starting-up! challenges galore
The start-up phase is definitely the most defining and challenging stage for any venture. A company’s failure or success depends on how you successfully tackle the challenges that come along during this stage. In this context, we asked some successful Nepali entrepreneurs about the biggest challenges they faced while starting out and how they overcame it. Here are their responses:
Running a startup like Pagevamp, we encounter new challenges almost every day and it is not one isolated challenge but the combination of all challenges that make starting up super fun and tough at the same time.
But, something that particularly stands out to me is the challenge to stay focused and filter out noise. When we first started, we were trying to cater to everyone (people from all verticals with different needs, from all works of life). This wasn’t really working with a three person company as we weren’t collecting enough data on a particular vertical (or industry) and thus not fully focused on catering to and adding value to anyone. We also couldn’t distinguish noise from good data.
Initially we faced a lot of rejections for our product. One of the biggest challenges is to retrieve good data and understand why this is happening, isolate the different variables (is it the product? The sales pitch? The unclear value proposition) and test hypotheses. Often times (something that we are constantly improving on), we are overwhelmed with data but not able to make the most of it or use it to test assumptions. This is not ideal for startups like us as the product is constantly evolving with feedback from the market. This is why it is important to focus on core assumptions, nail the product and progress and then scale it; something we are doing by focusing on photographers and restaurants for now.
Pagevamp is a US-based start-up that allows user to create and update their websites through Facebook.www.pagevamp.com is their website.
Co-owner and Managing Director, Himalayan Rabbit Farm
Rabbit farming was still a novel concept in Nepal when we first started out. Consequently, finding the right market was the biggest hurdle for us. When you introduce something new in the market, people are hesitant to try it. It was something similar with rabbit meat. People in Kathmandu had never tried rabbit meat before; they did not know whether it was nutritious or how it was to be prepared. Also, many people suspected that it was over-priced. So, the first few months of operation were definitely hard.
But, eventually, we started providing the right kind of information about rabbit meat and its health benefits to our prospective clients. We also began sharing recipes and instructions to cook rabbit meat properly. It was then that people gradually started showing interest. Many restaurant and hotel representatives also came to us to try this new product, and currently, they are our biggest clients. Overall, Kathmandu’s market has been responding quite well these days.
Belambu-based Himalayan Rabbit Farm supplies150 kg of meat every month to restaurants like Lazimpat-based Le Sherpa, Babarmahal-based foreign restaurant and a couple of Thamel-based restaurants.
Owner, Nina and Hager
When I first started Nina and Hager, there really was no competition in the market as sausages were very rare to find. But, when I came back to Nepal after completing my two-year study program in Germany, competition had suddenly flooded the market. So, I had to start all over again and re-vitalize my business.
We had humble beginnings. We were also financially weak and understaffed. I was a one-man army, taking on marketing and production aspects while my three family members supported me. To make things worse, we were up against big frozen meat producing companies. So, when I would approach my earlier clients, they refused to buy my products as they already had a supplier. Some of them were also hesitant to try our new products.
Back then, the big companies had set a trend of colored sausages that had to be brown or dark red. But, we slowly changed things around by supplying new types of sausages (for instance, smoked sausages, with a much lighter tone). People started liking our products because we ensured them flavor, hygiene and most importantly quality. These three qualities still setour sausages apart from others available in the market.
Nina and Hager is a supplier of quality frozen meat items. They are located at Jawalakhel. They are run Café Nina and a meat shop at Saleways, Maharajgunj.
As a technical start-up, the biggest challenge we faced while opening up Karkhana was recruiting skilled and educated people with the right set of critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
The education system in Nepal is such that it kills the creativity in students. It also discourages them to think independently and critically. Although we have a lot of ‘degree holders’ in our country, there is a great dearth of people who are independent thinkers and problem solvers. Fresh graduates from colleges lack the much-needed organizational and communication skills, and many of them are not used to collaborating and working in group projects.
As a company providing technical solutions to other companies, we felt an absence of creative people in the market. Given the ground reality, we had to re-assess our goals and start fresh. We have now shifted our focus to project based learning where we provide school students hands-on training through science and robotics projects. We believe, by doing so, we can be back to our previous model by tapping talents that come out of our learning projects.
Karkhana is a group of creative people with an interest in technology and technical craft who provide project based learning projects and skill-development workshops to students on science and technology.