Category Archives: entrepreneurship

topic on starting business and surviving as an entrepreneur in Nepal

Entrepreneurial Engineers are bridge-builders to a prosperous Nepal

[This is a career advice to young engineers and those studying Engineering in Nepal]

As an Engineer you have one choice now:

“Either make your own dreams come true or you will be hired to make someone else’s dream come true.”

If you chose to make your dreams come true, do continue below:

Engineers have to become Entrepreneurs for Nepal

Why so? Because Entrepreneurs see opportunity in a problem. It could be any type of problem that we see in our everyday lives. Impure food, lack of electricity and petroleum, transportation, healthcare and many others. Problems that we experience, read of and hear in any area could become an entrepreneurial opportunity.

Problems can come in various flavors – the product – too expensive, scarce, difficult to use, slow etc. Nepalese outside urban centers do not have easy access to doctors. In Nepal, we suffer from long hours of power cuts in the winter months. Food is getting very expensive in the cities. We want the world’s best healthcare in Nepal, but may not have access to it, or afford it.

The harder this problem becomes, the better the opportunity for someone who can solve it.  If you are an engineer, know how to create a device that can generate wind power then, you can manufacture and sell that for cheap, this is a great opportunity here. Not many people can create this device, and once you are in customers’ homes, you can continue providing superior service and build a great business.

The larger the problem, the bigger the opportunity. A problem may only be for one person, or for many. If it is for one person, it – a one-time service and not a business opportunity. But if many people have the same problem, then it is a big entrepreneurial opportunity. For example, we all want to live in a well made house. However, we have serious building quality problems in earthquake prone Kathmandu now. This is a great business with a huge market as everyone can benefit from your excellent standards. If you can solve Kathmandu’s haphazard construction industry, with your business, you could be a billionaire. Plus, you would give service to millions and be thanked for the service you give.

Let us take examples of some famous entrepreneurs who were engineers, who have looked at a problem as an opportunity, built great businesses and changed the world and our lives.

In the 1970s , people did not have computers in their homes like we do today. You had to go to a large mainframe computer center and make a request to  have your work be done. There may have been one or a few large mainframes in our region and your task may have taken a long time. Businesses such as cheap international calling, which depend on fast and  cheap computers, were not around. It was hard and very expensive to make an international call. If your family member went overseas, you may have only spoken once every few months. Today, we are in a connected society in which we use Cisco, Intel, Google, Apple, Skype, Facebook and other technologies to stay connected in real-time.

In Nepal, look at how Bijay Rajbhandari and fellow engineers have transformed CE constructions into a quality brand known for its quality and timely delivery of its projects or how Rudra Pandey developed IT healthcare software company, D2Hawkeye and sold it for millions of dollars to Verisk in USA.

So I hope that you engineers start seeing an opportunity in the problems that we see everyday in our lives and start solving it (instead of waiting for Pashupatinath to come and fix it for us).

Entrepreneurial Engineers have to become bridge-builders of Nepal

Did you know, Nepali engineers were actively involved in building the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world in Dubai? Did you know that Nepali engineers are developing the next generational (rumor has it that they are air-conditioned) World cup stadiums in Qatar for 2022. I know many bright Nepalese working in Apple and Google. Yet, Nepal these days regularly begs for money to renovate its old temples or build bridges/roads/IT infrastructures from foreigners. We have rarely have built any engineering marvels (or any) since Bhimsen Thapa built the Dharahara. Ask yourself why?

This is because  we Nepali have chosen to become individually excellent, but collectively as a nation remained a failure. As an engineer, I urge you rise up to move beyond becoming individually excellent to build an environment for an excellent nation. To build such a nation, we have to rise up and beyond to bring the nation builders together. Will you become this “bridge” between nation builders ?

Certainly I am not talking about a plain bridge (made on roads or rivers). I am talking about a man or a woman who builds and safeguards a bridge (platform/environment) that will connect Nepal of today to the “nation builders” of tomorrow. As a bridge builder your role is simply to consistently and persistently align all the positives in Nepal, in the same direction, so that the negative will become irrelevant.

I believe, ‘bridge builders’ are the real leaders of Nepal. Bridge-builders could be someone just like you, talented men and women who decide to rise up to the challenge of building positive platforms for others to easily build the nation. Bridge-builders forgo their short-term benefits in exchange for a long-term inclusive benefits. Only, if you work towards building positive platforms, other nation builders can come in to build Nepal and protect your future and all our future.

As a young bright Engineer, you have the talent, skills and grit to become our nation’s leaders by becoming that “bridge-builder’ everyone is looking for. In the end, I leave you with this quote,

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” – Henry Thoreau

Ask yourself – Will you start hacking at the roots of evil in Nepal (or stick to hacking at the branches just like the thousands before you) ?

 

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How to succeed at business in Nepal ?

