This third panel discussion of CEO Unplugged 2019 organized by Glocal Pvt. Ltd. was Practice of Skill Based Education. The panelist exchanged views on how Nepalese education lacks with the practical curriculum and drew attention over the need of soft skills in youth to be employable in the market.
CEO Unplugged 2019 is a yearly forum organized by Glocal Pvt. Ltd. comprising series of panel discussion to establish a forum to discuss about contemporary business challenges, opportunities and futuristic view with a sight of experiential learning to the new comers in the business and students with an objective “Today Meets Tomorrow“.
The third panel discussion comprised of panelist; Saurabh Jyoti, the Director of Jyoti Group; Ms. Diptee Acharya, the Director of Sanskriti International School; Samir Thapa, CEO of Silver Mountain and moderator; Udgam Khadka, Education Designer at King’s College..
Udgam Khadka interrogated these specialists about what skills do students require in this 21st century to make themselves sellable in the market today. He also asked them the possible roles and responsibilities of concerned stakeholders in developing an advanced and industry-centric curriculum for the students.
Diptee Acharya, the Director of Sanskriti International School
First of all, we need to understand what is education. Education is like a ship that takes you to the port. You want a beautiful life, a successful life. Where we go wrong is we are forgetting the fact that this is 21st century. We are not taking people out to work in the factory. We need to know what is education and most of the people think that if you aspire a good academic background, it takes you to a successful life.
It’s more about critical thinking, communication, empathy, how to cope with stress, emotions, interpersonal skills. These are the soft skills that we are looking at. And that’s what WHO talks about, every child needs these skills to succeed in life. You can talk about critical thinking, you can talk about creativity, You can talk about decision making, problem solving. So schools now, providing these skills, are you able to go and provide these skills to your students so that they can go and make themselves available in the market? So I think we should focus on those skills.
Nepal is in an entire need of skilled based education in Nepal. What happens is the desire is low but the demand is high. So the learners, parents , society, they need to think that am I only ready for the world because of my academic caliber? Or is it the soft skills that will take me to forward? So until and unless there is a small change in the mindset of the people, this is not going to change.
Of course, the government holds a big role here because they are the policy makers. If we see the statistic of how many people leave the country, we see that they are the lower start of people with less academics. So what we feel is if we have the higher degree, we are much more higher in the society. But we don’t think that skills is more important. Whenever we are making curriculum, in my schools also, we have to think in different manner. Before, we use to think what kind of activities should we do so that our students can learn fractions. But now what we have to think is that is fraction really needed to develop resilience and perseverance in my students? Now we need more deep thinkers. We need thinkers who can think what kind of jobs is needed in the market tomorrow.
One thing that I want to add here is as Saurav said, we are in a digital era right now. Thing are changing so fast that you will be surprised in next 5-10 years, AI is going to take over. Are you prepared for that and are you prepared for it? When we think about the AI Robots, oh they are going to come and they are going to rule over but that is not the case. What’s going to happen is we are going in hand in hand. So, we need to understand how we are going to have interpersonal skills with the Robots with the AI.
The lady in black asked about Rukum and we are really worried because its just 0.2 percent in Nepal who are studying in private school, not even 2%. So can you imagine? 99.8% of people are lacking in the skill. They all have mobiles in their hands and the person is not educated, we can see the technologies are taking such lead. So it is going to take even more than we mark. Are we prepared for that? And now government really has to focus on changing the curriculum and what our parents needs to understand that we are not supposed to go behind our marks. If I ask my parents,” Will you let your child become a teacher?” “No!” ” Are you going to let your child become a carpenter?” “ No!” You really need to change that mindset. Until and unless we don’t change our mindset from all of us, then change is not going to come. There is a big question mark there.
Saurabh Jyoti, Director of Jyoti Group
The first thing that struck me was the statistics of literacy rate. The data shows the literacy rate of Nepal around 65%. Is that good? Bad? I think it’s terrible. That data is absolutely correct but that data is absolutely wrong when it comes to industrial perspective because if you have the literacy rate of 65%, the employability rate will be less than 80 percent.when it comes to them securing the jobs based on their academic qualification. So 68% fine! But what does it translate when they into the job market and they want to get the job? The MBA graduates can get a job of 200 $ instead of 6-700$ because the skills set don’t match. So you need to look employability relatively to the data. So what happens when I interview someone, I never look at their academic qualification. I look how is the personality of the person. What are the soft skills he possesses? Those are more important.
