In a bid to foster entrepreneurship, promote innovation, and facilitate connections between startups, investors, and mentors and for the development of entrepreneurship capabilities in all aspects of startup development, implementation, etcetera, the “Startup Summit Nepal 2023” was organized by The Startup Network (Nepal) in Aloft Kathmandu on 9 September 2023.
In his opening remarks, Shivanth Bahadur Pande, CEO of NIBL Ace Capital and chief guest of the Summit, remarked that this important initiative serves as a testament to the vibrant, dynamic startup ecosystem that is emerging in Nepal. Congratulating Sudeep Rauniar, founder of The Startup Network, and his team for organizing the Summit, Pande thanked all those present at the event for their commitment to fostering enterprises and entrepreneurship in Nepal.
"The theme of the summit 'startups in Nepal from a global perspective' is both timely and relevant. In today's interconnected world, startups have the potential to leap from the status quo, transcend borders, and make an impact on a global scale. Nepal has a hardworking and resilient workforce, geographical proximity to the world's largest markets, and is poised to become a hub for the learning generation of entrepreneurship," Pande said.
Ram Krishna Khatiwada, CEO of Nepal Infrastructure Bank Ltd (NI-FRA) shared that the objective of the event is to create an ecosystem that empowers startup entrepreneurship in Nepal from inception to every stage of development—from idea to innovation to product development to funding and beyond. Khatiwada also said that entrepreneurship development is enhanced by the startup ecosystem as it contributes to innovations, products, and services that strengthen infrastructure service delivery, and those startups are instrumental in advancing infrastructure development across various sectors.
Panel discussions on the topic 'Startups in Nepal from a global perspective' and 'Startups in innovation' were also held at the summit. The first discussion moderated by Melisha Rajopadhyay, director of Peoples Operation at Upaya, included Mark Templer, political and economic head, US Mission in Nepal; Ajit Bikram Shah, CEO of Lotus Holdings; Deepak Raj Joshi, director general of Confederate of Nepalese Industries; and Upaul Majumdar, head of tourism practice for South Asia with Dolma Consulting UK as panelists.
Responding to the question on how Nepal is perceived globally, Majumdar said that the country's prospects have not been recognised due to additional challenges. "The country certainly has its challenges not just in terms of startups but also in attracting foreign direct investments. The question of how you get your money in and how you will take it out is quite challenging, which is keeping things from actually happening. However, there are so many business houses and people who are funding these startups and it is uplifting to know that there are many funds that are coming up. But of course Nepal is not known for startups but it is a country of fantastic opportunities and since it is gradually evolving, there is a lot of information available which the country can learn from and move ahead," he said.
Responding to a question related to prospects of collaboration with Nepali start-ups, Mark Templer said that in terms of global collaborations, there is a need to think about Nepal on the comparative advantages when looking at global partnerships. “You will not get a partnership unless it's a win-win. Nepal is a phenomenal country with many comparative advantages and I think highlighting them is the key to attracting them. First of all, Nepal has an astonishing biodiversity and there are a lot of agricultural products that can be uniquely sourced from the country.
This is an area which has not been fully exploited. The labour cost here is also low compared to other countries in Asia. An IT outsourcing company with proper connections can get great labour here, cheaper than Gurgaon. Looking at the comparative advantage of highly skilled labor at competitive market rates is where Nepal excels. Tourism is another aspect the country can take advantage of. Being the most beautiful country in South Asia and perhaps the most beautiful country in the world, this could be something to attract companies looking to create new bases. Nepal already has a huge network through tourism and can be taken advantage of,” Templer shared.
Another panel discussion revolved around 'Startups in innovation' which was moderated by Sanjib Subba, chairman of Fintech Alliance, with panelists including Aashish Garg, vice-president of Independent Power Producers' Association Nepal (IPPAN); Amit Agrawal, CEO of Khalti Digital Wallet; Sudhir Parajuli, president of Subisu; Sandeep Kamat, CEO for Bosch; and Ekta Golchha, director for Delta Tech. Furthermore, Intern Nepal bagged the award for Startup Pitching. Durbean, CabTM, and Saino Marketplace were the competitors in which Shah, Kamat, and Saarthak Bakshi were the judges.