Biruwa started out with the passion of Mr. Vidhan Rana to give back to his own country after coming back from US and is doing exactly that. Initiated as an incubation service with shared office space and conducting events to inspire entrepreneurship it reinvented itself to suit the current needs of market and now focuses on providing management consultation to budding social entrepreneurs. It also works as a sounding board for aspiring entrepreneurs who run past their ideas and receive help in creating business plans, access mentors and get business consultation We had an opportunity to chat up with Mr. Rana in his cafe cum co-working space for social entrepreneurs called ventures cafe to understand his journey of making a difference.
1. Why did you start your organization ‘Biruwa’?
I have been following entrepreneurs in Nepal from events like ‘Last Thursday’ events while I was in US. When I came back to Nepal I started participating in these events and meeting young people who wanted to be entrepreneurs but had no access to mentors, capital or knowledge. So lot of ideas just remained ideas. Read Additional information follow this link. When I started looking out for organizations that got entrepreneurs started, I didn’t
find any one particular and felt the need to fill the gap as my bit to the society in some way.
Fortunately I had some experience working with incubators back in US. So in 2011, I started out with a small shared office and named the company ‘Biruwa’
2. How has been your journey so far? How has your company evolved over a period of time?
It’s been good. We started out 8 work desks with power back up and high speed internet and within 3 years we had more than 100 work spaces. We wanted to continue to inspire people to become entrepreneurs which weren’t a trend at that time so we partnered with ‘Last Thursday’ invited successful entrepreneurs to share their stories to make it more aspirational.
However by 2014 situation had changed drastically, there was enough inspiration going around for people with business ideas, electricity was not a big problem anymore hence we decided to realign our services to mentorship and consulting which was a need then. The focus of ‘Last Thursday’ event was also reset to address pain points of managing a startup. We also changed the shared office space and built this cafe that now serves as a co-working space for startups.
3. Can you tell us more about the change that you have witnessed in Nepal’s Social entrepreneurship scenario?
In 2010 there was not a lot of awareness about Social entrepreneurship or even entrepreneurship in general. Most of enterprises in 2010-2011 were started by NGOs or extension of donor funded projects. They weren’t really entrepreneur driven. Many of them were registered as Non-Profits but had revenue generating aspects to their model. So they were more social but less business. Now it has become more business while still retaining the development aspect. So that’s definitely a positive change.
Also now I see a lot of young people in the sector as there are academic courses on social entrepreneurship taught in college and lot of programs that create awareness about it. Many young people drop in our mentorship sessions and discuss ideas. Very encouraging seeing that In terms of the gaps in the market, still there is not enough focus on the business side of things. For example, the business model hasn’t really been thought through, a lot of management system gaps, product and service quality aren’t up to standards etc.
There has been lots of failures in the market and there haven’t been that many success stories. The entrepreneurs are aware of it but do not have the necessary budgets to get consultations.
Sometimes we do work with the entrepreneurs to help them fill these gaps on pro bono or heavily discounted basis but as a private company we are constrained by our own capacities as well.
4. Do you think entrepreneurship is becoming fashionable rather than a serious career option since so many support systems have been developed?
Not only for Social Entrepreneurs but with regular entrepreneurs it’s a ‘cool’ thing to do. We do meet lot of young people who want to start up. They get inspired by the Silicon Valley examples, India and China where the markets are more developed but are not really aware of the effort it takes to build a business.
However it is sort of auto correcting itself. There has been lot of failures in the market and there haven’t been that many success stories. If we compare the number of students who would start business right out of college in 2013-14 to the ones in 2017 the numbers have probably gone down.
5. How Impactful and important are incubators/accelerators services to Nepal’s Social Entrepreneurship ecosystem?
There are lots of acceleration programs but not many incubation programs. Also except for Kings College who conduct their program in limited capacity, there aren’t any structured programs for Social Enterprises. So, incubation services for Social Enterprises would be highly impactful. It would definitely boost the ecosystem. However incubation services as a business may not give good returns as a business.
Click on the link to reach Biruwa.