And secondly, over 70-60% people I employ, I need to retrain them to integrate them in a specific job and responsibility that he has t look after. Be it the factory manager or whether it is in a top managerial position. So the time I need to reorient, retrain these people, is loss of productivity. And I am sure, this is the similar case with every big companies. So much time is wasted which is considered to be one of the most important resources. By losing that time, we are losing the productivity. So that is something that is extremely worrying for me. What I feel is that there is a serious mismatch. Its like I am riding a motorbike, my glove’s size is medium and I am getting XXL size.
Therefore, this need to be matched, whether with Education Ministry, PABSON so that we can directly employ the 68% people as the facts say. We have been talking with KU, KUSOM that there need to be a regular interaction academic institutions and the employers as sectors wise so that what skills are required for the students who graduate from them. At some level, on the individual basis, some companies are working with various institutions like KUSOM, ACE but that’s just a few. We need to do this on a national level. Not just at the private sector but at the government level because 90% of the students study in government schools and colleges. So at mass level, government level, there must be the coordination between employers and educational institution so that the rate of employability of the graduates is much more higher.
Just pick an example, ah let’s say one of the motorcycle company, they prepare a hashtag with certain technology. That technology is invented in the market for quite few times. It is the modern changes here and there if somebody gets skilled on that particular part and he can continue his career for certain time. Let’s say, 10 years of time, 12 years of time then the new technologies come and the entire changes of technologies comes, he get chance to adopt into that because if you are skilled for one level, you have always opportunity to next level. So, now technologies are based on foundation right. There is no like rocket science technologies happen in our daily life. So the risk after I see is less than what do you expect.
Samir Thapa, CEO of Silver Mountain
First of all we need to understand that there are two types of education in the country. One that starts with class 1 to the university level that’s more of academic. Than we have the vocational education that offers by the CTVT. If you see the number of schools, CTVT has large number of schools. But what we have seen is that there is a huge gap. The gap is, we all are in the race to promote and sell our degrees. Either in the better ways, or in the bad ways. We have to forget this race and come to the point that what our industries needed. The biggest challenge, the biggest gap, what we have seen is that our curriculum is not industry driven. This is the biggest challenge. All the academicians make very good curriculums, add fancy values, they always think that this curriculum is sellable and will be recognized in all over the world. We have to stop this race and should understand what the industry requires. Our academicians, curriculum developers, from all the big universities of Nepal and individual colleges like us, we have to focus on developing industry driven education.
In last 15 years, providing this vocational educations , what we have realized is that we started getting the people, we started awarding the people with different education level, but the biggest challenge what we have faced is that why our graduates are not getting jobs. This is the common scenario here. We have lots of people like you who has got the bachelor’s and master’s degree. But when they go to the industries, why you are not accepted. The reason is you are not skilled. We don’t have lack of degrees over here, MBA degree or bachelor’s degree doesn’t teach you how to handle a telephone. Only the skills training does that. This is the biggest gap what we have seen. We had a long discussions with all stakeholders of Nepal and abroad. What they need is that they need someone who can just jump on their chair, understand the overall intentions, get the orientations, adapt the situation and run the responsibility. How to perform the job is more important to the employer than to know what degree you have.
I want to ask the students over here, what will you do to your degree after 5 years? After graduation, you keep it on the wall and after 5 years, you forgot, After some point of time, you will throw that piece of paper in the cupboard or places like that. What actually is recognized is the skills that you have. We have to think in a different way. No parents want their children to be carpenter and has a certificate of 6 months. As a carpenter also, he wants to see his children with the degree of bachelors. That’s the mindset that we have got. It has to be changed in a policy. Like in foreign countries, there are vocational degrees like there is academic degrees here. Once the person reach the certain level of the vocational training there is the outlet for him that he can jump for the academic program and get awarded with the degree. But this is not happening in Nepal. But lately, Government of Nepal has come up with an entity named NVQS Nepal Vocational Qualifications Standard. I hope this policy will be passed by Nepal government as soon as possible , so that the people who has got the skills to go in the vocational training, can get their bachelors degree, they don’t have to drop their skills.
There are places like Rukum where students are still struggling for basic education due to lack of schools and teachers. So, how can we ensure overall educational development of these people?
On the other hand , is education and skill gone really expensive? I mean the monthly fees of the education institution is really high and it is like rising day by day. But the economy of the parents has not raised. The next question is, there are so much institutes that have been giving skills and again they are so expensive. For example, I was looking for a camp for my litter sister who is in class nine and for 3 days, it costs around 7-8 thousand rupees. So, does that also impact on not having skills?
