Nepali Times
Strictly Business
Who's bad?


Private sector professionals in Nepal view the development sector with suspicion. They accept the easy media-fed diet of international non-governmental organisations as being 'dollar farmers'. Their self-image is that they in the private sector are doing 'real work' as opposed to doing mere 'development', which they have a hard time seeing as work.

As someone who's worked in and with both the private and the development sectors, I think it's time the Nepali private sector, the way it is currently structured, looks at the development sector with an open mind to better understand the latter's approaches to governance, accountability and providing career paths to employees.

Governance: It's an open secret that most Nepali companies, including banks and finance companies, have lousy systems for deciding how they are directed and controlled for results. Most are family businesses, and some have only recently started hiring professional managers Ė that too, with mixed success. Most boards are stuffed with the in-laws and friends of the chairmen, and they think of the company as a trough from which to feed. Except for some that are accountable to shareholders abroad, it's safe to say that most Nepali companies do not see the value of having a robust governance system in place.

In contrast, organisational governance is taken much more seriously in the INGO world. The global revenue figures of some of these INGOs dwarf that of many top-line Nepali companies. Since most Nepal-based INGOs have headquarters abroad, they are more likely to have fairly well-developed and globally validated policies, procedures and processes for how staff members deliver work. That strength in governance also affects their field-based NGOs and community groups, which are held to a much higher standard of accountability than they would be locally.

Sure, instances of governance failure happen in the INGO world too. But when they do, the system tends to correct those failures much faster than they would in equivalent situations in the Nepali private sector, where much is dependent on the whims of the chairman or the CEO.

Accountability: Most INGOs raise funds from institutional and individual donors who are usually based abroad. These donors routinely demand rigorous accountability with regards to how much, where, why, and how funds have been spent for results that have been promised. Reporting requirements are stringent.

Most Nepali journalists who report that "INGOs are not transparent" are not serving their readers well when they do not even bother to read the annual reports of INGOs, who have to satisfy the demands of various countries' equivalents of Nepal's Social Welfare Council.

Career path: Reading the Nepali press, one gets the impression that the local retail bank CEOs who earn the most are necessarily among the best managers. What the Nepali press forgets to mention is that, in the last 10 years in the INGO world, many home-grown Nepali professionals have risen much higher regionally and globally, and therefore command a much greater influence among their global peers. This has been possible because INGOs, unlike most Nepali companies, offer a better career path for their talented employees. And a Nepali who has run a global non-profit with offices in 65 countries has a range of mental models that few high-flying local CEOs can match.

Next time you hear a private sector professional launching into yet another attack against INGOs, why not turn the tables? "True, INGOs are far from perfect. But how does your company do governance; how are you accountable to customers; and what career path do you offer to your 'best assets', your employees?" A stimulating conversation is likely to ensue.

India changing, PRASHANT JHA
The lure of the national, CK LAL
The failed people
Been there, done that, PUBLISHER'S NOTE

1. GB Banjara

While INGOs generally have better governance, are more accountable to their stakeholders (though in most cases it is limited to the donors who fund their programs) and offer better career prospect for employees, they also suffer from problems such as high costs of operation, lack of efficiency, too much paper work and lack of creativity and innovation owing to their air tight programmatic frameworks. Probably, private sector of Nepal fares little bit better in terms of costs, effciency and innovation. In this sense, both sectors can learn from eachother.

Ashu is right in saying that Nepali media and the private sector often castigate (I)NGO without much basis. Ironically, the same jouranists and bankers who criticize INGOs often found eying for suitable positions in INGOs. The reality of Nepali job market is such that, best and the brightest still tend to drift towards the development sector rather than sticking with private sector. Private sector of Nepal should take note of this.

2. GB Banjara

While INGOs generally have better governance, higher transparency and offer better career opportunities for emplyees, they also suffer from problems such as high cost of operation, ineffciency, too much paper work and lack of innovation and creativity owing to their air-tight logframs. Private sector is more cost effective, efficient and innovative compared to the development sector. In this sense, both can learn from eachther.

Ashu is right in saying that media and private sector professionals often tend to critisize development sector without proper analysis and understanding. The same journalists and mangers in private sector who criticise development sector are often found eying for plum development sector jobs. Afterall, the best and brightest of Nepal still tend to converge to the development sector.

