-Swastika Pulami Magar
The first wave of Covid-19 had hit almost every sector of the Nepalese economy. After the outbreak of the pandemic in the whole world, Nepal was also severely affected. The government imposed the lockdown from March 2020 to control the spread of the virus, which led to a massive hit in the economic sectors. Due to the lockdown, numbers of sectors like tourism, trade, and health sectors were affected and disrupted the supply chain. Nepal experienced negative economic growth. At that time, the launch of the visit Nepal 2020 campaign in January, hoping to attract two million tourists, got cancelled due to the pandemic, and it has also worn out the hospitality and tourism-related business sector. Nepal's economy highly depends on the tourism sector, and due to the pandemic, the arrivals of tourists stopped. The consequence of lockdown has resulted in the job loss of Nepalese people. Migrant workers, who had a great contribution to Nepal’s economy through remittance, had to return to Nepal due to the pandemic. Many Nepalese people who worked in Gulf countries lost their jobs and lives and were forced to come back home. The manufacturer and small businesses were facing losses, and the import and export of the goods fell drastically. During such a pandemic, people were either closing their business or shutting them down.
But despite these issues, challenges and impact of the first wave of Covid-19, it also helped and provided opportunities to small businesses. Due to continued lockdown, even small and local businesses started to adopt the digital platform and provided the facilities for purchasing goods online and have them delivered at home. Although Nepal is the least developed country, small businesses play a vital role in the economy and contribute to the state budget. During the pandemic, entrepreneurs and other Nepali youths were motivated and came up with innovative ideas to startup a small or home-run business.
“But was it easy to start up a business in Nepal during a pandemic?”
Starting a business is not an easy thing; whether it is a small firm or a big manufacturer, you have to be psychologically and financially prepared for numerous challenges whatever business you want to open. Nepal was slowly inclining towards e-commerce, but the pandemic has advanced the business to undergo digital transformation more rapidly. This helped and encouraged more youths to start up a small business through digital platforms during the pandemic. They got more chance to think, learn and gain more knowledge about the digital business in lockdown. People were also moving towards technology, and it has given new-found importance to e-commerce sites.
In Nepal, during the Covid-19 pandemic, online payment gateway such as esewa, IMEpay and Khalti and others helped Nepalese and Nepalese startups to become cashless. Moreover, Daraz and Muncha became busier during this crisis as well as the food/beverages were easily dropped to a common people’s house through foodmandu, foodmario and online laundry, and many others have already shown the potential of e-commerce as an alternative way and opportunities for small and local businesses. Due to which it has made an entrepreneurs mindset among Nepali youth during a pandemic to investigate more deeply in this area. The young generation has the potential to drive economic evolution by making use of technology in everyday transactions. In the lockdown, many entrepreneurs and youth-led entrepreneurs started small businesses like providing medical supplies, food delivery, shopping online, selling customized masks through social media, selling their creative art of work through social media etc., became popular. Entrepreneurs were motivated to start a small business and did not have to be jobless during quarantine. This trend continued after the lockdown ended. The number of startups or small business has increased during the crisis due to the lack of job opportunities.
An increase in Covid-19 cases in neighbouring country India in a massive way; the second wave has created fears in Nepal to those startups. The government has shown less initiative about the spread of the coronavirus, and people are also unaware of the second wave and often walked unmasked and did not maintain social distancing. Our country has suffered a lot in the first wave and still is in term of recovery. If the second wave is not controlled and spread in large numbers, it will be tough for Nepal to maintain the economy. It will again show its impact in different sectors like production, import and export of goods and service, small businesses etc. The most likely to be affected are those who have just started a small business during or after the first wave.
“But will these new startups can put consistency in the second wave?”
Nepal government have issued prohibitory orders, so they have been forced to shut down the shops and business again in this second wave. Entrepreneurs are afraid of going into losses after the recovery in the first wave. The risk of the second wave might affect small business and startups. The situation is alarming, so there be maybe a case of loss of sale, revenue and cash flow. Problem such as loss of sales order, loss of business network, and inability to pay liabilities can occur. To tackle such a crisis again, entrepreneurs should change their business models, working environment and maintain a good relationship between clients. There will again come lots of challenges in business, but the pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world which will create new business opportunities.
The government's effort at the time of crisis is not satisfying. So, they need to look after innovative ideas, current situation and new market opportunities to strengthen future prospects. Covid-19 cases are increasing day by day in Nepal and are creating fears among people. To reduce the challenges in the second wave, proper strategies should be made to go through this crisis. In Nepal's context, we can see a massive change in consumer behaviour and people are getting used to online shopping, working from home, online education and entertainments. Hence, they have to invest in technology, market development, innovation, build a strong relationship with consumers and explore new market potentials both within Nepal and abroad. They need to invest in technology as there is the rapid growth of mobile devices, which is making it easier to capitalize on the growth of e-commerce. They need to observe market shifts, identify the opportunities, and streamline mobile application, social media, and digital marketing.