SUNGJAB, an electronic scarecrow to protect crops from wild animals made using light-emitting diode (LED) lights in the shape of a tiger, motion censors and high pitched sound bagged the first place in the Bhutan National Startup weekend technology edition on March 18, in Thimphu.

The idea was chosen as the best among 24 ideas, which were selected from 157 individual ideas on March 16.

It won a grant of Nu 800,000 from the government through information and communications ministry that would be used to materialise the idea.

Smart Switch System to turn on and off selected electrical appliances such as house lightings and geyser won the second prize of Nu 600,000. Druk Holding and Investments (DHI) sponsored the prize.

ShaVeggi won the third prize of Nu 400,000, which is sponsored by Ministry of Labour and Human Resources (MoLHR). The fourth best business idea, Bhutan Yacon Productions got Nu 200,000 from DHI and Meals on Wheels stood fifth to win Nu 100,000 from Bank of Bhutan.

The organisers said that the fund would be disbursed phase wise, based on agreed deliverables and conditions stipulated by the government. “The fund will be released as and when they implement the idea.”

The pad vending machine, DRUKVENDS won a certificate in the social impact category.  The idea for Natural Water Filter won the popular choice award of Nu 150,000, which was sponsored by Tashi Group of Companies.

Along with the cash prizes, the winning teams would be given special membership of Bhutan Innovation and Technology Centre, be invited to Bhutan Innovation and Technology Centre (BITC), Thimphu Tech Park sponsored workshops, seminars and events, and if desired, the entrepreneur would be supported in developing the ideas further for submission to funding agencies.

Department of Information Technology and Telecom (DITT) would also assist the teams in liaising with other government agencies to materialise the idea into a commercial business. The teams would also be given books on entrepreneurship, innovation and startups.

Starting February this year, more than 600 ideas were pitched in seven colleges of Jigme Namgyel Engineering College, Sherubtse College, Gaeddu College of Business Studies, College of Language and Culture Studies, College of Science and Technology, College of Natural Resources, and Royal Thimphu College, and at the BITC.

Of these, 157 ideas made it to the startup weekend from which 24 were presented on March 18 for the final round.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay during the prize awarding ceremony said that although the government has been promoting entrepreneurship, providing support in terms of policy and in providing financial support, it is time to streamline these processes. “So in the 12th Plan, Startup Bhutan will be one of the flagship programmes.  Through Startup Bhutan, we hope that our youth will have a platform to transform their business ideas into reality.”

He added that MoLHR would immediately establish a Startup Bhutan office to provide entrepreneurs and startups with services, information and support.  “We need to have a one stop shop that can provide a total solution for our budding entrepreneurs for startup Bhutan,” he said.  “MoLHR will be tasked with the responsibility of setting up this Startup Bhutan office and Gross National Happiness Commission will be tasked with the responsibility of designing a flagship programme for the 12th Plan.”

My Druk Ride, an online taxi hiring service application was also launched during the event. The application is expected to make it easier for taxis and clients to find one another. So far, 50 taxi drivers have registered with My Druk Ride.

The startup weekend, which started on March 15 was the sixth held so far in the country.

Karma Cheki