Monday, January 3, 2022

Boosting entrepreneurship: Target the youth

The New Year 2022 has just begun, and Nepal should make a resolution to give a boost to tomorrow's young homegrown entrepreneurs. Approximately 10,689,842 people in Nepal are under the age of 30, according to the 2021 Census (40.3 per cent). Nepal is poised to flourish because it is young, active and eager to engage in the global economy. It is also a democracy.

There are several investment options available here. A critical role in the country's long-term economic growth is played by entrepreneurship. As suggested, Nepal's future cannot be predicated only by international assistance and remittances. If we want to continue ahead on the course of sustainable economic development, we must create an atmosphere conducive to new entrepreneurship and innovation.

Entrepreneurship is vital because it produces jobs, while it also has a significant influence on the lives of young people in general.

Nepal's young and enthusiastic populace is leaving the country daily to pursue new opportunities. If all of Nepal's residents are involved in entrepreneurship, the country's need of foreign aid would reduce significantly.

According to the most recent World Bank ranking, Nepal ranks 110th out of 190 nations regarding the ease of doing business. Legal assistance, a suitable atmosphere, a large young population, and an abundance of resources are some of Nepal's benefits for boosting entrepreneurship.

In terms of commercialising the agriculture sector, Nepal offers tremendous potential. Because of increased government assistance for the farming sector, businesses will reap tremendous benefits. In addition, tourism shows great potential although it has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Nepal's geographical conditions are conducive to developing the tourist industry.

In Nepal, the information technology industry is seeing significant growth.

Information technology offers substantial potential for generating growth, investment and considerable profits in the entrepreneurship industry. Nepal is a newcomer to information technology entrepreneurship, but it has a more promising future in terms of employment opportunities.

It has lower running costs, is more accessible, and has a limited influence on occurrences like the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are several issues facing society that need new and inventive solutions (fintech, agri-tech, ed-tech, biotech, reg-tech, climate-tech). Because most young people are focussed on studying or working overseas, individuals who opt to remain in the country and develop their entrepreneurial skills have fewer competitors.

Beyond these business prospects in Nepal, we still have many challenges to solve, opening even more doors for entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams. Even though Nepal faces several obstacles, I believe that this should not discourage the spirit of entrepreneurship.

We do this because embracing challenges and taking risks are fundamental to the very essence of the entrepreneurial spirit itself.

Entrepreneurs must have a vision that others do not currently recognise.

People may feel that their ideas are hypotheses and impose a high level of uncertainty, but that is what entrepreneurship is all about: putting everything on the line for a view you believe in. As a result, we will see several prospects for entrepreneurial growth in Nepal if we look at it carefully. There is a crisis – a shortage of electricity, water, fuel, communication and inflation. But remember that a crisis may be a window of opportunity for an entrepreneur. Many company concepts may be established here with first-mover advantages since we are still a developing nation and technology is still in its infancy. Because of the high unemployment rate, you may put together a group of determined adolescents anxious to keep their jobs. Even though the world has progressed, many challenges still need new and imaginative answers.

Because there are fewer development activities in the nation, people with money have fewer sectors to invest in. Consequently, several investors are eager to support if an entrepreneur can provide a compelling concept and a viable business plan.

There are various reasons why entrepreneurship is vital, ranging from advocating social change to pushing innovation. Most people consider entrepreneurs to be national assets, who should be developed, driven and rewarded to the maximum degree feasible.

However, this is not always true. It is indeed true that some of the most industrialised countries are global leaders thanks to their citizens' innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.

Exceptional entrepreneurs can transform how we live and work on a local and national scale. If they are successful, their ideas may raise living standards.

In addition to generating income via entrepreneurial endeavours, they may also provide employment and contribute to the economy's growth.

Entrepreneurs also contribute to the advancement of change via innovation, in which new and better goods allow the development of new markets. However, excessive entrepreneurship (i.e., a high level of self-employment) may harm economic growth.

Entrepreneurial endeavours contribute to the creation of new wealth. Existing enterprises may find themselves restricted to their current markets and at a point of diminishing returns.

Entrepreneurs' introduction of new and better goods, services or technology allows for the development of new markets and new riches. Increasing employment and income growth lead to higher national income via increased tax revenues and government expenditure. The government may use this cash to invest in poorly run industries and human capital.

Finally, if it results in the layoff of a few current players, the government may mitigate the impact by allocating excess resources to retrain employees.