Likewise, in our country, there are lots of children who do not pursue higher education because their parents cannot afford. So, do you think there should be a mechanism of providing equal amount of quality in all these institutes despite of the money these parents can afford?
Saurabh Jyoti: Thank you for the question. Technologies has made the process of education much more easier. If you see, most of the people have smartphones in their hand. So, now the geography doesn’t matters if you use these technologies to access education. You can learn anywhere, anytime with best teachers all around the world.
The cost of education depends on intellectual education and practical education. Intellectual education always cost high. The reason is it is always based on research. Either the research happens for the 1 class kids or the research is happening for the master level students. Because the intellectual work is going on there. The practical work which is base for the skill that last for long time. The changes for the practical remains for some time. We have to understand one thing. As a educator, as a researcher or as academician you know we need industry we need terms of business. We need the well practice to any kind of business. So, that these people need us so education must follow the industry and service so the education and the services. Once the process is into the system that we follow them then we segregate the intellectual education and practical educations. So you cannot stop the cost of intellectual educations because its individuals efforts and individual research to get the outcome of that particular educations.
The final panel discussion emphasized on the need of practical educations and skills to make students employable in the market. It also highlighted the need of upgraded curriculum to ensure quality education in Nepal.
This second panel discussion of CEO Unplugged 2019 organized by Glocal Pvt. Ltd. was Business Coalition for SDGs.
There is a huge role of private sector in making the SDGs happen but so far, this has not been spelled out and it is important that we place a high priority in involving businesses in development efforts. This panel discussion make the audience understand that the private sector is as an engine of growth which indeed is an intent that the private sector can contribute to the SDGs.
CEO Unplugged 2019 is a yearly forum organized by Glocal Pvt. Ltd. comprising series of panel discussion to establish a forum to discuss about contemporary business challenges, opportunities and futuristic view with a sight of experiential learning to the new comers in the business and students with an objective “Today Meets Tomorrow“.
The second panel discussion comprised of panelist; Ambuj Singh, the Country Manager of Coca-Cola Nepal; Anukool Bhatnagar, the CEO and MD. of Nepal SBI Bank; Renaud Meyer, Country Director of UNDP; Sudhakar Jayaram, CEO at Nepal Mediciti Hospital and moderator; Asish Thakur, ED. of Glocal Pvt. Ltd.
Asish Thakur started the discussion by raising a question on how SDGs can influence and can be influenced by businesses. The panel covered the discussion on the following SGD goals: Health and Wellbeing (Goal 3), Clean water and Sanitation (Goal 6), Affordable and Clean energy (Goal 7), Decent work and Common Growth (Goal 8), Sustainable cities and Communities (Goal 11), Responsible Consumption and Production (Goal 12), Life on land (Goal 15) and Partnerships for goals (Goal 17). The discussion also included the expectation of UN agencies or creator of SDGs from the businesses for getting the goals accomplished by 2030.
Renaud Meyer, Country Director of UNDP
Thank you Ashish. Even though it is a tough question to start with. Thank You for giving me a chance to talk and interact about businesses with young people. I will start with a simple statement. The SDGs won’t be achieved without the business sectors. That’s very clear as we compare MDGs and SDGs, MDGs; 8 goals created during 2000-2015 that were all social oriented issues. It was education, health, gender equality. But all these topic had been left out on the more challenging issues like good governance, climate change, corruption, and problems like who’s responsible for pollution, human rights. They were problematic issues. All these topics were left out on purpose so that we can reach a consensus among the country, so we could still work on the common agendas.
SDGs are the more ambitious agendas, also we are a business people today so, they are costly agendas. Lots of research have been done to study the price tag of achieving the goals. What is less discussed is the things that has already been done. I am not going to challenge the introduction heard from the colleagues of facts cause I don’t like to challenge even though I do. Two things, first I don’t like when I see UN SDGs. It leads to misinterpretations because I get people talking to me about,” Oh, Renaud you and your goals or what are you doing for the goals?” Actually I don’t have to do anything for the goals. I am only going to monitor as a UN person, what countries are doing because their commitment towards the goals is not the UN as an organization but members of the organization who are the member states.
