18-24 September 2015 #776

Creating app entrepreneurs

Ncell app camp provides an opportunity to turns ideas into business

Finding a homegrown Nepali app for your smartphone is no longer an arduous task. In recent years, Nepali app developers have become prolific. Considering Nepal now has 23.95 million mobile phone subscribers and 10.48 million mobile internet users, the growth in the potential market is huge.

Hoping to tap into the market, Ncell introduced its app camp in 2014. As part of the camp, 457 teams submitted their ideas in four categories - agriculture, education, tourism and corporate. The teams that were selected were offered a chance to attend seminars and coaching sessions with local and global experts.

“It was unlike other events where anyone with a business idea can enter. This one specially focused on mobile app developers. And for recent college graduates like myself, it provided a platform and a push to launch my own startup,” says Chandan Goopta. His team, SentiNep, that competed with other corporate teams and won with its Opinio app in its category.

The bilingual app gathers feedback about a product or business from the web and categorises it as either positive, negative or neutral, which helps businesses know what customers think of their products.

“Before we entered the competition, we hardly knew about product buildup, marketing or pricing. But the mentorship we received at the app camp helped us learn about these and more,” says Goopta.

Sibjan Chaulagain adds, “When we entered the competition we had just an idea but by the end of it we had a potential business idea”. His team’s app ICT Agriculture beat out all other apps, winning the competition. The app informs farmers about the various diseases in crops and livestock, the market prices of different produce, the best methods for cultivation as well as weather patterns. Chaulagain’s team has used their app to successfully connect farmers to traders and have created the ASK Foundation, an agro-information enterprise which they hope to use to develop and improve the app even further.

Manish Shrestha, whose team’s educational app Ritiriwaj beat out other competitors in its category, says that it was the “mentors, platform and prize money” that offered the biggest incentives to enter the competition. For many developers like Shrestha, the prize money helps cover the initial cost incurred when trying to kick-start their apps.

The winners also highly value the sessions led by mentors because they allow them the opportunity to network. “What we learnt during the five months at app camp was equivalent to a year at college,” says Goopta, who is currently working on adding new features to his Opinio app before it goes public.

“After the app camp, we had many venture capitalists who were willing to fund us,” says Shrestha. His app, Ritiriwaj, features photos and videos of festivals and already has over 800 users. “But we haven’t agreed to anyone yet because we want to do this on our own,” he adds. The team is working on a business plan that will expand access to reach more users.

“The app camp helped us get noticed and that has made it easier for us to approach various sectors now,” says Chaulagain of ICT Agriculture which currently has over a thousand users and has attracted the attention of national and international organisations including USAID and ICIMOD.

Given last year’s success, Ncell will launch its second app camp, this time calling for entrepreneurs in Games and Entertainment, Tourism, Health, and Utilities. The deadline for the application is 20 September. As Shrestha says, “For any aspiring app developer to understand the essence of entrepreneurship, the app camp is a must. The valuable inputs from the mentors are irreplaceable”.    Sahina Shrestha

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