Yangyel Lhaden

Kunzang Dema, a drayang employee who lost her job after the closure of the drayangs in the country, started driving taxi.

She applied for an entrepreneurship development programme with labour ministry. She was skeptical when she received a call from the ministry confirming her registration.

“I parked my taxi and thought for a while … I decided to give it a try,” Kunzang Dema said.

Today, after completion of training, Kunzang Dema is confident. She is ready to commercialise her mushroom farm—KD Mushroom—which started as a passion on a small scale at her home.

Thimphu TechPark Limited in collaboration with Entrepreneurship Promotion Division of the labour ministry completed a 15-day basic entrepreneur course for 31 laid-off drayang employees yesterday.

Labour ministry has been providing skilling, upskilling, self-employment, and engagement opportunities to laid-off drayang employees after the closure of drayangs on January 7.

The ministry received 515 applications from laid-off drayang employees for the programmes; 110 applied for the entrepreneurship development programme. However, only 58 confirmed their registration.

Kinley Dorji with Entrepreneurship Promotion Division said that out of 58, 46 participants were in Thimphu. Upon reconfirmation, only 31 registered and completed their training. “We are taking the training to their places; for the remaining 12 the training will be conducted in Paro and Chukha.”

In entrepreneurship training, the participants were taught basic business bookkeeping, marketing strategies, business plan and pitching business proposals, among others.

The participants came up with 19 business ideas ranging from electronic commerce (one), service sector (seven), manufacturing and production (three) to food and liquor (eight).

Choden, head of human resource and administration with Thimphu TechPark Limited, said that during the first days of training, most of the participants wanted to start bar. “ It was very hard to change their mindset to explore new avenues.”

She said that as the training came to a close the participants were able to think of other business ideas.

As part of the course, eight top business ideas were selected through multiple rounds of idea-pitching competition and were presented to a panel of judges who chose the top four and awarded a cash prize of Nu 50,000 to help them start their businesses.

The participants came up with 19 business ideas

The top four business ideas were KD mushroom; Dechen Homestay in Nobgang, Punakha; KT Handicraft; and Dawa’s Fruit Cocktail.

Phub Dema’s dream is to make her home in Nobgang a homestay. Before the pandemic, she worked in the tourism sector during the day and at drayang by night.

She said that she worked two jobs to save enough so that she could go back to her mother who is the only one looking after the ancestral home. “ I had saved Nu 500,000, but during the pandemic, after losing both the jobs, I lost more than half the money I had saved.”

Phub Dema said that if she gets support, she would like to go back home and her experience in the tourism sector would come in handy in her homestay. “ During the off-season, a special local rate will also be introduced.”

The Department of Employment and Entrepreneurship’s director-general, Kunzang Lhamu, said that labour ministry would continue to encourage individuals wishing to avail further skills training to start their business.

Tshering Yangdon and Pema Lhamo Sherpa want to start a bakery in Chamgang. They are looking forward to learning baking with labour ministry.

Pema Lhamo Sherpa said that she learned baking from YouTube and wanted to up-scale her skills. “ After learning about the entrepreneurship skills and attending baking class, we are confident that our business will make us independent.”

Kinley Dorji said that participants should come forward for continued support. “ We will help you to make and pitch business proposals, and facilitate your proposals to banks for loans.”

As part of the post-training opportunity, the labour ministry will provide critical skills training under the business acceleration programme and, under Youth Employment and Livelihood Programme, participants who start their businesses would be provided with Nu 5,000 with other facilitation supports.