The decision for Nepali youths to pursue higher education or employment opportunities abroad is a prevalent and compelling phenomenon. Driven by a myriad of motivations, including the aspiration for quality education, promising career prospects, lucrative scholarships, enhanced skills and certification, and the desire for independence and a better quality of life, these individuals exhibit an unwavering determination to succeed. Whether they choose to remain in the host country or return home, their experiences and acquired knowledge contribute to a new generation of innovative and globally minded individuals, shaping the future of Nepal's progress and development. However, some set a good example by returning to their home country after completing their studies abroad. Some who returned have now become successful entrepreneurs in Nepal.
Over the past few years, the number of Nepali foreign returnees who have started startups in Nepal has been steadily rising. These Nepalis have returned to Nepal with the aim of utilizing their skills and expertise gained from their experiences abroad to make a positive impact on the country's economy.
One such Nepali is Arjun KC who returned to Nepal after working for eight years for an information technology (IT) company in Hong Kong. “Around 2007-2008, there were not many opportunities in Nepal in the IT sector. The IT market here was not big enough. So, I wanted to go abroad to grab better opportunities. I got a job as an IT manager in Hong Kong in 2008,” he said, when asked about his decision to go abroad earlier.
Unlike majority of Nepali youths abroad, KC decided to return home and do something for his country. That’s when the idea of Taximandu, a four wheelers ride sharing app, was born. “While I was traveling across the world, I saw that many countries had this service and in Nepal the ride sharing service was only done in two wheelers. I thought it would be a good idea to start a startup based on cab service sharing app. So, I established Taximandu in the year 2019.”
KC is happy to be back to his motherland, although sometimes it is hard as the Nepali economy is not doing very well. Worse still, his business came to a halt for an extended period due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In 2021, Taximandu was the winner of Startup World Cup Nepal Regional. Organized by Startup Hub Nepal, the competition was a country partner for the Startup World Cup.
Taximandu is not just an enterprise but a ray of sunshine in the IT field of Nepal. It has had a huge impact on Nepal’s IT field. It has also created employment for many people - both educated and uneducated.
Karvika Thapa, the owner of the tech company Kimbu Tech, has a similar story to share. She went to Boston to complete her master’s degree and got a well-paid job in the IT sector in the USA.
Like KC, Thapa also wanted to do something for her homeland. She made a decision to return to Nepal after her 14 years stay in Boston. “I wanted to return to Nepal and begin a startup which would also help generate employment in the country. I also wanted to raise my daughters in my country Nepal. I realized there was no women leadership in the IT sector and it has always been my expertise, so I established my Company Kimbu Tech,” she recalled her entrepreneurial journey in Nepal.
Thapa hopes to create a home for qualified and talented programmers in Nepal and that in turn will build recognition globally for Nepali programmers. “My aim is to create employment opportunities so that the youths today do not have to go abroad. I also hope to promote the entrepreneurship culture in Nepal,” she added.
When asked about her views on youths wanting to go abroad, she said “Tech education in Nepal is very good. Better than abroad. So if someone wants to study tech they should study here instead of going out, even though I have spent a decade and a half outside Nepal, I am happy that I returned. I feel accomplished.”
Bhanu Pokharel, a farm owner, is also one of the examples. He went to Denmark in the year 2008 to complete his MBA. He returned to Nepal in January 2020. He started a farm and a training center in September, 2020. “It has always been my dream to return to Nepal and work in the agriculture field. So, after returning to Nepal, I started a farm, and also opened a training center to teach students about on-farm technologies,” he said.
Pokharel has provided employment to 32 people and is teaching seven students at his training center. “It was my childhood dream to do something in my own country,” says Pokharel.
These are just a few cases in point. These are hundreds of examples of Nepali foreign returnees starting successful entrepreneurships in Nepal, demonstrating the country's potential entrepreneurial landscape. It is expected that a little help and supportive measures from the government could pave the way to the reverse migration trend. Nepali migrant workers and those reaching foreign lands for studies have acquired valuable skills and knowledge from their experiences abroad and they can leverage their expertise to create innovative solutions that can solve local problems and generate employment opportunities.
In fact, the Foreign Employment Board (FEB) has been helping migrant returnees to set up some entrepreneurial ventures at home. According to FEB Spokesperson Ranjan Poudel, the FEB has introduced two major programs to help the foreign returnees. While one of these programs aims at capacity development in which they help the returnees to promote the skills they learnt abroad, the second one is ‘regenerating program'. These programs help the returnees to adjust in Nepal again. "We also try to help them financially, we try to give them everything they ask for,” Poudel said, “In the context of globalization, it is not possible to completely stop them, but we do give them some security.”
There are several other ways the government and the private sector have created a supportive environment for startups to flourish, which has attracted Nepali foreign returnees to invest in the country. Measures such as providing financial assistance, simplifying the registration process, providing training and mentorship, creating a business-friendly environment and establishing business incubation centers could greatly help in this regard.
KC, Thapa and Pokharel are just a few examples. In fact, there is a growing trend of Nepali foreign returnees starting startups in Nepal and this is a positive development for the country's economy. The foreign returnees are bringing with them valuable skills, knowledge, and innovative ideas that can help to create a more prosperous and sustainable future for Nepal. Furthermore, the foreign returnees bring a global perspective that can be applied to businesses in Nepal. They are known to be risk-takers, innovators, and change-makers, and their presence in Nepal's business sector is transforming the country's entrepreneurial landscape.
Also, the country's business environment is still developing, and there are several obstacles that entrepreneurs must navigate. One of the biggest challenges is the lack of access to finance. Nepali banks and financial institutions are hesitant to lend to start-ups, and the process of obtaining loans is often lengthy and complicated. This makes it difficult for entrepreneurs to raise capital and invest in their businesses. However, there are several initiatives taken by the government and the private sector to improve access to finance for entrepreneurs, such as the Startup Nepal. Startup Nepal provides an entrepreneurial atmosphere and startup energy to entrepreneurs, investors, and stakeholders to build a thriving startup ecosystem in Nepal.
Despite a host of challenges, Nepali foreign returnees are determined to make a positive impact on the country's economy by starting businesses and creating job opportunities. Their entrepreneurial spirit and innovative ideas are contributing to the growth of Nepal's startup ecosystem, and it is expected that this trend will continue to grow in the coming years for the good of the country and its people.