New Business Age honoured eight startup companies, including the five best startups of the year, during the NewBiz Startup Summit and Awards held in Kathmandu on May 19.
During the awards ceremony, Doctors on Call, E-Digital Nepal, FocusOne, inGrails (VEDA) and Sajilo Sewa were announced as the five best startups of the year from among more than 2,000 entries. These startups were recognized and honoured with certificates. Additionally, Delish Dairies was awarded the title of Emerging Startup of the Year for 2023. Digital Age Nepal was recognized as the Inspiring Women-led Startup, and Foodmandu received the Startup Scale-Up award.
Doctors on Call aims to make home health services accessible, affordable, and equitable for everyone. It was co-founded by Dr Suyesh Karki, Dr Suman Neupane, Dr Subash Sapkota, and Dr Mohan Bhandary.
Similarly, E-Digital Nepal, which was founded by Er. Aditya Raj, Er. Basant Gupta, and Kapil Basnet, envisions digitising the education ecosystem in Nepal and ensuring quality education through the use of top-notch technology-based information management systems. Likewise FocusOne Payment Solutions Pvt Ltd operates a payment platform that enables MSMEs to accept cross-border/currency transactions. Pranaya Rajbhandari and Aadish Shrestha founded the startup.
Ingrails Pvt Ltd - founded by Nirdesh Dwa, Sujit Pathak, and Sanjan Piya - offers a digital solution for educational institutions, integrating academic, financial, operational management, and communication systems into a single platform. Sajilo Sewa, on the other hand, is Nepal's first service marketplace, allowing users to find a wide range of at-home services. Kawish Shrestha, Pukar Acharya, and Sujeet Regmi founded the startup.
Another startup awarded in the ceremony, Delish Dairies, aims at transforming Nepali dairy industry by providing high-quality dairy products from locally produced milk.
Digital Age Nepal, founded by Dibyswory Dhar Dali, focuses on combating financial crimes through digitisation, targeting corruption, money laundering, and terror financing. Foodmandu, founded by Manohar Adhikari in 2010, is Nepal's first food delivery company, serving more than 120 different restaurants across multiple cities.
The shortlisted startups were evaluated based on parameters such as vision/mission statement, value proposition, team composition, innovation, traction-to-date, scalability, competitive strategy, use of information technology, creation story, and jury judgement. The jury members included Suman Shakya (founder of Tangent Waves), Juna Mathema (co-founder and managing director of Blitz Media), and Tenzin Sonam Gonsar (founder and CEO of TEAM Ventures).
The winners received free credit vouchers worth Rs 100,000 for Next Generation Rigo HRMS and Rigo Accounting software from Rigo Technologies. The summit and awards program was supported by Sastodeal.com, Laxmi Bank, Shikhar Insurance, Citizen Life Insurance, National Life Insurance, Rigo, Nexon EV Max, and City Express. Additionally, Nepal Rastra Bank, the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Nepal Insurance Authority, Nepali Patro, and Dishome FiberNet supported the awards program.
New Business Age has been organising various award programs since 2013, recognising the best management colleges and companies. Since 2019, the company has also been honouring women entrepreneurs. In November, New Business Age organised the New Biz Business Conclave and Awards program.
And the winners are....
Best Startup of the Year 2003
a. Doctors on Call Nepal - Anamnagar, Kathmandu
b. E-Digital Nepal - Tinkune, Kathmandu
c. inGrails (Veda) - Dhobighat, Lalitpur
d. FocusOne (MOCO) - Kamaladi, Kathmandu
e. Sajilo Sewa - Jhamsikhel, Lalitpur
Inspiring Woman-led Startup of the Year
a. Digital Age Nepal - Tahachal, Kathmandu
Emerging Startup of the Year
a. Delish Dairies - Bharatpur, Chitwan
Startup Scale-up Award
a. Foodmandu - Naxal, Kathmandu
Articulation of Vision/Mission Statement
Value Proposition & Market Identification
Team Composition & Calibre
Scalability & Competitive Strategy
Suman Shakya (Jury)
According to jury member Suman Shakya, founder of Tangent Waves, the jury's emphasis was on aspects such as whether the nominated start-up had identified problems, how the problem was solved, and how scalable the business was. He said that the company was chosen also by measuring how it has been promoted. He said that the company's governance, transparency and growth rate were also looked at precisely. According to him, the definitions, areas and scope of startups made by the government were also considered.
