Two friends, who dared to dream, persist and realise
Morung Express News
Dimapur | December 4
Confined to the comfort zone, seldom to dare beyond; waiting for that one opening to land a government job has remained the quintessential picture in Nagaland. Not all fit the stereotype, though.
Meet Aokonang Ozukum and Tiaakum Ozukum – who recently launched an app-based taxi service in Dimapur. Hill Cabs – the firm and the app currently available for android users and modelled on the popular online taxi service brands – went live last week.
At 32, the two Ozukums are already working professionals. Tia, as the latter is known, is a working pastor (Christian Fellowship Jalandhar, Punjab), worked as a newspaper hawker and continues running it with three others and has a T-shirt design and printing venture. He also has experience as a social activist and a stint as a lecturer at a Bible college.
“Passionate for entrepreneurship and above all loves preaching God’s word,” he said.
Aokonang, shortened Konang, has a Hotel Management degree from MIT, Ohio, USA beside a diploma in graphic designing and Master in Biblical Counselling. His work experiences are diverse – HIV&AIDS counsellor in Hyderabad; a call centre agent in Bangalore; and two years in the hospitality sector in the US. He wants to modernize farming in Nagaland, an interest cultivated after stint at a Hydrophonic farm when in the USA. His other interests include helping restore the environment, and “pot holes” using plastic road technology through his association with LiFE NGO.
While their interests are diverse, they have one thing in common – “entrepreneurial craze.”
On the Naga society’s idea of a career, “Naga parents have the habit of telling their children that government job is the only secure job. While we Nagas are going crazy after government job, others have already captured our economy.”
Stating they were free from “the traditional UPSC/NPSC expectations,” the duo said that their parents were supportive of their rather daring idea. While citing Steve Jobs, Walt Disney as role models, Tia said breaking away from the ‘government job stereotype’ was the influencing factor that pushed him “to be innovative and convincing people that government job is just one layer out of so many.” As a theologian, he added that he always wished for transforming Nagas into hard working Christians.
Konang said that growing up he wanted to become anything but “drive an NL10 vehicle.”
Investment was their biggest hurdle. They said that their application for bank finance went in vain with the bank terming the project as “uncharted territory.” Approaching the state government was not of much help either.
However, they lauded the former Dimapur Deputy Commissioner, Kesonyu Yhome and District Transport Officer, Lovikali Yepthomi, for being supportive of their project proposal.
The spectre of an IT-based venture succeeding in Nagaland is also weighing on their mind. They expressed optimism nevertheless. “There are many taxi services running because there is demand. Our App, thus, is just a medium to all these.” As for the app, they said that it has been designed to run even at low internet speed. Ultimately though, they said that it will depend on the response from the public.
There is also the issue of gnawing away at the earnings of the existing taxis and autorickshaws. “We want to make it clear and draw the line that we are chipping in as a third party just to fill the gaps based on need and not to disturb the existing state of affairs.”
“Our service comes with some added benefits that both these parties aren’t providing at the moment,” they said, while stressing that people will continue using the conventional mode of transportation.
The enterprising duo is also aware that it is a risky venture. “But then this will never be our first or our last. Whether this succeeds or not, we will be moving ahead with new projects. There is no question of self pitying.”
A less than encouraging work culture & not daring
Barring some exceptional cases, Konang viewed the work culture in Nagaland is quite pathetic. While the negligible presence of Naga hands in the business sector is well evident, he cited the government establishments as another poor instance.
Recounting a personal experience, he said, “One Friday, I alongwith my sister went to a government office to get her pass certificate. We were flatly told to come on Monday since the staffs were on leave.” An exasperated “what do you want me to do about it?” was the retort when he asked if those present could help.
“Nagas have that daring attitude but we have become lazy and we have become too proud a people,” held Tia and added that misplaced pride and a missing humility have come in the way.
“Many successful people started with low grade work. Several don’t have even basic education but are succeeding. Why can’t Nagas with all the privilege?”
They called for neutralising the government job obsession, daring to move out of the comfort zone and testing even uncharted territory.
With regard to Hill Cabs and the service, they said, “The site and the apps are now live, but we haven’t announced it officially. We have had some people applying it through the app and some walk-ins also. It’s good for something we haven’t advertised yet.”