This is an excerpt from the upcoming book, "Why Nepal Fails" by the writer

Published: The Himalayan Times.
Nepal's leading daily newspaper

Sunday, December 5, 2021

The pandemic wedding

 Kris and Kiyana had begun to plan their wedding in Nepal before the pandemic started. They had already planned everything, and almost all of the preparations were done, so retracting their decision seemed impossible at that point—they simply went along with it. They wanted a traditional wedding, so not only did it take time to plan everything out, it was also meant to be something huge. Kris was dressed up very traditionally, which seemed unconventional for a groom. Kiyana, on the other hand, had spent a lot of time with her mother in choosing the right dress. While sending out invitations, they didn’t bother themselves with the number of people that would attend, nor was the seating arrangements a matter of concern. After all, it was their wedding, which had to be replete with as big a celebration as possible. They had been asked if they wanted to have their wedding in another venue, but both insisted on getting married in Ratnanagar, Chitwan.

Both had several relatives that they wanted at their wedding, with a total of 250 people in attendance—not including their families or close friends.

Due to many guests attending, one of Kiyana’s best friends came up to her and asked something that weighed heavily on her mind.

“Kiyana. Will you and Kris be asking the guests to wear masks?”

“Masks? Of course not. This is a unique occasion, and I wouldn’t want them to look back on this day with masks covering their faces.

“Are you not worried about the pandemic?”

“Not for the wedding. Nobody is even sick, and if they are, then they will just stay home. We are all family, so I’m confident that we would all be safe,” Kiyana told her.

Standing by what she had said, no one was asked to wear masks on the wedding day. Although the ceremony was wonderful, nobody adopted any safety measures; no social distancing whatsoever. Everyone danced like it was their last day on Earth, with absolutely no regard for their own health and safety.

The newlyweds’ families were overjoyed at the occasion and mostly kept to themselves throughout the ceremony. None of the guests appeared to be sick indeed, and the virus was the last thing on anybody’s mind that day. As far as they were concerned, the night was a success, and there was nothing to worry about. None of them suspected that anything would go south until Kris’s mother called the two of them, panic-stricken, two days later. “Are the two of you okay?” she asked them.

“Of course, we are okay, mother. Why wouldn’t we be?” Kris said.

“I have just gotten a call that your uncle tested positive for the virus and is currently at the hospital”.

“Will he be alright?”

“I do not know yet. We can only hope and pray. I was calling to make sure if either of you had caught the virus.”

“There is no way anybody had it at the wedding. I spoke to everyone who was there, and nobody was feeling ill. Nobody was even coughing, so I know that he didn’t get the virus from there. He must have gone somewhere else and contracted the virus. Please let me know if you hear any changes from him,” Kris told his mother and hung up.

The husband and wife did not think much of this until more calls kept coming in. More relatives from the wedding had tested positive and were now showing symptoms. They looked at each other, realising that their wedding might have been where they all got infected. They didn’t know how this was even possible until they started looking at the news about the virus. They learned that the virus could be transmitted from someone even without any symptoms. It left them distraught because some of the relatives they invited were older and at a much higher risk of developing serious complications from the virus.

They were ashamed that they wanted to have a traditional wedding so badly that they put their family and friends in danger of getting seriously ill. They realised that if they wanted the wedding to be truly traditional and authentic, they should have waited until the coronavirus pandemic was over. Or if they wanted to have the wedding now, they should have scaled it down and made their guest follow social distances and wear masks. Unfortunately, they didn’t know or attempt to educate themselves about preventive measures. The final hit to Kiyana came when her best friend called her on the phone.

“Hello, Kiyana,” her friend said weakly on the phone.

“You sound terrible. What happened?” Kiyana asked, knowing what her friend would probably say.

“I was not feeling well and went to the doctor. They told me that I tested positive for COVID-19 and had to remain at the hospital.”

“You are at the hospital?” Kiyana asked.

“Yes. It is getting harder for me to breathe, so they want to put me on oxygen and possibly a ventilator if I don’t improve.”

“I don’t understand, though. You aren’t old. You are as young as me, so the virus shouldn’t have made you this sick.”

“Just because we are young doesn’t mean we are immune to the virus. I had a weaker immune system anyway so I was already vulnerable to the virus.”

“I am so sorry that I did not listen to you when you tried to tell me to adopt precautions in the wedding.”

“You don’t have to be sorry. Just be careful so that you don’t become sick like me too.”

