Choki Wangmo 

Thirty young people completed a basic entrepreneurship course in Thimphu TechPark on October 1. The programme was designed to equip returnees from abroad with entrepreneurial skills.

The 15-day course targeted the returnees because they had the necessary exposure, experience, and savings to start a business, said the chief of the labour ministry’s entrepreneurship and self-employment division Kinley Dorji.

According to the trainers, due to urgency demanded by the pandemic, the course focused on developing old ideas rather than new innovative startups which require more time.

The top six business ideas received Nu 70,000 each to kickstart the business. The ideas were selected based on criteria such as the feasibility, marketing, sustainability, idea presentation and skills, among others.

There were 23 individual business ideas and three ideas from a group. Agribusiness topped the list.

Most of the participants had worked in the Middle East before returning to the country.

Chencho Thinley, who returned from India, wants to start a large-scale Shiitake mushroom farm. His idea, CT’s Farm, was among the top six ideas selected. He has procured land in Bjemina for the project.

A participant, Kuenzang Norbu, said that he wanted to start a vegetable farm. He worked as a supervisor in Kuwait for a year before returning to the country in April.

He said that the skills he learnt during the course would help him manage the business. “I learnt finance managing skills in this course,” he said.

Labour Minister Ugyen Dorji said: “Coronarvirus is here to stay and we have to lead our lives. Your exposure to outside world on how businesses are run, organised, and how profits are made would help revive our economy through creation of employment opportunities and in being self-reliant.”

The chief executive officer of TechPark, Tshering Cigay, said that the impact of such courses and programmes might not be sudden but the skills learnt would be of use in any scenario for the youth. “Once trained, the chance of entrepreneurial activities is high and the government has to create an ecosystem by involving the private sector.”

The course was criticised in the past for just training the young people and not making an impact in creating a startups ecosystem.

According to a survey by the labour ministry, out of 3,000 young people trained, only 11 percent started the business, said Kinley Dorji, adding that in the current Plan, the scope was narrowed down to groom the startups.

“Instead of training a huge number of startups, we will focus on supporting and training the impactful few,” he said.