Managing Brain Drain: Responsibility of employers

March 22, 2009
13 min read

Has the time come for the Nepalese people to redefine the way they work, their aspirations and their relationships with the younger generation?  The political change has occurred: from a monarchy we have become a Republic. Social changes are occurring and are tending towards culmination marked by the cessation of the supremacy of any single race and caste, thanks to the Madhesi movement’s rude awakening and intervention of the foreign mission whose hiring criteria includes those from lower castes and marginalized races. Yes, there is still turmoil. But soon the dust will settle down.  We will need new challenges, new heroes and new villains. 


The economy has been waiting in line for its turn.  A day not far from now will come when economic changes, heroes and feats will make the front page of all major newspapers on a daily basis.  Today it is either politics or disasters getting all the attention. 


However for this shift of focus from socio-politics to economics to occur, we as a nation are plagued with a serious problem: brain drain. 


Economics Fundamentals

Economics is simple.  Somebody must supply goods or services and somebody must demand them.  From a layman’s point of view, for an economy to exist there must be:


  1. Identification of competitive advantage: if person A and person B both can produce milk and rice and if these two items are that they need to survive (hypothetically), then there is no economy because there is no trading.  However if A realizes that he is better at producing milk than B and specializes in milk only, and if B too realizes that he is better at producing rice than A and specializes in rice only, then they will trade.  In this way economy begins. 


  1. Innovation: Imagine a third party C comes. He realizes that he is good at producing rice. He wants to survive but since A and B are into a good trading relationship and he cannot give rice the A at a lower price, then he is unable to compete and thus he is going to die.  However C comes up with an innovation that produces better quality rice.  Of course it is more expensive than B’s rice. However A and B are intrigued by it and decide to give it a try.  They like it.  So now C is not only selling rice to milk producer A but to rice producer B also.  The economy has now taken one step further up. 


  1. Production: As the demand of milk, rice and the higher quality rice increases, more of each the items must be produced.  To that end, A, B and C have got to increase their infrastructures, financial standings and human resources.  The workers, say X, Y, Z also become consumers of these three products. 


  1. Distribution: Resources (milk, rice and higher quality rice) are scarce.  As the demand increases because all A, B, C, X, Y, Z want them, there will be a kind of auction.  The ones who will give the highest price will get the milk, rice and higher quality rice in the quantity they seek.  


  1. Selling and buying (trading): Given the right price, the producers A, B, and C will sell , and the consumers X, Y, Z  will buy and there will be an equilibrium in the demand and supply. 


  1. Consumption: All the agents A, B, C, X, Y, Z will consume whatever they buy and they will need more of them in order to survive.  In this way there is more demand and thus A, B, and C will produce, innovate and distribute employing X, Y, Z. 


The ‘Brain Drain’ problem

If anything can prevent the Nepalese economy from taking the center stage instead of politics, it is the fact the daily thousands of Nepalese are flying away to foreign countries in order to escape the gloom and doom of Nepal that they see impeding and befalling on whoever is stupid enough to stay back. 


First it is a wrong reaction from these young people and elderly ones alike.  If there is any better time and better place to be now in order to attain name, fame, and wealth three-in-one, it is now and here.  Nepal 2008 onwards will be an era in which anything will be possible. 


Recently Kamal Nepal was hailed as a victor who rescued a three-year-old girl from a gorge in Pokhara. In one day he got is all three-in-one.  Nepal is ready in terms of infrastructure (especially mass communication), social consciousness (good deeds must be glorified) and political attainment (stated above) to foster more heroes and give them the three-in-one fruits.  We are urging for magicians who will turn the sad state of financial affairs of this nation upside down and take us to the position of first world from our current third world status.  We are craving for messiahs or saviors who will shake the negative attitudes (showing leadership by blocking roads and not by creating jobs) out of Nepalese people’s minds.  We are longing for pathfinders or trailblazers, who will show us a new way of living, of getting whatever we seek. 


But our national problem is that these magicians, saviors and pathfinders are leaving this country.  Had they stayed, certainly they would have met frustration, insecurity, even doom, but they would have risen up from the ashes, and would have come up with something just out of sheer desperation having no other option.  In this way they would start the six-step-economic-chains described above. 


An engineer frustrated of having no job, or being underpaid, would come up with a new idea.  He would meet with a management student who would be in the same league of frustration.  Together they would team up to show the world their worth.  They would find a niche market (identification of competitive advantage) , they would out-do their competitors’ products (innovation).  They would hire their friends, juniors in their effort to succeed (production and distribution).  Their products and services would be traded (selling and buying).    People will want more of these products and services (consumption).  Soon there will a quest for foreign markets since the local market is too small for their ambitions.  The cycle of the six-step-economic-chains starts again.  The only difference is that the distribution extends to other countries (export). 


Imagine that of all the millions of people who left Nepal somehow hundred thousand came back.  Say only ten thousand of them, managed to sustain their motivation despite all the obstacles they face in Nepal.  Then there would be 10,000 more six-step-economic-chains. This would results in hundred thousands more jobs, more expendable income, more consumption, more demand and more supply.  All this will spiral out into production for export markets.  A fraction of all the profits made will to the government vaults in form of tax. Government officers of equally high level of integrity and nationalistic feeling will use all the tax to make infrastructures (roads, communication, power, public utilities).  Then how long will it take for Nepal to reach first world status?  Yes no time at all, just a few decades: many of us will live to see such a day. 


The next question you will ask, in what to invest?  That is not a problem.  Tourism, hydropower, natural herbs, agriculture, handicrafts and business process outsourcing (BPO) are good export-oriented industries.  Within this framework, any self-respecting person can come up with his own competitive advantage, innovation and start producing, distributing and trading. 


