Yangyel Lhaden

A group of de-suup entrepreneurs with Drup-Ge (Bhutanese blades) took home Nu 500,000 to upscale their business after winning at the Springboard Plus Programme (SBPP) 2024.

The SBPP,  a six-month hybrid seed-accelerator programme started in 2022 to enhance investment readiness of youth-led social enterprises and address their challenges in business operations and management when scaling their business.

The programme also aims at addressing the operational and management challenges faced by early-stage youth-led social enterprises. The SBPP is designed to make startups “investment ready.”

UNDP’s Resident Representative, Mohammad Younus, at the completion of the programme event highlighted the importance of SBPP in addressing youth unemployment in the country, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, and in promoting cottage and small industries (CSI), which constitute about 95 percent of the businesses in the country.

He emphasised the programme’s role in reviving the economy by supporting young entrepreneurs  and helping them navigate through early stages of failures to learn and grow from it.

Youth unemployment is a big concern today.  Youth unemployment rate before the pandemic was  15.7 percent. It  increased to 28.6 percent in 2022. Although the percentage decreased to 15.9 percent last year, in the first quarter of 2024, it rose by seven percent to 22.9 percent.

“As the government spearheads building an enabling entrepreneurship ecosystem in Bhutan, UNDP Bhutan remains a steadfast partner in providing technical assistance, sharing global best practices, and facilitating connections with international networks,” Mohammad Younus said. “Our goal is to empower Bhutanese entrepreneurs, helping them to innovate, scale up, and contribute to the nation’s socio-economic development.”

Minister of Industry, Commerce, and Employment (MoICE), Namgyal Dorji described the SBPP as an ideal platform for young entrepreneurs, providing them with essential skills and support for business success. “With youth unemployment in Bhutan at 22.9 percent and nearly half of the population being young people, addressing this issue is urgent,” Namgyal Dorji said. “The government remains committed to supporting young entrepreneurs in every way possible.”

Over the course of two cohorts of SBPP, the springboard programme has generated 81 job opportunities, on an average five job opportunities were created by one startup. 

Of the 18 startups taking part in this year’s SBPP, 16 qualified to compete for financial incentives with cash prizes ranging from Nu 100,000 to Nu 500,000. The other four winners are Tendup Educational Services Limited, Dream Tales Animation Studio, Zhaychhop and Echoreach Directories.

NoMind Bhutan, a student-led AI startup, won an opportunity to represent Bhutan at the Youth Co-Lab Regional Summit in Manila, Philippines, in June. 

Drup-Ge’s Tashi Wangchuk said that the seed money would help the team upscale their business and their ambition of entering  the international market with their product. 

The three de-suups, after completing skills training in blades with a Nu 450,000 loan, started Drup-Ge. They operate from Choego—a commercial facility of Desuung. In eight months of their operation, they have paid off the Nu 450,000 loan and have employed four other de-suups who have undergone blades training. 

The SBPP programme is led by Department of Employment and Entrepreneurship under the MoICE, in collaboration with UNDP Bhutan and Loden Foundation.