Storytelling, entrepreneurship, and Nepal’s middle class
People in my home country, America, know of Nepal’s rubble. Following the 2015 earthquake, photos of toppled buildings and battered streets flooded newswires.
My American friends have heard of Nepal’s poverty.
Visitors to Nepal often arrive unaware of the costs of daily living (a tourist balking over the price of a guesthouse tea — and the subsequent arguments that ensued — went viral in 2017). They are shocked when I tell them how much it costs to buy a house or car here.
Thousands of Nepalis — over 1,750 each day — leave the country to work, taking jobs in factories and sales departments and restaurants , hoping to save and send money to their families at home. This, too, has made international news.
The U.S. Ambassador has written about corruption that plagues society.
The discovery of electricity rationing made local news but managed to evade international coverage.
And there are the NGOs.
INGOs and NGOs reporting very specific, targeted stories to collect donations and garner income. These narratives often focus on the bottom margins of society and on issues that further organizational agendas.
Too little attention has been directed toward Nepali entrepreneurs.
Nepal’s determined middle class is hard at work trying to improve their communities and provide for their children and make things just a bit better for the people around them.
These Nepalis aren’t looking for handouts. They don’t want charity or aid. And they’re not trying to leave their country. They are committed to their families and their country and to building a life of which they are proud.
These are the stories that need to be told.
I am sharing a few here hoping to spark interest and curiosity — attention (hopefully positive) that extends beyond crisis-driven news and marketing materials released by aid organizations.
Ryam went abroad to get professional experience working in a salon. Less than a year later, he returned to Nepal to start a business of his own. Clients now wait in line for a turn in his chair; he estimates he cuts as many as thirty hairstyles per day.
Jen started a beautiful yoga studio in Lakeside’s tourist hub. Large glass windows offer stunning views of the lake below, and polished wooden floors welcome dancers and yogis. In a society in which women have not been encouraged to prioritize their health, Jen is trying to change that through positive messages of strength and wellbeing.
Director, producer, writer, teacher, composer, poet. Rajendra started a film school to teach the trade and art of film. His one-year program provides foundations in acting, directing, scriptwriting, and cinematography to enrolled students.
Biswas and his team of friends have built an event and marketing empire. With a fleet of photographers and videographers capturing weddings, performances and community events, they weave memories with experiential strategy. On any given night, you can find a member of their team snapping portraits in one of Pokhara’s hotspots.
One of Nepal’s few female barista teachers, Chhiring shares her love of coffee with local students. Her graduates have gone on to start coffee shops of their own and gain employment in Nepal’s emerging coffee scene.
Ngawang opened Learning House, a education center that provides free and low cost classes and workshops. He prides himself on incorporating practical elements into course offerings. At the same time, he is finishing his Master’s in Education at a local university and hopes to inspire others to look for ways to make positive contributions, both locally and nationwide.
Sheetal grew up watching her father sketch landscapes for visiting tourists. After teaching arts education at a local primary school, she enrolled herself in a degree program overseas and plans to return to Nepal to develop a countrywide arts curriculum.
Serial entrepreneur and restaurateur, Dorje prides himself on providing jobs while delivering quality experiences for tourists and locals alike. Through hard work and perseverance, Dorje has managed to turn one business success into another — and shows no signs of stopping.
The youngest editor of a Nepali daily, Subhash graduated from Harvard Business School with a Master’s Degree in Public Policy. He has since charted his own course in Kathmandu newsrooms, representing a newspaper that has partnered with the International New York Times and has demonstrated commitment to reporting on injustice and corruption.
There are many stories like these.
(Please, add your stories in the comments. These people deserve accolades.)