“With more women leaders, the world will be a better place. So we need more women leaders in every sector,” says Karvika Thapa, founder and CEO of the software company Kimbu Tech. She wants women, who cover more than half the population of the country, to take leadership positions in every sector including technology. She believes that creating more women workforce can increase productivity and also change the mindset of people while setting an example that one need not give up their dreams just because she is a woman.
Born and brought up in Kathmandu, Thapa completed her school education from St Mary's School. She then joined Delhi Public School, New Delhi, for her high school. After two years, she returned and joined Kathmandu University (KU) where she completed Bachelors in Business Information System. She is among the few female students in the first batch of the IT program at KU. She then went to the United States for her Master’s degree. After spending a decade working for companies specailising in IT solutions, data management, finance, database marketing, and project management, Karvika decided it’s time to return to Nepal.
“I could have returned back after my 50s to live a retired life. But I felt, now is the time to give back to the country and society,” she shared. Stating that she left the US to raise her daughters in Nepal and teach them Nepali culture, she said she wanted her children to grow up in a culture she grew up in and let them know how Nepal is.
But starting a company or business was not what she had thought while returning to her homeland. After arriving in Nepal, she noticed that there were a few women in leadership positions and the IT sector.
The young entrepreneur feels that the tech sector is made for women and says that the flexibility, payment, and power it gives is something that other sectors cannot match. So, to create quality jobs, and more women workforce and leaders, she decided to start the company.
According to Thapa, Nepal has a pool of skilled manpower which needs to be channelised with the right leadership. “It is disappointing that Nepali people are not realising the opportunity in the country and going abroad,” she said, adding, “I would feel really proud if I can stop at least a person from going abroad by providing him/her job opportunity here itself.”
Started three and a half years back, Kimbu Tech is one of the few women-led IT companies in Nepal. It is an IT outsourcing house that provides IT solutions and software development to companies in Israel and the US. She also has a football app that is run all by women.
Growing up in an environment where a regular job was prioritised more than running a business, it took some time for Thapa to prepare herself to start the company. Since nobody in her family, nor even her in-laws, were involved in business, it took some time for them to understand the business.
Starting a company in Nepal was a challenge in itself for Thapa. After working for so many fast, efficient, result and output-oriented companies in the US for such a long time, she found the legal processes and system of Nepal difficult. “The lengthy and troublesome registration process, monthly taxation, etc. were so much challenging,” she said, adding that the doing business environment is still difficult for entrepreneurs.
The other problem that Thapa has found is that accessing finance as a woman is next to impossible. “I filed as many as five applications for the women entrepreneurship loan, to no success. I have not been able to receive a positive response from any of them,” she shared.
Though the government has announced collateral-free loans for enterprises run by women, she said that banks are demanding collateral. “Even after I agreed to provide collateral, they rejected my application citing different reasons,” she added.
If an educated and fortunate woman like her, who has knowledge of the international market, is trusted by people and is financially independent, has so much difficulty getting the government announced loan, she questions how the women from rural areas who want to start a business, can get this loan and other benefits provided by the government.
“Series of cultural, financial and societal expectations have made it challenging for women entrepreneurs to grow,” she stressed. Further explaining the challenges, she recalled the time in the US when she used to be the only female in the meetings. “Being the only woman, sometimes, my voice wasn’t heard even though the idea was pretty good. So, there were times when I used to feel that maybe I should keep quiet,” she added.
According to her, there has been a gradual change in the mindset. The changes such as women leadership, support that they are getting, their participation, and people listening to their voices can be seen now. “But we still have a long way to go,” Thapa shared.
Despite many hurdles and challenges, Thapa informed that her business was going at a healthy rate. She had invested around Rs 2.5 million in the company which has now doubled or tripled, she added.
Kimbu Tech currently employs around 150 people. Had there been support from the government and the bank and financial institutions, and a conducive environment in the country, we would have been able to create more than 1,000 jobs by now, she said.
Talking about her success, Thapa says she considers herself fortunate to have an understanding and motivating family. She shared a time when her parents encouraged her not to lose hope when she had almost given up. “After returning to Nepal, with no job or any plan, I had lost all hopes. But my family helped me to father myself,” she shared with New Business Age.
During such times, she suggests aspiring entrepreneurs not to lose hope and give up. “Rather, think of some form of impact and then work harder. One should not be afraid of making mistakes. We should keep learning from them,” she added.
A member of the Confederation of Nepalese Industries Young Entrepreneurship Forum (CNIYEF), Thapa has been involved in a lot of volunteer work. She shares that CNIYEF is launching a startup fest on June 25 where they are planning to invest Rs 480 million in different startup companies.
Apart from this, she is also the director of VS International College whereby she aspires to generate more quality and productive workforce.
She also runs a Facebook page ‘Women in Tech’, where more than 5,000 women from around the world are involved, and share information, their learning and experiences.
A mother of two, she likes to read books and trending articles, travel, and spend time with her family. A visionary, she aspires to make 70-80% of her workforce women in the near future and make Kimbu Tech one of the leading tech companies in Nepal.