Main story: Sitting inside one of the cubicles at the IT Park in Thimphu, with his laptop on and engrossed deep in his work, is Jigme Tenzin. Along with his partners, the 28 year-old have recently launched an online retail estate service (housing.bt).
Catering to house owners, real estate developers and brokers through their website, they can advertise vacant spaces in the country, especially in Thimphu. These vacant spaces can be browsed and booked online by interested buyers or potential tenants.
It was when Jigme Tenzin had a tough time finding a vacant space to rent in Thimphu some three years ago when the idea of the creating a platform to provide such services hit him.
This led Jigme Tenzin to apply to various funding agencies in Thimphu and after endless rejections and disappointments, he finally secured a funding through Druk Holding Investment and Loden Foundation and created the website.
Jigme Tenzin is one of the few graduates that have ventured into running their own business today. In other words, he is an entrepreneur.
Being an entrepreneur is something that has recently caught up among the young people who don’t hesitate to venture on his own, Jigme Tenzin said.
“Today, entrepreneurship in Bhutan is mainly fuelled by the unemployment scenario after thousands of students graduate and enter the job market every year,” Jigme Tenzin said. “Many have realised to not wait for the government or a concerned agency to provide them a job but instead create a platform on their own. It’s timely and is the right time to venture into this part of the business.”
Despite that, there are many who consider being an entrepreneur as the last resort, which shouldn’t be the case, Jigme Tenzin said.
“The entrepreneur culture will thrive if young people see it as a first option rather than looking for a job and considering it later in life. I met many people in their mid 30s and 40s that are now looking into opening up a business. People should see being an entrepreneur as the first opportunity for growth instead of an option later in life,” Jigme Tenzin said.
Today, there are different agencies that help new entrepreneurs by giving funding opportunities and mentorship programmes to start up the business and to fuel ideas.
Even if one doesn’t secure such funding or support, one should look beyond it, Jigme Tenzin said. “There are many global start up competitions that support new entrepreneurs. I was lucky to be able to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit this year, which taught me many valuable lessons – one being we have to create opportunities on our own and not wait for it to fall on our lap.”
Kinley Rabgyel, 31, has recently launched GoXimbo – an online travel portal where one can book hotels and holidays packages in the country.
Kinley Rabgyel ventured into this area of business after realising that being an entrepreneur has more to do with engaging with the ideas and creating opportunities and less with just seeking funds.
“I thought being an entrepreneur was a group of people who work on a business ideas and seek funds from the related government agencies. But now, after I started a business of my own, I find it’s different,” Kinley Rabgyel said. “Entrepreneurship is something that we have to deal with the risk but also it brings a change through the ideas and innovations.”
But there are challenges such as lack of human resources, lack of trust from the stakeholders and convincing people to use online platforms, Kinley Rabgyel said.
Dhan Kumar Tamang, a entrepreneur, said he recently started a private company – Eco Waste Solution (EWS) – which aims at providing integrated approach to waste management services with zero-waste strategy involving focus on waste segregation at source, at creating conducive environment for recycling and reducing disposal at landfills.
EWS is located in Bajo, a 60-decimal land leased from Wangdue’s municipality for collection, storage and transportation.
In the beginning, Dhan Kumar Tamang thought about making money with little efforts but as time passed by, began experimenting with a lot of things and ideas.
“I realised I needed a lot of patience and perseverance to overcome the hardships to make my idea a reality. It is my fifth year as an entrepreneur – I’ve lost a lot but I’ve gained even more in terms of making my dream turn into a reality,” Dhan Kumar Tamang said.
Entrepreneurship provides a platform where one can connect with different people who in turn can teach you a lot, Dhan Kumar Tamang said. “The best part of being an entrepreneur is to solve it and learn from the failure. I believe not the entire entrepreneur will succeed in first time. It is all about continuous learning and making progressive change even with all the flaws you have.”
However, many young people are not willing to take such risks and get out of their comfort zone.
Even if one sees an opportunity in a business world, many are afraid of failure, criticism, bankruptcy, market, innovation, creativity, perseverance and hard work, Dhan Kumar Tamang said.
“If we can tackle these issues and look for constant and progressive learning, we are sure for success on the path of entrepreneurship. If creative, intelligent and hardworking students instead of looking for a nine to five jobs, take up entrepreneurship as a profession, entrepreneurship culture will thrive,” he said.
Having been long as an entrepreneur is Kinzang Duba, who is one of the three young men who started the Youth in Agriculture Programme (YIAP) last year.
All are graduates from Gaeddu College of Business Studies who prefer to call themselves as organic farmers. They are based in Tsimalakha in Chukha.
YIAP is a business entity that is dedicated towards promoting researched based commercial organic farming.
Kinzang Duba said the group is concerned with the increasing fallowing of arable land, huge dependency on vegetable imports and increasing unemployment among youths, which actually led the group to come up with the idea of sustainable solution to address these challenges.
“We want youth to opt agro-farming as a recognised lucrative self-employment opportunity and provide a new perspective on agro-farming,” Kinzang Duba said.
Encouraging youths to take up agriculture or entrepreneur as a profession remains a huge challenge, Kinzang Duba said.
“Many categorise being an entrepreneur as the last resort for employment and livelihood. Such perception is cultivated over the years from younger days where everyone expects a child to secure a good job in his or her future. It’s high time that we change the way we see entrepreneurship,” Kinzang Duba said.
He added that for that to happen, government and institutions should build a positive perception towards entrepreneurship and create platforms to achieve it. “I see entrepreneurship as a platform that gives us one of the finest opportunities to explore our ideas. The most beautiful aspect of being an entrepreneur is that we have a clear vision of why we do what we do and the local and global impact of our work.”
Today, labour ministry, economic affairs ministry, Thimphu Tech Park and Loden Foundation are among the few organisations and agencies that provide capacity building through training, business idea competition programmes and incubation spaces besides funding schemes such as interest-free loans for new entrepreneurs.