Solution Overview

Solution Name

Karesa Bazaar (Backyard Market)

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One-line solution summary.

A mobile app to connect rural women entrepreneurs with socially-conscious customers in an open marketplace. The app allows consumers to access sustainably-produced goods, while expanding economic opportunities for rural enterprises.

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Elevator pitch

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What is your solution?

Karesa Bazaar is a mobile app to connect small, women-owned enterprises in rural Nepal to urban customers committed to making socially-conscious purchases, creating a cycle of socially responsible economic growth

Karesa Bazaar builds on the already-functioning Green Growth online marketplace (http://greengrowth.life).  Added functionalities through the Karesa Bazaar mobile app will benefit both urban consumers and rural women entrepreneurs. 

Karesa Bazaar functionalities will allow consumers to:  

  • buy directly from rural entrepreneurs and give feedback on item quality

  • get to know the producer and the story behind each rural enterprise

  • virtually visit producers in their villages to follow product creation cycle

  • track the product’s journey from farm to table 

The app will allows small rural entrepreneurs to: 

  • connect to their customers more easily, providing updates on orders.

  • display other items under development in their kiosks for feedback

  • connect to resources that help them expand their market (in-app and cross-platform connections) and

  • improve the quality of their products (i.e.  through certification, skills workshops, and other learning opportunities.) 

The app will create opportunities for rural entrepreneurs, women in particular, rather than forcing them to compete with mass-produced products from large companies or cheap imports.

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What specific problem are you trying to solve?

Tens of thousands of Nepalis leave their rice terraces and vegetable fields every year and go off in search of employment in the Gulf countries. A largely-agrarian country until a few decades ago, Nepal’s GDP contribution from agriculture has plummeted from 70% to 33%, with devastating consequences on local agriculture, food security and the economy.  

The seasonal out-migration of able-bodied males has severely stressed rural villages, with women left behind to take care of the household, including children and the elderly, tend to fields and cattle, and look for economic opportunities to keep the family afloat. According to the 2016 Demographic Health Survey, about 50% of Nepali women are married before the age of 18. Societal expectations, financial struggles, familial responsibilities, lack of training and a dearth of employment opportunities in the villages, also means that less than a quarter of working-age Nepali women have a chance at employment. 

Interestingly, however, women have continued to organize in villages all over Nepal — whether to improve water supply in the villages, build toilets, protect natural resources, or to start micro enterprises.  We intend to launch the Karesa Bazaar app in this backdrop – so that we can bring women’s cooperatives and makerspaces into the mainstream, creating wider opportunities for women beyond their villages and households.

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Who does your solution serve? In what ways will the solution impact their lives?

The target population we hope to reach through Karesa Bazaar is rural women entrepreneurs, who are scattered across the Nepali hinterland. 

While Nepali women play such a key role in their villages and communities, society is not organized to support women seeking economic empowerment. Women earn 30% less than Nepali men and the pandemic has been especially hard on women’s enterprises in a variety of ways. Some have had to struggle to access raw materials, others have found it difficult to deliver finished products or reach customers during the government-mandated lockdowns. 

Karesa Bazaar will begin to address this by providing opportunities for women entrepreneurs to break into the market using their cell phones, and once there to create an environment for them to be successful. 

An integral aspect of the app is its focus on women-owned enterprises (businesses, cooperatives, etc.). Rather than making them compete in the market dominated by large businesses, Karesa Bazaar will focus on using affordable cell phones and expanding wireless networks to level the playing field for products made by rural women entrepreneurs.

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What steps have you taken to understand the needs of the population you want to serve?

In late 2020, I started volunteering with a women’s food cooperative – Saughat Lollipop Industry – in rural Nepal. The coop, started by women in rural Sindhuli, produces hand-made candies with milk sourced from local cows. I raised US$1000 in January 2021 to: 

  1. Help expand the market for milk candies beyond Sindhuli

  2. Support the internship of two young apprentices Sabina (18) and Sunita (15)

My team-members are women entrepreneurs, led by Bimala Thapa, the organizer of the candy cooperative. Sabina and Sunita have been learning production skills (processing milk, shaping and wrapping candies, etc.) and understanding markets (local stores, city markets, and online marketplace) since Jan 2021.   

The US$300 microgrant from MIT Solv[ED] helped me and my team focus on research. We carried out four activities, including:

  1. Survey of 50 local store-owners who keep food items produced in Sindhuli and neighboring districts

  2. Travel to Hetauda (regional center) to have Saughat’s products certified by the food quality and safety bureau

  3. In-depth interview of Green Growth platform to understand if/how an online platform can be leveraged to support local producers, and 

  4. Visit Kathmandu to connect with other entrepreneurs and e-markets 

These activities made us realize that the local market would not be enough to sustain the candy cooperative (and similar enterprises). The Karesa Bazar app is the result of this journey (detailed here: https://tarapandey.medium.com/) to connect entrepreneurs from across Nepal to discerning buyers.