I am not saying the government, I am saying members states. In a country like Nepal, government sign the papers but for whom? Its for the benefit of people and the society. Businesses have the fundamental roles to play in a society. But we always get a question what do you expect from them. Businesses are already doing enough. Who creates jobs for the society? It’s not the government and I am sure if we add your employees, your employees and your employees, we already have a large size of people who everyday go under goal no 8 ‘decent employment’. On decent employment, you pay decent wages which allows them to send their kids to school, allow good education and good health. If all of you respect your role in a society then you are already contributing to the rule of SDGs. For example, if you are a child, you go to school, achieve good grades and go to the next level. Then you are already following the strategies of SDGs. If you are a CEO at a hospital, then you provide a treatment with an affordable prices. Then you are contributing to the SDGs. By providing access to finances, you are contributing to SDGs. But that’s not enough. What you already do is not enough. It won’t be possible to make it through 2030. My message is that you have already contribute, so don’t be shy and engage. Second message is that Businesses as usual is not going to make it all it’s you who needs to pump it up and do more.
You see why I enjoy coming to the residence because 3 years before you would not hear this kind of discourse. And it’s a really credit to the business community to have adopted the SDGS as a reference for their work and they do it for basically two reasons. And they just said it in different word but I am going to say it more specifically. They do it because it is their interest. This my job to convince them that I am not doing for their pity ,or feeling sorry for the people in mountains. I am telling them SDGs is a business opportunity for you. I don’t know how long it takes to go on bus to Jhapa. Who enjoys that? Everyone wants to fly. It will increases the level of income. You have a business that is domestic airlines. They are doing it because if there community and their clients are well enough and educated with minimum income, they will not thrive because they have lesson. You cannot ask as good as you are if you don’t have a ladder to hold on or it will be difficult to borrow from a bank.
So you need something to start with and same thing imagine you need to put all the kids to the schools that is one of the targets of SDGs. Goal number 4. Well you need to have discourse. You need to have buildings, buildings need to have tiles on roof and water connected. All these represents to the person who produces windows markets. Achieving the SDGs alone is the business. And the killing point if you don’t achieve the SDGs, you are done. This is a very serious issue, the sustainability of our ecosystem is in threat. That’s why I am saying business, as usual is not the way to go. And we have to understand that every respectively. How many health care system you put out there? How cortical they are? If it is another earthquake and it is not resilient a flood out there in terai, which is coming as in its just the date we don’t know. Again all this for nothing. As we really have to see it as a package not 17, 1+1+1 but 17 yet to address all at once. Because they are all connected and they are not an option.
Ambuj Singh, the Country Manager of Coca-Cola Nepal
Thank all of you for having me here. As talking on the behalf of Business sector, we see different phases in the industry. For a long period of time, we have been engaged in some or the other activities either (CSR, charity, other various form of nickname).
Few years back, cutting a check, funding something or there were programs, but as we go along as the consumer go. These activities have become as active parts of business strategies itself. CSR is not a separate program or SDGs is not a program or project that we would want to do but SDGs integrate into the over all business sector or business operation because there needs to be someone responsible, accountable, some goals in mind ultimately that two reasons why we need to do. And I will come to the huge reason later. I think the businesses should have sustainable goals.
Anukool Bhatnagar, the CEO and MD. of Nepal SBI Bank
Good afternoon, I see lots of young faces which is really encouraging. Think yes, we need to go further and do a business strategies with these 17 SDGs goals. We have lots of strategies but I have never seen one in this form. This is a ultimate goal and yes, we are here to do something as a non profit shareholder but as a social work we are providing services to the public by putting the SDGs goals in mind. We should provide services to the large group. We implement the best of people, best of money and the best of development. It has to be Zero tolerance. To become a successful and responsible business holder one should cooperate with the social responsibilities. More the society loves us, more the business increases. If you believe in something do it, do it yourself. We do advertisement and all and in a month I save about 1-2 crore. The thing is, are we investing those money for the benefit of people who benefited us?
Sudhakar Jayaram, CEO at Nepal Mediciti Hospital
When I first saw these SDGs, I was like what’s wrong with these guys. First there were 8 MDGs and now there are 17 SDGs and then there 18 goals and now there are 100s. I can’t even remember 10 of them forget about following them. These 17 SDGs were challenges. Then I started to look at them more carefully. I must admit these SDGs fits into us and the reason it fits in us is that before 8 MDGs were all about cutting a check but In a country like Nepal we don’t need charity what we need is capacity. When we think about all these things it is always about somebody is going to give us a hand up. What these SDGs brings is collaboration, exchange of ideas, cooperation and interdependent. Especially hospitals. For example if you just look at SDG number 3 which is kind of hospital thing. I just want to talk about 2-4 things. And reminds me of something specific. No.1 if you look at the under 5 mortality rate, it is accordingly shocking. We lose 40% of children in rural areas if Nepal. More number of child face their death at the age of 5. the problem i see in Nepal especially rural Nepal is like 15 years behind then modern Nepal. 65% of Nepali people don’t have access to health care in 30 minutes and 90% 0f people have access mobile phone.
