Choki Wangmo | Tsirang
Nyizergang, Tsirang—It’s a big venture. Here is Datta Ram Chamlagai’s slipper-making business.
It’s a small shack. A table fan, a wobbly wooden bench and a drilling machine. That’s about all this little shed contains.
At the centre of it all is a cutter. Leather sheets, slipper diesdyes, and pieces of leather strewn all over the raised wooden platform. There is a heavy stench of silicon polish.
Chamlagai, who looks much older than his age, is 25. Before he started his slipper-making business, he worked on farms. He is also a part-time driver.
When mandarin orange season hits in winter, he is busy picking the fruits and driving to the auction depots.
Chamlagai works hard.
It hasn’t been more than 15 days since Chamlagai and his wife Tanka Maya started a slipper manufacturing firm in a small corner of their grocery store in Nyizergang, formerly known as Salami. The place is about 30 minutes’ drive from the Kilkhorthang gewog centre.
To date, the couple has sold about 250 pairs of slippers in Damphu Town. There is already a plan to expand the business.
Chamlagai got the idea of making slippers from YouTube. It wasn’t a lot of work. He knew he could do it with some basic tools in hand. He was excited by the prospect of replicating the idea in Bhutan.
Having made up his mind to give it a go, Chamlagai went to Guwahati, India to learn the skills. One day training was enough.
Back from training, Chamlagai began procuring the materials immediately. Some raw materials such as rubber sheets come all the way from Delhi, India.
The process is quick. It takes just about two minutes for Chamlagai to make a pair of slippers.Tanka Maya makes sure she is always around to help her husband.
According to the size of the slippers, he uses dies to measure and cuts the leather sheets with the help of a machine. Precision is important.
The cut surfaces are then smoothened with the help of a machine. It is then drilled and strapped with a hook. The process is completed with a silicon polish.
A pair of slippers cost between Nu 130 to Nu 150.
“I try to keep the price as low as possible,” said Chamlagai.
In a day, he can make at least 50 pairs of slippers. “With more helpers, we can make more than 100 pairs,” said Chamlagai.
He plans to experiment with different designs and recruit more helpers as the business improves.
It is currently a small-scale enterprise. His family invested Nu 90,000 for the machines and raw materials.
He says that he might need government support for expansion and easing the processes of importing raw materials. “Bhutan doesn’t have the raw materials. The import process is tedious.”
He plans to manufacture his products under the brand name “Tsirang Made” soon.