MBA graduate Prakash Basnet was determined to start a business. However, his raw ideas needed nurturing and incubating to shape them into a sustainable company. To accomplish this, Basnet joined the business incubation center of King’s College in 2016.
Basnet pitched his idea of bridging households and domestic helpers in the programme that helped him establish Help2Shine in the same year. “Having an idea is not enough to start a business. It needs other complementary aspects to bring the idea into a structured form of business. For this, I lacked soft skills and seed capital which I obtained from the incubation centre,” says Basnet.
Like Basnet, there are many other youths whose ideas could sprout and sustain as a startup through incubation programmes. According to Nanda Kishwor Mandal, head of Yunus Social Business Center at King’s College, incubation programmes lend entrepreneurial credence to ideas. Mandal, who also heads the King’s Incubator, the business incubation center of the college, says that 43 business ventures have been developed so far by the center. Since 2013, King’s College has been running the incubation programme which was named ‘Otharo’ in 2019. King’s Incubator and Yunus Social Business Center, a global research hub of social business, are jointly running Otharo. According to Mandal, King’s Business Incubation Center incubates commercial ideas while the Yunus Social Business Center at King’s College incubates social ideas. The college has been providing this platform to youths who are not college students as well.
King’s Incubator provides 12-hour structured incubation training to aspiring entrepreneurs. For this, it welcomes several ideas in the beginning from around 40 teams in each session. Only a few ideas are selected for the programme after the pitch. “We welcome a total of 10 ideas where five ideas are selected from our students while the rest are selected from other ideators outside the college,” says Mandal. Basnet also says, “I had two ideas from the very beginning and pitched both ideas - Bluebook renewal service and domestic help service. But the first idea didn’t seem long-lasting, so I worked on the second idea.” In Otharo, each team gets one expert for mentorship. Thereafter, they go through coaching, mentoring, guest lectures, networking events and workshops, all structured in different phases. Further, they are given assignments by internal mentors during the session. After the final pitch, some of the ideators are also funded for supporting the capital investment of their company.
Networking and Mentorship
An incubation centre is a place where people with different ideas convene. So, the centre is always prepared to address diverse ideas with different experts, coaches and mentors. King’s Incubator has a pool of around 30 coaches for addressing ideas. According to Mandal, if the ideas are related to information technology (IT), they call in IT entrepreneurs and experts like Bishwas Dhakal, CEO of F1 Soft International. Similarly, if the idea is related to agriculture, they approach the concerned entrepreneurs like Sunita Nhemaphuki, founder of R&D Innovative Solution. If the idea is environment-related, they call in Himalayan Climate Initiative’s CEO Silshila Acharya.
“We have maintained a network with different sectors, we let the students connect with the concerned entrepreneurs too,” shares Mandal. “There were no specific mentors assigned to each individual as it was an open session. But there were different mentors. We were mentored by 16 different internal and external mentors for working in business model canvas,” recalls Basnet.
What Ideators Learn
Unlike regular classes, ideators learn practical skills which could help convert their intangible ideas into concrete and sustainable ventures.
The ideators learn to explore business potentials and research on developing their ideas. “I was not clear about what types of values are required for my business. I didn’t have an in-depth knowledge of doing business before, though I had working experience at Bottlers Nepal,” says Basnet. He creditsthe incubation session for providing him access to potential clients. He shares that ideators can learn basic management skills during the sessions.
Suyash Shrestha, co-founder of Nuga Essence, another venture of Otharo, shares, “It was not easy to work with ideas and skill only.
I did not have links with positional customers which was made possible through Otharo. Guidance on legal advisory, business compliances, product’s prospects also helped a lot in initiating our business of luxury bath and body products.” Shrestha, whose company is engaged in production of personal care products, says thatideators learn about networking, communication skills and analysing customers’ expectation and satisfaction.
Otharo has been creating both social and commercial ventures. Mandal shares, out of all Otharo produced ventures, 70 percent are commercial and 30 percent are social. It has been generating entrepreneurs in all sectors, from IT to agricultural sector like Himalayan Rabbit Farm, Kantipur Logistic, Srothcode, Preety Pets, Innovake, Wholesale Bazaar, Alpas Technology Pvt Ltd, Customs R Us, Krishi Ghar etc. Basnet’s Help2Shine alone is providing employment opportunities to over a thousand people, especially to women in different segments such as domestic work, babysitting, elderly care, postnatal care, office cleaning, etc.
No Barriers to Entry
King’s Incubation Center announces an open call twice a year. Prospective entrepreneurs with ideas can apply to the centre. Otharo is also free and open to everyone, irrespective of their educational qualification. However, they are required to have sound knowledge about their respective ideas. After submitting their ideas, ideas of potential incubatees are screened, and they are required to pitch their ideas. Eventually, ten incubatees are selected for the incubation programme. The session is conducted once a week on Wednesday for two hours. Students from different educational backgrounds like management, IT, hotel management, medicine, engineering etc can apply to the centre.
Access to Capital Investment
Mandal claims that King’s is the only college helping the incubatees with seed funds for their capital investment. According to him, seed fund of up to around Rs 1.5 million is provided to the ideators after the final pitch, without any interest rate and collateral.
The period of return of the fund is set at two years, as the same fund is handed to another ideator. Among the ten ideators, only four teams are provided with the amount. Basnet, who received money equivalent to USD 1,500 for capital investment says,“A small amount of seed fund by the incubation centre carries a lot of weight for young entrepreneurs.”
Collaborating with Different Entities
King’s College has tied up with different private and public organisations, banking institutions, international universities and national colleges to offer incubation to their members for free. The incubation centre has collaborated with 78 countries where Yunus Social Business Center has a presence, including Taiwan, Finland and India. The centre collaborates with different startup investing firms like One to Watch, Antarprerana etc to provide capital investment to the aspiring incubatees.
Mandal shares there is a good prospect of entrepreneurship in the country, however, it needs supportive factors like incubation programmes to utilise the human resources in the country.