This month’s Small Business Spotlight features the Institution for Suitable Action for Prosperity (ISAP), a Nepal-based nonprofit focused on promoting economic prosperity. We asked founder Pankaj a bit about ISAP and its backstory.
Tell us a little about your business. What makes it unique?
Institution for Suitable Action for Prosperity (ISAP) is a youth lead not-for-profit Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) established in May 2013. It is working toward bettering the economic condition of resource-poor people. Some of the methods we are adopting are: making people see entrepreneurship as a means to economic betterment, improving skills and technologies to enhance productivity and efficiency. ISAP has also been working extensively on reconstruction and rebuilding work after the April 2015 earthquake. We have partnered with various international NGOs such as Peace Winds Japan (PWJ), Asia Pacific Alliance for Disaster Management (APAD), All Hands Volunteers (AHV), Nepal Australia Friendship Foundation (NAFA), Crossroads Foundation, etc to train engineers and masons for reconstruction and recovery work.
What inspired you to start this type of business?
I was 10 years old when a question dogged me: why my neighborhood friends whom I played cricket with did not have access to books that I had? It led me to establish a community library with books I owned in a spare room in my house. Within six months we had over 1000 books, had agreement with a neighbor to keep the newspapers in library once he finished reading it in the morning. During university, I led overseas volunteer trips to Indonesia and Nepal, where we installed improved cooking stoves to reduce health risk arising from smoke and improved cooking times allowing girls more study time. We also set-up water filters to remove arsenic and pot-in-pot coolers so farmers could store produce for longer periods.
In one such trip in Nepal, where we were installing water filters in village of freed bonded laborers, I mulled over how we could empower the community where people could purchase their own filters. Access to clean water is indeed an important ingredient to success, but I was eager to explore a way of economically empowering the community where purchasing that water filter became a decision and not a dream. Although the local job market was limited, I saw countless of opportunities of how the local people could significantly improve their livelihood. However, the local people did not seem to see or act on it. I co-founded an NGO, ISAP (www.isap.org.np), in May 2013 to explore and initiate projects that would give local people the ingredients they needed to comprehend opportunities around them and tap into them for their own and community’s betterment.
What was the most exciting experience you’ve had at work?
The most exciting experience that I can recall is the Human Centered Design’s micro grant that we received. It was for the project “Trade Facilitation to Enhance Livelihood of Farmers.” This was the first international grant that we had got, so it was kind of a great deal for ISAP. This was the first time we felt confident our ideas and concepts were competitive internationally.
Do you have any advice for people interested in going into this type of work?
The first thing you require is a lot of patience and your ability to spend the least amount of cash as much as possible. You will be rejected thousands of time. You will feel your friends whom you studied with have achieved so much greatness but you still have to persevere. A year on from when I started the conference, I was thinking about shall I go for a movie or not and my friends were vacationing in Philippines or something. So this was challenging mentally.
Another thing would be to focus a lot on sustainability. How are you going to sustain over the first 6 months, over a year, over 5 years. It’s essential to have a plan although you might not follow the plan. It’s essential to have one. Sustainability in the market is the key to success. You have to assess your long term and short term goals of the organization and strive to achieve those goals. Your long term goal might me something really big, but to reach that goal you have to have many short term goals with specific deadlines. You might also have to improvise your ideas and design a little to get to your ultimate goal.
What is your favorite part of your job?
The best part is when we see the impact that we have created by our work. For instance, when we did the Early Social Innovators program where we work with school children, students are really shy and don’t open up. At the completion of the program, they come up with new ideas and carry out the plan in long run. This is like giving ourselves a pat on the back. These little incidents when I am in forefront of our program, and when I can see the change I am making, this is when I am the happiest.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
When I am free I like to network with people. I go to different networking events, share my ideas, and meet new people. Other than that I like to experiment with food by watching YouTube videos.
Visit ISAPs website www.isap.org.np