With hundreds of IT companies operating and thousands of IT professionals produced each year, there is a thriving IT startup scene in Nepal. Going beyond just numbers, we have started to see an increasing number of quality products and innovative solutions. There are companies catering to the specific needs and quirks of the Nepali market and also those making a mark in the international market.
It is an exciting time for Nepal, and we at Sujhaab Chautari are continuously wowed by this emergent entrepreneurial spirit in this young community. To celebrate the achievements of this nascent community, and provide a snapshot of the IT scene in Nepal, we have made this attempt to curate content featuring IT start-ups in the country. We hope this will be a resource for those looking to get an introduction to the startup scene in the country, whether their aim is to become a part of it, or to support it in some way.
NEPALI STARTUPS DATABASE
You can find a searchable directory of Nepali startups at startupsNepal.com. Unfortunately, the other database, Startupsinnepal.com by Parewa Labs is now defunct, but Punit Jajodia from ParewaLabs, in Techlekh article says that creating such directory is helpful for end users, investors and NRNs and also for startups themselves, so let’s hope it is revived at some point.
ONLINE PUBLICATIONS ON STARTUPS
STARTUPSNepal is a startup community and publication of Nepal that aims to build a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in Nepal.
Techlekh.com features innovating Nepali startups, products, events along with interviews, which are changing the landscape of technology in Nepal.
nepalit.com is a participatory site that collects posts from IT entrepreneurs, professionals and technology vendors.
glocalkhabar.com focuses on the activities of youths all around the nation and shares their stories.
ventureplus.com.np is a monthly English magazine that hasn’t been updated in a while, but it is worthwhile scrolling through their older stories of entrepreneurship for some inspiration.
ARTICLES ON IT STARTUPS:
Here are some important articles on Nepali IT startups in different publications, within and outside Nepal.
In What makes your business a Startup in Nepal, Ayush Manandhar asks the very relevant common question: ‘why billion dollar companies like Facebook, Uber, and Flipkart are still called startups? Are successful Nepali companies like eSewa and SastoDeal startups?’ He then identifies four parameters for an organization to be considered a startup: strive for growth, battling extreme uncertainty, search for a scalable business model and working on organic culture in your business that emphasizes innovation.
While celebrating the emerging startup scene, there are also discussions on the common challenges: incomplete ecosystem, lack of funding and risk-averse culture. Swapnil Acharya has strong cautionary tale in Starting a startup in Nepal? You’ll fail — and here’s why.
A 2013 article Tech Entrepreneurship is Brewing Up in Kathmandu, Nepal by Tech in Asia argues that:
“A quick review of recent startup companies in Kathmandu suggests that young entrepreneurs are either implementing ideas that are seemingly saturated in western markets but with a growth potential in Nepal, or simply coming up with innovative solutions in response to daily inefficiencies they encounter. While these companies are resilient to adverse technical and social challenges, the primary concern of long-term financial security remains, with the majority of companies run on personal or family funding.”
In The Story of Nepali Startups, Akhilesh Tripathi identifies lack of funding as one main challenge for startups in Nepal.
“Startups in Nepal face some common challenges in terms of taking their products international and growing the brand. The most obvious challenge is financial. Startups don’t get loans without collateral from the banks. Likewise, angel investors are very few and far between. So, most startups are forced to survive on bootstrapping. Thus, finance is the most difficult problem that people face in Nepal to start a startup. There are no investors willing to invest in startups, according to industry insiders.
The risk-averse culture in Nepal has led to less competition among the startups than in other parts of the world. This lack of overall competition has hurt the startup ecosystem in terms of quality, valuations, and market-building. But the industry is growing, though slowly, say the industry insiders.”
In a 2017 article, Why do startups in Nepal fail?, Pranjal Ghimire points at lack of preparedness from entrepreneurs themselves as the major cause of failure. He points out lack of knowledge of the market, too much networking but too little customer interactions and dependency on investment as lack of homework from those who want to succeed as entrepreneurs. In the article, writers point at the lack of focus and patience among the entrepreneurs that cause high failure rate. Starting a business may look like glamorous but sustaining the business is difficult. They say that government and accelerator programs should play pivotal role to guide and support the entrepreneurs.
Pratik Shrestha, in his 2017 article Building the platform for the Nepali startup community, talks about STARTUPSNepal community and discusses the need to create a common platform for Nepali startup community that brings together entrepreneurs, investors and other stakeholders.
Among all these challenges, Nepali entrepreneurs seem to be making a mark in the national and global scene as well. Here are selected articles featuring Nepali entrepreneurs and celebrating Nepali startups:
NOTEWORTHY IT STARTUPS FROM NEPAL
While there are hundreds of IT companies in Nepal, we tried to list out the IT startups that we found noteworthy. We searched for the startups that are doing innovative and original works making local and global impact. We then listed the articles discussing these startups.
Picovico is an online slideshow video maker that convert photos into video. Users can also add music and text. Created by two engineers Manish Modi and Suraj Sapkota, this is one of the early successful startups from Nepal that has made an impact in the global market.
Grespr is an online web scraping solution that combines expert guidance and easy-to-use platform to help business people extract value from the web without any IT support. This is another startup created by two friends, Amit Chaudhary and Subrat Basnet, that has delivered quality solution in the international market.
Fusemachines gives AI solutions for businesses to automate their sales and customer service. Sameer Maskey, founder and CEO says that the aim of Fusemachines is to establish Nepal as one of the best places in South Asia for research and development of AI products.
Tootle is Nepal’s first ride-sharing app based on motorcycles as the medium. Tootle was launched by a group conducting research on location-based online platforms. They decided to design a ride-hailing app like Uber and Lyft, with two-wheeler service.
nLocate, is the most comprehensive local search engine for Nepal.It helps you locate businesses and activities around you, see their location in a map and contact information, discover their products and services. Besides businesses, nLocate also lets you search and locate useful information like location of ATMs, Banks, Hospitals, Doctors and Movie Showtimes.
HoneyGuide is a mobile app guidebooks for trekking destinations in Nepal. Created by two travel enthusiasts Ashish Shrestha and Abhishek Pande, the application supports the guide for trekking route to Annapurna Base Camp, Ghorepani-Poon Hill Trek and Everest Base Camp. They want to cover major routes in Nepal and extend to the destinations abroad.
Threadpaints is an ecommerce site that started as a customized t-shirt seller. Aashish and Sabin, co-founders of Threadpaints were recognized under Retail and Ecommerce category by 30 under 30 Asia 2017. They started the company while they were still students as they wanted to wear cool t-shirts as featured in the show Big Bang theory but could not find any in the Nepali market.
Vidinterest is a pinterest of videos. It is a video curation and discovery platform. It was ideated by Niranjan Bom Malla’s own struggle in curating videos for his blog.
Meroanswer is a web and mobile platform that helps medical and engineering students prepare for their entrance exams by providing them with sets of questions and solutions for practice. It was started by three studentpreneurs, Santosh Ghimire, Sijan Bhandari and Sujit Maharjan.
Merohostel provides information of all the hostels inside Kathmandu valley. It was started by another studentpreneur, Bidish Acharya after he faced problems as a new student in Kathmandu valley looking for hostels.
While there are some Nepali startups that have made it big in the international market, most startups seem to have been fuelled not by market research but by budding entrepreneurs who felt the need for a particular solution due to their own struggles.
The community is very nascent, but has still managed to make itself noticed on the world stage. We hope that as the startup community matures, many more ventures can become profitable, leading to sustainability and realizing the full potential of Nepali entrepreneurs.