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September 25, 2011
Global Entrepreneurship Week: Lessons from Nepali Entrepreneurs
November 20, 2011
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Many young aspiring entrepreneurs believe that to be in business all you need is a brilliant business idea (the next iPhone or the new way to power cars) and/or tons of money (sometimes referred in Nepal as dhani bau ko choro/chori or a rich parents kid). However, in my opinion, business is not always about the idea and the money. To be successful there are a whole host of factors and the top three in my mind are the ability to execute, collaborate and be ready to accept failure.

Execution: It is a process not an art. To execute well, you first need a plan. To execute a plan, you need to set goals (and make sure that the goals you set a realistic), create and follow upon your plans and most importantly learn from mistakes. The key is to know that all well thought out plans will fail at one point or another and you will have to revise or even complete change your plan. The true art in execution is the ability to learn and adapt from mistakes but yet to stick to your goals.

The primary failure of many young entrepreneurs in Nepal is that they concentrate too much on the idea or the product but little on the execution. They think little of how to develop their ideas, how to bring the product to market, how much to charge and how to serve the customers. I am not advocating that you spend months doing market research or reading business books. I am saying that you at least should sit down and think about these factors before launching a business. If possible, work with established entrepreneurs as they will be in the best position to identify potential pitfalls and opportunities.

Collaboration: Be ready to delegate and seek help. A common mistake many entrepreneur make is that they think they know it all and can do everything by themselves. Yes, you look at the businesses that are successful today – take Apple and Facebook for example – and you think of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg. Some people have extraordinary vision and can give birth to great companies. However, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg both had a capable teams behind them to build their iconic companies. Great entrepreneurs are able to understand their limitations and are willing to seek help. They are willing to share their ideas without fear of it being stolen because they have a deep sense of belief that they are the best person to implement their business idea.

Many young entrepreneurs in Nepal are skeptical about sharing their ideas, knowledge and are not willing to collaborate. Most adamantly argue that if you share your idea, someone is going to steal it and launch the business before you do. However, it is not the idea that is important, it is the execution. Take Bhatbhateni Supermarket as an example. What they are doing is not new, supermarkets have been around for decades. Even in Nepal, there were supermarkets like Bluebird years before Bhatbhateni. However, what Min Bahadur Gurung, the founder of the Bhatbhateni Supermarket, did was make the business work well. In reality, the chances that the idea that you have playing around in your head has already been thought of by someone else is fairly high. Think back to all the moments of disappointments you have when you
learn that the business you have always dreamed about already exists. Keeping the idea within yourself means that there is more time for others to think of the idea and do it first.

Ready for failure: For many young entrepreneurs, this may seem illogical. Why to think of failure when starting a business? Isn’t the whole point of doing business being successful? Yes, without rewards (monetary or otherwise) business isn’t much fun. However, at most times, you don’t know how your business is going to pan out no matter how well you plan. Even in the Silicon Valley, the technological capital of the world, more than half of the businesses fail within the first four years. Successful companies like twitter and LinkedIn were founded by entrepreneurs who had a string of failures under their belt.

In Nepal, failure is almost considered a crime. As a result, even in business entrepreneurs seek to choose the safest option. As a result, many young entrepreneurs prefer following the established order rather than doing something new (and adherent more risky). Look at how restaurants keep on opening in Jhamsikhel even though the market is overcrowded and there have been a string of closings in recent months. Think of how the CD vendors in every street corner in Kathmandu now run a mobile repair shop. These are perfect examples of entrepreneurs seeking the safest business option. One where return may be low but the chances of failure is lower. Even if such businesses fail, rather than looking inwards to figure why your venture failed entrepreneurs in Nepal love blaming external factors like the political situation, labor problems or market saturation (dherai competition bhayera business fail bhaayo). If you are true entrepreneur, you will be ready to try out the ideas that everyone will say will fail in the outset. You will have a belief within yourself that it will work out. You are unreasonable.