State of the Nation: Nepal’s youth-filled population embracing entrepreneurial spirit
In the latest post for The State of the Nation series, Outreach Nepal's founder & managing director Ujaya Shakya provides insights into the country's youthful population and its mindset post-earthquake and post-pandemic as it builds and creates an entrepreneurial and proud nation.
View from Macchapucchre Base Camp, Nepal. Image by Sajeshwor Shrestha.
Nepal is not just a country being rebuilt physically and infrastructurally post the tragic 2015 earthquake but also through its attitude and emotions. The national sentiments have transformed from hopelessness to hopefulness.
The transformation came across post-earthquake 2015, which was quite visible immediately, with lots of youth volunteering to help victims and restore and build historically and culturally significant sites in their neighbourhood. And the last two years of the pandemic have further tested their patience, making them more resilient than ever before.
A youthful population
More than two-thirds of the population is below 35 years and is considered a youth by definition. About half a million are getting ready for new jobs each year after basic education. They are entering the job market and become the primary wage earners, decision makers and influencers in the majority of their household purchases.
If the presumptions are correct, within the next decade, we will also see the exponential rise of the middle class, as these younger populations are entering the job market to create a more significant impact on our economy. There are good learnings in the region, particularly from the neighbouring nations of India and Bangladesh, which should help us to devise our country's marketing strategy as we move from here.
Not just because a nation has the ambition to progress faster after over two decades of disorder and political changes. But, because of its youth force, with a majority of the population in the median age of 23 years, and whose aspirations are higher than the national growth rate.
Most youth also have the ambition to go abroad to study or work as they feel the opportunities and resources within the country cannot acclimate with their desire for growth. The truth is a considerable chunk of the Nepali youth are now scattered in Malaysia, South Korea and Middle East countries and contribute almost one-third of the country's GDP through their remittance money.
Not to forget, there is still much more youth back at their home that feels otherwise. They have the ambition to bring radical changes in their hometowns, living with their families and friends, reaping the benefits of such economic developments as they feel the possibilities within the countries are unlimited. Nepali diasporas living abroad in western countries like the USA, Canada, Australia and Europe are also looking to support positive economic moments in the country, giving opportunities to explore jobs within Nepal around IT and other knowledge sectors.
An entrepreneurial energy
Brain drain is marginally changing, as a small percentage of youth returning, giving momentum to startup ecosystems with the ambition to build the nation with their foreign experiences and educations. Several Nepali youths have chosen unconventional professions like careers in waste management, social activism and tech startup.
Some colleges have entrepreneurship at the heart of teaching and advising students to start their business ventures. There are regular entrepreneurship summits and venture fund events that always look out for good ideas to explore the new business potential. The café culture within urban centres has drastically increased, becoming not just a regular coffee place to network but, at the same time, full-fledged workstations with free WIFI where you can spend many hours exploring your business ideas. These shared workplaces encourage youth to think differently; they no longer have to start chasing their big dreams from the garages! Youth entrepreneurship has also evolved; it is not just for suave techs but also agriculture and education startups.
On the other hand, youth are opening up many new avenues. Just a week back, Nepali PUBG Mobile team DRS Gaming had a standout performance at the 2022 PUBG Mobile Global Championship (PMGC 2022) Grand Final, earning them a runner-up finish and a cash prize of USD 200,000. Nepali youth are also exploring virtual gaming culture, and one of my friend's sons, merely 19, is now a full-time online game champion. There are lots of youth out there whose stories are encouraging.
Localisation = Nepalisation
Besides these social changes, from the advertising industry's perspective, there is a new clean feed policy implemented in Nepal for two years. The policy has stopped the advertisement spillovers of foreign channels to Nepali audiences. Another significant change it has brought was to prevent the use of dubbed TV commercials which was a widely prevailing norm in the past.
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Currently, the Advertisement Board of Nepal is also drafting the first National Advertisement Policy for the country. The Advertisement Board was established as per the act on Advertisement (Regulation), approved by both houses of parliament and endorsed by the president on the 25th of October 2019.
With a clean feed policy, many global brands have started their journey towards Nepalisation. 'Nepalisation' means there is an enormous opportunity to invest in understanding the consumer minds and create content driven by Nepal's local insights.
With the youth full of aspiration, Nepal is ready to take the next leap. All these are creating an ecosystem for social change and the business environment. Hence as marketers, it is clear that the youth of Nepal is not just looking for another brand message. Youth want to contribute and be a part of the growth stories of this country. These new kids in the block are a breed of optimists who believe in the golden future for the country.
We have to understand that the world of information is in the palm of their hands, thanks to the digital revolution – the amount of knowledge access they have is beyond our imagination, making their aspiration larger than what the country has to offer.
We have to understand that the more they become global, the more they also become Proud Nepali, and to connect with them, we need to create messages that entice both their hearts and minds.
Ujaya Shakya is the founder and managing director of Outreach Nepal. He is also the author of Brandsutra.