Calls for individuals or entrepreneurs to avail the opportunity

Thukten Zangpo 

There are 20 potential business opportunities in agriculture, education, energy, manufacturing, information and communication technology, and tourism sectors across 20 dzongkhags according to a study initiated by the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI).

A study titled, “Potential Business Opportunities Identification Study 2021”, launched yesterday, is expected to help substitute imports, increase exports, generate meaningful employment for the Bhutanese and supplement the government’s long-standing ambition of economic self-reliance.

Bhutan has been facing an increasing trade imbalance, which is a concern in managing the country’s current account deficit.

The study found that between 2016 and 2020, the overall exports including electricity increased by 37 percent to Nu 48.2 billion (B). When comparing trade deficits without hydropower, there is an import of Nu 66.5B and an export of Nu 20.7B which accounts for around 20 percent of the gross domestic product.

According to the chamber’s press release, the economic activities are mostly concentrated in urban centres, and one of the main objectives of the study was to create ample business opportunities in rural areas.

It further added that the growth of rural areas is of paramount importance to achieve sustainable and equitable socio-economic development while mitigating rural-urban migration.

“If the measures are not put in place to address this today, it might lead to a greater imbalance within the country.”

The study proposed a Yak Riding Center in high-altitude yak-laden areas for locals and tourists. “Highlanders who own yaks could display the true essence of its culture, food, and lifestyle. However, non-highlanders could also collaborate with the communities, particularly in the sourcing of food for the cafe,” the study stated.

Bhutan generates 7.02 metric tonnes (MT) of plastics both Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) and High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), every day. It accounts for 2,562MT in a year. The study proposed to start a reprocessing of hard plastic into flower pots.

Bhutan imported Nu 50.2 million (M) worth of nuts and bolts in 2020. There is potential for manufacturing units for nuts and bolts mostly used in the automotive industry, electrical equipment, spare parts, and most importantly construction industry.  The study recommended a business venture into nuts and bolts, starting with a most selling size of 10mm and expanding into self-drilling screws for roofing sheets.

According to the Asian Development Bank, 5,140 buildings were constructed in dzongkhags and yenlag thromdes in the past five years. In Thimphu alone (Thimphu Thromde and Khasadrapchu), 2,780 buildings were constructed. The study finds a huge potential for landscape designing, fruits, flowers, and grass planting.

Bhutan also imported 57,986 numbers of LED bulbs in the past four years assembled in India with almost all components of the LED bulb coming from a neighbouring country. Realising the growing demand for LED bulbs in the country, the study recommends Bhutan’s own LED light assembly unit, at half the price of any product on the market.

The manufacturing unit of CNC wood-based wooden products was also proposed. With the use of a carving machine, products namely key chains, annual complimentary gifts (cardholder, penholder), home décor, and wood railing could be manufactured.

The study also said the manufacturing of tile adhesives has the potential to substitute polymer-based adhesives. Between 2015 to 2020, Nu 92M worth of polymer-based adhesives was imported, and Nu 63M alone in 2020.

The study also identified Dalle chilli sauce as a potential product. Given the Dalle consumption habit in the Bhutanese society, the new product Dalle sauce could easily enter the market and can substitute other sauces imported into the country, it added.

Another proposed idea was the manufacturing of gummy candy. The study finds that with growing health-oriented gummy candies, the idea will capitalise on the growing gummy candy market in the country as well as deliver to the export market with health-oriented gummies under the brand values of organic, Himalayan, pure, and pristine.

Although yoghurt is not a new product in the Bhutanese market, the study finds that the flavour addition in yoghurt is still missing in the country. “The flavour addition increases the value addition by as much as 140 percent as compared with plain yoghurt.” The study recommends a flavour-drinking yoghurt processing plant.

There is also potential for finger fryums popularly known as finger chips with their mass consumption among children and youngsters. However, it would need quality enhancement, improved packaging, and proper branding.

Poultry farming of native chickens was also considered a potential idea because native chickens are under threat of extinction, and it has high demand, tastier, and nutritious value.

Bhutanese could explore manufacturing soup and soft baby food, perceived as universal comfort foods. It can be an alternative replacement to the popular Nestle Cerelac.

Other ideas include the manufacturing of canned fruit cocktails, sachet-based Ezay, fried Tengma (flatten maize), banana cookies, ginger garlic paste, Tofu (bean curd), and frozen peas.

The chamber asked individuals or entrepreneurs to avail themselves of the detailed information from its Business Information and Facilitation Center.