Born in Chhatrapur Village Municipality in Gulmi, I had a very humble upbringing as many others in our village. After completing my intermediate level education from Ratna Rajyalakshmi Campus in Kathmandu, I wanted to become a businessman. To learn the tricks of the construction industry, I worked at a brick factory in Butwal around 1996. After a while there, I wished to come to Surkhet and try out a new industry. I saw a future of automobiles in Surkhet. I started out with Asim Auto Parts here in Surkhet with an initial investment of NPR. 160,000 only. When I was working in brick kiln with my uncle, there were about 200 workers. I saw that if I could start my own business, I could also generate employment for others. I wanted to employ my little knowledge and skills in auto repairs here in Surkhet because this was one of the least developed regions in the country; my enterprise could really help a lot of families earn a livelihood, I thought. Today, we run the Bajaj Motorcycle and Auto Rickshaw Dealers in Karnali. At present, our annual turnover is more than NPR 7 million. The dealership employs 50 staff in Surkhet only, along with more than 150 associates all over the province.
In my experience of more than 20 years, I have seen that it is very difficult to be an entrepreneur. In the beginning, you could have ideas, but not capital, and you cannot become an entrepreneur without capital. But once you get started and get past the initial three to four years, you start earning the trust of those around you. Slowly, everyone starts supporting you.
Today, I feel that Karnali offers a glowing future for entrepreneurs. There are many opportunities for entrepreneurs. But having said that, there is a lot to be done in terms of creating a favorable policy regime to harness that potential of the place as well as its entrepreneurial youth. Government policies are not the most facilitating as they are right now. Another major issue for aspiring entrepreneurs comes from the factor market.
There is a lack of land to set up an industry in Birendranagar. Then, there is the problem of regular and stable electricity supply in the region. I do not see the issue subsiding unless we invest in a 133 KV transmission line here. Surkhet airport is small and that limits the volume of flyers in and out of Surkhet. And then there is the government – government needs to start trusting and supporting its private sector which is something that is lacking at the moment. All three levels of government need to understand the private sector not only makes profits – the private sector also generates wealth, pays taxes to the government, and most importantly, offers economic opportunities to the locals of the region. As of today, we are closed since April 22 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I see that we failed to manage the situation as well as we could have.
We chose to close everything and wait the pandemic out. As a result, entrepreneurs are not able to pay retain their staff today or service their loans from the banks (or families and friends). Most have lost their source of livelihood. Now are literally on the streets right now. Agriculture, education, transportation and tourism have all collapsed due to the COVID. I honestly do not think that a lockdown is something that we can look at as a solution to the health crisis at hand because the health crisis is not isolated from other economic activities. Failure to sustain the economy will only push us further into the crisis in future.
Karnali has great opportunities in agriculture, hydroelectricity and herbal sector. Karnali is a hub for high value herbs. By establishing a processing industry in Surkhet, we can benefit by new employment opportunities and promise of exports. There is a lot of potential for mining as well, here. Similarly, organic agriculture is also a possibility. For example, Jumla's apple, Marsi rice, walnut are all high value agricultural products. It would work wonders for our regional economy if we could somehow figure out a way to unlock these potentials.
As I come towards the end of sharing my opinions, let me go back to a couple of issues facing aspiring entrepreneurs today. Despite promises from the government, entrepreneurs are not being able to access collateral-free loan based on their project plan. Imust share that the government has not paid sufficient attention to this issue. An aspiring entrepreneur simply cannot purchase a 3 billion rupee land to start a 500 million rupee business. This is something that we need to come up with a solution to as soon as possible. I would like to urge the government, through this platform of yours, to start looking into policies that could enable aspiring entrepreneurs to deal with this issue so that we can reap the promises that Surkhet has in store for hardworking entrepreneurs.