Last Monday, Prakash Koirala, 29, who is currently in Canada for studies, received an email from Forbes magazine. That email informed Koirala, who had conducted financial literacy programmes in many villages of Nepal, that he was featured on the list of the 30 most influential youth in the finance and venture capital world in Asia.
Koirala says that he then immediately checked the official website of the magazine and found his name on the updated list of the Forbes 30 Under 30 for Asia.
Swimmer Gaurika Singh and Koirala made it to the list this year from ‘entertainment and sports’ and ‘finance and venture capital’ categories respectively. Koirala says this was beyond his expectation. “I was well-aware that I made it to the top 2,500 from the 10,000 nominees. However, I never thought that I would be in the top 30.”
He says that he is ecstatic to be able to draw the world’s attention to what he has been doing. And, here, he shares his journey and the deeds that landed him this position.
Drive for financial literacy
As Koirala belongs to the Brahmin family, his father and grandfather were priests. He recalls, “Seeing my grandpa and dad narrate people about the stories from the scriptures, it awakened a will in me to cater good things to people from an early age.”
However, he was not sure about the issue that he would work on.
Koirala, who is originally from Dolakha, stayed mostly in Kathmandu for education. In 2009, when he had gone back to his home to celebrate the biggest annual festival of Dashain, something happened that made him think about what he calls money management. He found an issue to work on that day.
Koirala remembers that incident, “I heard a couple arguing in my neighbourhood. The next day, I met the couple’s son at the local water spout. When I asked him about the argument, he shared that his father had scolded his mother badly as she could not prepare vegetable curry due to lack of money.”
This made him realise that the cause of the quarrel was not that they lack money, but was the lack of knowledge about money management. As far as he has observed, the family was not a family with no income source. It was just that they were unable to utilise the income properly, understood Koirala at that time.
“After this, I vowed to teach the importance of money management.”
At the same time, he got an opportunity to go to Chainpur, Bajhang to work for an NGO run by some people of his contact. He hoped that even if the work done by that organisation was different from his vision, he could work with them.
“Therefore, I put forth my plans and they agreed. Then, I focused on making children financially literate,” shares Koirala. As he also had some spare time, he used to gather some local children and explain the importance of money for an hour every day for a month.
After getting these classes from him, children began saving money from their lunch expenses realising that money must be spent, but only for the necessary work, according to Koirala. He got excited when most of them started saying, “I have so much money.”
“After that, I launched the School Bank programme at some schools as a volunteer,” recalls Prakash.
The School Bank programme turned effective. Meanwhile, he learned that applications were invited from all over the world for the ‘Global Finance Award’ of the British Parliament in 2015.
He then prepared a report that included his financial literacy work and sent it via the organisation named Child and Youth Finance International to the award committee.
Later, he got that award.
After the award, banks began to trust him and his works. He started working with Nepal Rastra Bank and other banks. When Yuba Raj Khatiwada was the governor, he ran the Global Money Week Campaign.
Started with children, Koirala’s financial literacy programme, then, reached adults. He then joined the Artha Foundation after he felt the need for the organisation to run the programme.
“After receiving the award from the UK, I had the opportunity to present papers on school bank in different countries,” he says. He had won the National Talent Award in Nepal.
Some bad days
Expecting to make his work easier, Koirala started an organisation called FINLIT Nepal. However, the result was different from his expectation.
“When we went to the village with the programme, people started accusing us that it was done to digest the fund of the NGOs. Some even announced that they would not come to the programme until they got money,” recalls Koirala.
However, these obstacles did not shook Koilara’s goals. He explained to the villagers that he working selflessly and he had not received any grants.
Meanwhile, he used to utilise the remaining money to run similar programmes in other villages.
After that, he worked on microfinance and cooperatives money management and now his focus is on the digital sector. He opens up, “I have started business design in the digital sector by expanding cooperation with banks.”
Koirala has given continuity to his studies which were halted while he was engaged in financial literacy campaigns. A graduate in management from Tribhuvan University, he completed courses on financial literacy at Geneva and Harvard universities. He is currently pursuing a course in microfinance and housing in Canada.
But, he plans to return to Nepal in the next five months to work in the field of financial literacy.