Panel discussion: Call to Link Agriculture with Industry
Experts and industry leaders in the startup sector have emphasised the interconnectedness between agriculture and industry and the use of technology for businesses to sustain themselves in the modern world.
Speaking at a panel discussion under the theme "Towards Startup Nation" during the NewBiz Startup Summit and Awards 2023 organised by New Business Age on Friday, May 19 in kathmandu, Sunita Nhemaphuki, the founder of R&D Innovative Solutions Pvt Ltd, stated that there is still a misconception in society that those involved in agriculture are impoverished. According to her, the agriculture sector lacks investment opportunities and entrepreneurial prospects.
She highlighted the misconceptions surrounding agriculture, such as its association with poverty, limited investment, and lack of entrepreneurial opportunities.
Contrary to these views, she shared that globally, agriculture development is followed by the industry and then by service sectors. However, in Nepal, there has already been a shift towards a service-oriented, skipping agriculture and industry. She added that Nepal, with its topography, holds enormous potential for organic farming. She stressed the need to connect agricultural production with the industry.
"Somebody needs to advocate for the connection with the industry."
Nhemaphuki admitted that technology is the key to success in the modern era.
"I am highly impressed by the link between agriculture and technology in Bangladesh and India," she said.
The use of technology during the Covid-19 pandemic has rapidly expanded. Initiatives such as the Kisan Credit Card and QR code have been implemented to connect farmers with banks. Software companies have become partners, and the government has now started recognizing them, she added.
Citing the increased importance of the food industry during the Covid-19 period when the demand for agricultural products soared, she emphasised the increased significance of the sector.
"We are here to assist those engaged in agriculture. With the right strategies, investments, and innovations, the agriculture sector can be transformed into a profitable and thriving industry," she expressed.
She stated that their aim is to implement modern farming practices, promote agro-processing, and develop high-value agricultural products. "By adding value to agricultural commodities and tapping into niche markets, we can create a competitive advantage and contribute to the growth of the agriculture sector."
Similarly, Rahul Malla Thakuri, Assistant Vice President - Commercial at Upaya, shared that their journey began four years ago. "By the end of 2018, the use of technology, smartphones, and the internet was increasing. In Nepal, apart from logistics, the use of technology in other sectors, including food and e-commerce, was flourishing. After conducting research, we identified logistics as the missing piece in the growing digital arena and thus started our business by booking transport vehicles," he explained.
Likewise, Baburam Gautam, Director General of the Department of Industry, stated that the government plays a crucial role in promoting trade and industry as the main element of the ecosystem. However, there is a gap in the policy regarding exporting competent manpower, he noted. Gautam added, "The startup policy is prepared, and the department has been assigned the task of providing startup enterprise loans. Loans will be provided in the form of seed capital. The work is being carried out accordingly. Business is on one side, and the idea is on the other side. The government is working to build the startup ecosystem."
When asked about the significance of the recently implemented startup policy procedure, Gautam stated that it is a procedure for granting loans by the government.
"Provisions such as a turnover of Rs 5 million, fixed capital of Rs 20 million, and innovation have been specified. There is also an evaluation section. Currently, 700 applications are pending in the Ministry of Finance and Planning Commission."
Meanwhile, in response to moderator Asmod Karki's question about the ease of obtaining funds for startups, Thakuri mentioned that it took about a year for their business operations to return to normalcy after the lockdown, and they collaborated with various organisations to raise funds. "When raising funds, it is crucial to carefully consider where to invest, how to approach it, and understand the investors' desires. Building a reliable and trustworthy team is essential," said Thakuri.
Similarly, Gautam stated that all startups need an ecosystem culture. "It should start from home. There are 78 elements of the ecosystem. The policy has been drafted in a way that it will be addressed in the upcoming policies and programs."
Responding to the question about the new generation's lack of interest in agriculture, forgetting what to cultivate and when, resulting in barren land, Nhemaphuki mentioned that only three percent of Israel's total population are farmers, and yet they are major exporters. "Engineers and professionals from other fields are also involved in agriculture. We have a misconception here that agriculture leads to suffering. It is necessary to connect agriculture with the industry."
