Sonika Manandhar, our co-founder and CTO is 1 of the 7 UNEP Young Champions of the Earth. During the German Covestro trip she along with her winner colleagues shared their work and ways to accelerate sustainable development in a meeting with the CEO of Covestro, Markus Steilemann.
Once upon a time, Nepal had the leading zero carbon emission public electric-vehicle industry. Yes, that’s a fairy tale now because the amount of carbon emissions by vehicles in Nepal doesn’t tell us we are even near contributing to the zero carbon emission. Safa-tempo started in the mid-1990s and was booming and blooming. It was locally manufactured but not anymore which shows how economical it would have been. At the time when safa-tempo was introduced, it required two sets of 12 acid- batteries which needed to be imported from California. This was one of the drawbacks along with harsh government policies in support of diesel micro-buses that were imported at that time. Once a world-leading commercial electric vehicle, safa-tempo was facing its downfall.
According to the safa-tempo association, there are a total of 714 safa-tempos in the valley right now. Some safa-tempos are still running and some are in the garage rusting. Due to government regulations, safa-tempo owners are currently facing an unanticipated crisis where they are required to pay eight years of income tax at once and if seen running without the proper renewed document then they are being fined for that too. The government denied providing any discounts on the taxes. In addition to that, custom duty was increased from 10 to 40 percent and the excise duty was fixed at the highest rate i.e. 80 percent during the budget for the Fiscal Year 2077/78. But recently, after a meeting of the Council of Ministers, the Cabinet decided to reduce the taxes by between 25% to 80% depending on the capacity of the vehicles, although the VAT and excise tax have been retained. Despite his own government’s commitment two years ago to make 20% of vehicles electric-powered by 2020, in his annual budget speech in May, Khatiwada increased the excise tax of only 10% on battery cars to 40%-60%, and another 60% customs duty. These fluctuations and lack of support from government policies have discouraged a lot of micro-entrepreneurs of the electric vehicle industry.
Present might seem difficult for safa-tempos but there is a possibility that it can turn around the current situation into a positive one in the near future. Aeloi as a digital token loan service provider is trying to coordinate with the safa-tempo association helping safa tempo drivers have easy access to finance via digital token, build their capacity and help build multiple models of income. More companies like us and the government itself must invest in electric vehicles like safa-tempo. Electric vehicle industry like safa-tempo needs supports from the government more than ever now just to exist. Once we were able to manufacture safa-tempo so why not do it again! Why not manufacture the batteries locally which are required to run the safa-tempo? Why not make once a pioneering country in the commercial public electric vehicle industry, a pioneer again?
Aloi’s CTO & co-founder, Ms. Sonika Manandhar
A week ago, the National Geographic Society announced their 2020 Emerging Explorers and our
co-founder Sonika Manandhar was one of them. This award is a recognition to a decade of Ms. Sonika Manandhar’s work as a computer engineer and for the work, we do at Aloi. Along with her, there were other seven incredible 2020 Emerging Explorers: Enrique Lomnitz, Diva Amon, Joy Buolamwini, Adams Cassinga, Tamara Merino, Anthony Obayomi and Ali Pressel. Congratulations to all these incredible changemakers doing their part to transform the world for better.
National Geographic Society recognizes and elevates the global changemakers and helps shine the light on the work they are doing around the globe. These global changemakers of the latest class of 2020 are chosen for empowering next generation of changemakers and to show the power of science and exploration to transform the world.
Awards like these always motivate companies like Aloi and individual changemakers like Ms. Sonika Manandhar to do remarkable works illuminating the issues of our world and transforming them for the better. We would like to thank the National Geographic Society for the recognition of our work. Here’s to changing the world with technology and exploration!
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), nearly one-third of businesses are owned by women in Nepal. As reported by CBS, women own 29.8% of businesses. But if you look at the recent population data female (50.4%) population is more in comparison to male (49.6%). So we should really raise questions why are women far behind in owning enterprises.
There are varied reasons that it is hard for women to own and run a business. For starters women aren’t believed in and trusted on for starting a business on their own. Informal sector has 77.5% females and 66% males which proves that even if more women wanted to start their own micro-enterprise there is not much of data to show the banking institution for requesting loans as capital.
This is the reason why we at Aloi, thrive to build a digital system so strong yet easy for women to take up loans to start their own micro-enterprises and to build a strong credit history for them. It is not a competition between women versus men owned grassroot business but it is a concern of national economy that the bigger population is far behind to uplift the grassroot level economy.
Panel discussion for the virtual commemoration organized by UNEP
Earlier this week our co-founder and CTO Sonika Manandhar spoke at the panel discussion of the world’s first-ever International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies. The panel was held on the 8th of September celebrating and embarking on the journey of efforts to keep the air clean. This year’s 2020 theme was Clean Air for All. For the discussion, our CTO was joined by great personalities like H.E. UNPGA, H.E. Secretary-General of the United Nations, and H.E. Minister of Climate and Environment of Norway.
Aeloi’s CTO talked about how collective grassroots actions are the solution for cleaner air or climate change in general. Kathmandu became a green city pioneer by launching an electric trolley bus in 1975. After that Kathmandu introduced Nepal to 700 electric minibusses driven by women. At the time those minibusses reduced CO2 equivalent to 17000 to 22000 kg/day compared to buses. Having said that our CTO explained how the same city suffers from air pollution that is five times higher than the safe level right now.
