Nepal is not normally associated with IT services, but the country is building a reputation in this sector, with increasing numbers of Nepalese IT professionals now able to find work in their homeland rather than migrate to larger overseas economies.
Back in 2010, the government in Nepal identified IT and BPO services as a growth area as part of the Nepal Trade Integration Strategy (NTIS) 2010. IT and BPO were an obvious choice with neighboring India, a standard bearer for IT services, offering lessons on how an IT and BPO industry can grow without a large domestic customer base.
As such, Nepal’s IT professionals are largely working for multinationals in offshore delivery centres.
UK CRM consultancy SeeLogic, a Microsoft partner, is one company that has set up its IT development and BPO operations in Nepal, in the shadow of the Himalayas. SeeLogic has customers including the Football Association, Ikea and Triumph Motorcycles. It provides consultancy on CRM strategies, a managed service and software development services to mainly UK companies.
Bibek Baidya is one of the locals employed as part of a growing team which currently stands at 30 people. Baidya, who supports the team leader and internal project manager at SeeLogic in Nepal, said there is a growing opportunity for IT professionals in the region.
Since the end of the civil war about a decade ago, things “have started to boom in Nepal”, he said.
“Many companies from the US, Australia and the UK have been investing in outsourcing from Nepal,” said Baidya. The use of English as the main business language is an attraction of services as it is taught at schools as a primary language.
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SeeLogic set up its operations in Katmandu in 2015. Pre-sales activity and scoping is done by the UK consultancy team, and the requirements are sent to the team in Nepal which creates a development plan and executes it.
Baidya said Nepal differentiates itself from Indian suppliers, which have similar advantages, with its focus on mid-sized rather than large business customers such as SeeLogic.
Nepal has a growing talent pool, with about 5,000 IT people graduating from Nepal universities every year. In the past, graduates would look for jobs in other countries, but today more are starting careers in Nepal.
“The main target for graduates would be to start their careers abroad in countries like the US, UK, Australia, Singapore and Thailand, so it is traditionally difficult to attract staff to companies in Nepal – but it is getting easier in certain areas.”
“This is because of the growth that has been happening in the IT sector here in Nepal,” said Baidya.
Like most business decisions related to IT outsourcing, cost and specifically the ability to reduce it is always an important consideration. This is perhaps Nepal’s biggest advantage, said Baidya.
“It is relatively low in cost to set up in Nepal for international companies compared to their home countries.” The pay of IT professionals is much lower than in the west, and similar to staff at the large suppliers in India.
But Nepal differs from India when it comes to staff loyalty. Baidya said staff are far more loyal in Nepal, compared with India, where suppliers see staff join and leave on a regular basis.
Universities in Nepal run courses on the latest technologies, which is another advantage. “IT professionals in Nepal are also strong on new technologies because the universities here focus on them,” he said.
Eddie Harford, CEO at SeeLogic, said when originally deciding to create an offshore hub for its software development, the company looked at the usual suspects and ended up with a surprise. “We looked at India, we looked at Brazil and we looked at outsourcing.”
He said outsourcing was quickly ruled out as he wanted developers to stick to the company's policies, processes and training plans. So setting up an offshore hub was decided.
SeeLogic had a member of staff from Katmandu who agreed, for a UK salary, to move back there to set up a business in the city. He left soon after and Harford went over to finish the job, which took longer than expected.
He admitted setting up in Katmandu was not without its challenges. Problems at the airport and sometimes burdensome bureaucracy held the process up, but the fact the company wants to increase its operation there is evidence it was worth the initial effort.
SeeLogic is expanding its Katmandu operation, with the staff number expected to increase from 30 now to up to 80 over the next few years. It is SeeLogic’s main IT operation.