It’s all about Risk
Let’s start with Suraj Vaidya, the key note speaker and President of FNCCI. To those vaguely familiar with the economic scene in Nepal, that’s the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry. To those more intimately familiar, he is a business powerhouse. I expected him to acknowledge this audience, share his accomplishments, and maybe share a few words of advice. Along with the entire panel, he obliged. The program stated that he would speak about the hardships of Nepalese entrepreneurs; I begged he wouldn’t because we already knew them all and he spared us that litany. What he gave us instead was more intimate; he shared an embarrassment.
Once upon a time, Suraj Vaidya swept floors, somewhere in a restaurant in the United States. It was his job. One particular day, during his shift, he recognized two Nepali men come through the front door. He hid in the back, and refused to come out, ashamed. Many Nepalis might have done the same because as he put it, we have yet to accept the dignity of labor He couldn’t have been more right, and immediately we felt united.
Samriddhi Foundation’s event Celebrating the Spirit of Entrepreneurship had the who’s who of the business sector speaking directly to us, young entrepreneurs, unabashedly about their paths to success and more importantly, their failures. Most of the speakers shared stories of their youth, and how they began their ventures that led them to where they are. And somewhere along those stories, each of them had taken a risk. Whether it was Umesh Shrestha, founder of the hugely successful Little Angels School, teaching in a small classroom between the two giant St. Xavier’s and St. Mary’s schools some thirty five years ago, or beautician Kamala Shrestha taking classes in Thai, or Kiran Joshi, once head of production for some films at Disney, leaving his job to start Incessant Rain, an animation company based in Nepal, they all took risks to start something on their own. It doesn’t always pay off, but you can’t be a successful entrepreneur without having taken any risks. I knew this already to some extent, but hearing it uttered through experience and being able to relate made all the difference.
It was an event of many moments, two of which stood out for me. Shailendra Raj Giri founded merojob.com; a site that already commands massive online traffic in Nepal. His first venture was Real Solutions, an outsourcing solution for human resources. Giri studied in Bangalore, India and returned to Nepal after finishing his Bachelors in Business Management. He applied for his first job, and attended his first interview, nervous. He got six subsequent callbacks and was finally hired to sell cars. He was hired by Vaidya’s Organisation of Industries and Trading House (VOITH). While sharing this story, Giri is gazing to his right, down the panel of speakers, at one man in particular, and says, “I sold your cars, Sir”, and Suraj Vaidya acknowledges.
The next moment came from Kiran Joshi as he read presumably an excerpt from his daughter’s essay. She describes the transition from being Disney’s “princess” to being disillusioned and unable to understand her father’s decision to leave his job to work in Nepal. But after exploring more, she is proud that her father is taking his time to do something in a country where many who left have not. Joshi is almost overcome, and describes this moment as one of his finest as a parent. He describes what convinced him to work in Nepal and central to this is another kid. Joshi met a young man, a nineteen year old animator, lost and about to sacrifice his dream to study finance to work in a bank. This meeting changed Joshi’s mind about Nepal forever, and he was convinced. He took a risk. He wasn’t going to let this boy give up. They both shared a passion for their craft and that is what mattered in the end.
You have to be passionate about entrepreneurship. It isn’t about making a business, rather creating an environment for businesses to succeed. In Nepal, this is difficult because there are only limited precedents and an unstable political climate. Vaidya mentions that in hardship, there is opportunity, and perhaps that is the best way to describe Biruwa.
Vidhan Rana came to this event three years ago. He left inspired and determined. He returned a year later with his business partner at newly formed Biruwa Ventures, Abhinab Basnyat. They both left inspired. This year they came not as guests, but as organizers. With them were other entrepreneurs that Biruwa itself was funding and mentoring. Rana and Basnyat commanded their stage, pitching their stake in this already accomplished circle. They had risen over the years from spectators to players, and promised even more. And unwittingly or wittingly, it felt like the moderator had allotted them quite a bit of time.