Bihani Social Venture: The story of a dawn in the midst of dusk

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Bihani Social Venture: The story of a dawn in the midst of dusk

 

Bihani Social Venture is a platform provided to citizens above 50 years of age to “Re-engage, Re-explore and Re-live” – the three missions of the social enterprise. “Re-engage” is for someone who is retired and wants to engage in activities they once used to be involved in, “Re-explore” is for anyone who had a dream at some point in time and wants to explore it again and “Re-live” is for elderly parents who forgot to live their own lives while living and doing everything for their children.

Santoshi Rana, the founder of Bihani Social Venture, addresses the problems that arise through ageing in Nepal while implementing a business model with a social-entrepreneurial mindset.

 

 Fear as an idea

 

 

Santoshi Rana, like many social entrepreneurs, wanted to do something on her own and become a force of change in the society. But she did not know what to do. Like any other entrepreneur would do, she started finding gaps in the market and the issues that really needed to be addressed. During the process, she had a fear of ageing herself and she understood that there is an immense gap of service providers and implementers for old veterans in Nepal. On the other side, she realized that ageing is becoming a big issue all around the world; it became an issue in Japan and in other countries as well. Nepal was not going to be an exception because a lot of youths were and still are migrating abroad while the daily lives of working population is getting busier by the day.

 

She met various inspiring individuals along the path who were older than 50 and were doing what they wanted to do in their lives. She found a spark in their lives, “If they are doing it, why can’t everyone around us do it too?

 

 

“I had to internalize why I am scared of ageing. That has been my biggest fear,” she enlightens about tackling fear. With that drive, she researched if the services to veterans are really required or not and find out reasons why people didn’t start it. She met various inspiring individuals along the path who were older than 50 and were doing what they wanted to do in their lives.  She found a spark in their lives, “If they are doing it, why can’t everyone around us do it too?” That spark led to launch of Bihani Social Venture in August 16, 2013.

 

Establishment

Santoshi was in a dilemma when she wanted to register her company. She wanted to function like an NGO while a providing solution to the social problem, but she also wanted to earn money. Thus, she opted for “Private Social Venture” when she registered. A private social venture is owned by an individual or a group of people who seeks to make money by providing sustainable and systematic solution to social problem.

 

The Biggest Problem of the venture

“Ageing is a very ironical issue. Everyone goes through it. But until it happens to us, we don’t pay attention to it,” Santoshi clarifies about how the mindset is when it comes to ageing issue. According to her, this mindset was the prime problem she had faced and still continues to face it. “One of the biggest challenges has been to tell people that they are going age someday,” adds Santoshi. The impact of the mindset is evident when she has to get media coverage for her events. “If you have a youth issue and give it to the newspapers, they’ll print it without any hesitation. But if it is about this ageing issue, it does not fit in most of the sections. So it is hard to get them to print about our issue,” says Santoshi.

 

Adding to it, she had problems dealing not only with the elders but also with the children of those elders. Santoshi claims that without even asking their own parents, they instantaneously tell her that their parents are not interested in what they have to offer.

 “Ageing is a very ironical issue. Everyone goes through it. But until it happens to us, we don’t pay attention to it”

 

Overcoming the Challenge

From the beginning, Santoshi knew that she was going to have problems with changing the mindset. She planned her strategies in a chronological order. In the first year, Bihani Social Venture only decided to give a taste of different services they offer by focusing on organizing sundry of events. However, in the second year, they opted to provide more options to the elders and hence they started providing home-based services. Lastly, in the beginning of the final year, membership to elders was initiated to build a support system.

 

Activities, the source of Revenue

To tackle with the problems, Bihani Social Venture primarily focuses on three imperative areas: social activities, health and entrepreneurship.

