An incredible and loaded first week has come to an end in Kathmandu, Nepal.  To enumerate all of the experiences we've already had here would take quite a while, but suffice it to say we are getting settled in and beyond pleased to be here.  Our purpose here (of assisting in developing the Nepalese entrepreneurial sector and its top business school’s business incubation program) is perfectly in line with Thunderbird's mission statement of promoting global prosperity worldwide.  In light of this and our personal commitments to the TEM Lab program’s goals, we are passionately embracing the task of making a lasting impact.  

Like many a Tbird adventure in the world, it turns out we’ve learned far more than we’ve shared thus far.  The Nepalese people’s warmth and wisdom are legendary, and our interactions with them this week have absolutely confirmed this.  The future of this nation appears to be truly bright if a handful of infrastructure and institutional challenges can be worked out.  Judging by the talent and ingenuity we have witnessed, we are optimistic that this will come to pass sooner than later.  The question is how quickly. 

Our team is working and staying at the Kathmandu University School of Management (KUSOM), the nation’s best business school.  The brains on display here are impressive to say the least.  However, it is the positivity of the youth (who account for over 60% of the population) that stands out.  In spite of numerous roadblocks to growth currently existent in this nation, which ranks 108 out of 189 nations in the “Ease of Doing Business” rankings, the business incubation center with which we’re working is nearly as modern and invigorating as any out there.  Last year, the school, in conjunction with UNICEF and a local media provider, produced a nationally televised program centered upon publicizing budding entrepreneurs - similar to the show “Shark Tank” in the US.  It was a wild success, but many impediments to making those visions come to life still exist.  Financing, corruption and other threats inhibit the proliferation of small business enterprises.  Against the odds, the young entrepreneurs of Nepal are finding ways to work around them, and this is helping to drive a healthy GDP growth rate of around 6% in 2015.

The team repeatedly met with the stakeholders of KUSOM’s business incubation center, the impressive leadership at Winrock International, and local entrepreneurs this week.  It has been a lot of personalities and information to take in, but like the temples and citizens of Kathmandu, we have relished our exposure.  Rupesh Shrestha of KUSOM, a very sharp and savvy Marketing professor, oversees the Idea Studio here; his fingerprints, influence, and energy are all over everything.  He has introduced us around KUSOM and will be teeing us up to the other key partners involved with the incubator.  Vrigu Duwadi and Saluna Pokhrel are our tireless backers at Winrock.  Their support and insight have been very valuable.  Additionally, we’ve had the opportunity to meet with a variety of local entrepreneurs, working in agri-tourism, hotel management, tech, shoe vending, Tibetan silk trading, day care centers, artisanal goods, and restaurants.    

From meetings with high-level officials and professors to conversations with business owners in tucked-away markets, it has been an amazing series of learning experiences.  We believe that the best routes to understanding Nepal and its entrepreneurial environment involve old-fashioned listening and hitting the pavement.  So, we’ve done a lot of both, and it has been rewarding and fun.  With each interview, conversation, and hour spent soaking up the scene, our knowledge and appreciation have grown.  These efforts will continue in the coming weeks until we have enough perspective to write a dynamic Operations Manual for the KUSOM business incubator and a comprehensive Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Assessment of Nepal for Farmer-to-Farmer/USAID.  


Travis RichardsonMatt McConatyVarun Vijay