“I will. I hope you feel better soon,” said Kiyana before hanging up the phone.

Putting someone their age in the hospital hit Kris and Kiyana hard. It gave them a new perspective of what was important to them—and it wasn’t big weddings or celebrations. It was keeping the people they cared about safe and healthy. They made sure to call everyone on the guest list to warn them of possible exposure and told them to get tested. The couple also got tested and came out negative for the virus. But, it still felt like they needed to do more; they didn’t know what.

The days went on, and they got calls and updates about family members doing much better and some still having mild side effects, like headaches. There wasn’t any word on Kiyana’s best friend until another few days later. The call was what she had dreaded the most, and she found out that her best friend had died of the disease. She was devastated, and Kris did his best to try and comfort her. As she slowly recovered from her grief, she understood what she had to do now.

She became an advocate and tried to educate everyone in Chitwan about the virus and its devastating effects. She told her story of how she was oblivious about the asymptomatic nature of the virus and how her ignorance had led to the death of her best friend. She told people that although tradition was necessary, the life of their loved ones was more important. They needed to protect themselves if they ever wanted to recover from this horrible pandemic.

Kiyana and Kris even found other young people preparing to get married and urged them to not go through with the wedding like they did. They might not have been able to save their friend, but they might be able to save someone else’s. It was a long road ahead, both in their marriage and in the pandemic. Nobody knew for sure when it would end or how long things would need to be different. The only thing they knew was it was their responsibility to tell their story and keep the people in Chitwan safe from the virus and its ever-emerging variants.

Published: The Kathmandu Post
Nepal's leading daily newspaper

Friday, November 12, 2021

Current climate crisis in Nepal


Climate change has now turned into a climate crisis for countries like Nepal. The global climate model shows climate change impacts may be severe at high elevation and in a complex topography like Nepal.

The current climate modelling scenario in Nepal has described two types of disasters due to increased temperature.

They are rapid disasters, such as floods and landslides, and slow-onset disasters, such as drought, forest fires, snow melts and sedimentation.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has said that Nepal will suffer the adverse impact of climate change, although its contribution to greenhouse gas emission is small. Temperature increase is resulting in faster glacier melt, leading to flash floods. Water-related hazards, especially during the monsoon due to melting of ice in the mountain and plentiful rainfall in the foothills, are quite common now.

Additionally, landslides in the mid-hills occur regularly due to extreme rainfall during the monsoon. Consequently, people suffer from food insecurity since agricultural activities are disrupted, and there is forest and biodiversity loss as well as water scarcity.

Migration from the rural to urban areas due to the climate crisis is increasing in Nepal.

Drinking water, hygiene and proper sanitation system are being disrupted due to climate crisis.

Scientific research may help reduce the climate crisis through adaptation. According to Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), Nepal plans to combat greenhouse gas emissions by setting 14 goals in collaboration with the UN programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.

Maintaining risk reduction strategies like emergency awareness programmes and shifting traditional agricultural practices for food security by using natural barriers are ways to combat the adverse effect of climate change.

Nepal's aquaponics practices may be an innovative technology that can help grow more vegetables per unit area and improve fish farming to meet the extra food demand.

Use of electrical appliances in our homes and everyday life with the clean energy produced in the country can help cut down on greenhouse gas emission.

Active participation from all sectors, such as the public and government, is required to reduce the adverse effects of climate change. As they say in the west, "prevention is better than cure". Therefore, we all need to start preparing for the impending climate crisis in our country, which will be the norm if no action is taken.

A version of this article appears in the print on November 09, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.

Published: The Himalayan Times
Nepal's leading daily newspaper

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Find what you love and let it kill you.

“I've never been lonely. I've been in a room -- I've felt suicidal. I've been depressed. I've felt awful -- awful beyond all -- but I never felt that one other person could enter that room and cure what was bothering me...or that any number of people could enter that room. In other words, loneliness is something I've never been bothered with because I've always had this terrible itch for solitude. It's being at a party, or at a stadium full of people cheering for something, that I might feel loneliness. I'll quote Ibsen, "The strongest men are the most alone." I've never thought, "Well, some beautiful blonde will come in here and give me a fuck-job, rub my balls, and I'll feel good." No, that won't help. You know the typical crowd, "Wow, it's Friday night, what are you going to do? Just sit there?" Well, yeah. Because there's nothing out there. It's stupidity. Stupid people mingling with stupid people. Let them stupidify themselves. I've never been bothered with the need to rush out into the night. I hid in bars, because I didn't want to hide in factories. That's all. Sorry for all the millions, but I've never been lonely. I like myself. I'm the best form of entertainment I have. Let's drink more wine!” 
― Charles Bukowski

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Digital Currency

With every passing time, technology moves one step forward. In the developed world or “rich world” as  Bill Gates would put it its recent advances in genetics and gene editing has led to some tremendous progress towards helping people in the developing or “poor world” especially in places like India and Nepal where medical costs are high.

