A small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. – Neil Armstrong
Mahabir Pun finished his presentation at Last Thursdays with Neil’s quote. The quote could have been Mahabir Pun’s motto because so much of his own life and achievements started with small acts of experimentation.
Mahabir Pun was this month’s special guest for Entrepreneurs for Nepal’s Last Thursdays program. I had heard of Mahabir Pun a few years back and had always wanted to meet him. My wish came true on the evening of August 30, 2012. Walking into the hall at World Trade Center, I was fortunate enough to find a seat in the front. People who came in after 5:30pm had to stand at the back of the hall as all the seats were taken. After a few words by Vidhan Rana, Mahabir Pun started by saying that he considers himself as a different breed of entrepreneur from the other entrepreneurs who had come to talk at the Last Thursdays program. He went through multiple slides of his village, Nangi and showed pictures of some of the projects he’s involved in. I had done my research on him but was still amazed to learn about the vast number of projects he and his team are immersed in. He’s working with his team to find new trekking routes, hunt down poachers in Chitwan National Park, explore ways to jumpstart hydropower projects, working on telemedicine projects, starting a restaurant in Thamel just to name a few.
I took away a lot of things from Mahabir’s talk that evening. First on an entrepreneur and funding: An entrepreneur is someone who uses or finds unconventional ways to solve problems. He/she relentlessly works hard even if the funding is not available. He emphasized that when you are doing something good, funding will come from somewhere. He suggests that one should not wait for funding to get started and talked about his own experience of not having funds when he first began. Second on going for freedom of opportunity and making Nepal more developed: The goal of an entrepreneur should not be to just make money; he/she should also be motivated to do something bigger like advocating for opportunities for all or doing what they can to make Nepal more prosperous. Nepal does not have an innovation center and Mahabir has is working to create one in the next 3-5 years. He does not believe in building the innovation center on grant money or assistance from the government but rather on taking a soft loan from someone who can provide the team . Third on learning by doing and asking for help when you don’t have a solution: Mahabir is a living testament of someone who is learning by experimenting with different ideas and initiatives and if he does not have an answer, he finds a way to get the answer from someone who does or might have the answer.
It’s not every Thursday that you are amazed to hear how much a single individual has done for the community and the country AND still is driven 20 years later. It’s a testament of his dedication, passion and sheer willpower which has earned Mahabir Pun recognition from the Ashoka Foundation, the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation, University of Nebraska, and Global Ideas Bank. We are definitely proud of him.