Agro-Commerce, Payment Gateways and Smart Education Systems from Pathibara Technology

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The founders of Pathibhara Technology have been working on multiple ideas to fulfill the gaps they observe in our society. At the Smart Urban Tech Challenge (SUTC), they presented their concept for a payment gateway that allowed for a direct bank to bank money transfer through an application. This project is still underway, but another one of their applications is one that facilitates agro-commerce.
Among several other useful features, its major benefit is that it connects farmers with produce suppliers all over Nepal. Our interviewee, Surya Bista from Pathibhara Technology, also tells us about the organization’s plans to develop other applications. He mentioned one that helps with online education and another one that acts as an online platform for novels written by Nepalese authors. Continue reading this article to hear more about their ideas. 

1. Could you give us a general introduction to your organization?
Pathibhara Technology and services are the names of our company. We registered it just a few months ago. We have developed prototypes for our ideas but we continue to work on them as we grow. Currently, there is a total of 6 people working at the company. We all have jobs and work on these projects after work hours. I handle the technical responsibilities but Manoj Sapkota is the founder. When we were in Biratnagar, he worked at a telecommunication company but wanted to work with technology development so he left his job to start his own company.

2. What was the project you presented at the SUTC?
We felt that an important thing needed to change Kathmandu was a payment gateway system that was more convenient than currently available payment systems. Right now we have IPS systems like E-Sewa and Khalti for which you have to put cash into your account balance. We are trying to have a direct bank to bank money transfers and now that the government has made PAN mandatory, it allows each user to have a unique identity that we can use to link to the banks and transfer funds. It is easier to do audits since your PAN would show all of your transactions and all your bank details are available there as well. 

3. How do you plan on tackling the safety issues with such an application?
Safety is incredibly important and security concerns are going to be our main focus as we move forward. You must have heard about the recent ATM debacles, so we understand the gravity of the situation. We are still developing the prototype and are in the research phase. 

4. What other products is your organization developing?
One of our major products is an agro-commerce related app called “Smart Kishan.” We combined agriculture with E-commerce to develop agro-commerce. A few months ago people in Chitwan had an excess of cabbage, and at the same time, there was a shortage in Kathmandu which made it much more expensive. If there was a way to coordinate those two things, it would’ve been convenient and excess produce wouldn’t go to waste. We want to minimize situations like these and make sure hard work done by farmers doesn’t go to waste. We have a prototype and the app is available for download as well. We plan on having regional centers affiliated with this application. They would help facilitate the transportation of goods between different locations and also help with the use of the app itself. We plan on having produce, products necessary for farming, a discussion forum for farmers and an employment feature for labor that is required for farming at certain times of the year. The discussion forums can be used to compare notes on current weather patterns, farming techniques or diseases that might be affecting their crops and how to avoid them. Our prototype is quite easy to understand and use.

Another product we are trying to develop is an app that helps with accessing novels written by Nepalese authors. There are several books and novels being released in Nepal that don’t seem to have a platform for people to access. It is difficult for people living outside of the country and for people living in remote areas within Nepal to access these books. So whether its educational material or just recreational reading, it can be easily available through the app. We could have audiobooks if the authors are willing to provide it too. However, we need to make sure any security concerns are addressed and that the writers make a profit as well. 

In the long term, I would also be interested in creating online education platforms accessible by people throughout the country. Especially for the Lok Sewa Ayog exams, if people could study for that online it would result in better scores all around the country and more qualified people working those positions. Most people now have internet access so they wouldn’t necessarily have to come all the way to Kathmandu anymore. 

5. Why did your organization focus on these specific issues?
The agro-commerce app was based on news about rising prices of certain vegetables, produce that couldn’t get sold on time and a general lack of farming necessities like labor and fertilizers. The best idea seemed to be the creation of a platform to increase communication and trade between the different stakeholders in the agricultural sector. We have spoken to farmers and as we continue working on this, we will talk to suppliers and distributors as well. 

Personally, I am quite interested in education and technology because it’s useful for everyone. I think educating people is something that gives me satisfaction. It is important, as a startup, to look at the service you are providing before you think about your revenue. If the founder of facebook had thought about revenue when he first started the company he would’ve gotten nowhere. He only thought about the service he would be providing.

6. What are your current challenges for growth?
There are a lot of challenges for us to overcome, we need to put in a great deal of hard work and research to move forward. Nepal has a small market which can be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. We need to do our research and focus on our target market. We’re looking for funding for the payment app as well, once we have that we should be able to move forward faster with this idea. 

7. What is your opinion on entrepreneurship?
I think having a job is important to learn and grow but maybe in a few years, once things are stable, I can focus more on our company. At a job, you’re working on your own responsibilities and you do it for your benefit. But as part of a startup, you have an opportunity to help create more jobs, work as partners and sharing ideas with your bosses and peers. When “Alibaba” was first established, the founder Jack Ma had said that they had nothing to lose, all they had was a dream.

For more information about Pathibhara Technology, connect with Suraj Bista at suryabista6@gmail.com.

Interviewed and article by Jyotika Shah.