However the problem is that no body is coming back and the young generation that received the best education consisting of academic excellence and leadership prowess as well as entrepreneurial knack is leaving Nepal as if it were struck by a calamity.  People are still reacting to the days of too frequent Banda’s and insecurity, deaths and so on.  But things have changed.  The winds are blowing in a different direction.  But no one is noticing. This is called delayed response. 


At all cost we who know that the better days are coming must do something to stop brain drain.


The internal brain drain

Miss A is a gorgeous lady working as a salesperson in a automobile showroom.  She is talented, has sold many cars, and is a supervisor.  However all she wants is to get into a bank.  She has given many interviews in various banks.  She will jump ship any time. 


Inside a bank, you will see people from so many fields.  Some were ex-teachers, some were lawyers, some had their own business, some were scientists, and some were hoteliers. 


All this is bad for the private sector that is left with people who just want to get out the ship.  How will it ever progress and start the six-step-economic-chains since no body is doing step number 2 (innovation)?  Why is the private sector so unattractive to the workforce of Nepal?  What can it learn from the banking sector? 


Stop brain drain by copying the management style of banks

There are some people who came back from the USA and are absorbed happily in banks. Something has happened in this industry that has made is lucrative to people from all walks of life.  We have to start from somewhere in order to stop brain drain.  After all either young people want to go the America or they want to join a bank.  So the rest of us in the private sector and government sector must learn from the banking industry.

  1. ‘Permanent job’ feature:  This gives a sense of security.  Once given this status hardly anyone is fired even if the performance is not good enough.  However this would not be enough to attract talent since government bodies offer that also.  Small private companies have the feature of ‘hire and fire’ that raises the sense of insecurity. 
  2. Good income: If you give peanuts you get monkeys. A lion won’t come to work for you.  Not even a cow. 
  3. Opportunities for growth in career: We have been talking so much about flat organizations that we forget how much promotions is important to people.  A hierarchy is necessary.  People have been used to moving up from grade 1 to 12.  They want the same in their professional life too. 
  4. Opportunities for learning: most people are suckers for learning new things.  They want to get training and to be groomed.  They are looking for new things to master. 
  5. Management by objective: Targets are set and they have to be met.  No excuses. 
  6. Performance-based incentive: Long-live bonus
  7. Transparency: Financial statements are public. You don’t have to sell your soul to the devil in order to make a living.  Many of the private firms can’t make this claim to its employees.  Alas, most people value integrity above all else, even above wealth.  So even if they end up in places where dishonesty is an accepted norm, they live an unfulfilled life.  This is a major factor triggering brain drain.  Nepalese people want to make a decent living by being honest.  Banks offer that by compulsion imposed by NRB. 


  So if you are running a small company, add these seven characteristics in your firm and stop the talent that could turn you into a millionaire through innovation, from flowing to banks and the USA. 


Give the young generation more chances and plant seeds of inspiration in them

My sister is back from the USA for a holiday.  Everyone is telling her that to settle there is the best thing to do, that if people like her come back, they will meet only frustration.  A Nepalese came back from the prestigious Princeton University with the noble purpose of uplifting this country.  But he went back to the USA after one year unable to achieve anything.  His contemporaries ridiculed him.  They told him, “Did we not tell you that it is pointless to even think of doing anything in Nepal?  Welcome to the real world.” Such a story is enough for another thousands of Nepalese to be disillusioned about working in Nepal for a decade. 


But I decided that I must plant seeds of glorious living in my sister’s mind and I told her, “Come back to Nepal with skills.  I will promote you and position you in this market so that you can earn as much as you want. There are so much prospects here.” 


We must stop scaring away the youth by degrading them and denying them opportunities.  No body is responsible to cause brain drain as we employers.  Let’s give them a chance to prove themselves. 


Pay well

Most employers are misers when it comes to compensating.  We want to pay as little as possible.  We have to change our mentality and pay ‘as much as possible’.  Remember that you may be saving one thousand or ten thousand rupees by exploiting a young talent.  But you are ruining your own future chances to earn millions.  It is like not feeding your cows well. 


Show respect

Treat them with dignity.  Remember they are going out because they have been undignified by employers here.  What do we gain by humiliating the young generation? 


Parents, teachers and society redefine aspirations

In Nepal alone there are hundreds of different professions according to research.  But all we can inspire our children to aspire is to become doctors, engineers or accountants.  We know it is not possible for all who pass I.Sc to become a doctor and engineer.  We know that engineers don’t have a platform to use their talents in Nepal.  Our aspirations are outdated.  We need to give our students a new dream.  Tell them, “Just find your unique talent (identify your competitive advantage), hone it (innovation), make a business around it (production), market it (distribution, trading) and make sure others never get enough of what your talent offers (consumption).”


Engineers, doctors and accountants come in the six-step-economic-chain only at the third step (production).  But who is going to start the chains first of all?  Teach the youth to be economic leaders who will start thousands of such new chains.  Teach the youth to be contagiously honest and transform the government’s management style. In any workshops I conduct for the youth, I shamelessly place these two concepts in their sub-conscious minds.  You too follow me and let’s make it possible for Nepal to become a true heaven-on-earth. 


At the same time infuse a heavy dose of nationalism in the youth.  In these workshops, I also tease them, “If you are planning to settle overseas please leave this class right now since I am going to teach secrets of success only meant for those who want to stay back in Nepal to make it a better place to live.” 



A frustrated business owner said to be, “I finally realized why my business never went up despite decades of effort.  I never found the right persons.” The right persons have left this nation.  How will you find them?  Some American businessmen have found them and made millions out of them.  Brain drain is not only a national problem it is every employer’s nightmare.  Using the tips listed above, let us curb this scourge of Nepal, brain drain, starting today.