Different social activities are regularly organized to engage elderly people. Only in recent time during Tihar, elders were introduced to Spoken Words poetry, which is mostly limited to youths in Nepal. Since expressive arts like Dohori has culturally and traditionally been existing in Nepal for long era, Bihani Social Venture thought it would be useful to involve them in the poetry session. Likewise, there are other social activities planned to engage them such as movie screenings, Internet classes, interactive sessions, short trips to different enterprises and so on. As part of focusing on engaging them, Bihani Social Venture also promotes volunteering among elders. “If youths can volunteer, why not elders?,” elucidates Santoshi. 

 

 

Santoshi Rana believes that health is the most overlooked aspect in Nepal. One of the reasons is that health related events are least attended in her organization. Thus, her team tries to come up with different ideas such as zumba sessions and Tai-Chi classes which can be beneficial to the members. Apart from that, there are normal physiotherapy sessions, blood pressure checkup and diabetes checkups working with two partners – Mata Tirtha Oldage Home and Hope Hermitage.

 

Finally, Bihani Social Venture also supports entrepreneurs who are in their old-age because it believes that there is shortage of support in such activities during old-age. “When you are young, you have your family and friends to support you in your entrepreneurial venture. But when you grow old, your children have a different dream and you are left with your venture to continue. Until and unless, it is your big venture, it is hard to find backing,” clarifies Santoshi. Bihani Social Venture helps them with marketing, especially with social media marketing by helping them create and run Facebook pages, and by creating websites – even if it means a simple WordPress site for those who don’t have money.

  

 

Moreover, it recently launched membership cards in August to elders because there isn’t any privilege for senior citizens to get discounts anywhere in Nepal. For that, Bihani Social Venture has partnered with more than hundred enterprises including pharmacies, retail outlets like Juju Wear, Karuna, restaurants like Embassy, Tamarind, book stores, Tranquility Spa and others. The card can be used by the entire family which enables the elders to have some sense of pride when the elders give it to their grandchildren. Only recently introduced, the another aspect of the card is to fulfill wishes: Bihani Social Venture will ask each members about their wishes and if feasible enough, they are going to make it come true. “How we are going to do it is still in question, but we are trying to make a list of all the wishes of all the members and we are planning to sponsor them”.

  

The Team and the approach

 Since our birth, we are taught how to do things. You are never asked to think what to do. Here, I want to create a team of young generation who are starting to think. So, when they join, I ask them if they want to be a leader or a follower.

 

Santoshi does not believe in conventional approach of working ten to five in an office to be productive. In the team of ten, she only has two working full time – herself and Arya. She wants to have young bloods, some of who are not even graduates, pitching in creative and new ideas into the enterprise. Even while hiring people, she does not look for experience or literacy, but rather seeks level of passion to work in them. However, there are divisions of work designated to each member. 

 

Working with the team, she faces challenges of making people to think. Santoshi talks about the challenge and overcoming the challenge, “Thinking is a big challenge because our culture limits them to do so. Since our birth, we are taught how to do things. You are never asked to think what to do. Here, I want to create a team of young generation who are starting to think. So, when they join, I ask them if they want to be a leader or a follower. Both of them are equally good because if everyone is a leader, then there isn’t going to be anyone who will be your team member. Hearing their response, I assign them their departments and that is ultimately how we function as an organization.”

 

Future Plans

 

 

Believing that the venture cannot move forward unless the ageing issue is addressed, Bihani plans to focus on creating awareness through different forms of media. They are pursuing different newspapers and magazines to find columns where they can write about age-related issues. They have also started a story project where they collect inspiring stories of individuals who are above 50 in Nepal to inspire other people and elicit a positive outlook towards ageing. First planned to be published as a book, these stories are now to be published in either magazines or newspapers. Additionally, they have also thought of starting “Project Quotations” where they quote motivating words of inspirational people in Nepal.

 

They are also looking forward to partner with bigger organizations such as hospitals where the privilege card can work as they want their members to find as much value as they can with the card. 

 

 (A version of the story is published by the author in M&S VMAG)

 

 

Comments

  • Guest
    Sharmila Timalsina Tuesday, 05 February 2019

    Mention the establish date too.

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Guest Friday, 24 September 2021