So, what we started to do was a we started building this apps, where mothers can actually monitor the minds of their child where they can know the circumference of their heads when they grow. So this is a specific way which we think we can do in a practical way. That actually help a mother in Lukla, Kailali, Dhang or Jhapa or parts of Nepal because they have access to a cell phone they are access to technology and not to health care. What I have seen in this country since I arrived is if everyone has a health problem first flight to India, a little bit more money to Thailand a little bit more money to Singapore. And there tends to be three reason in Nepal why they take the first flight out are: Number one, there are lots of doctor here who actually makes more money making a commission sending the patient out rather than practicing medicine. Number 2 reason, morbidity and mortality statistics. In our ICUs is the picture it’s 40-60%. So you won’t be scared to go to ICU in this country because you don’t have early morning science and you don’t have systems that make it safe. And finally people don’t trust diagnostics. Although it is part of SDGs because it talks about early morning sciences and mitigating risks. We are putting together programs now. Abdhullah is right, Airlines are the safest. We are the most unsafe people. You come to a hospital I guarantee you it’s the most unsafe place.
If you look at the morbidity and mortality rate, then going to a hospital is like bungee jumping. If you look at the morbidity and mortality statistics and people who did bungee jumping then we beat bungee jumping. We want to learn how we can reduce this problem. Because a pilot dies with the passenger but doctors they make money even if the patients dies in front of them.so, how do we make the doctor accountable? But the problem is I have the investors, promoters but they don’t give a damn about SDGs. They want to see the % of money the get from IRR. This planet earth needs to be left for our children. The problem is there are stakeholders planet earth, share holders, investors that it truly needs to cooperate government indicators. It needs guts to say because CSR are like HR person who does a part time job. Maybe in some large company they are like a scientists. But being a healthcare I can say SDGs fit so beautifully, nutrition, water….When organization creates a partnership everything is transparent. It makes people work together.
Audience: What is the plan for plastic free coca cola? (By Dibya Jyoti Pokhrel)
What do you do with medical waste?
Ambuj Singh- This is our global commitment. There is something we call a world without waste. By 2030 a coca cola company is globally generating less waste. Coming back to Nepal specifically what we are doing and what we will do. It was long time ago in 2040, there was a NGO called Himalayan Climate Region, they started a campaign in plastic bag. That was partnerships between HCI, Gokukarna and DIG. That is the journey, that is the commitment. We haven’t reach there yet. I am glad that you asked this question. They have even band the plastic bags. We also have plan bottle, which is not practiced in Nepal yet.it is a bottle that is like 40% of the bottle are created by biodegradable product. I am sure innovation, reusability and public knowledge is going to insure our goal of being 100% natural. I can’t stay here and win a argument with you which I might. We are working with solutions. As you will be able to see the plastics becoming lighter due to some technologies. Or re use or move to the different platform
Firstly don’t create waste, right. One thing that we started to do is we just implemented AMR. We will go paperless. Maybe in next two three months. We will put a tax for Japanese partner so we will stop getting films so people will just have to download a link. So we will make difficult and expensive to create a waste. We are also working in a plan of making a light weight software which can be used from all around the world, so that this can be done from anywhere which is really expensive an all. Some policy changing needs to be happen in this country, some of this are very cheap as they are not meeting the concern. But there are some programs which aware people.
Audience: How do we get out of negativism?
Renaud Meyer- Just want to throw it back. It’s all up to you. I have been there throwing question back. It’s easy. Don’t take it personally. There is a goal SDG 12 which is one of my favorite. It talks about sustainable production. Which is worth those gentlemen are giving example of. But it also continues and says responsible consumption and that’s where you guys fit in. When you say don’t waste you mean it. We all have are responsible for it. And it’s very easy to say it’s the responsibility of a Coca-Cola not to make plastic waste, it’s the responsibility of Turkish Airlines not to pollute, but how do they make a business if they don’t fly a plane. I mean we cannot do cycling and think that by cycling we can take off. We all have in our daily habits the responsibility as a consumer to really think through. I have learned for example, how to rescue straws from restaurant and cafe. When I go to saleways I say I don’t need your plastic bags, I wish they make me pay for them. So, I think we should all share a common responsibility and also not always waiting for something to happen medical way as UNDP. We are getting into very often I ask the director of health, they say they are waiting for the ministry to take over. Why are you waiting? If you are waiting for the ministry then wait forever. I think there need to be the force to make the strong policy but not having the policy is not an excuse to not do nothing. We have to really conscious as a individual that we are consumers.
