Interview to Tikajeet Rai, Founder of Paluwa and Project Management Association Nepal

  1. How was your life experience in the USA transformative for you?

It was in two ways. Professionally speaking, received Western University Degree in engineering and worked for years to get Western-management driven projects. Culturally speaking, I experienced low-context culture where communications are conducted in low and detailed level than in Nepal; and developed the habit of viewing things both locally and globally while connecting them logically. Overall, transformation is into a en effective professional.     

  1. How did you start with Magnus Consulting Group Pvt. Ltd.?

I came to Nepal to start up a company that would impact rural farmers through technologies. To do this, I needed a business partner who would understand my vision and co-design and execute the project activities to realize the vision. I did interview few people. The current business partner has been the perfect fit. The aspect was to register a private limited company rather than an NGO because I wanted to test the self-sustainable model that is part of the vision.  Magnus became operational in 2004.

  1. Which was the basic idea you wanted to prove with it?

Social business model where a cause is addressed through profit generation. In other words, the idea is to demonstrate through institutional framework that social cause can be addressed through privately run company. In specific terms, reduce the unnecessary exploiting middle-men between farmers and consumers through behavior change intervention and technology adoption.

  1. I guess the idea of establishing of Paluwa is pretty much linked to your experience at Magnus? How did you get the “spark”?

Actually, Paluwa Trading Pvt. Ltd. is sister concern of Magnus. So, it Magnus is parent company. To achieve my vision, in the context that local provisions do not allow to have muli-purpose company license, both are essential and complementary to each other. Magnus executes the technology integration with our farmer cooperative members and behavior change intervention to adopt technology usage. One important aspect in the strategies is that in garners trust between us and the farmer members.  Paluwa, on the other hands takes care of the: 1) market linkage (farm to table); 2) technical input; and 3) financial access. Without the ‘trust’ that Magnus garners, it would not have been possible.

  1. What do you want to achieve with Paluwa?

I have mentioned in preceding response. In the three objectives under Paluwa, consumers and producers are both part of the ‘Shared-value’ model of doing business that impacts communities.

  1. Which are the major challenges in cutting down the intermediaries in the farming sector?

In fact, it is pretty serious. Physical threats, vandalism and coercions are typical when it comes to cutting down intermediaries. Remember, the commodities that we are liking between farmers and consumers are the livelihoods of the farmers themselves. Therefore, although threats are there, farmers themselves are the very safety-net respond to such threats. In other words, if they vandalize trucks (that transfers farmers commodities) that link between farmers and consumers, the intermediaries need to answer to farmers! So, when they would try to do so, I will call the farmers on the highways to create a blockade to get proper response from the local government authority.

  1. Why should local farmers work with Paluwa?

I wish there more like us. We are the only one to put them in the value-chain in the shared-value model. It means, we care. We care that they get paid on time; get technical training; and get financial access to scale their production. Remember, trust is big when the local laws are not strongly re-inforced.

  1. What are the future plans for Paluwa?

Two things. One is to go more in to by-products. We have seasonal fruits and vegetables that come directly from farmers. By-products is a new culture we are introducing in consumer demographics. With this the commodities are consumed in full. Let me give you an example. Good looking strawberries go well in the market. However, aesthetically speaking, if the berries are damaged during the transportation, consumers may not want to buy it. However, the good berries will be used for Jam and dried fruits. These are the by-products now.   

Last is that we argue that because migrant workers (remittance up to 27% GDP) we do not have human resources in rural areas for agriculture. It is not entirely true. Migrant workers may range between early 20’s to early 30’s. The remaining demographics late 30’s and above are the appropriate resources for agriculture. Otherside of the story is that the very migrant workers are actually local consumers living abroad. In this line, Paluwa will start exporting some commodities to countries where we have low-skilled labors residing. Some commodities to high-skilled work force living abroad; and some for Western markets.  

  1. How did you develop your interest for project management? How did you set up PMAN?

As said earlier, living in US has underpinned my skills-set as both an engineer and a project manager. When I returned to Nepal, to continue the professional development in Project Management, I looked for institutes or association, but there were none. Also, realization was such that Nepali work-force is in need of training, education and certification in Project Management. Then, it was obvious, we had to start one.   

  1. Last question: How would you define social entrepreneurship? What your understanding of current landscape?

By definition entrepreneurship is someone who mobilizes resources. In Nepali context, I see young ones becoming one mainly because they have not been able to get jobs that they want or to go abroad for further studies. To be one, the passion and the drive needs to be there with the vision as clear as black and white. They need to better than just a resource mobilizer. And to work in Nepal’s environment--politically and culturally speaking--one needs to have a real big heart, patience and persistence; to tie all these three, s/he needs discipline and lots of smart decisions. .


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