Saturday, June 29, 2013

Why Go Abroad When You Can Create Jobs In Nepal?

"If you had access to Rs 10 lakhs, couldn’t you start a business, live a decent life and create jobs in Nepal instead? Is starting a business in Nepal so risky that you would rather go abroad? Or are there no opportunities to start a business in Nepal?"

Officially, unemployment rate in Nepal lingers well above 40%. There is also significant underemployment, especially among the youth. Thus it comes as no surprise that many of the nation’s youth choose to go abroad to find employment.

But in recent months, news media has reported several cases where Nepali youths have been duped out of millions of rupees by overseas employment agencies.
In October, reports emerged of 60 Nepali youth who were swindled off Rs. 10 to Rs. Lakh each by an foreign employment agency. In September, the Ministry of Labour and Employment and concerned departments scrapped licences of 265 manpower agencies suspected of in anomalous activities.

When I read similar articles in newspapers, I wonder why these young people are taking loans at high interest rate just so that they can pay to get a job abroad. Can these young people even pay back the loan and save a decent amount? Are the working conditions humane? Are they being cheated?

If you had access to Rs 10 lakhs, couldn’t you start a business, live a decent life and create jobs in Nepal instead? Is starting a business in Nepal so risky that you would rather go abroad? Or are there no opportunities to start a business in Nepal?

I believe there are opportunities. And I believe that the returns are greater than the risks. So what are the opportunities out there?


Nepal has gone from a net exporter of grains and other agricultural products to a net importer over the last few decades. Investment in the agricultural sector dried up and people from rural areas moved to cities. However, the trend seems to reversing. A friend of mine, who held a job at an investment bank in the U.S., came back and bought a dairy farm in Dhadhing. He sees better prospects in milking goats then catering to millionaires in the U.S.


Farming products like tomatoes and mushroom appear to be fads, overdone in some cases. Focus on products that are being imported from India and China, and see if you can produce the products at better prices here in Nepal. I see very few people going into fruit farming, especially those that sell for higher value like mangoes and pomegranates. Before you invest a single rupee into an agro business, it is very important to spend a lot of times researching and talking to experts. Thanks to the tremendous investments made by the government and development agencies in research into the sector, there are a wealth of resources available online and offline where you can begin your research. Sources of information include: National Agricultural Research Council, Ministry of Agriculture, National Agriculture Research and Development Fund and US AID Nepal Economic, Agriculture and Trade. Have a broader vision to invest in food processing – where you can add value to what you already produce. Prices for processed food rarely fluctuates and thus can protect you from bearing loses.


Cities in Nepal, especially Kathmandu and Pokhara, have a rising middle class with higher disposable income. There are a lot of young people with cash but nowhere to spend it. I am not talking of opening a restaurant, but doing something different. Look at the success of mini-golf, paintball or indoor football. There are all focusing on the same trend of rising middle class who have the money and time to spare.


When thinking of recreation, don’t just think of what young people. I see a big lack of places for families with small children in the valley. Something like a children’s park may be a good business for Kathmandu. Similarly, there are barely anything for the elderly in the city to do except sit idle at home and watch TV or chat with another elderly person. How about a business completely focused towards the elderly? A day care center for the elderly maybe, where they can stay engaged and active.


Nepal has always been a dream land for tourists. Ever since the first images of Nepal appeared in foreign magazines, people around the world have been drawn to the country with fascination. But as the wealth of the world moves east, our perception of tourists has remained fixed towards the west. Nepali entrepreneurs are missing the trend of rising interest towards travel among Indians and Chinese.


Indians and Chinese do not like the same travel package that worked for say Austrian or Canadian tourists. Instead of just hikes or treks they prefer luxury. How would a lodge with an infinity hot pool looking towards the Himalayas sound? How about focusing even on business travelers from the region. Nepal can serve as a great destination for business conventions and seminars. A city like Pokhara doesn’t yet have a good convention hall. So the opportunities to serve our two growing neighbors are immense.


In today’s connected global world, potential opportunities for young programmers are immense. Armed with a laptop and an internet connection, you can pretty much develop a software or an application for the global market. With the size of Nepali market growing there are significant demands for software applications in the Nepali market as well especially in the finance and development sector.


In the IT sector, success of the business is all about word of mouth. If your clients like your work, they will become your brand ambassadors and bring you more business. So focus on quality and satisfying your customers. Do not just focus on outsourcing business as projects can be outsourced to other countries fairly easily. Specialize in a few programming languages and try to build a niche rather than being jack of all trades. Smart phones applications are hot. Though it is hard to cut through the clutter of all the apps available in app store or Google Play, a focused app that solves a particular problem for the user may become a big hit. Look for jobs in websites like Elance and slowly build your customer base.

Starting your own business is not easy. You have to have a lot of patience and persistence. But the rewards of creating a successful company means potentially rewards are equally great. The few opportunities I listed above do not require that much formal education. Entrepreneurship is all about starting small, moving forward, learning from mistakes and adapting to the market.

Today, we are seeing encouraging signs were youths returning from abroad, both skilled and unskilled, are starting businesses with money they have saved abroad. This is an encouraging sign for the country. Many may argue that these returning migrants bring skills, and more importantly, capital to start their business. In any case, this trend shows that opportunities do exist for young entrepreneurs in Nepal.