While a section of Nepali society is in the habit of fatalistically declaring: ‘Nepal cannot even make a needle’, others are quietly innovating smart solutions to solve Nepal’s challenges.
Startup weekends, incubation hubs and idea competitions are being held regularly in Kathmandu, and even in Nepalganj and other cities. The social web is full of invitations to such events, and we are getting used to approaching angel funders and venture funds.
Mahabir Pun’s Nepal Invention Center
also seems to be gathering momentum as resources trickle in from all over the world. At business schools, aspirants are being asked to become self-employed and job creators, not job seekers.
All these activities and opportunities are getting people thinking, designing pitching, building and piloting, new ideas and solutions. It is shifting the conversation among Nepalis from ‘cannot’ to ‘why not’. Real problems have real solutions. A country of nearly 30 million is not a small market -- Nepalis are increasingly not accepting handouts and do not expect the government to solve their problems. This is the perfect time for Nepalis to see if they have what it takes to become an inventor.
A great example of what Nepalis can and have done in the past is the story of the blacksmiths of Baglung who built bridges using an innovative solution of making chain-linked ‘cables’. This was long before steel cables started being imported, which ultimately displaced the amazing bridges and the blacksmiths who built them.
The National Museum in Chaunni
has a machine gun which Nepali inventors designed and built themselves. There is a family of metal castors in Kathmandu who made the ‘lakhe bomb’ for the Nepal-Tibet-China war
which jumped up and exploded, sowing fear in the enemy ranks. The Phyuthan and Bhojpuri khukuri or brass pots from Chainpur and Palpa, show Nepali craftsmanship
at its best.
Akal Man Nakarmi used to manufacture Peltric turbines in his small workshop in Chhetrapati, while Balaju Yantra Shala crafted and exported its indigenously made cross flow turbines to Indonesia and the Philippines. Nepalis have for generations channeled water through the raj kulo networks to supply water to our temples and buildings. Indians used to come across the border to buy Hetauda Kapada, and to make phone calls. Just look at our ancient irrigation canals and the urban landscape of Rani Pokhari.
We are capable.
Today we need warehouses to store agro produce, we need cold storage and refrigerated trucks to link the farm to the market. We need to design hybrid energy systems
that combine the sources from the sun, local wind and water to give us regular power for 24 hours and 365 days a year. We need to store essential drugs and blood in remote health facilities.
Now that we have regular power supply we need efficient appliances and cleaner transport. We need to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and make sure every child has access to the digital media. No one is going to spend time and energy to invest in the Nepali market or meet Nepali needs – we must do that ourselves.
In Kathmandu Valley there is a tradition where children who do not speak clearly at a young age are taken to the Surya Binayak temple to receive blessings. The problem is that the moment children learn to speak and ask questions, they are told to ‘shut up’. Feudalism comes in many forms and the lack of space to ask questions and challenge the status quo is a big one.
How did we learn to make the best yogurt, pickles, to press oil in the Karnali or to craft mule and yak harnesses? How did we domesticate elephants, learn to distil aromatic plants, and recognise vegetation that heal and provide wellness? Who designed and scaled up the water ghatta to mill grain all over Nepal? How did we take to new foods like wheat and potatoes, even adopt new technologies like the smart phone so rapidly?
It’s time to unleash the inventors in us.
Anil Chitrakar is President of Siddharthinc.
Start-ups need staying power, Ashutosh Tiwari
It’s all about IT, Sahina Shrestha
Mahabir’s centre for Nepal connection, Ruby Tuesday