There are many ways to entrepreneurial success. Here is one, if you are a first-time entrepreneur:

  1. Do NOT try to produce a totally new, new thing. The reason is simple. When you produce a totally new, new thing, you need a lot of money to educate the market about what your “new new” thing is. Educating the market is very expensive, both in terms of time and money.
  2. When you try to educate the market about your new, new product, you burn a lot of your precious capital. When you burn your capital (like the dot com companies did in the US in 1999), you may go out of business altogether.
  3. Adding insult to injury, as it often happens in Nepal, you may then have to watch late-comers succeed with the very idea that you came up with because you foolishly spent all your money educating the market about the new, new product for your future competitors to benefit from! [Believe us: nobody gives you a medal for being a “business saheed”!]
  4. Instead of trying to produce a totally new, new thing, look at an established industry where there are existing suppliers, competitors, customers, etc. In other words, as a first-time entrepreneur, choose a known industry.
  5. In that industry, think hard to find a niche (your new thing): see what the customers are looking for but not getting, and see whether you can find a way to meet their (unexpressed) demand. Finding your niche or your twist in a well-known industry lies at the heart of first-time entrepreneurship.
  6. Once you find your niche in a known industry, educating the market will not be that difficult. That’s because people already know your industry, they can generally understand what to expect, etc.
  7. Once you have identified your niche, then, find a way to put “a moat around it”, as Warren Buffet says. A moat refers to a large body of water (preferably with crocodiles) around a castle. A moat makes it difficult for others to attack the castle. If you think of your business as a castle, what should your moats be? Price? Brand? Location? High switching cost? Service?
  8. Do NOT worry about competition. All reasonable people want to copy good ideas. Having competition is good, because it validates you and your idea. If no one wants to copy you, be worried.
  9. Even with a niche and a moat, how do you know what works? You don’t. Therefore, experiment small, fail fast, learn quickly, and change course to continuously scale up.
  10. In the back of your mind, always ask yourself these four questions, and try to have answers:
    1. What compelling reason exists for people to give you money to buy your product or service?
    2. How do you get what you are selling for less than it costs to sell it?
    3. How will strangers find out about the business and decide to become customers?
    4. What insulation (moat) do you have from commoditization (“just like what everyone has”) and price war (coming from competitors)?

This is a guest post by Ashutosh Tiwari (Some of the materials may have been collected from other sources).

 

Things to keep in mind when making sales

Things to keep in mind when making sales

Your success as an entrepreneur depends on your ability to sell. But hardly any business school offers a class on sales. Many organizations offer training programs on sales that are about theories of sales, and not about the practice of sales. Below, we offer some not-really-original but sensibly practical tips on sales.

  1. Never talk cost. Never talk price. Always talk to clients about value. Value to them. Value for them – when they buy and use your products and services.
  2. Explain and re-explain value about how it makes the clients’ life better, or easier or more profitable.
  3. Always quantify what your strengths: 5 years of experience, 5,000 customers served, etc.
  4. Never leave a sales meeting without mutually agreeing what the next action step is.
  5. When making sales, talk more about the clients and their issues, and less about you. Listen, ask questions, understand what on the clients’ mind, and help the clients explain what they are looking for.
  6. When you make cold calls, the point is not to sell – but to have a meeting.
  7. Selling and negotiations are different: First, sell. Then, negotiate discounts, etc.
  8. Sales and marketing are different: Marketing brings/attracts the clients to you; you then make the sale to the clients who have come to you.
  9. Ask your salespeople to deliver to forecast: when they do so, it means they are on top of their work.
  10. Care about your clients. People interact with and buy from those who care. Always help and tell your clients even when there is no direct and immediate benefit to you.

  ———-

This is a guest post by Ashutosh Tiwari (Some of the materials may have been collected from other sources).

 

How to find, build and retain customers?

Followup to the part 1 of the article: How to build a strong team: (by Prasanna Dhungel and Ujwal Thapa)

Part 2: How to find, build and retain customers?

Lets say you have built a strong team, the next logical question is how to find or build customers?
First list out your potential customers . Look from all angles.

 Lets take an example of an online travel booking provider for local motels in the trekking routes of Nepal.

Your potential customers could be:

Customer 1: Local Hotel / Motel owners: (whose place you book)

Customer 2: Guides / Porters (affiliates who guide customers to you)

Customer 3: Travel Agencies (Affiliate and customer both)

Customer 4: Trekkers/ Travelers (direct customer)

Customer 5: Banks ? financial transaction carrying institutions ? (a good ally to process online transaction and serve as a trusted ally to convince your local motel owners)

Now how do you build customers ?

Here are some challenges to answer that question:

Who do you target first ?

The hotel owner because if they don’t use our service, we cannot book the place.  Then maybe trekkers. Travel agencies could use your service while being a competitor by driving hard bargains or figure out their own systems of booking (through mobiles)

Know who influences your customer?

politics/ society/ guides/porters/ online reviewers/ past experiences

How do you build trust among the community ?

word of mouth, a guarantee for travelers, a safety net for hotel owners that money will be duly and surely transferred, safety, security and positive fear that if they don’t use your service they will lose money, status etc.

