Made in Nepal (Published on Republica)

Being involved in Nepal’s startup ecosystem, I am very passionate about listening to entrepreneurs talk about the ideas they are working on. These young and established entrepreneurs are building products and services to solve domestic problems, capitalizing on market inefficiencies and tapping opportunities at home and abroad. This is just an example of how much can be done right here in Nepal. I am optimistic about our present and future after having conversations with entrepreneurs and hearing about their ambitions and goals.

Young entrepreneurs Subrat Basnet and Amit Chaudhary are co-founders of Grepsr, a company specializing in web crawling service. They have international clients such as The Boston Consulting Group, GE Capital, and Target, and are doing very well in their second year. Subrat wrote an article in VenturePlus magazine titled The audacity to dream big. In the article, Subrat emphasized the massive opportunity for tech entrepreneurs in Nepal to make an impact on a global scale. He explains that with the growth of local talent, low risk investment and low operational cost, among other things, tech entrepreneurs can really compete in the global market if they have great ideas and the right marketing. I could not agree more.

I like how Subrat is thinking, and most importantly, emphasizing that Nepal be put on the tech map. That ambition in itself is laudable. But to put Nepal on the tech map, we need more companies from Nepal like Grepsr and an ecosystem that builds and nurtures quality startups.

Another up-and-coming startup from Nepal is 11Beep. The 11Beep team of Bimal Maharjan and Vivek Bhusal are working to build an anonymous mobile social network. CEO Maharjan is an active participant at startup events around Kathmandu. He even flew to Italy for a four month bootcamp called TechPeaks—The People Accelerator. There he was able to feel the excitement and challenges of working on an idea alongside other entrepreneurs, designers and hackers. He is currently in Kathmandu, intensely working with Vivek on 11Beep and building a presence in Nepal and India initially before venturing to other countries. Bimal is also keen to share his experiences at TechPeaks which will benefit other local entrepreneurs.

Another idea that was developed in Nepal and has gained some ground locally with aggressive plans to expand internationally is CashOnAd. CashOnAd is a mobile advertising platform that is working to revolutionize the advertising world. In early January 2014, the company placed a one-page advertisement in leading national daily newspapers emphasizing the fact that the product was built with pure Nepali talent. In the advertisement, they were looking to hire 72 people to fill various positions such as mobile application developers, senior web platform developers, quality assurance engineers, and call-center executives, among others. The company is set to launch the service in multiple countries. CashOnAd’s android app on Google Play has been installed in 50,000-100,000 devices to date. With the mobilization of local talent and the right growth strategy, CashOnAd has the potential to be very scalable and profitable in a short period.

Companies such as Grepsr, 11Beep and CashOnAd are pioneering a new era of tech entrepreneurship in Nepal. They are dreaming big and thinking of conducting business beyond the borders of Nepal and competing globally. There are also other tech companies making their presence felt in the domestic market as well as chasing international market. You will find plenty of stories of trailblazing entrepreneurs in Nepal.

There are some common challenges tech companies in Nepal face in terms of taking their product international and growing the brand. The most obvious one is financial. If an idea or product solves a problem and provides value, the target customers need to be aware of the product or service. International customers can be reached through Google AdWords, Facebook ads, advertisements in relevant platforms, among other ways. Financial leverage is necessary for this, and the company should have adequate capital to properly market the product or service.

Another challenge is talent. We have a plethora of colleges with thousands of students graduating every year. However, tech companies have a hard time finding the right talent when necessary. For example, CashOnAd is looking for 10 Mobile Application Developers, and one of their requirements is one year of iOS/Android mobile application development experience. It will probably be easier to find applicants with Android mobile application development experience rather than with iOS. Because Android is more popular in Nepal than iOS, most mobile application developers are experienced in Android rather than iOS.

Another challenge is publicity. Given that the company is based in Nepal, to expand globally you need a network or presence outside of Nepal. Getting covered by popular tech blogs, websites, international media etc. will help create awareness of Nepal based companies. The Startup Weekend Kathmandu platform is a good one, and ideas can get some initial traction through its wide network and reach.

When you dream big, you take challenges as they come. Tech entrepreneurs are becoming more ambitious, focused on putting Nepal on the tech map, despite the challenges in taking their product into the global market. Soon, it would not be surprising to hear of big ideas from Nepal making a global impact. In an article on VenturePlus’s fifth issue, Grepsr’s Subrat suggested seven things to keep in mind while setting up a tech company in Nepal: focusing on doing one thing very well, branding well, having a unique offering, scalable business model, global thinking, flat hierarchy with a good working culture, and getting inspired by what’s happening globally. 11Beep’s Bimal was also very passionate about sharing his experience at TechPeaks and was truly inspired by the participants, speakers and mentors there. You can really feel his motivation to make meaningful global impact when you hear him speak of 11Beep.

With quality product and right expansion strategy, a handful of tech companies from Nepal are venturing into the global stage and starting to make an impact. Though challenges come with the territory, Nepal’s tech companies have a remarkable opportunity to take a bite out of the global tech scene. Let’s support the dreamers, visionaries, innovators, trailblazers and disrupters who want to put Nepal on the global tech map. We can all be truly proud to say that they were Made in Nepal.


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