Innovation: A new kind of building bricks, the Bhutan Interlocking Bricks, and pasta made of wild yam, Menjong Pasta, are the two business ideas from two Bhutanese teams that got through to the second round of the Mekong Business Challenge.

In an attempt to encourage new entrepreneurs in the country, the two teams from the Royal Thimphu College developed the ideas for the competition during the fall semester of the college this year.

The Bhutan Interlocking Bricks is a concept developed with Malaysian technology, which provides numerous benefits in construction sector, according to Sangay Wangdi, one of the group members.

Built using soil, cement and sand in a ratio of 4:1:1, the brick is by much user-friendly. “Just like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, the bricks fit in perfectly,” he said.

Sangay Wangdi said that quality of the brick is superior to the imported firebricks from India and provides better resistance to disasters like earthquakes. “The cost of production of the interlocking bricks is comparatively lower than that of the firebrick,” he said. “The cost of construction is further minimised because the bricks do not require plastering and painting.”

Sangay said that Bhutan imports around Ngultrum 270 million worth of firebricks from India for constructions every year. He said that with the bricks in place, the outflow of foreign currency could be drastically reduced. “This will also foster employment in the country as we’re planning to train VTI graduates in the manufacturing of the bricks,” he said. “It is also an environmental friendly process and requires only electricity for production.”

Menjong Pasta group is set to locally produce pasta using wild yam, Diosconea Esculenta.

Chimi Yangdon, one of the team members, said that the yam helps reduce cholesterol levels, menstrual cramps and also serves as an antioxidant.

Pema Yangchen, another team member, said that the pasta will be in the shape of one of the eight lucky signs, the Endless Knot symbolising luck and long life. The shape is also to target the tourism sector in the country with a Bhutanese aspect to the international cuisine.

Sangay Dorji, a member of the group, said that the trend of eating pasta in the country is on the rise. “Our pasta will have tastemakers with Bhutanese flavours,” he said.

RTC’s senior lecturer, Jeroen Uittenbogaard, who along with some other individuals from the college has been helping the two teams develop and polish their ideas, said that two ideas received positive feedback from the jury in the first round. “Innovation is not coming up with new ideas. It is giving a new side to the previous ideas,” he said. “Competitions such as this will promote entrepreneurs in the country and help achieve the self reliant goal of the country.”

Some 100 university teams from the Mekong regions entered the competition. Only 11 teams were selected for the second round of the competition.

Younten Tshedup