Sowing the seeds of micro enterprise

By Jamon Mok, a student at SMU who founded Project Gazaab. He loves travelling on the unbeaten path and believes that entrepreneurship and games can change the world.

Micro enterprises are small services delivered by individual and families in a community and it is vital to any community. However, youth in Nepal have seen little more than fields and cattle, and those with good ideas are prevented from setting up micro enterprises because of a lack of funding. What is more appalling is that the youths in Nepal are actually well-educated and literate, capable of making a breakthrough, but just have no idea how to. They either end up continuing the tradition of poverty or leave Nepal to lead the hard life of a migrant worker.

What the youths in Nepal needed and we, as university students in Singapore, could contribute is to let them peer into the world outside, be inspired by other village entrepreneurs, and impart them the know-how of running a business and a little funding to kick-start their first businesses. With this revelation, I together with fellow undergraduates Cheryl Wong, Akash Gurung and Swetha Nittala founded Project Gazaab in 2009.

The concept of Project Gazaab is simple. We organise a business plan competition with cash prizes in a village high school, choose a few of the most promising ideas and help them to start the business. It will then be integrated with the school management, to give everyone a sense of ownership and the incentive to grow the business especially when it is strongly encouraged that the youth business owners give part of the profits back to improve the school facilities.

We conducted Project Gazaab in 2009 with one private school, Buddha Academy Boarding School in Kathmandu, Nepal. With 3 cash prizes of 5,000 Nepali rupees (S$87) each, we organised the first business proposal competition preceded with interactive business lessons accompanied with mentorship sessions and culminating in a grand final presentation.

In 2010, Project Gazaab 2 led by Akash and Swetha, was extended to three more schools, Shree Roshi Higher Secondary, Janak Higher Secondary School and Pragati Kiran Boarding School. The entire duration of the competition was also extended from 10 days to 15 days. 26 teams from four schools participated in the business proposal competition with 5 teams winning the cash prize of 25,000 Nepali rupees (S$435) each.

The most successful micro enterprise is by Harkaman Lama and his three classmates from Shree Roshi Higher Secondary. They rented a building and used the cash prize to make the place conducive to growing mushrooms. Within one month, they had received pre-orders for their mushroom even before the harvest. Today they generate a steady income from their mushroom business and are providing for themselves and their families since 2010.

Within a short span of time since the Project Gazaab started, we have observed a ‘beacon effect’ in the communities that we have contact with. The student social-entrepreneurs, like Harkaman, by simply starting their own business, have inspired others to think differently and explore other possibilities such as starting a business.

We are currently looking to extend Project Gazaab to rural communities in China, India, Vietnam and Malaysia.

For as little as S$500, we can finance the startup of a sustainable micro enterprise which will bring improvements to the schools and the economic activity in the rural communities.

We welcome any funding or anyone who want to support us to spread the concept of Project Gazaab.