Organizing Infrastructure Development with The Interface

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Sushant Dahal is the founder of Mutex Pvt. Ltd. and creator of The Interface. He believes in the use of tech solutions to improve people’s lives within and outside of Nepal. The Interface has been one of his major projects for the Nepali government.
Besides The Interface, Dahal has a lot of other innovative ideas that he plans to build and implement to try and improve the lives of Nepali citizens. Despite the challenges he has faced, he remains focused and dedicated to that ultimate purpose. Here are some of his thoughts and ideas on his company, projects, and entrepreneurship. 

The Interface1. Can you give us a general idea of what The Interface is? 

My aim is to solve real-world problems using technology. I’ve been working on The Interface for about three years now and the idea is to have an online platform where different governmental bodies can coordinate various infrastructure development projects happening at a given time.
For example, if the Department of Roads is undertaking a road maintenance project then other concerned parties such as Water Supply Department, Traffic Department, etc. can be updated on it and can work in coordination. 

Typically, it takes at least 3 to 6 months to get a project approved and start implementation. There should be a platform where they can update the progress of each of these projects. When a road is excavated, it ought to be visible that the road needs repair work to be done before it is closed off.
The idea of The Interface is to create a platform where this can be coordinated. We know we’re supposed to do it, and if we know that it’s bound to happen a hundred years from now, why not just start today? Based on some simple calculations, we found that using this software effectively could save the Nepali government up to 12 Arab rupees a year. I think that’s a huge amount of money that could be utilized for other development activities. 

2. How would you fund this project? What is the initial investment needed? 

I thought of this idea before federalism began in Nepal but now that we’re in the federal system, the entrepreneurship model would be to sell individual units to every local government. Hypothetically, our target customers will be the local governments. If that’s the case we’d be selling it for 5 lakhs or less per unit. And we would have to sell several units to generate a viable revenue. The base investment for this software was 25 lakhs. We had to make several other investments outside of the 25 lakhs as well. We only had to sell about 10 units to make up for that initial investment. 

3. How does the product work? 

If you look at that street over there, you can’t see all the other things going on underneath it. You can see the electric wires and the pavement but you can’t see the drinking water supply pipes. As the population increases exponentially, we want to determine if the available infrastructure can bear the load of the population a few years from now. It is difficult to visualize whether the roads, drinking water pipes, drainage pipes, etc. are equipped to deal with huge growth in population.
If we want to carry out sustainable planning and create sustainable development, these kinds of visualization software and tools are so important. The interface would be able to do that kind of modeling and visualization. I have a lot of other great ideas and algorithms that could be helpful to the government too.

4. You mentioned that there are other features that you would like to add to the system. Can you tell us more about that?

An additional feature we were planning to add was the machine learning algorithms that could even make suggestions to coordinate this project better. It would notify you that other departments are carrying out projects in the same area and that you could work with them. When talking about scale, it’s sort of like google maps.
We start with the local governments. And as you zoom out, we have state governments using the same software. It can help because a river, for example, never belongs to just one state. It crosses over a lot of boundaries and when it comes to managing resources like that, this software can really come in handy. We can utilize it for smaller municipal projects as well as national level project coordination.
It can also help with planning for natural disasters. The software allows you to model natural resources like lakes and glaciers into it too. In case of an earthquake, there is a possibility for the glacier to burst and we don’t know how much further damage that might cause. The Interface would be a good tool to visualize that as well and prepare a contingency plan for that scenario. 

5. How do you think this system will be beneficial to the government as well as the public?

This software could be the basic block of strategic tools required by the central, state and local government for sustainable development. It can also help create an open, transparent system to track budget for projects and their progress. Once a project is decided upon, a budget is allocated towards it. We can actually see these budget allocations ourselves because sometimes we hear unusual news stories such as bridges being constructed over non-existent rivers. It would help avoid situations like that.
There are a lot of factors that need to be considered and coordinated. The Interface is a large scale idea. After the initial 25 lakh budget, our plan was to keep upgrading the system as we sold more units. 

6. What are other projects your organization is working on? 

We have two products that we are about to launch. The first product Gahana is related to the jewelry industry. Finding the gold and silver price for the day, calculating net weight from gross weight by subtracting colored stones or diamonds, making cost inclusion without any human error is pretty time-consuming. If you were to go to a store to buy a piece of jewelry, it would take an expert jeweler at least 3 to 4 minutes to calculate the price and if the customer asks a few customizations that’s 10 minutes of punching numbers into a calculator.
If the consumer wants a preliminary report on what he is buying, it’s going to be a task for the future. Currently, the app is being used by topmost jewelry companies in Nepal for a hefty price but I aim to take this to every shop in Nepal for an affordable rate and give them a tool of support. The app, Gahana, available in both Nepali and English languages, does all the calculations, giving reports, catalogs, the daily price chart and many more within microseconds.

Then second app is called Sewagrahi. It helps connect retailers with their customers. The focus of the app is to create customer loyalty that benefits both the customers and retailers. We’ve got the MVP ready, and have received high appreciations for the project and few options for investment. We will launch this very soon.

7. Is there anything else you’d like to share with the public?

I’ve realized that there are two ways to get anything done in Nepal i.e. by being honest and adaptive. Being adaptive means you need someone to lobby for things at a level where it can be implemented. I’ve still got my cards on the table for The Interface but I haven’t been promoting it as much as I initially was. When you’re trying to do something revolutionary, the first thing is to put aside your personal interests and gains in order to bring about a positive impact. Unfortunately, not all parties involved have done so very forthcomingly. There is an issue of acceptance. 

But if something happens and things work out, I’d be more than happy to contribute. As an entrepreneur, I’m still a beginner, still learning. Every day when I talk to friends who are running companies here and outside of the country I’m learning about mistakes I could avoid. It’s always a learning curve with this line of work. 

For more information about The Interface, please email Sushant Dahal at mr.sushant.dahal@gmail.com.

Interviewed and Article by Jyotika Shah
Edited by Yangzum Lama