Meet Aarati – The New Lead for the I-Cube Program 2020!

Aarati has been with Nepal Communitere since 2017 leading our Finance and Admin team. Since she joined the organization, she has helped transform our entire Finance processes so that we’re able to manage both revenue generating activities as well as donor funded projects. It’s not easy being a “not-for-profit distributing company” in Nepal and Aarati helped us navigate this unique structure for us. Now that we have internal systems and processes in place, Aarati wants to help startups build those same competencies.  She will be stepping up to lead the I-Cube Business Incubation Program 2020 Cohort bringing in her experience and skill sets of finance and post-investment coaching into incubation and seed investment management. Let’s hear from Aarati about her take on this new journey from admin to programs. 

Aarati Joshi, Director of Finance & Admin at Nepal Communitere

Are you excited about the business incubation program?

I am really excited about the fact that we are going to launch the third cohort of I-Cube Business Incubation Program especially when startups are in MOST need of such support. I  felt elevated at the opportunity I received from the team to lead this program right now when many startups are undergoing survival challenges triggered by the COVID 19 lockdown and need guidance on financial aspects. These are unprecedented times and Nepal Communitere’s business incubation program can support entrepreneurs who are embracing change as an opportunity to make their businesses resilient in the face of crisis. This business incubation program is the third cohort of our flagship I-Cube (Innovate, Iterate, Incubate) program, funded by DFID, UK Aid. It is based on the adaptation of the previous two years of the program and from our recent experience with post investment coaching for two of our alumni startups, who were in the Year 2 cohort of the I-Cube program – Antidote Apparels Pvt. Ltd. and Ecoorb Ventures Pvt. Ltd. I started post investment coaching sessions with these startups in the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown, which was challenging but at the same time very captivating, as the entrepreneurs worked through a series of tough decision making processes before taking a bold step towards pivoting their businesses. Looking at how Antidote Apparels Pvt. Ltd. is surviving through this economic crisis, we decided to design  incubation services that will support startups who want to pivot and innovate  to mitigate the challenges brought by the pandemic. 

I am super excited and believe that this journey is going to be as amazing for me as well as  the entrepreneurs. 

“Our mentors from Communitere saw more talent and ability within me than I saw in myself and it helped us bring out the best from us”

Sunny Rajopadhyaya, CEO of Ecoorb Ventures

“The post investment coaching led by Aarati diju was paramount for us to explore new opportunities during these trying times. All thanks to constant support, a great feedback and access to amazing sounding boards, we launched Antidote.go and Antidote masterclass which has grown to become our biggest revenue generator”.

Manish Jung Thapa, CEO of Antidote Apparels.

What is the vision that you are hoping for the incubation program?

Running a business during the times of recession is a difficult process. Moreover, looking to pivot and sustain is not only a difficult but a lonely process for many entrepreneurs. This is where our business incubation program will aim to assist entrepreneurs, who are hardworking, committed and want to leverage a defined process for success and grow into sustainable businesses. With the younger generation in the startup business, I am hoping for a cohort that is a synthesis of innovation and technology that are trying to find ways to solve the needs of the community, while being profitable. Having a cohort of entrepreneurs who are like-minded, enthusiastic and goal-oriented, will influence and develop peer to peer learning, which is an intangible attribute of the incubation program.

My focus will also be around supporting and advising businesses to create positive impact for the community. Last but not the least, I envision that these startups will grow to be a boost for the economy through job creation and income generation. 

What are the roles and responsibilities that you will be carrying out?

I will be mainly engaged in supporting and being a thought partner for the entrepreneurs to troubleshoot and solve their problems and give guidance to make best decisions. As a thought partner, I will be available to support the specific changes required to modify or adapt their business models to innovate. I will also be providing business coaching and financial literacy to help the entrepreneurs manage money for their growth and survival to manage cash flow during these hard times.  I will manage seed funds that we will provide to ensure they are hitting necessary milestones. I’m delighted with the opportunity to manage this infusion of seed capital, which will help to push business development to a new level. 

What challenges do you anticipate in the process?

There are some challenges we can foresee while supporting young startups at this critical time of COVID. Pivoting a business is not as easy as verbally announcing the change. It requires transition time especially if one is shifting to a new product and/or service line. As such, our program period being limited for six months is a big challenge. We also acknowledge that not all pivots result in good business performances but we definitely need to try and see if this model leads to success. Lateral moves generally work for digital platforms but it is still a big question for traditional businesses. Also with the new normal, we have designed the business incubation program to be conducted virtually for a number of masterclasses and coaching sessions. There might definitely be a number of pitfalls as we adapt to the virtual world. Nonetheless, we are excited about working on a different platform of exchange and communication to try out a new mode of learning! 

If you want to apply for the I-Cube Program 2020, online applications are still open until October 2nd, 2020. So check out our FAQs and apply today. I would love the privilege to work with you!