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Which aspects of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Improving financial and economic opportunities for all (Economic Prosperity)

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Our solution's stage of development:

Concept: An idea being explored for its feasibility to build a product, service, or business model based on that idea
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Explain why you selected this stage of development for your solution—in other words, what have you accomplished to date?

Karesa Bazaar is a CONCEPT, even though it’s anchor platform GreenGrowth is in GROWTH phase. The idea is to work with GreenGrowth to add Karesa Bazaar as an add-on to the existing platform to provide specific, and value added services to rural women entrepreneurs. 

On the supply side (target: rural women entrepreneurs), Karesa Bazaar will work with Saughat Lollipop Industry – namely with the coordinator of the cooperative Bimala Thapa. Our interns Sunita and Sabina – who fit the persona of young women entrepreneurs from rural Nepal with cell phone access – will be involved in all phases of Karesa Bazar’s development. From research to documenting product lifecycle and producer profiles. 

On the demand side, we will reach out to already-existing 1500 customers of GreenGrowth platform to deploy the Karesa Bazaar app and roll out versions of the app and its updates.

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Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

Bagmati, Nepal
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Team Lead:

Tara Pandey

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More About Your Solution

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new use of an existing technology (e.g. application to a new problem or in a new location)
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Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

The core technology that powers our solution would be the mobile app, Karesa Bazaar. This app is an add-on to an existing tested/functioning platform that offers buyers products from rural women entrepreneurs.  The Karesa Bazaar solution will cater to discerning customers who want to buy locally-produced unique food and household items directly from rural women entrepreneurs.  

It would function similarly to other e-stores promoting small businesses such as 1000Ecofarms or Etsy, with the focus on local products produced by women entrepreneurs. Additionally, Karesa Bazaar will work specifically to support the connection and trade between rural women entrepreneurs and discerning city customers and support rural entrepreneurs with training and skills building opportunities.

Karesa Bazaar will integrate QR code scanning to document product journeys. Green Growth is starting to experiment with blockchain technology; Karesa Bazaar will closely monitor its progress and will experiment with blockchain once the app is a bit more stable. With Saughat milk candies, for example, the customer will be able to track the products all the way back to the farmer that milked the cow. This will give discerning customers a guarantee that each product is produced locally, by women entrepreneurs and in hygienic conditions.

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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Blockchain
  • Software and Mobile Applications
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In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Nepal
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How many people does your solution currently serve, and how many do you plan to serve in the next year? If you haven’t yet launched your solution, tell us how many people you plan to serve in the next year.

Karesa Bazaar has not yet launched. From our research into the market for Saughat Lollipop Industry products, we work directly with three women –  Bimala Thapa, the woman entrepreneur behind the candy cooperative and two other apprentices/interns.  

In one year, we project to benefit about fifteen women-run enterprises, not including the customers the app will serve. We hope to only grow from there. However, since the app is still in its early stages, we will spend much of the coming year developing the app, advertising to customers and researching and onboarding business owners. Through the app and outside of it, we plan to host workshops, reach out to other rural entrepreneurs. 

We will begin with our focus in Sindhuli, where the Saughat Lollipop coop is based. However, we believe that in five years, Karesa Bazaar will create its own momentum and scale.

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What are your impact goals for the next year, and how will you achieve them?

My impact goal is to create a stable foundation for entrepreneurship for rural women, success of women-owned small businesses and economic empowerment of young women and girls in Nepal.  

Timeline: 

March to May 2022: User research 

August 2022: Launch alpha version of Karesa Bazaar  

Begin reaching out to women  entrepreneurs through women’s organizations and through social enterprise networks.

October 2022: Launch Beta version of Karesa Bazaar 

On-board three women’s enterprises and test and iterate on the beta version

October 2022 to February 2023: Identify 10 women’s co-ops and invest in their capacity building   

International Women’s Day, March 2023: Public Launch of Karesa Bazaar with at least 10 women’s coops, enterprises and small businesses

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How are you measuring your progress or planning to measure your progress toward your impact goals?

The Karesa Bazaar app is about promoting local produce made by women entrepreneurs. The team that I am working with is led by a woman entrepreneur, who is a mentor for two young women who aspire to be entrepreneurs in the food industry. 

Karesa Bazaar tells the story behind the hard work of farmers and how the raw materials are sourced. 

I believe this project speaks to multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

  • This initiative seeks to empower women entrepreneurs so they have  financial means to better their lives and contribute to the economic growth of their community. 

  • Karesa Bazaar aims to tackle poverty, especially when it comes to the limited economic and financial opportunities for women and girls. 