What does these companies think that should be done in partnership. How can we create that partnership among us so that can be achieved very easily.
The panel discussion ended with the conclusion that it’s not that the private firm need to be concerned about SGGs just for the sake of their CSR, in fact they should be accountable because without SDGs, the corporate worlds seem inward-looking.
Do not add SDGs to your work, make your work support SDGs
This first panel discussion of CEO Unplugged 2019 organized by Glocal Pvt. Ltd. was Future of SMEs of Nepal. Addressing the challenges faced by Nepalese SMEs, the panel’s main objective was to discuss how today’s young entrepreneurs can uplift the scale of SMEs and contribute in the economic progress of the country.
CEO Unplugged 2019 is a yearly forum organized by Glocal Pvt. Ltd. comprising series of panel discussion to establish a forum to discuss about contemporary business challenges, opportunities and futuristic view with a sight of experiential learning to the new comers in the business and students with an objective “Today Meets Tomorrow”.
The first panel discussion comprised of panelist; Sunita Nhemaphuki, the Co-Founder of R&D Innovative Solutions; Sixit Bhatta, the CEO of Tootle; Sushma Sharma, the First Vice-President of NWC SME and moderator; Rohit Tiwari, CEO at Foodmario.
Rohit Tiwari asked these specialists about their insight of challenges for SMEs like in the field of agriculture, technology, finance and how far has Nepal been able to cope up with them during the course of time. He warmed up the discussion by adding various queries regarding the decreasing rate of country’s independency over foreign productions; correlation between HR and technological advancements and depth information on financial policies for new entrepreneurs entering the market.
Sunita Nhemaphuki, the Co-Founder of R&D Innovative Solutions
Sometimes, data is right. But do we have to believe in it or not? How data is produced is the main thing. Yes, data is showing that we are relying for ‘Sun Dekhi Noon Samma’ from other countries. But why? This is the main thing I want to ask. Because we are not organized. There is a huge gap between production and consumption pattern. See, you are in the food business. What kind of product are people demanding and what are we producing? We are producing traditional products like rice, maize and so on. But people are demanding popcorn. They are demanding pizza. Now the food habits have changed. And what product we produced are not getting the market. Because we are not able to make beautiful plate with that resources. Who can make a demanding recipe from Kodo?
On the other hand, when we talk about agriculture industry as a raw materials, it’s all about the quantity. It’s so easy to get corn from Argentina than to collect from our farmers because of our geography, transportation system and many things. So, because of easiness, the data is decreasing but if we change and see the entrepreneur-journey on this, it won’t take even one year to rise as every three months, we get returns from agriculture sector. You don’t have to wait every three years, four years like of other businesses. Sometimes in some products, you can get results in every one months. If we want to change our economy, the first thing we have to do is throw a seed. After 15 days, we will get the plant.
Likewise, let’s talk about apples. Guys, if you really demand for nepali products, then after two years, you will get nepali apples all over the country. After two years, you will get kiwi from Nepal itself. Now, what we produce is the small kiwi which we don’t like and import big ones from Netherland. So, some of our small SMEs entrepreneurs have started making those big kiwis. It’s a time to think next way. Lets not only talk about Horticulture. If we see the pig rearing, pork is the best consuming products all around the world. If we try and give small attention to this field, then we can export the pork. Another problem is the have private properties. I am from a Newari family, so whenever there are two sons, they divide their land. So the cultivable land is too small. Use of technology is necessary to improve level of production for this problem.
It’s been ten years that I am working in the agriculture sector and I believe that young entrepreneurs should focus on how they can provide market to the producers. Do you believe or not, SMEs provide 96 percent of job opportunities in Nepal. I did my degree from Bangladesh and when I was a student, people there asked me “How is it possible to be self employed by every people in Nepal? There is lots of money movement going on.” So we have to think about this issue for scaling up, then only we can stop importing many things. But if we start to work only in production, then it will be a big disaster in agriculture. See, when we see the students doing MBA discussing about what to do in agriculture, most of them think about growing plants like tomatoes. If we don’t change this kind of schooling where agriculture is linked with only production, then we will fail. Agriculture also need marketing, management and designing.
