On 22 February 2019, only one month before the Nepal Investment Summit, Hon. Dr. Yuba Raj Khatiwada, Minister of Finance, addressed the Nepal Development Conference: Investment Opportunities in Nepal, urging international investors to consider Nepal as an investment destination. The conference, hosted at the Embassy of Nepal in London, was jointly organized by the Embassy of Nepal and One to Watch, and saw participation from various stakeholders. Speakers and attendees included representatives of the Governments of Nepal and the UK, institutional and individual investors, development agencies, ecosystem builders, and most notably a pool of non-residential Nepalis based in the UK.
Speaking at the inauguration, Hon. Dr. Khatiwada assured the audience of the Nepali government’s commitment to make Nepal investment friendly. He urged investors from the UK and Europe to join the Nepal Investment Summit, on 29 and 30 March in Kathmandu, which is expected to host over 600 delegates from 38 countries. Similarly, H.E. Dr. Durga Bahadur Subedi, Ambassador of Nepal to the UK, further elaborated on the government’s policies for making Nepal investment friendly. “We have been introducing liberal economic policies to facilitate trade and investment in Nepal by reducing tariffs, simplifying tax regimes and focusing on the development and operation of trade-related infrastructure”, mentioned Ambassador Subedi. At the same session Graham Wrigley, Chairman of CDC Group discussed the importance of FDIs in materializing Nepal’s opportunities and potential, while at a later session CDC’s Pierre van Hoeylandt, discussed their recent investment in a bank in Nepal. The value of international trade and investments was highlighted by Andrew McCoubrey, Head of Trade for Development, Department for International Development (DFID) and Rt. Hon. Lord Sheikh, Member of Parliament, Vice-Chair to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Nepal, in their respective addresses.
A panel discussion on ‘Doing Business in Nepal’ was moderated by Suman Joshi, Managing Director at One to Watch. The panelists included Pierre van Hoeylandt from CDC Group, Tim Grocher from Dolma Impact Fund, Kul Acharya- Vice President of NRNA ICC, and Rajen Kandel from Kandel Group. The panelists consisted of a spectrum of investors: from an institutional investor– CDC group, to an impact fund – Dolma Impact Fund, to a business group investing in Nepal – Kandel Group. Each of them shared their experience and outlook on doing business in Nepal. During the discussion Kul Acharya shed light on the facilitative role of the Non Residential Nepali Association. The panel discussion was summarized by Rurik Marsden, Head of DFID Nepal, where he also mentioned the strong partnership between the UK and Nepal in terms of access to finance, skills development etc. DFID has been an important partner for entrepreneurial ecosystem development and investment promotion in Nepal.
The last part of the conference included the Demo Day of One to Watch’s flagship business accelerator program – Enterprise, where ten promising companies pitched their businesses to the audience. These companies were AeroRoots, Burger Shack, Green Road Waste Management, Hajuri Khadya Udhyog, Helmets Nepal, Leaf Plus, NoChini, Onion Films, Seedland Nepal, and, The Mint Studio.
At the event, One to Watch’s Managing Director Willem Grimminck discussed growth opportunities in Nepal, zooming in on the Small and Medium Enterprises. “SMEs can be the engines of economic development”, and there is a large unrealized potential when it comes to enabling their growth in Nepal. Access to finance is a huge challenge for these SMEs; however, with the right investments Nepali entrepreneurs are able to create three times the social return. Nepal is a ‘Country to Watch’ in many respects, including its economic growth potential owing to its ‘Entrepreneurs to Watch’ – the extraordinary individuals who understand the society and are able to innovate and act to help people and the economy grow.