Tackling Ingrained Stereotypes Through Youth Entrepreneurship: A Young Female Graduate’s Journey to Become an Entrepreneur and Changemaker

FROM: Akriti Rana – 20. September 2021

Nepal’s youth population is more than two-fifth of its total population (National Census, 2011).  With Nepal currently in its demographic dividend where the country’s working and young population is higher than its dependent population, experts have been highlighting the importance of taking opportunity of this limited demographic transition for the economic development of the country. Despite attaining college education, unemployment seems to be a major problem amongst educated youth with graduate unemployment being as high as 26 percent. In this context, integration of entrepreneurial education in higher education courses of Nepali universities is gradually increasing. Birgunj Public College (BPC) is one such academic institution which has embraced entrepreneurship development and entrepreneurial education to maximize entrepreneurial intention amongst its students. Birgunj Public College is the strategic partner of Helvetas’ InElam project which seeks to promote employment opportunities through enterprise development. InElam has been supporting the college to strengthen its role in developing youth entrepreneurs. Last year, Elam’s approach and module was even included in the Purbanchal University’s curriculum for BBA and Tribhuvan University’s curriculum for BBS under Entrepreneurship Development (Topic: Institutional Support to Entrepreneurship Development; Sub-topic: Introduction to Entrepreneurship Development Project). For instance, as a part of this course, students are required to work in teams, come up with a business idea, assess its market potential and technical feasibility, develop a business plan, and then “sell” it to an examiner.

Like many young graduates, after Simran Chaurasiya graduated with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Birgunj Public College, she faced difficulties in finding the job of her choice but says that she settled for an accounting job despite feeling unfulfilled and unsatisfied with it. While Simran was always inspired by numerous stories that she had read of successful young entrepreneurs from all over the world, her enterprising mother was the key inspiration to her in wanting to start something of her own. Simran had been working part time from a young age of eighteen; she used to tutor younger kids in her locality or get engaged in whatever part-time work she could find. She says, “Right after completing my high school education, I decided to work towards attaining my financial freedom and started taking baby-steps.” It was while navigating through life during the lockdown restrictions (in 2020) that Simran saw a gap of an organized food delivery company in Birgunj. With a lack of presence of large food delivery chains in the city of Birgunj, she saw a huge potential for a food delivery company in her own city.

Twenty-four-year-old Simran says that she started facing difficulties from the point she began to look for a business partner to start this venture with. She mentions, “Even my closest friends expressed reluctancy to co-start a business with me. They were all inclined towards the security that a job offered and said that they did not want to take this path of risk and uncertainty”. After a long search, Simran came across a software engineering graduate who shared the same vision as her. Together, they decided to start Ezze Eats. When Simran expressed her decision to pursue an online food delivery business and to leave her regular job, there wasn’t a shortage of critics. She says, “We live in a society where start up ideas are killed as soon as they are shared.  Being a young woman, it was even more difficult for me as there were neighbors and relatives who filled my parents’ ears with how a girl wasn’t supposed to be starting her own business or be moving around during ‘odd’ hours that running a business requires.” However, she says that she is fortunate to have a supportive mother and Simran persevered on her journey to become an entrepreneur.

The duo made a total investment of ten lakhs Nepali rupees most of which was spent on the development of their own mobile phone application, packaging materials, and setting up an office. Simran partly managed the amount from the savings she had been making from her part-time jobs and her mother supported her with the remaining amount. As Ezze Eats was set to launch in April 2021, Simran faced yet another difficulty when the country was hit by the second wave of pandemic and government announced lockdown restrictions right on the same month of her planned launch. Even with the then ongoing lockdown restrictions, they decided to launch it on 17th June 2021. With not much competition in the market, their app quickly gained popularity. “We knew what our customers wanted, and we focused on providing timely delivery and excellent customer service.” Unfortunately, their growing popularity did not sit right with other business owners in the city and the young duo started receiving several threats for forced collaboration. When they did not agree, multiple attempts to hack their server was also made. However, they remained positive as they continued getting people’s growing support and it was a motivation for them to keep trying.

In a very short span of time, Simran proudly shares how their app has been downloaded by more than 5,000 users and their partnership with more than 50 restaurants in Birgunj. At present, Ezze Eats receives more than 100 deliveries in a day and with the increasing demand, they have even collaborated with grocery stores to deliver groceries to people’s doorsteps. They currently have ten employees. Recently, they also conducted a research study to understand the potentiality of market in Hetauda and have already started making plans to expand their food delivery business there. Besides, seeing the success of their business, they have also been approached by businesses from Nepalgunj for franchise opportunities.

«Sadly, the notion that young women cannot lead or become self-employed entrepreneurs is still very widely prevalent in our society. Even when I approach vendors, I am often asked about who my supervisor is or how they wish to speak to my senior. It was frustrating when I wasn’t taken seriously and when people preferred to talk to my male business partner instead of me. But I did not give up and I have even been pitching my ideas to a room full of men. As our business grows, I can see a difference in their behavior. Young women have been sidelined for way too long, but it is our time to lead now»

Simran Chaurasiya

Though Simran knows that the worst is not over yet, she now has the goal of bringing a change in this perception towards female entrepreneurs in her city and hopes that she can become a role model to young girls who aspire to gain financial freedom through entrepreneurship.

Upon being asked the role of academic institutions can play in fostering youth entrepreneurs, she highly commended the entrepreneurship development courses, short trainings, and other extracurricular activities that she was exposed to during her undergraduate studies in Birgunj Public College. Simran shared, “It not only helped me develop entrepreneurial characteristics like risk-taking capability, critical thinking, and innovative thinking but also helped me enhance my leadership and interpersonal skills that have been useful to run my business.” Evidently, colleges and academic institutions have an increasing role in fostering entrepreneurial spirit. With the technical support of InElam project, Birgunj Public College is now developing an incubation center which will serve as a platform for many young graduates like Simran to help develop their innovative ideas into feasible business propositions.