Life-Changing Competitions

The second edition of our spotlight on the four winners of SIF’s Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE) programme, who were each awarded S$10,000 in funding is Gazaab, which means “awesome” in Nepali.

Who: Akash Gurung, 23 (Nepal) and Jamon Mok, 24 (Singapore)

(from left to right) SIF Executive Director Jean Tan with Akash Gurung and Jamon Mok of Gazaab.

The problem: The two young men saw that while 25% of the world lives in poverty, micro financing has had limited success due to high interest rates and rigid repayment schedules. Entrepreneurs therefore are prevented from going beyond sole proprietorship. Many of them also lack the requisite skills to grow a business, so are trapped in a cycle of poverty.

Their solution: After three years of pilot projects, they have developed a framework to disburse micro-venture capital – the business competition. This allows local entrepreneurs the flexibility of equity financing and the benefits of knowledge, mentorship, networks, technologies and hope. Gazaab’s micro-social venture fund empowers and inspires people living in poverty to become social entrepreneurs.

On the ground: Five pilot runs in three communities across Nepal and India have started up 20 operational and profitable enterprises out of a total of 22 awarded. Preparations for a business competition in Phnom Penh in early 2014 is underway. They are also working on a complementary arm of the enterprise called Backstreet Academy, which involves working with local craftsmen and entrepreneurs to create authentic local experiences for tourists. These craftsmen and entrepreneurs are often near the poverty line and are sometimes exploited by employers. It is hoped that this service will help them to become independent and earn a much higher income.

How the funds will help: The S$10,000 will be used to kick start the development of Backstreet Academy, which will be launched in Kathmandu, Nepal, slated for December 2013.

The first investment backed competition that Gazaab organized in September 2012.

Why they are doing this, in their own words:

“Gazaab is a Nepali word you would use when you're in 'awe'. In other words, it means ‘Awesome!’ When we first started off, we realized that small amounts of resources such as funding, mentorship, hope and inspiration could have such a huge impact on the lives of aspiring entrepreneurs at the bottom of the pyramid... Knowing we have the power to make a difference and hence the responsibility is the primary driving force behind why we choose to do this every day.”


Gazaab staff with the four winners of their competition in September 2012. The winners are (seated from left), Ashok who makes apple brandy, Sabita who runs a knitting factory, Sita who makes candles and Sagar who runs a pest control company. They received investment and mentorship from Gazaab’s business consultants.
Akash of Gazaab with Harkaman, who received investment for his mushroom farm in September 2012.


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