Another problem is that there is no contract farming law in Nepal. There is no strong and specific labour law or investment law in this sector. Similarly, whenever the farmers apply for the loan, they are asked for the stock and balance sheet. But for a farmer, there is no stock because they have to do the rapid sales after the production. When we pitch for the foreign or national investment, they think that agriculture is like the another industry. Set the factory and start the production. This is not true. We have to deal with various natural factors too. Agriculture is a investment consuming sector. If I ask how many of you know the agriculture, most of you will raise your hand. But, If I ask how many of you know the banking, only few of you will raise your hand. The investor should also consider agriculture to be a profitable product, a secured margin product. I request the investors to invest in big volumes and for the long terms. For last three years, there was a policy for 5% subsidy in agriculture products. So, there is more opportunities in this sectors. I want to request people like Sixit Ji and others, that this sector requires more techno entrepreneurs and commercial approach. We need management students. We need financial analysis on this.
Sixit Bhatta, the CEO of Tootle
SMEs were the concept of 70s and 80s. Let’s keep the records straight. I think we don’t have the problem with technology, but the problem with the mindset. We have the scared mindset. Therefore, I still like to challenge the topic SMEs here. Why because, traditionally, Nepal is a country where we never like to scale up. That’s why we have SMEs. You talk about tourism potentiality for last so many years since I was born, and we never scaled it up. What is the fundamental difference between Thailand and Nepal? We have more things to offer. Why is scale there and why don’t we have here? We have heard so many potentiality. Who said we have the potentiality of 83000 MW and I don’t know whether it’s true or not. But we have claimed that we have tremendous potentiality in our hydropower and have failed to scale it up. If we look at the airport, we have the same airport 30 years back with just slight increase in infrastructures. So, there is a difference between a SME which is more like a startup. You know, you are satisfied with small things like I start a hotel in Pokhara and become a SME. But the challenge here is that we have been fascinated by a dream of having a start up and not scaling that up. So we don’t have a mind set up to scale. What we can do with technology is that we can scale things. What we can do with technology in agriculture? We can scale agriculture. What we can do with technology in tourism? We can scale tourism. What we can do with technology in mobility? We can scale mobility. So it’s not about how we challenge with the technology or not.
We can build the technology because it’s the means to the end. It’s not the end itself. But what it does allow is that, it scales the things up. We all have been fascinated with this dream of making a burger. If I were to ask, and this is the narrative that I have build, how many of you can make the better burger than the McDonald’s, then I am sure that many of you can actually make burger better than McDonald’s. But making a burger better than McDonald’s and creating a McDonald’s itself is entirely two different things. And let us keep these records straight, it’s not about making one or two burgers, it’s about creating the scale. This is what I envisions for Nepal and we have so much potentiality that an scale up the things.
This uncart report for entrepreneurship and livelihood came around couple of months ago. If you look at the report, you have some interesting facts. 70% employment that is generated in the least development countries, in Nepal being one of them, is through entrepreneurship. That number decreases to 50% for the developing economies. And it’s only 14% for the developed economies. Now what does it mean? It means, we tend to confuse livelihood with entrepreneurship. So if there is a Chiyapasale who is selling Chiya, he is doing his livelihood. If there is a Chiyapasale who is opening 100 of Chiya stores, than that’s entrepreneurship which means that this number has to come down. Now why that happens? Unfortunately, we are again so fantasized and romanticized with this concept of entrepreneurship that if you are a chef in a restaurant, in a couple of years, you feel that you can open a restaurant. If you are an engineer working for a technological company, you think that I will have my own start up because I can make things better than you do. But trust me, knowing to make a burger is entirely different from running a restaurant. We need to make sure that we need to consolidate things. If there is a start up happening, agriculture happening, we need to scale thing up. Therefore I pledge, we should scale up companies. The American economy is run by Google, Amazon and Tesla. Why? Don’t you think, there would be hundreds, even thousands of employees in Tesla who could have their own startups? So our livelihood and entrepreneurship, are two different things. And that scale can also happen in agriculture. Like how?
