Karma Tenzing is one of those few people who choose to come back home than settle abroad, however rosy their prospects there. After seeing the devastation caused by the 2015 earthquake and realizing he could do a lot more to help than what the NGOs were doing at the time, Karma decided “to return and give back to my motherland”. To do so he left lucrative jobs as a Wall Street banker and a college professor in New York.
Back in Nepal, Karma currently owns and serves as the principal of the Kathmandu Valley School in Maharajgunj. Besides this, he operates such diverse companies as Mo:mo Karma in Nagpokhari, Naxal; Oceans Saving and Credit; KTM Entertainment; and Onward Nepal. Most recently, Karma was in international limelight due to his multiple-award winning biographical documentary “Good Karma: An Immigrant Story”. It has been screened in 12 major international film festivals in the US and Canada and won ‘Best Documentary’ awards in seven.
“For me, the key to success is to be able give back to the community. I believe only by taking business and community together and creating a synergy of sorts can one truly claim to be successful,” says Karma.
Karma was born in Kathmandu but his family hails from Manang. After completing his schooling in Darjeeling and Shimla of India, he went to New York University, and then attended Fordham University for his doctoral studies. He then worked at major investment banks such as Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley and taught BBA and MBA at the Metropolitan College of New York. After staying and working abroad for 18 years, Karma returned to Nepal to help with relief and rehabilitation works following the 2015 earthquake.
"Only by taking business and community together and creating a synergy of sorts can one truly claim to be successful." Karma Tenzing, Entrepreneur
But the very first social cause Karma decided to take a stance against was the slavery of Nepali migrant workers in Qatar. He organized a rally attended by Nepali students and workers in front of the New York Times building in New York, to bring awareness to the issue. Around 34,000 individuals signed his signature campaign on change.org aimed at ending the inhumane conditions of migrant workers in Qatar.
After seeing the horrific images of the destruction of lives and infrastructure following the 2015 earthquake, Karma decided to invest his time and money in humanitarian and social causes in Nepal. He first organized various fundraisers in New York.
Karma now wants to use his entrepreneurship skills and business acumen to give back to the community and increase the impact of his “Good Karma” initiatives. He uses income from his various business ventures solely for the betterment of the society.
“Unlike NGOs/INGOs which have operation and administrative costs, employee commissions which seem to invest a lot of time on fundraising, my initiatives have zero cost. All my money goes to the causes I support,” asserts Karma.
Karma hopes that he will be able to expand his volunteering and community activities and inspire the youth of Nepal and those in the diaspora to do something for their motherland.
“Everyone supported me in my endeavors and my family let me make the decision, whether it concerned moving back from the US or spending most of my time on social welfare activities,” says Karma.
Karma believes Nepali youth have the potential to succeed as entrepreneurs but there are barriers. When he came back to Nepal after 18 years, Karma had a kind of cultural shock. The work culture, infrastructure and way of life in Nepal were completely different to what he had experienced in New York. For one, the Nepali government and bureaucracy were tardy and unreliable, he found.
Referring to recent government interference in Pathao and Tootle, he clarifies that there is “little government support for budding entrepreneurs”. Karma bemoans the absence of strong intellectual property laws, secure environment for investment, government support and respect for innovation. He thinks the entrepreneurial community in Nepal could also be more creative.