3. DG
Most challenging work is to run your own business; what we need is a risk taking entrepreneurs. Education is to make a thinking person, man-making exercise. our politics and industries should attract such ypung men. Attraction of the West will continue for some time to come. Impart skill to working people who go for work outside.

4. satyendra

Good artcle just after country aid director to water aid....

5. satyendra
Is your immediate goal to earn good money? Join an INGO (non-profit sector) in Nepal. November 20th, 2009

If your immediate goal is to make some good money in Nepal within a space of a few years, and you happen to be a well educated Nepali, I recommend you join an INGO (basically I include non profit International Non Governmental Organizations and multi lateral agencies in this category).

Do not start your own business. Do not work in private firms. Not even banks. It is much harder to meet this goal these ways.
Here are some of my arguments that you can take with a pinch of salt!

You will earn at least two times more money in the same period in an INGO as you would in most private business in Kathmandu. (The rumor is you will earn much more) You will travel at least four times more. (on average) You generally work more hours per week in private institutions than the 5 day, 9 to 5 job in a INGO. You will have more holidays and free time working for an INGO than in a private business. And you have less of a chance of your boss breathing down the neck. Plus you have more exposure to international circles and networks (which comes handy in any career moves or further education). The pressures of working in an INGO is much relaxing than in a private business. (Almost to the point of boring, some of my friends quip) And your job security is much better. Since on a regular basis for a few years, I have seen more NGO's and INGO's vacancy advertisements in Nepal than any medium to big business has. I have hardly seen any of my friends in NGO sector find a problem finding another job in the NGO sector. Never seen a smoother job transition in any sector than the NGO sector.

So If your intention is to make some good money in Nepal immediately, Join the INGO business in Nepal.
And for those entrepreneurs amongst you, how about catering your products and services to the non profits -INGOs and multi lateral agencies. They are excellent customers with deeper pockets and more will to spend than most private firms in Kathmandu!



6. kk
Very good article and the meaningful debate!
I have few different views on what Satyaendra ji said in his comment. The job in INGOs are not so relaxing and challenge free as he mentioned. The INGO job holders have to work in such a environment with goals set for organisational and personal level  for future 5 years or so. He or she has to update herself or himself regularly to be competitive and surviving in the career and it is not enough to be someones relatives or family members like in private sector. I also do not agree with the point that, INGOs are highly paid than in private sector, especially than banking sector. Only chief of the organiosation may have bit higher salaries but the other general staffs have the salaries just enough to maintain the life standards. For sure, the bank CEOs or other private business CEOs have far more salaries and benefits than Nepali INGO CEOs. One thing we all have to recognize that, private sector works for benefit of limited number of people but INGO sector has definitely more wider area to benefit, not just counting the profit and tax.

7. very private
A summary of Satyendra's (dubious) points 

INGOs                                  Pvt company
- more money - less money
- more travel - less travel
- more holidays - less holidays
- less boss                      - more boss
- more int'l exposure - less int'l exposure
- more relaxed - less relaxed
- higher job security - lower job security

reminds me of this joke

8. syadl
so finally it's clear ... it's hard to walk your own talk .. big talking biz head finally finds shelter in an ingo .. sad indeed is the state of biz in this country.

9. jange
Development is a multi billion global industry and Nepal is an active player in it. It should have Nepal's best and brightest taking part in it in order to take advantage of it.

A good businesswalla is one who invests where the returns on investments are the highest.

Given the current political situation where the basic assumption of two major political parties is that businesswallas are, by definition, exploiters and the Maoists have worked hard in the last 15 years to make Nepal a less attractive place for private capital we should really be actively persuading people to abandon the private sector for the I/NGO development sector. That is where the best returns are and will continue to be for at least a generation.

An astute business move by Mr. Tiwari if indeed he has joined the Development sector.

They don't teach you that in Harvard. For that you need to have walked the walk.

Maybe the next article will be about the relative market potential of the private and development sector in Nepal.

10. Kancha

It is normally the flunkies from Western countries, those who cannot make it into the private sectors that join NGO. Working for NGOs is much less of a charm (coz you depend on charity money to function and the pay is less), so the smarter graduates opt for the private sector. Surprisingly, in developing countries it is just the opposite, where the INGO sector is the biggest industry.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)