Last couple of months, I was in Cenego, speaking in an event like this organized by UNCDF. In my panel, there was this person from JB finance, China. And there were some very interesting things coming up for agriculture. You know, the use of technology in agriculture in China has been amazing. So what they have done and what they could still do here is like AI is going to be big. So they have these cameras in bigger yields. Now unfortunately, what happens with the big farm is that there is lots of bullies happening here and there. If there is a big pig, it would eat lots of the food and rest of the pigs will not have anything to eat and will not be able to grow. So what they have done is that they have placed the cameras. And you would be surprised to know that pigs, like humans, have different faces. We won’t be able to recognize it but the AI will. What they will do is with the facial recognition algorithm, they will know which pig has eaten how much and with some kinds of robotics, they will control the pigs. Now this reduces the costs and increases the productivity. And I think in this point of time, if you see entrepreneurs and technology, technology can become a very important mean to scale up agriculture. And if you were to ask me where I would run a startup next, I would definitely put my bet on agriculture because there is so much to offer in agriculture.
Sushama Sharma, the First Vice-President of NWC SME
As for having a banking experience, I can say something on this. When I was a banker, I always wondered why SMEs, MMEs and Microfinance were charged with higher rate of interest. But now, the time has changed. Before, the government was not strong and currently, NRB has brought some policies that they have to invest in subsidies. Yesterday, I saw some government banks like Nepal Banijya Bank has come up with 3.33% interest loan for women entrepreneurs. So that is a very good initiation. And there is also another private bank coming up with the 7% loan and they are coming up with different policies like loans without collaterals also. They are bringing loans for startups and Mahila Samridhi loans. So maybe all the 27 banks and other financial institutions will come up with NRB policy that they have to invest 20% investment in this SMEs sector.
Today, we can get 3.3% nominal rates. Before there were complications. And what Nepal Women Chamber can do is, we are liaising with some of the banks to bring some kinds of products for women entrepreneurs in different service charges, without collateral and lower interest rates. So, we will give that platforms to our members. As a member of Nepal Women Chamber, we cannot give the loan but we do the liaison work with the banks.
Associating with Sixit Ji and Sunita Ji, we are not able to supply immediately what is demanded. Scale up! This is very important for the Nepal, you know. Recently one thing happened in Nepal Women Chamber too, some foreigners are offering us to send some proposals but we are getting just 12 applications and those SMEs don’t have any websites because of which, it’s difficult for us to introduce them in the global market. First you have to think whether you want to sell your product for NRs. 100 in local market or $100 in international market and scale up accordingly.
Currently, Women Chamber has 100 entrepreneurs and what I have found with the experience of banking is that, there is lots of gap between entrepreneurs and banks. So, we are trying to bridge that gap. For employment generation, all SMEs, MMEs and Microfinance play a vital role. If we see the GDP of the service sector, it is increasing but in other sectors, the GDP is declining. So, we have to be focused and the government should come up with some strategies regarding subsidy as well as technical support.
While scaling up, how SMEs can have a proper management with factors like finance?
Sixit Bhatta: When you start up, you start with the energy of youths. But when you scale up, you need structures. You rightly asked that there is a challenge while moving up from a startup to scale up. Scale up requires more focus, more constitutionalized procedures that can make the organization more resilient because when you scale up, you grow. When you grow, there are so many notes that you hit in terms of regulations, accounting, finance, marketing and things like that. So as the company moves from startup to scale up, it moves from speed boat to big ship. And there is a challenge. When you become a big ship, you become more bureaucratic. Therefore, as a leader, entrepreneur, what you have to do is you need to have a big ship with Gevity. That is a management practice. That requires innovations. That requires structures, how things are done.
There is another challenge in Nepal. Unfortunately, we have lots of influence on startups from development agencies; multilateral and bilateral, because the model of philanthropy and NGOs is almost over for them. Therefore, they want to have their foothold in startup because that’s what trending. That can also lead to a death trap for start ups because like I said, making a burger and creating a Mcdonald’s. Now what these agencies do, is they will let you make a burger and write a report on how burger is made, rather than helping them to scale up the companies. So, we are at a very vulnerable stage about how we should play our cards. Therefore to scale up, creating structures, creating process is important and meantime it’s really important to be focused.
If we could widespread agriculture in terms of organic farming, will it be more challenging or beneficial for the economy?
Sunita Nhemaphuki: There is always a debate on how we should drive our agriculture. Whether to produce organically or IPM. The thing is whether we have the market for that or not. In agriculture, you need to see the marketing in the opposite way what you studied in the university. You need to make first market, tie up with the producers, and go down with production. So market is a must.
The panel discussion vocalized the importance of scaling up the SMES and incorporating it with technologies to create a better economy and employability rate.