Aeloi’s vision is to support informal sector micro-entrepreneurs in the electric vehicle-led public transport sector with affordable finance. Being a daughter of the former micro-entrepreneur herself, she understands how affordable capital is essential for building a prosperous economy. For instance, Sachita, one of our women safa tempo (electric minibus) drivers is an informal sector micro-entrepreneur, and the lack of enough financial footprints to prove her income leads to distrust of banks. Aeloi being a fintech software company is helping mobilize the grassroots climate heroes who have been working from the very beginning to tackle climate change and air pollution.We had the solution before, we have the solution now, it takes grassroots actions to tackle a global environmental threats like air pollution and climate change.
Here’s our quarterly (May to July) newsletter! Let us all look back at the progress we’ve made and reflect on the recognition we got from organizations like One Young World, Standard Chartered and GIZ. For more quarterly updates like these, subscribe by clicking on the top left corner in the newsletter.
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Aloi Private Limited is honored to have our co-founder and CTO, Sonika Manandhar as one of the Lead2030 Challenge Winners for Sustainable Development Goals 9 among 11 young leaders from around the world. We would like to thank, One Young World and Standard Chartered for such a huge initiative of Lead 2030 and for recognizing our work.
The challenge is how can we re-imagine solutions to finance the growth of SMEs and trade to unlock prosperity for the world’s communities and to give solutions to this problem. Aloi Private Limited will be working towards it with the support from Standard Chartered. Aloi’s platform works with informal sector micro-entrepreneurs who do not have any collateral or credit history, so they borrow at high-interest rates. Aloi helps them access tailored loan products, increase business income, and automated personalised services, such as business skills support.
By winning Lead2030, Sonika Manandhar has enabled Aloi to expand to 12,000 borrowers and vendors next year. We are more than honored and excited to work with the support of One Young World and Standard Chartered.
The lockdown imposed in Nepal due to COVID-19 is affecting everyone’s livelihoods. The daily-wage workers are the ones most affected by this lockdown. We interviewed some of the daily wage workers we work with through our product BijuliPower. It has been over 80 days now since the lockdown was imposed with a strict rule of social distancing and complete stop on public transportation. This impacted our safa tempo drivers adversely with no means of income. They don’t have any income sources to pay their loans, rather they are struggling to survive in Kathmandu with basic food supply and rent issues, as many are from areas outside of the Kathmandu Valley.
Some women drivers were able to go back to their villages which saved them a lot of money. Unfortunately, some couldn’t go back due to the sudden nature of the lockdown. One safa tempo driver that went back home felt like she didn’t fit in with the village lifestyle as she is used to living in the city. When they decided to come back to the city, her landlord wouldn’t allow her due to worries about covid transmission. This is sad for the safa tempo driver but it’s also a measure of precaution that the landlord had to take.
As we talked more, they shared with us their concern for their child’s education as everything is now online but without a daily wage, she couldn’t afford the internet fees. With so many urgent priorities, they don’t want to have to worry about education, but this is still causing a lot of stress. Regarding their business in the safa tempo industry, most women were hesitant and anxious because so far the public transportation business seems risky even once the lockdown lifts.
One woman driver shared she had to take responsibilities for 3 families with zero savings and solely with the income from safa tempo. Her husband has three wives including her and he is currently jobless. Right now, their sole income source is gone. This is the reason why this safa tempo driver says she would hesitate to take a future loan for upgrading the battery of her tempo. An increase in the Electric Vehicle taxes by the Nepal government has the safa tempo drivers worried about their future in this industry also.
To help these women in crisis we launched a crowd funding campaign for 55 families of safa tempo drivers who were struggling for basic food supplies. We successfully surpassed the targeted number of families and have helped 196 families with 301 food packages distributed so far. We hope to help these families in this crucial situation brought by COVID-19.
Building financially resilient economies for the last mile populations
COVID-19 has impacted our financial and social systems and the world over is losing their jobs and seeing their incomes and assets erode. The pandemic is, therefore, putting the financial health of individuals, communities and by implication, entire countries at stake. UNCDF and Sida had organized a webinar that talked about how a financial health lens could help us address the needs and aspirations of individuals and communities most susceptible to the financial crisis in the last mile.
This webinar emphasizes building financially resilient economies for the last mile populations. It also sheds light on the role of digital as an enabler, as well as the varied models and solutions that UNCDF is using and/or repurposing to address the financial needs of vulnerable people: particularly women and informal workers, including those in the gig economy, along with migrant laborers..
Listen to what panelists from different professional backgrounds around the globe have to say on making a financially resilient economy for the last mile population.
Virtual escape room & AIESEC podcast
For the occasion of World Environment Day 2020 (hosted by the UN Environment Programme), our team, under our product brand name BijuliPower, organized a virtual escape room competition. Called “Save the Earth and the Earth will Save You,” the participants had to solve riddles, decode cyphers and answer questions related to the environment in order to escape the room in the shortest time possible to win.
We had a lot of participants joining us from Nepal as well as from other countries. We would like to congratulate team Youngpreneurs for winning the escape room. On behalf of the winning team, BijuliPower is donating emergency food worth of 130 USD (NPR.15,000) to 10 families working in Kathmandu’s safa tempo sector (public electric minibuses).
Thank you to all the participants for joining us for the World Environment Day celebration through our virtual escape room!
Do you want to try it yourself? Click here to play!