CSIs call for empowerment

CSIs can become the game changer of Bhutan’s future economy, says CSI Market’s CEO

Empowering the Cottage and Small industries (CSIs) in the country will be a game changer for Bhutan’s future economy if we put the resources in the right track and every stakeholders has the right mind set, according to the Founder of Druksell and Chief Executive Officer of the CSI Market in Thimphu.

He said empowering the CSIs through financial, facilitation and funding support among others can innovate, sustain the business and the country can become leader in the industry.

“Small businesses need to grow and scale up as most of the businesses in Bhutan start and shut down,” said Sonam Chophel, adding that although small operators are not able to pay to their employees currently, but are still working harder that someday it would be in better position.

Moreover, he said every stakeholders should support in result oriented nation building rather than plan oriented and human resource being the biggest asset.

Currently, the CSI Market in Thimphu has around 280 enterprises with varying products from everyday household or food items, high value edible products, gifts and souvenir items to paintings and art items and 20% of the enterprises are engaged in exporting their products.

Sonam Chophel said the CSI Market saw a sales growth of 25% month to month since its inception in December last year, adding that the target of having a minimum of around 100 products in a month has been achieved.

The CSI Market targets a sales of Nu 10mn in first year, and Nu 50mn in fifth year if the COVID-19 situation improves.

However, Sonam Chophel said the CSI Market is facing difficulties in meeting the operating costs which they are working on.

Additionally, he said the enterprises are studying to understand the local markets and what are the needs of the customers. “We need to match the markets and the products,” he added.

Other challenges, he said, are to reinforce awareness to people to buy local products and educating its value as they cannot force them to buy, including marketing of the products.

“People are not aware of our own products and convincing a customer is expensive thing a business has to spent,” said Sonam Chophel.

Moreover, he said local consumers still judge the pricing of the local products. “The pricing is only man-made, people buy based on the value of the products,” he added.

According to the law of economics, increase in the supply of the products where people buy more local products, the price would ultimately come down, said Sonam Chophel.

Additionally, he said that there is massive market for local products in the country that we do not look beyond the country.

“However, we do not limit only in our country. Bhutan has to move ahead to create an equal wealth opportunities and equal wealth generation for everybody,” said Sonam Chophel, adding that not everybody gets their share of income and support the lower income groups.

According to a report of Department of Cottage and Small Industry, there are 21,813 licensed and active CSIs as of June 2020 constituting 95% of the total industries. It is estimated that the total employment in this sector is at about 99,288.

Meanwhile, the draft 21st century economic roadmap states that the CSIs and Culture and Creative Industries sectors have the potential to generate Nu 150bn annually and contribute up to 20% of the projected GDP of USD 10bn by 2030.

Moreover, the number of active CSIs entities, which is currently at 22,000, can be realistically doubled in next ten years to around 50,000 as more young adults join the workforce, it states.

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu