaders and current and aspiring entrepreneurs in Nepal. Ambassador Scott H. DeLisi opened the DVC by reiterating U.S. Embassy Kathmandu's continued commitment to promoting entrepreneurship, particularly among Nepal's young, emerging leaders. One of our Diaspora experts founded a thriving animation studio with offices in California and Nepal, while the other successfully built an information technology company in the United States.

The idea was to inspire and inform entrepreneurs in Nepal, and judging by the feedback Embassy Kathmandu received, we did just that. The participants found it an "amazing opportunity" to engage with prominent Diaspora entrepreneurs who "inspired" them and shared valuable insights. By forging such linkages, we can help address some of the bottlenecks in Nepal's entrepreneurial ecosystem, such as lack of adequate access to finance, training, and mentors.

Nepal's constraints are balanced by rising mobile phone penetration and new growth sectors, as well as a vibrant population in which 75 percent of people are under the age of 35. We have seen time and again how Diaspora involvement can leverage such factors to take their home countries to the next level of economic and social development. There is no reason why the same can't happen in Nepal. Many hard-working and committed Nepali Americans already dedicate valuable efforts to helping Nepal, and they are to be applauded for their work. But we can do more.

Entrepreneurship is about more than just starting new companies. It is about creating jobs; helping move the self-employed to those who can employ others also. It is about growing the economy in a sustainable way. It is about bringing new technologies and ideas to emerging markets. Importantly, entrepreneurship is also about empowering people and equipping them with dignity and self-confidence. For all these reasons and more, approaching development in Nepal through the lens of entrepreneurship makes sense.

The simplest lessons are often the most powerful. The multiple demands of Nepal's unpredictable and complex environment can sometimes take the focus away from the fundamental principles of entrepreneurship, particularly for the many first-time or inexperienced entrepreneurs that exist in Nepal. Our Diaspora experts reinforced the importance of fundamentals; focus on executing ideas, not on protecting them. Do not be afraid to fail and fail again. Be flexible; a chaotic environment demands such. Create what doesn't exist: whether it's new mentor networks, new products, or new markets, leaders in Nepal also have their part to play. But above all, be confident and maintain hope. The biggest accelerators to a country's growth come as much from a change in mindset as from a change in markets.

We will work to leverage the ideas and enthusiasm generated by this event. Indeed, as a direct result of this DVC, the Nepali-American experts will have a follow-up meeting with the participants from Nepal later this month. We look forward to continuing the momentum and arriving at concrete action steps that prove both the importance of entrepreneurship and the great potential that lies before Nepal's hard-working entrepreneurs.

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