HOME IMPROVEMENT with SAURAV RIMAL
Brain Drain. A term the Nepalese economy trembles at from a mere utterance, while the youth who cause it look at these shouts as no more than just whispers. Sure, what’s outside is far more promising than what our home land has to offer, but does that mean we should fl ee out of here altogether? If the people who are supposed to man this ship dive out just because the other boat has a shiny new motor, this boat will sink. See, this is not a question of Patriotism or Nationalism, just a simple matter of the sense of belonging.
And while this is a problem, it is relieving to see the youth return back home after their time abroad. Mr. Saurav Rimal, Co-founder of Ad Guru is one of such individuals and he’s working to sort a problem that’s plagued our city for long: Traffic.
IS THERE A LINK TO YOUR PERSONAL LIFE WITH WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN DOING?
Not really. However, what I do think is that, this is our city and we are equally responsible for it. The government and we as citizens should feel privileged to live in this society. So, from the beginning, I had a natural sense of giving back. And similarly, I’ve always wanted to do something that can really impact, change, and make a difference.
SO, WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE YOU WENT ABROAD?
Like anyone else, I was doing my studies before I went abroad. I was here wondering how to start a life and where to move since everyone was planning to go out somewhere. Some of my friends were planning to study in Nepal while some were planning to go to other countries. I was a bit confused on what subject to study, where to go, and how to go. I, however, was very weak at my studies. I was never a good student and, well, as you can imagine, I was pretty confused as to what to do with my life.
I GUESS A LOT OF US CAN RELATE TO THAT. SO, HOW DID IT ALL PAN OUT?
Well, I did graduate in marketing eventually. That’s my major and I’m quite satisfied with what I’ve accomplished so far. And I still do keep learning about other things through online learning. For someone who was never that great with it, it seems learning has become a huge part of my life. I do try to go for the practical aspects of things and make it a point to learn every day. I also try to meet new people and try interacting with them, just get their insight on life, both personal and professional.
AND WHEN YOU DID GO ABROAD, WHAT DID YOU FIND DIFFERENT BETWEEN NEPAL AND THE STATES?
During this part in my life, I was in the States for 2 months for the US State Department Fellowship Program, and I represented Nepal for this. This was a program for governance and society for youth political leaders. What I took away from this fellowship was that there aren’t really that many differences between us and them.
If you look at developing countries, such as ourselves, they are on the verge of developing. And what really drives the condition towards betterment is the civic sense. See, it’s all about us and our thought process. If we are driving in the right manner, and no matter how small the roads are, we can operate a car in those small paths. If we have to take our car through the gullies of New Road, we’re cautions to neither scrape nor run over something or someone. So, if so many people can drive through those gullies, why can’t we do the same out on open roads? See it’s all about being civilized, and it must come from within.
Over at the States, there really isn’t anything. Neither the public traffic is good, nor the people there are friendly. At least in Nepal, we’re hospitable. At least here, almost every 30 seconds, there’s a micro or a tuk-tuk coming over. We do have a good reach if you stop to consider it. All that we really need is a better management of it all. If it all were to be a little systemized, the authorities were to enforce the law better, and the public were to simply behave, a great deal of our problems will be solved beyond a reasonable doubt.
Whatever they do over there is no rocket science. Whatever they make, they stick to it. It’s only here that the government keeps changing the laws to feather their own nest. That obviously needs to stop.
I DON’T THINK ANYONE CAN DISAGREE WITH THAT. SO, WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING TO TURN THINGS AROUND?
One of the things we have been doing over at Ad Guru is tracking our public transports through GPS. Obviously, this is not something new, but it is not done enough. Thus, we’re trying to collaborate with Google for accurate GPS tracking and get connected. And after linking up, we’ll be installing a device to all public vehicles so that the people can track the local buses and not have to pointlessly wait for them.
WHEN DID YOU REALIZE THAT YOU NEED TO DO ALL THIS?
I used to work with the government. Also, I do come from a political family, so, I have seen how everything works. And, I really felt that this system isn’t right. It’s like there are wrong people in the right place. This always happens, whenever a new cabinet it formed. This is just how our country is.
When I was working with the government for 5 years, I had a bigger realization then that I need to do something good, something with which I can really help the poor people of our nation. I thought I’d begin a project on street signs where we put up location boards. With something as simple as right, left, front, and back, people don’t have to go through the hassle of asking someone for directions. Especially for people from different regions of the country.
Then there’s the LED scroll. Right now, we are trying to work with the traffic police. We are closely working with IGB Khanal to broadcast social messages like ‘drive slow’, and ‘don’t use your phone while driving’. We’ve got them situated at Kathmandu Mall, Civil Mall, CTC Mall, Ratna Park, and other places, which makes 100 poles that’ve already been erected and are functional. But that’s just the pilot phase.
AND HOW HAS THE FEEDBACK FOR THIS INITIATIVE BEEN?
Feedback has been fantastic. But what we have come to realize is that the solar we used to power these polls were low in voltage. We’ve mitigated it by doubling the panels, from 2 to 4. Then, the reflector stickers weren’t working to its full brightness, so we’ve ordered more and better of those.
“I USED TO WORK WITH THE GOVERNMENT. ALSO, I DO COME FROM A POLITICAL FAMILY, SO, I HAVE SEEN HOW EVERYTHING WORKS. AND, I REALLY FELT THAT THIS SYSTEM ISN’T RIGHT. IT’S LIKE THERE ARE WRONG PEOPLE IN THE RIGHT PLACE.”
WHAT OTHER PROBLEMS HAVE YOU COME ACROSS?
What we are doing is a Public Private Partnership. The authorities have given us this platform, but the investment and the risk are all ours. So, because of that, we are in fear. You never know here, the law changes faster than the weather so we can’t rest easy at all.
SINCE YOU’RE WORKING CLOSELY WITH THE METROPOLITAN AND THE TRAFFIC, I’D IMAGINE THAT YOU HAVE TO WORK WITHIN VERY STRICT POLICIES AND STRUCTURES. HAVE YOU FACED LIMITATIONS DUE TO THIS?
Of course. Definitely. There will always be such complications. Everyone doesn’t think the way we do. While taking an approval and pitching in a plan, the people of the government aren’t satisfied or convinced. And there are pointers and suggestions coming in from all angles. All of these go to greatly increase costs, both monetary and time.
WHERE TO FROM HERE? WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE FUTURE?
We plan to extend our LED boards to Lalitpur. So, when that happens, we will connect them with each other and hook up with the traffic system. What this will do is that it will let the people know how the roads are. If you are driving from Khuleshwor to Balkhu, you will see where there’s a traffic jam and make up your mind for a diversion. This will surely make surviving through a drive a bit more bearable.
INTERVIEWD BY NIRVEEK PPJ SHAH