14 entrepreneurs asked to vacate start-up center

The Department of Cottage and Small Industry (DCSI) has asked 14 entrepreneurs to vacate the start-up center in Changzamtok by October.

Eight entrepreneurs, the remaining of the 11 from the first batch who used to occupy the start-up center, were asked to move out on October 8 and have requested for an extension because of the COVID-19 situation. 

They had already been given an extension of three months after the DCSI issued a notice on June 29.

Moreover, six entrepreneurs in the second batch were also asked to vacate on or before mid-October this year. They also did not get an extension.

The DCSI asked them to vacate the space within a week given the ample time to prepare and shift the business.

The DCSI had provided working space for two years to the entrepreneurs with minimal rent at the start-up center.

“While we understand that you have genuine problems amidst the current pandemic, there are also many other aspiring start-ups who have been trying to get a space at the start-up center to nurture their business ideas,” the notification stated.

An entrepreneur, Jangchu Norbu of Lamp Shade Production said the concept of the entrepreneurship journey has not realised properly to be graduated and sustain in the market within two years and is not applicable to developing countries unlike in developed countries.

In developed countries, they can apply the principle, however, in the Bhutanese market, people mostly prefer imported products because of the brand and destination of the products, he added.

Moreover, Jangchu Norbu said the pandemic has constrained the people’s spending on luxury goods to mostly buying essential goods.

“It is not about what the government has given, it is about us, it is about entrepreneurs who have no income at all, it is about survival,” said Sonam Tashi of Miniature Bhutan, adding that his first pilot project would fail if he vacated the center.

On the space to be allotted to new aspiring entrepreneurs, he said it is not about how many they trained but how much people are succeeding from the center.

“If we are forced to go, our start-ups will die and we cannot come back; we would be contributing to unemployment,” said Sonam Tashi, adding that once out of business it would be difficult to come back.

Additionally, he said vacating would be an open and shut case for him as two years was not enough for the business to mature; a year had passed in research and development and prototyping and when the business was doing well, the COVID-19 hit their business.

“It has been difficult to bring in raw materials due to the closure of borders and high transportation costs,” said Sonam Tashi.

Earlier, his average income was Nu 50,000 per month, however, in the current situation, he has no income since his source of revenue is mostly from tourism.

“Worldwide, entrepreneurs are dying and the government could really save us rather than killing us,” he said.

Similarly, Dorji Dema of Veg Meat Production said renting a commercial space would be expensive since her business requires separate rooms for store, production and packaging.

An entrepreneur, Gyembo Wangchuk, who does traditional contemporary painting on natural pigment colour, said as 90% of his paintings are sold to tourists and art collectors from abroad, he has not been able to earn like before; Nu 30,000 to 40,000 per month.

Additionally, he said the new aspiring entrepreneurs during the current situation would have a difficult time like them since bringing in raw materials would be a hassle and so is exporting the products. Gyempo Wangchuk asked for time extension for those who are hardworking. Some of the entrepreneurs said they have not been able to pay rent and electricity bill for the space, however, they got the rent waiver for six months.

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu