Yangyel Lhaden 

Almost a year out of business, handicraft shop owners say they tried various businesses to survive.

Some started selling groceries and garments and others tried to sell products online and run restaurants but could not make much progress.

One of the handicraft owners started selling groceries in her handicraft shop after the first lockdown.

She said that she could not recover her investment and rats damaged the goods during the second lockdown. “I could not pay loan for the last two months.”

The house owner of her handicraft shop gave 50 percent rent waiver and she has to pay Nu 13,750 per month.

She said that she did not apply for kidu and used every penny she saved to make ends meet, as she wanted to sustain without burdening the government in difficult times. “If tourism doesn’t reopen, I don’t know how I will survive.”

There are others who are surviving on kidu.

A handicraft owner, Tashi Wangmo, said that she survived on kidu support.

She has to pay more than Nu 100,000 to the house owners. “I pay when I can and requested the owner that I would pay once the situation gets better.”

She is still running her handicraft shop. “It’s better to earn something than nothing.”

Handicraft owners say starting new business is difficult.

A handicraft shopowner in Paro, Singay Wangchuk, said that it was difficult to start new business amid the pandemic.

He got thirty percent rent waiver and pays Nu 40,000 every month. “If it had not been for loan deferment, I would not have been able to sustain.”

Another said to start up a new business, they needed startup money and accessibility to procure goods, which was a bigger challenge due to the pandemic. “I fear if I start a new business and lockdown happens again it will do more harm than good.”

Some are pinning hope on the vaccine. They hope tourism will reopen after the mass vaccination.

Meanwhile, Handicrafts Association of Bhutan’s (HAB) executive director, Chorten Dorji, said that most handicraft shops were on verge of closing and the association facilitated kidu application for handicraft owners and workers to sustain. “While some were eligible, some were not.”

HAB has conducted four trainings and trained 160 artisans in handicraft product designing and product development through support from various agencies.

Chorten Dorji said that HAB’s main objective was for capacity development to reduce import in post Covid-19. “The trainings will enhance quality, diversity, and quality of local handicraft production.

There are 185 handicraft shops in four dzongkhags of Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, and Bumthang with 526 employees.