In October 2020, One to Watch (OTW) launched Nepal’s first private sector-led blended finance project ‘COVID-19 MSME Fund Nepal’ with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC and FMO – Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank.
In partnership with NMB Bank, Laxmi Bank and Nabil Bank, the Fund provided interest-free and collateral-free loans to 100 MSMEs enabling access to much-needed financing to remain afloat and support job retention. The key objective of the Fund was to help COVID impacted SMEs bounce bank and retain jobs. Additionally, technical assistance in the form of business development services aimed to support business continuity, job retention and resilience building was also provided to 40 companies that successfully availed the loans.
Having successfully achieved the top line targets, COVID Fund hosted a Showcase Event on 9th May 2022. The event was initiated to showcase the results of the Fund, its beneficiaries, and the impact to date. In addition to this, a platform was provided to the Fund’s beneficiaries and key stakeholders to participate in engaging discourses on opportunities and challenges faced by SMEs, funders, and business solution providers in the context of the Fund’s implementation. A panel discussion was also carried out to uncover the potential of leveraging blended finance in the context of facilitating sustainable SME growth in Nepal.
The event was attended by H.E. Elisabeth von Capeller, Ambassador of Switzerland to Nepal, representatives from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation – SDC, partner banks, beneficiary companies and other stakeholders from organizations such as Swiss Contact, Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office- FCDO, Embassy of the United States of America, Nepal Young Entrepreneurs Forum NYEF, British International Investment and FHI 360.
The event began with a short presentation about COVID-19 MSME Fund Nepal touching on how the private-sector-led blended finance project was initiated along with the current status of the project and learnings so far. In the second session, three beneficiary companies- Naman Care Home, Sajilo Sewa and Leaf Plus presented their businesses to an audience which included donors, potential investors and potential clients.
The third session uncovered the practical challenges faced by SMEs from the perspective of entrepreneurs and preemptive action to be taken from the perspective of business solutions and capital providers. The panel discussion was moderated by Anupam Man Chhantyal (One to Watch) and the panellist included Kritika Lamsal (Sweet Fix), Rahul Shakya (Pycus Holdings) Anushka Bhattarai (Vidhi Legal Concern), Anup Shrestha (Laxmi Bank) and Manish Shrestha (Kazi Studios).
The panel discussion was followed by an E-waste Management Awareness Campaign where one of the fund’s beneficiaries, Doko Recyclers highlighted the risk of improper e-waste disposal and ways it could be effectively managed through recycling and upcycling.
The fifth session included a panel discussion on Blended Finance for Sustainable SME Growth with distinguished panellists- Anirvan Ghosh Dastidar (Standard Chartered Bank Nepal), Suman Joshi (One to Watch), Dr Marco Andreu (Embassy of Switzerland in Nepal) and Chandni Singh (Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office). The panel discussion moderated by Dr Achyut Wagle (Kathmandu University School of Management) explored the prospects that can be unlocked through a blended finance facility in Nepal and the sectors that could use this vehicle to facilitate sustainable growth.
For the closing session, H.E. Elisabeth von Capeller- Ambassador of Switzerland to Nepal highlighted the success of blended finance in Nepal and its potential to be scaled up.
The COVID-19 MSME Fund Nepal Showcase Event also showcased the products and services of 15 fund beneficiaries that included companies such as Leather Wings, Thimi Ceramics, Kokroma, Top Mountain Gear and Orange Ball to name a few. The main objective behind the product showcase was to promote the beneficiary companies and provide a networking platform to help them connect and facilitate collaborations. One of the beneficiary companies that showcased its products at the event was Suraj Dahal from Leather Wings who wrote: “It was a very meaningful and well-organized event, and I gained a lot of insights and opportunities to network.”
The event was also covered in the media:
The Kathmandu Post: https://kathmandupost.com/columns/2022/05/23/scope-of-private-blended-finance
Session 3: Bottlenecks & Challenges for SMEs - Ground Reality https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5Eiv0HiDbE
Session 5: Blended Finance for Sustainable SME Growth https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3oST0RRwKo