In Nepal, UNDP’s Idea Factory equips entrepreneurs with technology

Feb 10, 2016

Idea Factory will connect entrepreneurs with investors and markets while also allowing entrepreneurs to harness the power of the internet


Each year, over 1,400 young Nepalis leave Nepal to join the labour market in the Gulf and East Asian countries. When they return after few years of hard work, they bring home some cash and a strong determination to put their money to use at home in Nepal.

However, many struggle to find adequate economic opportunities at home, sending them back overseas. This has left most of Nepal’s rural villages economically weak: with an acute shortage of workforce, heavy reliance on remittance, and unproductive consumerism that is dismissive of local products.

Rajendra Timilsena, a youth from Parbat district, is one such fresh returnee who has vowed not to return to Saudi Arabia where he worked for two years. “I am looking for ideas to invest my hard-earned money,” he said at an interaction with software engineers who travelled to Parbat to develop and test a software application called “Idea Factory”.

UNDP’s Idea Factory, developed in partnership with Microsoft Innovation Centre Nepal, is an innovative platform that aims to support potential entrepreneurs in developing ideas and incubating businesses that match with the size of their capital, interests, skills, location and other factors [www.ideastorenepal.com].

The Idea Factory also cultivated an online marketplace dedicated to supporting existing entrepreneurs by providing local products a direct access to national and international markets [www.nepali.market].

Santu Kunwr, a local allo fabric maker, had never imagined that the Internet could be so helpful in not just reaching new customers but also for discovering new designs, ideas and information to help her expand her business. “It’s hard to believe that people are selling a similar shawl for over $20 in eBay online,” she said. “I found out they have presented it better, with a beautiful model and colourful photos.”

Parbat’s Local Government Officer, Shiva Prasad Rijal, says given the high inflow of remittance, the entrepreneurs could also be doing very well if they could just target the local consumers. “Your products are organic, they are made-in-Nepal and of good quality. What is lacking is marketing and branding,” he said.

The district of Parbat alone brings in a remittance of over Rs. 2 billion every month and 80 percent of this money is spent on consumption, given the national average.

“We have over 70,000 micro-entrepreneurs and they have been producing amazing goods: foods, furniture, cosmetics, fashion garments and what not. But we are still far behind in marketing,” says Kesha Pariya, the winner of the Oslo Business for Peace Award, and who has inspired thousands of women in rural Nepal to become economically independent through micro-entrepreneurship. She leads the national federation of micro-entrepreneurs.

In fact, Parbat, the district where the Idea Factory project is being piloted, offers a rich potential for doing business. Its abundant natural resources, uninterrupted power supply from over half a dozen hydropower plants, cheap labour and land, good road networks and a good weather make the district a good place to live and work. “There are thousands of business ideas and really good products that have the potential to draw more investment and partnership. Idea factory is an innovation in tapping this potential,” says Allen Tuladhar, Asia Regional Director of Microsoft. “This equips barefoot entrepreneurs with technology to expand their businesses.”

[The Idea Factory android app can be downloaded at Google Play Store from this link]