Solutions to Urban Problems by Urban Youths

April 19, 2022

Orientation for the Top 15 at the KMC Business Hub Urban Innovation Programme

Dilisha Shrestha, 21 from Kathmandu, took a problem that resonates with women and created a product, that is an alternative to wasteful products such as period pads, tampons etc. Shrestha’s innovative product is waste-free, reusable and designed to provide relief to women-on-the-go during their menses. She is one of the top 15 participants who has been selected under Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) Innovation Programme 2022 commenced by KMC in coordination with UNDP Accelerator Lab.

KMC took an outside-in approach to inspire change from within by seeking out innovative ways that could change the lives of the residents of the city for the better. With its initiative “Smart Urban Technology Challenge (SUTC) in 2018” KMC aimed to bring out the entrepreneurial spirit from within Nepalese community to identify and solve problems related to urban development. The challenge identified and endorsed innovative solutions to mitigate pressing urban challenges faced by city dwellers. The success of SUTC paved the way for KMC’s vision to establish its own Innovation Center which would guide and facilitate young entrepreneurs who hold solutions for pressing development problems.  

2-day interview panel session

In 2019, KMC and UNDP Accelerator Lab Nepal partnered to pilot the KMC Business Hub. The KMC Business Hub pilot programme was launched with the vision to test the hypothesis, that entrepreneurship can be cultivated in an enabling environment with a strong focus on community immersion and engagement. The first cohort of the KMC Business Hub was launched in February of 2022 under the banner of “Urban Innovation Programme”. In this chapter, ideas under the thematic areas of tourism (culture), environment, health and education were included. After completing a strenuous shortlisting process. 18 best ideas were interviewed by the panel comprising representatives from KMC, UNDP and Impact Hub. Top 15 were later shortlisted, who have advanced to the 3-month innovation program. The teams would have access to customized curriculums, design tools and maker space for prototyping. With a strong focus on community immersion and market testing our teams would further refine their idea and future proof it with support from dedicated business coaches, industry experts and mentors’ network.

Dilisha’s innovation is waste-free, reusable and comfortable product; envisioned by keeping women’s health and wellbeing first. “Through the KMC Business Hub Innovation Programme, I hope to take my vision and create a commercially viable and an environmentally friendly product that women from all walks of life can access.” Similarly, Shreeya Giri, 26 year old from Kathmandu is set out to make mental health services easily accessible to Nepali people residing both in and outside of the country after struggling to find the medical support she needed during her difficult times. “I am looking for the right mentorship and guidance to support my business and better understand the mental health sector of Nepal. I hope my vision would be able destigmatize mental health and raise awareness about its importance at the community level” says Shreeya. Like Dilisha and Shreeya, we have 13 more teams with brilliant and innovative minds who have enrolled into this innovation programme.

Regarding the vision of KMC Business Hub,  Bidya Sundar Shakya, Mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City says, "Kathmandu Business Hub (KMC Hub) is one of the innovative programs being initiated by the local government. It aims to promote urban youths towards business and entrepreneurship development. KMC expects to receive business ideas that help address the existing urban issues relating to the tourism and heritage, environment, public health and education. I hope this pilot programme would support in establishing a long term vision of KMC on developing entrepreneurial ecosystem in Kathmandu."

This 3-month programme would be intensive but insightful in terms of creating a batch of young entrepreneurs who have proven products and services that can mitigate urban challenges. Together with our partner Impact Hub Kathmandu, we have developed a curriculum that would test the hypothesis set by the entrepreneurs through in-depth market research and experiments. Introduction to tools such as Human Centric Design would assist them in idea validation by keeping the beneficiary at the center of planning and implementation. Access to one-on-one coaching, interactive sessions with industry experts and public sector representatives will allow them to learn about the challenges as well as opportunities of sustaining their businesses during this unpredictable time. The process would also help to identify innovative methods and solutions that can be absorbed by the public sector and eventually be articulated in some forms of public service delivery.