What kind of product to build?

Smooth Booking to your hotel from online Travel Booking Software,

secure and safe, and with a guarantee.

How do you get feedback and what to do with it ?  

Get feedbacks from each motel in time. Feedbacks can be social media/ online/email too. How you use this to build a better product is the pivotal question. Your customers love you for a product that gets them what they want. And your product improves as you know inside out what your customers want. It is also your responsibility to predict intuitively what your customers would love.

How do you turn each of your customer into a revenue generating mechanism?

How to use your satisfied customers as affiliates, providing respect, thanks, and deals to them to use the service again is extremely important. Repeat customers are best customers.

What value added service can you add to your core -booking system to help your customers?

Maybe turn from booking to even other transactions (buying local goods etc) somehow. A some form of emergency services option also built in ? say if client needs that service and s/he doesn’t have enough cash, s/he can use our service as a guarantee ?

Remember travelers don’t always carry enough money on treks or run out of it.

How to retain customers ?

By doing the things mentioned above consistently.

Do read part 1 of the article: How to build a strong team:

The government has no business doing ‘business’ in Nepal. (Nepal Telecom fiasco)

The government has no business doing ‘business’ in Nepal.

I am seriously thinking of switching from ‪Nepal‬‪ ‎Telecom‬ to an alternate. In the past 10 years, they have continuously let me down, despite my emotional attachment to Nepali owned company. Here are 3 reasons for this:

  1. Quality = Pathetic (my calls get cut, diverted, engaged randomly)
  2. Customer service = Unfriendly and unaccountable (to the point of sheer rudeness)
  3. Price = Not cheap any more (considering the amount of cut calls or low quality talks i have to put up with)

[One small context:  I cycled all the way from Kathmandu to Lumbini to highlight Lumbini and cycling and tourism in one of the hottest days of the year and I was using the internet to highlight our campaign. While Nepal Telecom’s competitor NCell had internet coverage in most of the stops we were at, Nepal Telecom had zero connectivity (even though it showed 3G connection as on ). How sad is it when you consistently over-promise and under-deliver?

A photographer friend had to send photos to various media using NCell in bhairahawa. This is embarrassing for a pioneer like Nepal Telecom to slowly go in the direction of Nepal’s other defunct government institutions (hint: Nepal airlines, Nepal Bank Limited, Nepal electricity corporation etc ).

So how do we turn around Nepal Telecom while bringing continuing innovation in the telecommunications industry in Nepal ?

  1. Sell government’s share of Nepal telecom to a Nepali private sector led consortium. Accountability to private shareholders will improve it.
  2. Consolidate all politically affiliated unions into one ‘welfare body’ that has management, employees, alumni and other stakeholders in one body. unions accountable to political parties have no place inside a business.
  3. Build “Customers as gods” policy and make sure  ‘Under-promise, Over-deliver’ remains the mantra of the institution!
  4. Use as Nepal Telecom’s mantra for service delivery.
  5. Implement ‘Hire and Fire’ and ‘no work, no pay’ policy. Nepal Telecom employees should not feel they are unaccountable government employees.

To improve Nepal Telecom we have also got to revamp the Telecom sector. This is a government’s primary role: to “check and balance”. Here are few of my ideas for the government to restructure the Telecom sector. :

  1. Empower the oversight body, Nepal telecommunication authority NTA with an independent board of managers (No political appointees) to make sure all telecommunication providers maintain quality, affordability and service.
  2. Penalize telecom providers for each cut calls and build an automatic refund system for each cut calls.
  3. Let customers track each mobile call records and internet usage records from their devices.
  4. Force telecommunication providers to share their infrastructure with other service providers for a valid fee. This ensures further competition and superior quality of service that comes with a competing market
  5. Fine any providers heavy if they resort to deceptive advertising practices. (Example: sometimes Ncell comes up with hard to understand schemes)
  6. Have a monthly ranking of all providers published in national media based on 3 criteria: Quality, Price & Customer service. Tie extra rewards for boards and management based on this index.
  7. Publicly acknowledge (and reward) best performing telecom engineers, customer service representatives and managers monthly.
  8. Direct telecom providers to collaborate with the banking sector to build secure platform and infrastructure for mobile banking.
  9. Limit Telecom providers to offer data and voice services. Have them open another company to offer other services so that there is no monopoly or unfair advantage over start-up companies.
  10. Ensure internet enabled education in the national policy and have government help bear expenses for this thus helping telecom companies have incentive to build costly next generational infrastructure in remote areas of Nepal.

I repeat, the government has no business doing business in Nepal. Either Nepal Telecom improves from today, or it goes down the drain like its other ‘government owned’ siblings !