Miniature Bhutan, a start-up that aims to create sustainable miniature souvenirs in the country won the most innovative business idea at the start-up weekend in Thimphu.

The event, which started around 4pm on November 24 lasted about 54 hours until November 26, pushing contestants to come up with business ideas within 54 hours.

Miniature Bhutan’s team of five built a prototype of a Buddha meditating on a 0.1cm pencil lead with 0.4cm height within 45 minutes. The Buddha could be seen only with the use of lens.

Founder of Miniature Bhutan, Sonam Tashi said that most souvenirs in the country are imported from China or Thailand and that he wants to develop Bhutanese souvenirs.

Redolence, a scent studio aimed to relief stress through aroma bagged the runners up title while a paper-recycling firm Happy Paper won the third place.

Of the 56 ideas that were pitched on the first day, 13 were selected to be worked on further in the next two days. Participants conducted market validation on their ideas as part of the competition.  The ideas were graded on  criteria such as market validation, unique selling points and strategy to enter the market.

Themed eco-tourism, the start-up aims to promote entrepreneurship and innovation, to build start-up ecosystem in the country, and to strengthen the economy.

Other potential business ideas presented at the event included the concept of creating youth space. A 23-year-old graduate from Gaeddu College of Business Studies Dorji Khando got the idea for Youth Space after he missed an opportunity to participate in a basketball competition when he had no place to stay in Thimphu.

In places like Thimphu, he said the need to have youth space providing accommodation, food and recreational facilities was important to support youth. “Because of accommodation problem, people miss out on opportunities such as education, training and jobs.”

Other ideas included Agri lens, an online space connecting buyers and farmers; Green trek east, offering trekking in eastern Bhutan; Himalayan chips from Phobjikha; Eco-farm stay which aims to develop farm stays, Home-stay consultancy, Car rental, Green tea farm tour and Unseen Tsirang.

One of the facilitators, Techstars’ Regional Manager Anurag Maloo, said that start-up weekend is all about learning to become an entrepreneur.

Prizes included workstation space for six months and incubation support at Bhutan Innovation and Technology Center and stays at luxury hotels for team members to work further on ideas.

UNDP, which supported the event, offered the founder and leader of the winning team and founder of the runners up team a trip abroad to attend a youth forum for networking.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay commended participants working in a team and encouraged them to pitch their ideas in front of relevant agencies. “Your ideas reach out to the community and the environment. They reach out to the poor.”  He said all 13 ideas deserved attention as each idea had potential.

UNDP’s Portfolio Manager of Environment, Climate and Livelihood Programme, Chimi Rinzin said the reason for keeping the theme ecotourism was to ensure that tourism benefit people in rural communities.

One of the participants, a member of Himalayan chips Ratan Gurung, said he learned about teamwork. “Working in a team and the will to continue working on your idea is important.”

UNDP and Thimphu Techpark organised the fifth youth Start-up weekend that ended on November 26.

Rinchen Zangmo