Last month Jeroen Pauw paid a visit to One to Watch in Nepal. In the NOS documentary “Pauw in Nepal”, which will be sent out on NPO1 tomorrow evening, Pauw meets One to Watch director Willem Grimminck and talks to him about the role of local entrepreneurs in reconstructing Nepal after the earthquake exactly a year ago.
In the Netherlands more than 25 million euros were donated to Giro555 for the victims of the two earthquakes which affected Nepal last year; sufficient reason for Jeroen Pauw to visit Kathmandu and the badly hit areas and size up the situation for himself.
Are aid agencies able to spend the millions effectively or do bureaucracy and cultural differences impede reconstruction? And what is the role of Nepalese entrepreneurs in all this?
Walking about Kathmandu together Willem Grimminck explains how One to Watch works and the different approach it adopts to that of the aid agencies. “Pauw wanted to know what would happen to the companies we invest in if we were to leave. He had heard that if aid agencies left everything fell to pieces. This is absolutely not the case with us. If we were to leave – which we won’t – the businesses in ons portfolio might not grow so quickly as they would have less access to growth capital and expertise, but they do not need us to survive and they would not collapse.”
Pauw and his six-member camera team were taken to one of Red Mud's coffee shops to meet the owner Aashish Adhikari, and then on to R&D Green Mart, a fruit & vegetable chain with 10 branches in Kathmandu. Both companies are flourishing and creating jobs.
Grimminck: “aid agencies come in for a lot of criticism for not building enough houses or rebuilding. But aid agencies give emergency aid and don’t build houses. People have to do that themselves with the money they earn – whether they are an entrepreneur or a company employee. That’s why supporting SMEs is so important.
Aid agencies focus on emergency aid whereas organisations like ICCO, Triodos Foundation, Oxfam and the Rockstart Impact Accelerator programme facilitate entrepreneurship. On the other hand, structural changes to the economy have to come from local leadership, usually entrepreneurs. They know their way in the maze of bureaucracy and how to cope with setbacks. It was not for nothing that after the earthquake entrepreneurs were the first to roll up their sleeves and set to work. You shouldn’t pamper entrepreneurs with gifts but approach them as equal partners. Only then do you make an impact.”
It looked as though Pauw got the message; he is even considering investing.
Watch Thursday, June 9, from 21.22-22.02 on NPO 1: Pauw in Nepal