Only three of the 24 business ideas have materialised to date

Of the more than 20 business ideas recognised at the six-startup weekends (SW) held so far, most are yet to materialise for want of funds.

A total of 24 business ideas were chosen from 155 ideas pitched during the six events held to date. The SWs were conducted over a period of two years from January 2016 to March this year.

Although the winners of the SW have the passion and determination to transform their ideas into reality, most claimed the lack of seed money as a hindrance.

Only about three ideas have been able to start so far. Among the ones who have been unable to start are college students who are still studying.

Founder of Miniature Bhutan, Sonam Tashi, who won the best idea award during the third edition of SW, said he was able to start his business as he received customers soon after SW.

His business, which deals in production of high-end hand crafted souvenirs started with Nu 5,000 and today, he is earning about Nu 80,000 a month.

Sonam Tashi said that although SWs provide a platform and an opportunity to showcase ideas, being an entrepreneur is hard in Bhutan as there is no entrepreneurship culture.

He said that if the startups have researched well about the potential market, they could be successful. “However, in Bhutan most can’t do much marketing because of financial constraints.”

He added that cash prizes would be more supportive for startups than items, facilities and programmes for the winners of the startups. “We can then at least have the money to kick start our ideas”.

Another winner of a startup weekend, Rashme Gurung said that she is still in the process of researching her product and studying the market for her idea Redolence, The Scent Studio. “Our main focus is on perfecting our product. We have also submitted proposals seeking fund to start production.”

Rashme Gurung after hearing about the SW had gone to participate in one of the SWs without having any intention to pitch her idea.

However, she said that the passion and encouragement of the people in the SW helped her sound off her idea.

“If we don’t get that kind of platform, our ideas would remain as ideas. It cannot become real,” she said.  “If there is someone to recognise and support what we are doing, it gives us confidence and motivates us.”

She added that apart from financial support, the support from the community is also important.  “We are trying to bring new things into our country. It would help if people could support local products.”

Until the fifth edition of the SW, the winners and special mentions were provided with prizes in kinds such as an opportunity to use incubation centres and opportunities to attend relevant seminars and conferences. Winners were awarded cash only beginning this year.

Department of Information Technology and Telecom officials said that the government realising that ideas in Bhutan are not able to materialise mainly due to lack of fund, decided to provide cash prizes to the winners of the sixth SW.  “The fund would however, be disbursed in installments after the winners work on their ideas.”

The government plans to continue providing cash prizes for the winners of the national startup weekends every year.

Karma Cheki