‘Entrepreneurs need support to facilitate their engagement and expansion’

The Chief Executive Officer of the CSI Market, Sonam Chopel talks to Business Bhutan’s reporter Dechen Dolkar about the CSI Market, its mandate and the status of the domestic products.  

The CSI Market was established in collaboration with the Department of Cottage and Small Industry and entrepreneurs.

Sonam Chopel is an expert in branding and marketing. He is also the founder of Druksell, Bhutan’s first online e-commerce marketplace which serves over 30 countries for made and grown products of Bhutan for the last eight years.

Q. What is the mandate of the CSI Market?

A. The main mandate of the CSI Market is to promote locally made and grown products in Bhutan. We aspire to provide a dedicated marketplace platform for all CSI products under one roof. 

Q. How is it benefiting entrepreneurs and society with the establishment of the CSI Market under one-roof?

A. The CSI Market plays a major role as a consolidator, aggregator and a market to promote, market and sell their products on a physical retail experience. This provides a unique experience and a great opportunity for CSI entrepreneurs to showcase their products. It opens up better marketing access into our domestic and international markets as most of the products from the CSI Market go into both domestic and international markets together with Druksell (online marketplace), an ecommerce market for global customers to shop directly from Bhutan.

Q. How many varieties of products are there at the CSI Market and what are the products?

A. At the market, there are over 1,000 plus products across 10 major categories which include food, tea, snacks, spices, processed food, edible products, crafts, books etc. It truly is a marketplace for products from a diverse range of CSI products coming together on a common platform. 

Q. When was the market opened and how has the response been from the people on the CSI Market?

A. The market platform has been successfully able to attract Bhutanese customers, mainly from Thimphu city. These customers leave highly inspired and appreciative of our own local products. We have a growth of about 25% month to month walk in traffic for our CSI Market store. The store also brings a beautiful co-working cafe which serves Bhutan grown coffee and a variety of other drinks. The store also has an outdoor sit out space for entrepreneurs and families alike to enjoy coffee while they shop at the market. 

 Q. How are entrepreneurs able to meet the demand of the people and make more supply?

A. With the increasing demand for good local products, entrepreneurs are investing in scaling up their products and manufacturing units. Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, many entrepreneurs have tried to fill in gaps with regard to import substitutes.

Q. How many quantities of CSI products produced in the country are being exported?

A. When it comes to exports, less than 10% of our CSI products go for export promotion. This scale needs to increase and many activities are being planned to promote Bhutanese products outside including trade fairs and road shows for local products. The government also is keen to support local innovative ventures; hence, they have created a wide range of support activities for entrepreneurs and startups alike.

Q. Why are domestic products failing to capture the domestic market? What can be done?

A. Domestic products are gradually gaining attraction and are able to slowly grow into our domestic markets. These business enterprises are in stages of scaling and growth, therefore more financial and regulatory support is needed for them to be able to expand and increase the supply potential. This will ultimately be able to lower prices and increase affordability for the end consumers. 

Currently, some products fail to capture markets, as they are of poor quality, price or packaging or supply is not consistent. Entrepreneurs need support to facilitate their engagement and expansion across all these value chains.