Next Growth Conclave
The opening address by Sambhav Sirohiya, the founding chairman of M&S NEXT, aptly expressed what the conclave was trying to achieve, that is, to inform, inspire and educate the next generation of entrepreneurs. Sirohiya focused his speech on how the best companies in the world have moonshot goals that drive them to greatness. He said that if you were to start a business, you shouldn’t think about creating merely just anoth er mobile app. “Don’t hold yourself back from thinking big, as the greatest leaders we look up to sure didn’t. Think life extension, think robotics, think about ending world poverty, think of a world without illiteracy, think 100 per cent employment, think biotech, think 3D printing,” he said. His words set the tone for the conclave and gave the attendees a glimpse of what was to come.
Lineup of speakers
The biggest attraction for many attendees was the stellar lineup of international and national speakers. The speakers came from India, Thailand, Hong Kong, Bangladesh and Nepal, bringing years of experience and insight to share with the crowd. All the speakers are leaders in their own fields and are making a significant impact in their countries. The diversity of their experiences and the variation of the themes they presented made for a very engaging event.
Mahesh Murthy, the founder of Pinstorm and cofounder of Seedfund, and the opening keynote speaker for the event, expressed why customer satisfaction was so important for new digital businesses. He argued that the best brands do not require any advertisement, and how focusing on making customers happy creates conversation about a company’s products. He explained how word of mouth is one of the keys to success in today’s age.
Joseph Jeong, who is a mentor at Chinaccelerator, reflecting on his life experiences and his passion for teaching entrepreneurship, said that being an entrepreneur was a unique calling—that it demands changes in the mindset of would-be entrepreneurs. He stressed how moonshot goals are necessary to drive passion and innovation.
Bhupendra Khanal, who has run a successful analytics company, Simplify360, and now runs Dogsee Chew, talked about the three I’s that are needed to ensure product superiority: Innovation, Integration and Improvisation; and the three D’s needed to facilitate global expansion: Diversity, Decentralisation and Dependability.
Vinay Singhal, the cofounder of WittyFeed, shared his own story of struggles as an entrepreneur. He said that because the world was so connected now, successful businesses could be started anywhere. The best tip he gave was this: “Make your cofounder your brother because no matter what happens, he will be with you till the end.”
Aditi Chaurasia, the cofounder of EngineerBabu, talked about how gender should not be an impediment to being an entrepreneur.
Sneh Sharma, the founder and CEO of Ittisa, spoke about how being a purpose-driven organisation creates a healthy and successful business. Drawing from the values of her company, she gave examples of how the women in her company always gave it their all for the sake of the company.
Minhaz Anwar, head of Grameenphone Accelerator, talked about how a few years ago, the situation in Bangladesh pushed people like him to take up the responsibility for building an entrepreneurship ecosystem in the country. He said he saw similarities between Nepal and his home country, and that he believed it was inevitable that Nepal too would witness a change in its entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Amarit Charoenphan, the cofounder of Hubba, Thailand’s leading co-working space, talked about the components needed for building a startup support system. He stressed that to move forward, all the stakeholders in an ecosystem must help each other. He too predicted that Nepal has the potential for turning into a startup hub for Southeast Asia.
Ajeet Khurana provided startups with an insider’s knowledge on what investors actually look for when investing in startups. Drawing from his 18 years of experience as an angel investor, he stressed that in most cases, the team mattered more than the business idea itself. He reminded the audience that investors invest on the potential of a business’s team rather than just the idea.
Shahil Agrawal, the managing director of the Shanker Group, was the closing keynote speaker. He reflected on the ups and downs the Shanker Group had lived through and said that innovation was what has made the Shanker Group what it is today. He said that if a startup wants to grow, they need to be innovative.
The conclave also hosted a showcasing platform called Startup Valley, and it accommodated 25 of the most promising startups in Nepal. Startup Valley provided a platform for startups to showcase and pitch their products and services to over 60 investors, prospective customers, senior entrepreneurs, startup enthusiasts and other startup founders. For instance, Golden Peak, an organic tea brand, arranged a small tea-tasting session for all the attendees.
Not only were the startups able to network with the investors, some of them were also successful in getting investors on board. During the event, Pranay Karki of JUAS, a company providing innovative sustainable organic food production and organic waste recycling solutions, made deals with three investors. Similarly, the founders of Semantic Creations, a company that provides VR tours of tourist destinations in Nepal, pitched their idea to Deepak Raj Joshi, the CEO of Nepal Tourism Board, and also discussed the potential of virtual reality in promoting the Nepali tourism industry.
Some of the startups also launched their products during a dedicated session called Kickstart Hill. Ten new startups officially kick-started their business on the occasion and got media coverage for their launch. Among these startups were: Web-Robo, a web-service and robotics company; Green Bamboo Creation, a manufacturer of bamboo furniture; FurnitureHub, an online furniture store; My Rupee Bag, a cashback website; Keep Rolling Media, a billboard and outdoor advertising company; HODOR, a taxi service app; Golden Peak, a tea brand; and Fancynepal, an online clothing store.
NEXT Launchpad calls for application
In their welcome speeches, Sirohiya, the founding chairman, and Kavi Raj Joshi, the founder/managing director of NEXT Venture Corp, presented their vision for the company and for its startup accelerator programme, NEXT Launchpad. “M&S NEXT is a team dedicated to scour the industry for the most passionate and dedicated entrepreneurs,” said Sirohiya. “And NEXT Launchpad is our attempt to fully support and connect these entrepreneurs with similar associates, mentors and investors.”
NEXT Launchpad is a four-month-long mentorship-driven accelerator programme where businesses in their infancy can gain the knowledge and expertise needed to take their business to the next level. At the conclave, M&S NEXT issued an open call for applications for their accelerator programme. (Interested startups can visit the M&S NEXT website to fill in the application forms.) The programme is aimed at businesses that are already in operation and have a viable product that they can roll out in the market, and it follows a rigorous curriculum that covers subjects such as discovering the company’s value proposition, understanding legal aspects and making strategies for growth. The lessons will be delivered through hands-on workshops by experts from different sectors.
The potential of Nepal
Almost all the speakers at the event emphasised the potential of entrepreneurship in Nepal. They said that Nepal was on its way to building a strong entrepreneurship ecosystem. Minhaz Anwar, of Grameenphone Accelerator, shared his thoughts on how Nepal was only a step behind Bangladesh, a country that’s already a booming entrepreneurship hub, and that Nepal too could get there in a few years. Amarit Charoenphan, of Hubba, said that with a proper startup support system in place, Nepal could achieve its entrepreneurship potential within a few years. Other speakers also expressed similar thoughts and said that events such as the Growth Conclave was how Nepal could get the ball rolling.
This article was first published on M&S VMAG.