Bill hacked into the computer world with the invention of Microsoft and BASIC (Beginners All Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) which was the first operating system that ever got into mainstream personal computers.

Today the technology has a widespread impact not just in personal computer space but many other domains such as financial technologies also shortly called as fin-tech, education technologies also called ed-tech and biotechnologies, i.e. biotech.

In fin-tech space, the recent advances in Bitcoin have made a lot of countries and financial institutions nervous and worried. In short, Bitcoin is the currency of the Internet where the transaction between A to B happens on a distributed network where there is no central authority or entity.

Bitcoin was first invented a decade ago by a guy named Satoshi Nakamoto, a pseudonym that is anonymous till date. Back in those days if you would have bought Bitcoin at today’s market value that would have given you 5000% return. You would have become rich beyond your imagination.
Recently a friend of mine who is an avid Nepalese reader of news shared a news that Bitcoin exchange is illegal in Nepal. I smiled when I heard the news since Nepal falls in the basket of “poor world” according to  Gates and it shows how uneducated the regulators and policymakers in our country are, especially in case of how the technology is shaping our modern world, and it shows our reluctance and conservatism towards change.

Many countries in Europe, America and Africa have started trading Bitcoin. It is a new form of cash, but only digital, so there is no governing body like we are used to with most financial institutions. Since Bitcoin and digital currency is legal in India, Pakistan and China, I don’t see why it should be illegal here. It should by no means become unlawful since the transaction happens from party A to party B and the other parties who run the network get some share of money for making that trade happen.

I would suggest that Government officials should start making a plan and laws to make this digital currency legal in Nepal as soon as possible.

Published: The Himalayan Times 
A version of this article appears in print on November 08, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

When the earth beneath me moved

Jan 22, 2017- The first time I discovered that my father cared for me immeasurably was when we went hiking together.
I was home for the Chhath Parba and my father had decided to steal me away from my mother and the world for a little bit of dad-and-son time. Mother was not very happy with the idea; but father—after fighting a little—had managed to take me on a holiday.
That morning, as we checked out from the resort, it had begun to drizzle. For some reason my father spontaneously decided that the weather called for an adventure. Hence, we started hiking towards Kalika Daada.
I remember having stopped by a lunch spot where my father made me eat chicken, “It’s delicious and will take you right to the top,” he had said in jest. After lunch he called mother, but he didn’t tell her about our impulsive decision to climb uphill.  
I could tell my father had a knack for forecasting weather when the rain eventually died, and the sparse and feathery clouds slowly drifted away making way for clear blue sky. 
It was my first time hiking in the hills, and I was just learning to walk with one foot faced sideways for better grip. Every detail is still vivid in my mind—I could hear birds sweetly chirp from every corner of the lush green forest. Oh, they made such sweet sound and I got captivated for they were no less entrancing than psychedelic music. Everything was serene and perfect. It was only towards the end of the hike that we came across a landslide. It didn’t look so difficult to triumph over and I thought I could use the skills I had garnered over the last few hours to get past it.
Perhaps, my father had sensed my over-confidence because he had called out to me saying, “Be careful, gravity can’t be trusted—it will bring you down as it wishes.” I just smiled.
While crossing the landslide, I slipped a little towards the precipice. I was this close to death when my father grabbed my hand, pulled me right back on trail and told me to walk properly.
In that moment I had realised two things: first, how much my father loved me and second, how fragile life really is. I had completed the rest of my hike pondering upon how life was so much more succinct than one conceptualises—and much shorter for one to weigh and process its aspects properly.
Queue number 111 popped up on the police screen finally. The European police officer assisted me with my visa issue.
“How can I help you?”   
“I need to get back to Nepal immediately; my house collapsed in the earthquake and my father is trapped in the rubble.”
 “Okay, calm down. I’ll see what I can do. What’s your social security number?” After I gave her all my details, I waited for her to return with an answer. I already feared I would have to go great lengths to apply for a visa, and I’d have to wait at least two to three weeks to get the permit to go back home.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the police officer returned, and said, “You don’t require a visa to go to Nepal—it’s your homeland. You can go right away if you wish, but if you do, you cannot come right back to Europe.”
“What should I do?” I asked.
“You can leave your application here with us, but it would be better to reapply from Nepal. Of course, the official process might take a bit longer than usual,” she said.
I would have to travel home with the quickest option available. I went to visit Meher at her apartment and explained my situation as elaborately as possible.

