I-Cube Startup Spotlight: Urja Lab
By: Rachana Khatri
Meet Urja Lab, one of our amazing startups of the I-Cube 2020 cohort from Pokhara! As we launched our third I-Cube incubation program in Kathmandu last year, our team was excited with their application that came from Pokhara valley. While envisioning to roll out this all virtual program, their application helped us realize the possibility to support brilliant startups that operate beyond Kathmandu!
Having heard of Urja Lab after their selection in the program, my first reaction was: WOW, Urja Lab is just like Nepal Communitere but in Pokhara! Urja lab is an innovation hub and an Information & Communication Technology (ICT) company based in Pokhara that offers multiple services under one umbrella: 1) Gyan hub co-working space that offers coworking work stations for the first time in Pokhara 2) Urja incubation center that provides and hosts startup supportive events and programs 3) Urja IT which provides IT solutions and management systems for local municipalities 4) Urja tech academy that offers various training and skill development programs 5) ShopG, a digital platform launched during the pandemic to channelize fresh vegetables from farm to households.
Binayak Poudel, a young and enthusiastic IT graduate founded the company in 2018 with the vision to run his own incubation and consulting hub for startups in Pokhara. “Urja” means ‘Energy’ in Nepali and this team full of Urja aims to allow youth and community members to work collaboratively on their ideas under the same roof.
The company has a team of 13 employees working in different wings along with an advisory board. Before 2020, the company was working in full swing with its IT projects, co-working space services and Urja tech and training academy. “We also hosted regular programs and Startup Mentorship Workshops under Urja Incubation for needy startups and ideators in Pokhara. But with Covid pandemic that shook the market in 2020, all of our key projects stopped and the majority of the clients from our customer base were hesitant to launch new projects. This pushed us to be more creative and adapt to this new environment through the launch of Shop G”, says Binayak Poudel, Founder of Urja Lab. ShopG is a digital multi vendor platform: a business born out of pandemic, that promotes and helps deliver farm products to the Pokhara’s local markets and households by simplifying the distribution system.
Observing the gap in food and grocery delivery systems in Pokhara during the lockdown, Urja Lab launched ShopG in mid of 2020 as a way to cope up with the effects of pandemic on daily life of the people. Farm produces were rotting in the field during Covid since the movement and mobility was affected by many restrictions to contain the spread of the virus. Through the I-Cube program, we aimed to strengthen and grow ShopG, our new post-pandemic business wing of Urja Lab that would help us sustain as well as our farmers.
“I attended many startup incubation events before joining I-Cube but I-Cube was something really different than other events! The I-Cube team was there for us to help us everyday throughout the program. We not just built consistency in our work but also learnt so much about various dimensions of running a business. We used to create products based on our own assumptions but after the Human-centered design thinking concept introduced by I-Cube, my whole perspective has changed for serving customers! Similarly the I-Cube seed fund was helpful for us to invest in ShopG. I recommend I-Cube to every other startup: it really pushes you to be best through their persistent and continuous support”.Binayak Poudel, Founder & Chairman, Urja Lab Pvt. Ltd.
What’s next for Urja Lab?
Our next target is to expand ShopG to other cities in Pokhara and roll out branding for this new wing. We are also looking for opportunities to incorporate good packaging, brand incorporation for Shop G to help Pokhara’s fresh farm vegetables reach customers fresh as it is. We would love to see the I-Cube program in Pokhara and we are even open to supporting the Nepal Communitere to bring the I-Cube Program to Pokhara if it’s possible!
Contact Urja Lab at [email protected]
Contact Person: Binayak Poudel, Chairman, Urja Lab Pvt Ltd
Phone Number: 9856038508