At the startup innovation week in Thimphu on November 16, three best ideas were recognised.

Themed youth and innovation in technology, the startup saw a total of about 83 participants register for the event. However, only about 50 participants came in person to participate.

The first prize went to the Polar Brezz team, an air cooler made using local raw materials such as hay and leaves.

Founder of the Polar Brezz, Roshan Rasaily, said that when he returned to his parents in Gelephu after his studies from India, he did not understand why his parents had not bought an air cooler despite the terrible heat.

“My mother said that air cooler would worsen her sinusitis,” Roshan Rasaily said.

Since then, he worked tirelessly to make a cooler using materials that would not affect her condition. “After I made one, people visiting the house were interested in the product.”

A rice-transplanting machine bagged the second prize. Founder of the idea, Deepak Ghalley, said that his idea was aimed at addressing the rural issue. “Having lived as a farmer’s son, I grew up watching my parents work in fields. It was especially women who worked in transplanting rice and it is a tedious process.”

He said that the machine was simple. Traditional way of transplanting rice, he said, caused severe backaches and money was needed for additional farmhands. “It took more than two years to work on the idea.”

Deepak Ghalley is an engineer by professional background.

The second runners-up and founder of Natural Pigment, Penjor Dorji, said that when he was working in a private firm, tourists enquired about the raw materials used in traditional paints. “Only then did I realise everything was imported.”

He said that Bhutan was known for its rich environment and importing pigments and colours did not make sense.

The winning team received Nu100, 000. The first runners-up received, Nu75, 000, and the second runners-up walked home with Nu 50,000.

The participants will undergo a three-month acceleration programme that will focus on refining services and products for the market.

Deputy chief of Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment Division, Ram Bahadur Gurung, said that the programme was conducted to provide aspiring entrepreneurs with a platform to present their ideas and to work to launching their products and services.

“In the past, the startup weekend was held for 54 hours in which every group had to come up with an idea and pitch them on the last day of the programme. However, this time, the event was modified and stretched to five days,” said Ram Bahadur Gurung.

The startup week began on 12 November coinciding with the global entrepreneurship week.

Director general of Department of Employment and Human Resources (DEHR), Sherab Tenzin, said that it was important that people participated in such programmes. “Otherwise, it would be futile. We consider entrepreneurship as one of the key activities to resolve unemployment.”

He said that entrepreneurs do not only have the important role to create jobs but also to address social needs and issues. “Most ideas pitched today had low risk with the possibility of higher returns, which is very relevant.”

DEHR in collaboration with CEFE Unicorn organised the event.

Rinchen Zangmo