  • Karesa Bazaar seeks to reduce inequality by building sustainable partnerships that arm women with skills, knowledge and connections.

  • My goal is that Karesa Bazaar becomes a go-to app a) for discerning consumers seeking to buy from rural communities across Nepal and b) for rural entrepreneurs looking for markets beyond their local areas.

If Karesa Bazaar works—it could become that place where women and girls can earn primary or supplemental income by selling locally-produced items without leaving their homes and communities for long periods.

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What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year?

One of the largest barriers for us is the COVID-19 pandemic – which limits our access to travel and meetings with rural entrepreneurs. When the infection rates go up, the government shuts down local businesses to contain infections. 

I am based in the United States, whereas my team-members are in Nepal. While the COVID travel restrictions have made it challenging to visit, I have found novel ways to work with my teammates. Using FB messenger, I discuss updates and plans with my teammates every week.

Additionally, I have planned a month-long trip to Nepal in July. Pandemic restrictions may mean that the plans won't work out as expected, but I have an open channel with my team and I am adaptable and working on making plan B and C.  

Then, comes the financial issue, as we are working with small businesses they often need much support and it's often also hard for new entrepreneurs to break into the Nepali market. The app depends on the success of these small businesses, and the willingness of consumers to use the app. That is why I am excited about working with Green Growth as an anchor platform.

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About Your Team

How many people work on your solution team?

Three member team: Tara Pandey, 15, (team lead), Sunita Pokhrel, 16 (team member), Sabina Basnet, 18, (team member)

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How long have you been working on your solution?

13 months, with the last six months focused on user research.

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How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Thanks to the microgrant funding from Solv[ED], my team has been able to explore the conditions of the market in the Nepali cities of Hetauda and Kathmandu. Additionally, as my two other team members are part of a small women-run rural business, they are representative of our intended users.  

This knowledge will be extremely helpful as we design the Karesa Bazaar App, reach out to entrepreneurs, create workshops, promote the app to other businesses, etc. My team members are representative of the groups the app will serve and are uniquely positioned to test the Karesa Bazaar app at every stage of its development. 

Additionally, thanks to connections with Green Growth, we are learning a lot about the e-marketplace in Nepal. We have been able (and will continue to) learn from the ongoing experience with the Green Growth Platform. 

Although I currently live in the United States, I was born in Nepal and visit frequently as many of my extended family members still live. I speak the language and have been able to maintain constant communications with my team – speaking with them every Sunday, brainstorming, debriefing.  

I also have experience contributing to other projects – I helped my sister fundraise for and establish a reading room  in Nepal following the 2015 earthquake, teaching a robotics camp for refugee children in Atlanta, Georgia, being part of Model UN and Debate and Ethics Discussion teams in my school.

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What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?

Karesa Bazaar will partner with Green Growth, with the partnership anchoring the business model. Green Growth's blockchain technology is an essential tool that helps power the app. This feature helps create a backstory for each product and service. This creates a backstory around each entrepreneur so we can hone in on the small business aspect of each of their stories.

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Your Business Model & Resources

Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The HP Girls Save the World Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes
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If you selected Yes, explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use The HP Girls Save the World Prize to advance your solution?

I believe our three-person team meets the criteria for the HP Girls Save the World Prize. Not only are we a women-run initiative, but our app, Karesa Bazaar, is also based around uplifting and supporting young women entrepreneurs. Karesa Bazaar’s goal is to increase women’s presence in the Nepali economy. 

Only 22% of working-age Nepali women are currently employed. This is due to the state of the economy in Nepal, the pandemic, as well as the discrimination women face in the workforce. Additionally, Nepali culture and societal norms promote women working in the household, caring for children, cooking, cleaning, etc. while men typically take very time-consuming careers, often overseas. 

Karesa Bazaar works directly against this, providing opportunities for rural Nepali women entrepreneurs to continue to live in their communities while connecting a wider marketplace. Additionally, it presents an online marketplace as a safer, more secure, and sustainable alternative to physical markets hundreds of miles away.

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The Pozen Social Innovation Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes
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If you selected Yes, explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use The Pozen Social Innovation Prize to advance your solution?

Karesa Bazaar specifically focuses on meeting an unmet economic need for rural women and girls in Nepal, who are often ignored by mainstream development agencies. 

Karesa Bazaar will allow women to sell locally made products through an online platform. It makes it easier for small producers to connect to the wider marketplace and upskill through opportunities such as accounting workshops, tax help, skills training through an easy-to-use interface. 

This allows women from small underserved communities to overcome barriers imposed by geography and culture to be participants in creating income for their families and communities.

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Solution Team

  • Tara Pandey Team Lead, Karesa Bazaar
 
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