Baburam Gautam, Director General of the Industry Department, Sunita Nhemaphuki, Founder of R&D Innovative Solutions Pvt. Ltd., and Rahul Malla Thakuri, Assistant Vice President - Commercial at Upaya, participated as speakers in the panel discussion on the theme 'Towards Startup Nation.' The panel discussion was facilitated by Asmod Karki, co-founder and head of operations at Vikasa Tech.
Innovation, Infrastructure Key for Startup Growth, Say Experts
Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) lawmaker and economist Dr. Swornim Wagle has said that startups are the future of Nepal. “The government should play a role in bridging the gap between the past and the future to enhance the culture of startups in the country,” he added, speaking at the final event under NewBiz Startup Summit & Awards 2023 at kathmandu held on May 19.
Dr Wagle also said that various conditions, including innovation and infrastructure, should be taken into consideration for the success of startups. He added that Nepal can become a respectable middle-income country in approximately 25 years.
Chairman of the Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon), Ramesh Hamal, said that Nepal has the possibility of having a $100 billion economy by 2030.
Hamal said Nepal could achieve a $100 billion economy through partnership and collaboration with the private sector. He further stated that the government and its agencies should create a conducive ecosystem and suitable platforms for the private sector to build a favourable environment for businesses and enterprises to grow in the country. "It is the private sector that conducts business. The government has to formulate the right policies and build the right ecosystem for the private sector to thrive," he added.
Nepal may be unique in tradition and culture, but the country needs to catch up with the world in the domains of commerce and business for economic growth, he said. “To support business growth, the government has to develop and implement easy and appropriate mechanisms to attract foreign investors. We have to be on par with the globe. We should have entry doorways and exit mechanisms to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). We are changing the rules and policies to attract more investment," he stressed.
Hamal said that the Sebon has formulated a draft for Small and Medium Enterprise Platforms and sent it to the Cabinet for approval to enact it into law. Any company with a paid-up capital below Rs 250 million will be listed on the SME platform, according to Chairman Hamal. He also said that Sebon would relax some requirements and provide incentives to small and medium enterprises. "This will enable SMEs to receive funds from the public," Hamal stated.
Drawing examples from big tech companies such as Apple and Google, Hamal emphasised the need to provide funding to startups for business growth. He said that the government, private sector, and investors have to work collaboratively to foster a culture of startups and help them succeed.
Also speaking at the program, Tim Gocher OBE, founder and CEO at Dolma Impact Fund, said that Nepal requires billions of dollars in investment to scale up startups and the growth of other enterprises in the country.
Gocher stated that despite the ongoing global recession, Dolma has invested $20 million in four Nepali companies in the last two months. He also shared on the ocassion that the investment committee of Dolma Impact Fund has approved additional a $2 million investment for Upaya Cargo.
Similarly, Gocher stressed that Nepal requires massive investment to meet its target of achieving 10% growth in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). Likewise, he appreciated the initiatives of the Sebon in licensing private equity funds to attract more funds to Nepal.
Dr. Toya Gyawali, secretary of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Supplies, said the government should focus on innovation, investment, infrastructure, and institutionalisation for the growth of startups. “The government should prioritise three things: a legal framework, building a network, and overall ecosystem to boost startups in Nepal,” he said, adding that the government has placed emphasis on institutional support for fostering innovation, providing access to the market, and finance.
Amun Thapa, the founder and CEO of Sastodeal, similarly highlighted the importance of three lessons from his entrepreneurship journey: thinking ahead, building a strong network, and never giving up. He shared that despite encountering near failures and financial crises, he managed to steer his company towards success by implementing these three lessons.
Thapa emphasized the significance of envisioning the future and thinking at least 20-35 years ahead, rather than solely focusing on short-term gains. This forward-thinking approach enables entrepreneurs to anticipate market trends, identify potential opportunities, and make strategic decisions that will yield sustainable growth over time.
Additionally, Thapa discussed how he utilized unconventional settings, such as sauna rooms in hotels and Irish pubs, to connect with investors and vendors. By cultivating meaningful connections in unique environments, he was able to expand his network and create valuable partnerships.
Revealing that his company came close to shutting down 12 times and faced bankruptcy on six occasions, Thapa emphasized the mantra "It's not over until it's over." He stressed the importance of unwavering determination in the face of challenges and the ability to persevere despite setbacks.
By embracing a long-term mindset, cultivating meaningful connections, and maintaining unwavering determination, entrepreneurs can navigate the ever-evolving business landscape and achieve their goals, Thapa shared.