Mr Surath Giri is a person who adorns many hats; he is an avid blogger, an entrepreneur and a digital media professional. In his previous avatar he worked as a researcher in a think tank organization called Samridhi Foundation. We had an opportunity to have a chat with him about his entrepreneurial journey and thoughts about the social sector.
Can you tell us about your blog? How did you start it? What keeps you going and what kind of readership you have?
I worked for Samridhi Foundation which is a Think Tank organization. My role was to conduct policy related research on making businesses better in Nepal and obviously entrepreneurship was a key element to it. We wanted to advocate these ideas and take the information to as many people as possible. But we were quite small at that time so newspapers and television hadn’t heard about us and we would not get any media space. I thought why not write a blog. Once I started writing about various economic aspects of the countries I received many comments that there isn’t any similar resources/information online. So I kept writing. My readers grew organically and I have 700,000 visitors till date. What keeps me going? If I don’t write for a while I start getting enquiries about when is the next blog expected so that motivates me as well pushes me to keep writing. Also the thought that my article provides value to readers is also motivating e.g the last article about organizations that support entrepreneurship took quite some time to write but it’s a useful resource now.
That’s really interesting. What about you’re other initiatives? I understand you are a full time entrepreneur as well.
I started Onion Films which is a media company for social organization. We do a lot of video documentation for NGO’s, Social Entrepreneurs and SE accelerators programs as well make documentaries on social issues. We also undertake training programs for the youth on film making. My other company is into translation and research again in to the development sector. It has 8 staff members who does editing, camera work, content etc. I am also setting up a research organization that focuses on Financial Literacy, Economic policy and entrepreneurship development. It will be called as Nepal Prosperity Institute.
How did the transition from employee/blogger to entrepreneur happened?
After working for 6 years in Samridhi Foundation and promoting Social entrepreneurship; I realized I need to walk the talk and start my own initiative. However the real push happened when the US embassy in Nepal nominated me to attend Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Morocco. I met many inspiring young entrepreneurs who were doing amazing
work. I met this guy from Bangladesh who was a movie maker who really stood out for me because of his work. A 22 year old man from Kenya, who dropped out of school twice because he had too much work from his business. Once I came back, I started saving money to create a safety nest so that I can set up Onion films.
What do you think about the Social Entrepreneurship Landscape in Nepal?
I think it’s at a very nascent stage. The Social Entrepreneurship ecosystem is not completely developed. Currently the business world is dominated by a few big names. There are efforts to promote entrepreneurship like accelerator programs and a few investors but untapped scope and potential still exists in Nepal.
What are the missing elements from the Nepal’s market that would make Social Entrepreneurship more conducive?
The first element would be the legal structure. If you want to register as a Social Enterprise then you don’t have an option. You have to register as a Company or an NGO. Recently a new category is added which is called Profit Not Distributing Company. It is the closest towards the philosophy of social entrepreneurship. However it is governed by NGO regulations which are not suitable for running a company and there are lot of grey areas in governance of these entities.
The second would be access to funds. New entrepreneurs don’t have easy access to capital or investments. To raise funds the entrepreneur has very limited options and their best bet is banks who would give loans only on the basis of collateral. So having more Venture Capitalist would boost the ecosystem.
You can know more about Mr. Giri and his work on his blog http://www.surathgiri.com/