Thukten Zangpo

When times are hard and inflation is spiralling out of control, there aren’t many who are generous with giving. However, the Bhutanese mindset of giving during troubled times has not disappointed six people who had to depend on donations to kickstart their businesses.

Bhutanese living in the country and abroad donated Nu 532,192 to KUEN-Phen financing, a scheme initiated by the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) under the  guidance of Governor Dasho Penjore through the Royal Securities Exchange of Bhutan Limited’s (RSEBL) crowd funding platform, and with Bhutan Care Credit Limited as a partner micro-finance institution.

The six proposed businesses needed a total fund of Nu 2.29 million (M). The RMA created a revolving fund of Nu 1.76M to unlock the total cost of the projects. The proponents had to raise a minimum of 20 percent of the total cost for a project to get approved during the campaign.

Fifteen percent of the total project cost will act as a grant and the remaining 85 percent as an interest, collateral, and guarantor-free loan.

The beneficiary has to repay the loan in five years with a gestation period of a maximum of three months.

With the funding support, Jamyang Choden, 21, who suffers from speech and physical disabilities, was able to start a grocery shop in Thimphu a month ago. “Your donation is greatly appreciated,” she said, adding that her dream is to become financially independent.

Mon Bahadur Rai, 26, has constructed a chicken shed to start his poultry business. As an only child to his parents, he moved to the village of Tsirangtoe in Tsirang to support them. Soon, he will get 60-layer chickens from Mendrelgang in Tsirang.

“I feel humbled by the generosity,” Mon Bahadur Rai said.

Another beneficiary, Yeshi Nidup, a Monpa from Wangling village in Trongsa, was able to buy a power tiller and has started commercial farming in his village.

Yeshi Nidup said that being the father of four school-going children, it has been difficult to make certain life improvements despite his hard work. “Without a regular income, it is barely enough to meet my family’s basic necessities such as food, clothing, and education,” he said.

A single mother of three disabled children, Thinley Lhamo opened a micro-retail shop selling traditional and religious products in Paro less than a month ago. “I am very fortunate to have been born in Bhutan, where people are incredibly giving and donating to help underprivileged people like me to improve our lives,” Thinley Lhamo said.

Sangay Lhamo, who lives with her 22 years old son, started her home-based business. Her son was hit on the head by a khuru (local dart) when he was young, and since then, his physical movements have been severely affected.

Another beneficiary, Sonam Zangmo, was also able to start her homemade pickle business in Thimphu. She said she could support her family and is financially independent now.

An official from RMA said that the initiative is geared towards providing an inclusive financing platform and opportunities for the vulnerable and marginalised segments to engage in meaningful economic activities for livelihood enhancement.

He added that support is provided to financially disadvantaged, special needs, vulnerable, and marginalised recipients.

Non-governmental organisationsreferred the applications for the initiative.

The applications for the second batch are open now. The RMA has received 25 applicants for the second batch as of January 11.