Artificial Clarity

It all seems so straightforward. Companies generate revenue. And ideally return a profit to their owners. Charities, by contrast, do not generate revenue, and certainly not profit. So clear. So elegant. But enter the creative entrepreneur. For those of you brushing up on your French – that word you casually associate with personas such as Steve Jobs is actually a concatenation of two. “Entre” means between, and “preneur” means taker. Which makes an entrepreneur literally someone who takes from between. And whether it is Debbie Watkins bridging the gap to turn trash from Cambodia into funky consumer products for sale in London (Funky Junk, April 2012) or Felipe Vergara building a business between student tuition needs and future student earnings (Lumni, November 2010), it is the job of the entrepreneur to create opportunities between existing distinctions.

Genuine Ambiguity

In the mountainous country of Nepal, Anil Parajuli takes his job as an entrepreneur very seriously. Operating a non-profit entity named Himalayan Health Care (HHC), Parajuli takes from between that clear delineation between business and charity to run “medical treks” that bring foreign doctors into remote villages to treat the sick, train local health care workers and build awareness about the needs of his country. Oh – and did we mention – generate revenue. If you are a doctor with itchy travel feet and the need to perform medicine “in the wild”, the rate is about USD$2,900 for a 2-week trek (you pay for airfare, moleskin for blisters, and any other personal expenses:

Client or Volunteer

And while our initial distinction between companies and charities might have been a bit abstract for you, Parajuli paints the entrepreneurial bridge between them in stark relief. To him – there is no difference between a doctor willing to volunteer time to practice medicine in Nepal and a trekking client, paying to tour a country which is home to 8 of the 10 tallest peaks on the planet. In implementation – those two people are one in the same – Parajuli has taken from between.

Self Selection

In between wilderness treks, Parajuli also offers us a unique insight into how entrepreneurs are able to do so much with what seems like so little. They are not only unconcerned by artificial distinctions, they encourage the people around them to help create opportunities that bridge those distinctions. By letting a volunteer self-select into also being a paying customer, Parajuli opens up the range of people, time and money resources available to him and his health care initiative. And while Revathi Roy has no compunction in offering to sell her employees (female taxi drivers) classes on self-defense and first aid (ForShe, January 2012), established corporations as well as charities are less likely to let individuals self-select into multiple roles – and thus artificially constrain the possible resources available for the creation of opportunity.

Distinguished Entrepreneur

Parajuli just celebrated 20 years of running HHC. In that time, he has run over 80 medical treks into the Dhading region (the north part that borders Tibet) and the Ilam region (the eastern part that borders India) of Nepal. He has provided primary health care services to tens of thousands of rural Nepalese, and runs the Parajuli Community Hospital, offering 24-hour service and employing Nepalese medical doctors and 40 staff. Furthermore, he has bridged the gap between hundreds of international doctors and local Nepalese healthcare providers, and is advancing into education as well as income-generating programs for the people of Nepal. Distingushed? Certainly. Concerned with distinctions? Not at all.

Publication: British Airways Business Life
Relevant Principles:
Pilot-in-the-Plane (Control vs. Predict)

pdfBABL Himalaya