In the course of interacting with managers, entrepreneurs and management students as a lecturer, I encountered three recurring themes that seem to be bothering most people who run, manage or work in businesses or public enterprises in Nepal.
Organisational governance: It's an open secret that most private companies are not good at the practice of corporate governance, which is about how effectively a company is directed and controlled for results. Rastra Bank has laid down some governance guidelines for banks. But corporate governance does not get much play elsewhere in the economy. Instead of hoping that non-financial companies will someday see the light and improve by themselves, it's better to expect that increased competition will force them to improve in all areas, including governance, or force them out of the market.
The same, however, cannot be said of public or semi-public enterprises such as Nepal Oil Corporation, Nepal Tourism Board or Nepal Telecom. Senior managers who have served for many years complain bitterly that the tendency of politicians to flout rules to appoint heads as per their whims and party-political requirements is destroying many of these entities. Moreover, such arbitrariness has meant that public enterprises function more like unofficial centres of mass employment for party cadres.
As such, there's a hunger among public sector employees to understand how they can get governance right at their organisations.
Negotiating with unions: Everyone knows that opening up a large-scale industrial unit is risky in Nepal, not necessarily because of price or quality issues, but because of politically charged labour problems that will crop up sooner rather than later.
Yet most managers remain ill-trained on aspects of labour laws, and on ways of negotiating with labour unions. Even when they want to get information on this, there is not much of a knowledge platform or network to plug into for advice and contacts. This gap became clear as senior managers, who one might think would be informed, asked me many questions on how unions could be tamed so staff members are focused on production and results rather than political rallies.
Instead of merely requesting, time and again, the political parties to rein in their militant labour unions, entities such as FNCCI and CNI should recast their own role. They should be helping upgrade their members' negotiation skills while educating them about the good and the bad that unions can do in organisations.
Entrepreneurship: Every new bank says that it exists to help entrepreneurs. But entrepreneurs argue that the banks are so heavy on daunting paperwork and light on advisory support that most say no thanks to banks. International financial agencies, usually staffed by those in MBA suits who have never run a live, breathing business themselves, take the approach of clinging on to one or two entrepreneurs, only to write about them as success stories for headquarters at a later date.
Missing from both approaches is an understanding that entrepreneurship does not exist in vacuum. It needs an ecosystem of its own, a network of financiers, lawyers, accountants, mentors and apprentices. Helping develop that ecosystem, over a period of years, is unglamorous and unrewarding work. But as in Silicon Valley or in Boston, doing just that is the first critical step towards ensuring that the entrepreneurial species can flourish in Nepal.
Nepali entrepreneurs are hungry for networks, contacts and advice that they can trust and skills they can pick up. They are not interested in just another lecture on the importance of entrepreneurship.
Life support, Publisher's note
The intellectual dilemma, Mohan Bikram Singh
Losing ground, Prashant Jha
The partisan press, CK Lal
Blow your own trumpet, Indu Nepal
350 days for new constitution, Ass