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The Year the Lights Went Out

Severe power outages are killing Nepal’s few remaining industries. Matthew Kruchak on life without electricity in the world’s youngest republic.

Selling lights without electricity is a tough gig. At Mega Lights, a vast showroom in Katmandu, more than fifteen hundred light fixtures hug the walls and hang from the ceiling. But the only reliable illumination comes from the sun, beaming through the shop’s picture windows. The Nepalese government has instituted controlled power outages—called rolling blackouts, or load shedding—to deal with the country’s escalating energy crisis. On average, Nepalese go without power for sixteen hours every day.

The owner of Mega Lights is Nitesh Agrawal, a young entrepreneur with a smooth sales cadence. He is giving the government a year before closing his shop. “In the lighting business, everything depends upon the current,” he said, with obvious frustration. “If there’s no current, there’s no business.” Agrawal has worked hard to move merchandise amid the blackouts, but when he can’t show customers the kind of ...

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