Choki Wangmo

Startup centres are set to be an autonomous body under the cottage and small industries (CSI) flagship programme by June, but the progress is slow and operational modality unclear, according to Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering.

While presenting the CSI flagship programme update to the Prime Minister on April 16, Lyonchhen said that the idea of an autonomous body is attractive but such bodies in the country were not fulfilling their mandates, therefore resulting in failure and status quo in functioning. “In principle, I like the idea of an autonomous startup centre, but in practice, it is not clear.”

The organisational structure of CSI flagship programme constitutes a board, chief executive officer (CEO), and startup manager among others. However, there was no clarity on selection procedures of the officials and the way forward.

Under the programme, board members from different agencies were proposed but Lyonchhen said that appointment of board members impeded the progress and efficiency of the CEO. He said that he went through minutes of board meetings of the past few years but the results were insignificant.

The board functioned like a human resource committee of a small agency, board formation and functions were not clear, PM said, adding that most of the decisions and plans were not futuristic.

To avoid such loopholes and failure of the autonomous startup centre, Lyonchhen suggested that the programme should do away with forming board members.

The autonomous body, if successful, is expected to nurture, enable and empower aspiring entrepreneurs to become self-reliant and successful by linking CSI banks and startup centres. The link would provide holistic support covering the entire business phases and create an enabling entrepreneurship ecosystem for the development of CSIs in the country.

With a total budget of Nu 150.87 million for the next three years, a major chunk of the budget is allocated for capacity building of startups and business incubation programmes. The centre would provide infrastructure, marketing, business development services and ease access to finance for startups.

Director General of Department of Cottage and Small Industries, Tandin Tshering, said that the flagship programme was not performing as desired but the progress would improve once the startup centre becomes autonomous.

He said the startup programmes in the country were functioning in silos. “If it is autonomous, all startups would be under a CEO but the mandate has to be clear— no other agencies should be allowed to take up any startup programmes.  It should be a model agency for startups.”

Lyonchhen told the flagship team to reprioritise and fast-forward few activities. Instead of focusing on short-term startups, Lyonchoen told the team to focus on digitalised modes and methods, which would be viable even after the pandemic.

By 2022, the programme would remodel service centre to target 77 startups and establish two incubation centres. It would support provisions such as marketing and promotion of eight essential products for import substitution by 2021.

The eight products are milk processed products, noodles, sanitary towels, toilet paper, soap and detergent, cookies and snacks, tea and by-products, and bricks and hollow blocks.

The programme has a total budget of Nu 1.2 billion.