Laxman Paudel, a resident of Dang district, used to serve as a policeman. During the Maoist insurgency, he quit the job due to pressure from the Maoists. But he struggled to eke out a living for him and his family. So, he worked as a vendor selling wrist watches in the tourist town of Pokhara.
His business wasn’t that good. So, one of his friends suggested to him to start selling spices instead. Moved by his plight, the friend provided supplies in credit. “When I started the business, I had invested 400 rupees,” Paudel said. He added, “I used to sell black pepper syrup, turmeric powder, flour and other household materials from home to home.” His wife used to accompany him by selling fruits from a doko (a traditional Nepali bamboo basket).
The friend who provided him with materials sent him to India to train at a spice production factory. After returning with skills on spice production, he founded Kalika BM Agro Company in 2009. Now he produces fibre flour, barley, black pepper syrup, and grounded pulse. A few months ago, he participated in a fifteen-day fair in Butwal , where he showcased his products. At the fair his products sold like a hot cake. Paudel said he made a profit of 18 lakh and 50 thousand rupees in the fair. He sold 7, 000 black pepper syrup bottles at the fair.
Paudel participated in a two-month “AgriBusiness Boot Camp 2017” recently hoping to expand his enterprise effectively. The program was organised by Nepal Entrepreneur Hub. He learned to win hearts of his customers from the camp. “I learned the process of effectively increasing the quality of products, not be worried when faced with loss, staying humble, and to maximise profit and other business tips,” he said. His business is being expanded qualitatively. Paudel had started his business on a leased land in Butwal but now at Nawalparasi’s Tulsi Nagar, he’s expanding his business on his own land.
The first ever boot camp has been held to promote agricultural business where along with Paudel altogether 25 businesspeople and 50 participants had attended. The camp has been supported by the World Bank and INFO DEV. The co-sponsor was Business Oxygen (BO2).
At the boot camp, the 25 business people have been harnessing their skills to uplift their enterprises. The organizers believe that they will be able to help the selected agricultural businesspeople towards a sustainable progress. Moreover, the camp will help startup companies to execute their projects both financially and structurally.
NEHUB’s Bijendra Joshi believes that the participants will be able to acquire required skills to boost their company. Also, the participants will be taught by business experts on import, supply chain, value added tax, market-focused expansion, the process of law, buying, distribution, investment, and partnership.
How were the agricultural businessmen chosen? Let’s look at the selection process of the participants for the boot camp.
NEHUB had divided the company into two groups. At first businesspeople and those who had new ideas and startups were invited to fill out forms separately between February 12th and March 10. Altogether 641 had filled the forms including 383 startups and 258 businesseses. Both groups went through a pre-judging process round where only 65 startups and 46 businesses were selected.
The startup companies were included first in “Startup Weekend”. Prior to this, there was an international tradition to invite applications from those with innovative ideas on IT industries and they were selected. But this time Nepal’s agricultural businesses with startup ideas got the offer.
Businessmen honed their project skills in the boot camp from Friday evening to Sunday evening. Some 33 participants had pitched their ideas in the program which lasted from April 7 to 9 within 54 hours. Altogether ten ideas were selected and only 5 made it to the boot camp.
On the other hand, the selected 46 businesses went through “speed dating” on April 1 where only 20 were selected. They were chosen after a rigorous process of project evaluation and interview.
Furthermore, altogether 25 participants, 5 startups, and 20 businesses participated in the “AgriBusiness Boot Camp” from April 21 to 27. Every day the participants were trained in the supply chain, packaging, value production, customer segmentation, branding, finance, and sales and distribution. On the last day, participants showcased their presentations. The judges selected 20 best from them.
Also, Mr. Joshi informed that those selected on the last day would be made a part of mentorship program from May 28 and 29. They are being trained one-to-one based on ‘Ready Business’ format. After that, the business group will be handed over to the Nepal AgriBusiness Innovation Center (NABIC). The center will work towards in easing investment and business expansion ties between investors and enterprises. It will also work on solving problems, provide training and tips.
So, the selected excellent businessmen run industries on products such as tea, coffee, banana, pickles, spiece, honey, spices, food production and vessels made from coconut plants.
During the boot camp period participants, have acquired necessary skills to expand and develop their businesses. Kalika’s Paudel revealed that he had started his business without any proper planning but after attending the boot camp he is now familiar with the market search, creates business proposals, maintains the quality of products, and focus on standardized packaging. He has extended his gratitude to the organizers of the boot camp for providing such important opportunity to expand his enterprise.
A lot of projects have found investors from the boot-camp itself. NEHUB’s Susan Karmacharya said that co-sponsor Business Oxygen will invest in seven outstanding projects. “This boot camp is a first of a kind in the world and even the World Bank plans to replicate the experience in other countries,” she said.