Covid-19 changes students’ career paths

Supriya KC and Medha Malla wearing tie-dye tops made by, a company they started during the pandemic.
  • Sampurna Basnet and Dibya Shrestha, students at the Kathmandu School of Law, have their final year exams pushed back indefinitely due to Covid-19. They have used this time to work on Mero Wokil, a new online legal news portal.
  • A student group has set up COPE Nepal, a voluntary initiative to collect, present and disseminate Covid-19 data visualisation. 
  • Harshitaa Agrawal, whose graduate studies were put on hold, co-founded a spatial design firm, Studio Rever, with a friend in Mumbai.
  • Rincheen Phinsto Sherpa started Bumble Beads, a bracelet venture, and cannot keep up with demand.
  • Medha Malla, a recent high-school graduate, and Supriya KC, first year BBA student at Pokhara College of Management, have opened, a tie-dye shirt business. 
  • Tashi Cheozum Lama (stage name TASHIII), an undergraduate student, has internationally debuted her first single 'New York City Lights'.

Half a year since Nepal began sporadically imposing lockdowns to contain Covid-19, schools and colleges have had to turn to remote learning. But the lack of trained teachers, the digital divide , constant government flipflopping , and immigration uncertainties have meant that most student are looking for other avenues.

For some, this has been an opportunity to change their career paths, turn hobbies into business ventures,  while others have hit upon startup ideas to augment family income.

Says Sampurna Basnet at Mero Wokil: "This lockdown has given us the time and freedom to work on making information and news about the legal sector available to a large public. We have been able to spread legal awareness, as well as explore the nexus between law and technology." 

Supriya KC and Medha Malla noticed the popularity of tie-dye attire on TikTok, and with business management classes in college being erratic, they decided to see if their venture could function from home. KC handles accounts while Malla is responsible for dyeing and deliveries. 

"It has been therapeutic for us, helping us deal with the pressures and uncertainties of the lockdown, while putting into practice what we have learnt in our books about the intricacies of running a business,” Malla says. 

Over at COPE Nepal, co-founder Anup Satyal says the lockdown has opened up a whole lot of opportunities in Nepal for him and his colleagues.

"People of my generation tend to prefer to go abroad, but the pandemic has shown that in fact we can stay in Nepal and do something that has meaningful impact,” Satyal says.

COPE Nepal nerve centre in Kathmandu.
COPE Nepal graph

With a workforce made up of specialists on data analytics, branding, and communications, COPE Nepal uses advanced data science techniques to create reports on the pandemic. These reports have been picked up by various media, including the humanitarian information portal ReliefWeb.  

Visualising data, and making it easily understandable to policy-makers and the public enables greater understanding of trends of the pandemic, its demographic breakdown, and allows proper plans to be in place to deal with the health and economic impact of the pandemic. 

For instance, COPE’s gender and age breakdown of Nepal’s Covid-19 caseload illustrates with very simple graphics which segment of the population is most impacted – in Nepal the positive cases are mostly among younger people, but fatalities are in an older cohort. 

After Harshitaa Agrawal's plans to attend graduate school were compromised by the pandemic, she co-founded Studio Rever which specialises in art installations, interior design, set designs, and product styling. Agrawal and co-founder Ankita Saigal, based in Mumbai, met while pursuing their undergraduate degrees in the US.

Their plan to open Studio Rever, which had been in the cookbooks for a while, seemed too far-fetched till Covid-19 created a world where they could work together despite being located in different countries. Now, their firm is fully operational and has hired a marketing intern.

Says Agrawal: "Of course, things have been slow because of Covid. But on the upside, it has given us extra time to research and figure out backend logistics, without which our launch wouldn't have been possible."

Rincheen Phinsto Sherpa always loved wearing and making bracelets, but she never imagined she could make a business out of a pleasure. Her Bumble Beads bracelets are now so popular on social media that she cannot keep up with orders.

She says, "It started off with me buying beads and charms to make bracelets in small quantities but soon, I was running out of supplies. I learned a lot about managing demand-supply and figuring out profit margins."

Bracelet by Bumble Beads

TASHIII recording her first single ‘New York City Lights’ recently.

Undergraduate student and aspiring singer/song-writer Tashi Cheozum Lama (stage name TASHIII) has also found a therapeutic way to deal with Covid-19. "Music as a profession is emotional. As a musician, I have to isolate myself so I can introspect and write about things I feel deeply about. So, Covid allowed me transcribe and create New York City Lights," she says about her first single.

New York City Lights debuted internationally on 4 September. She describes it as a soft-guitar ballad, unfiltered and raw. It is available on music streaming services such as Spotify and Amazon Music.

While appreciating the positive role played by Covid to advance her musical career, TASHIII still misses doing live shows: "The downside is that I can't perform live anymore. For majority of artists, live shows are the main source of revenue."

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