In the last 28 years, Nepal has changed its government 25 times, culminating with the election of the Communist Party Alliance in 2017. Despite this tenuous stability, populism and broader illiberal sentiments crowd out entrepreneurial innovation in the country. To help light the spark of free enterprise, Atlas Network partner Bikalpa, an Alternative organized a series of “Open Market Promoting Entrepreneurship” workshops that have reached over 500 students.
“While innovation is a highly valued trait, Nepali society often puts a negative light on entrepreneurs,” said Basanta Adhikari, founding director of Bikalpa. “The stereotype that runs in society and even at the policy level usually categorizes businessmen and entrepreneurs as evil, trying to rob the poor consumers of their hard-earned money. Bikalpa, an Alternative organized the ‘Open Market Promoting Entrepreneurship’ workshops in Biratnagar and its nearby cities, in order to educate college students on the positive aspects of open-market principles and the ideas of entrepreneurship.”
Basanta Adhikari teaches students during an 'Open Market Promoting Entrepreneurship' workshop.
Overall, Bikalpa has organized 23 workshops with a total attendance of 534 students. It organized 11 workshops in 2016, which had 247 participants, and 12 workshops in 2017, which had 287 participants. Originally, the workshops were only going to be held in the Biratnagar region, but Bikalpa expanded to nearby cities, including Dharan, Itahari, Damak, Chitwan, and Tankisinuwari.
“Our intention was to educate and inform college students about the ideas of entrepreneurship, open market principles, and public policy issues, and to expand our supporter base in Eastern Nepal through our programs,” continued Adhikari. “Since 2016, we have conducted 23 whole-day workshops and enrolled 534 college students with the support of Atlas Network.”
Participants in Bikalpa’s workshops have also connected with other Atlas Network partners. Bikalpa sent two participants to the Samriddhi Foundation’s five-day-long, residential “Leading for Prosperity” program. Furthermore, nine participants have attended the Centre for Civil Society’s “ìpolicy” training program in Mumbai and Delhi.
Graduating class of an 'Open Market Promoting Entrepreneurship' workshop.
“Nepal ranks 105th in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, which indicates that government policies are not market friendly and discourages good business practices while promoting cronyism,” said Adhikari. “[The government has] not been able to encourage trade, entrepreneurship, and employment within the country, and many Nepalese are forced to live in the gutter of poverty. Around 1,500 Nepalese youths are reluctant to leave their country every day for the labor market and we receive 3–4 dead bodies out of those every single day.”
Bikalpa also organized two “Liberty Camps” in Dhulikhel and Biratnagar in partnership with the Language of Liberty Institute. The five-day-long Residential Liberty Camp in Dhulikhel/Kathmandu was held for 24 participants from June 25–30 and the Biratnagar Camp was held from June 22–23.
Bikalpa, An Alternative received a grant from Atlas Network in support of its Open Market project.