“You must leave to see your father as soon as possible. Maybe things are not as bad as we hear, but you’ll not know until you reach home. May be your father is still hanging in there to see you for the last time,” she insisted.
I booked the first flight to Nepal the next day. At the airport, I mused at how time had passed me by as I aged. Going home now felt as difficult as going back to school after a summer vacation.
In the last ten years in Europe, my life had been a quest for happiness and harmony—living with my lovely girlfriend in her dreamlike apartment. Now, I was ready to throw it all apart just for one single glance of my father. I couldn’t tell for sure if he would make out of the rubble alive.
For most of my flight, I cried like a baby. With every passing moment, the realisation of how much I loved my father grew. He was my only hero, the only person that I worshipped, the only person that I ever looked up to. As I cried tirelessly, the cabin crew brought me drinks after drinks to help me calm. 
When a co-passenger asked me about my situation, I shared the whole story with him.
“I want to be able to tell my father how much I love him, that’s all I ask for,” I said.
“Do you love Nepal?” another passenger asked. 
“I don’t know how to put it. I have been away for the longest time, but yes, I love Nepal.”
By the time I reached what once used to be my home, the earthquake had devastated the whole region:  houses had collapsed, people had died and the populace was living in fear. In all these years away from home, never had I imagined such a horrid  homecoming. By the time my father was taken out of the rubble—everybody’s fear had also come true.
I didn’t get to tell him all the things I wish I could—I love you, I am sorry, I have missed you, or just goodbye.
The fact that a natural calamity so big had hit my home didn’t break my heart as much as the realisation of how I hadn’t communicated enough to my father did. What broke my heart is how I hadn’t spent enough time or energy making my parents feel loved—and now it was too late. I felt like I had lost so much time and there was no turning back.
I hadn’t bothered making time for my father because I thought I would never run out of time. I had forgotten about the hike and how life was so fragile.
That day, my father moulded into a butterfly, and the caterpillar spoke not of his beauty but his astonishing wilderness. I wished he’d stay back, but now he had wings.

Published: The Kathmandu Post

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Better Civic Infrastructure

As the monsoon season is underway, and there are several places inundated with potholes; various streets in the capital Kathmandu and the nearby municipalities are seen with waterlogged areas.
The garbage collected in manholes and the potholes become dangerous especially during evenings when there are no street lamps across the city.
The city’s garbage creates common problems for city dwellers who commute daily in their bicycle, motorcycle, car, taxi, and in other public transportation. The trash and potholes not only create havoc for the local people who commute but also give a somewhat pessimistic impression to tourists and foreigners who come to visit Nepal for the first time.
Passing through garbage collection places can also cause skin damage, malaria, dengue, and other forms of bodily diseases as murky water provides breeding grounds for insects, pests, and mosquitoes. Valley residents are worried about the growing number of gutters, drains, and potholes resulting from our unfavorable road conditions.
I have not seen anyone in the Kathmandu city who does not complain about the bumpy ride they get while traveling in their private vehicles to work or home.
Since the recent great earthquakes that took thousands of innocent lives and destroyed our homes, what have we done for the people who have suffered the most? Just false promises.
When other developing countries are already adopting a new method of expansion in improving their country’s economy, architecture and infrastructure in general to “smart cities” and “digital homes.”
I feel ashamed of seeing how the ordinary people of Nepal can be so naive and devoted to their political gatherings and parties. It is time to take charge and demand better civic infrastructure from all the concerned authorities.
In twenty-five years from now, given the same political set-up, I feel more pessimistic about my homeland because we cannot just pretend that our beloved cities resemble some exotic cities in Europe or Switzerland without working hard towards improving them.
In a nutshell, gone are those days when we contemplated our politicians would do greater good for our streets and cities.
A new country’s awareness campaign would be to create digital tools; e.g., apps, digital, and community-driven tools to highlight the gross oversight of the public officials, especially the government subcontractors and local municipalities.

A version of this article appears in print on August 09, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.