Bhutan showcases unique products and entrepreneurship in New York
Bhutan’s journey to enhance international market access and promote its unique products took a giant leap forward as the Department of Industry, Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Employment inaugurated the second “Bhutan Store” in the heart of New York City on July 28, 2023. The virtual inaugural event, graced by Lyonpo Karma Dorji, Minister of Industry, Commerce, and Employment, marked a significant moment for Bhutan’s cottage and small industries (CSIs).
The first “Bhutan Store – CSI market outlet” opened its doors in Perth, Australia, coinciding with the 115th National Day celebrations on December 17, 2022. The store’s overwhelming success in Perth, attributed to the large Bhutanese community in Western Australia, has inspired the establishment of its sister store in the bustling city of New York.
According to a press release from the MoICE, the primary objective behind these international ‘Bhutan Stores’ is to break down barriers and provide CSIs with greater exposure and access to global markets. By showcasing Bhutanese products, especially high-value niche items, the outlets aim to earn convertible currency and encourage CSIs to embrace value addition, enhance efficiency, and create more employment opportunities within the country.
The new ‘Bhutan Store’ in New York City, situated at 45 Street, Woodside, will serve as a one-stop center for all CSI products from Bhutan. Initially, it will cater to the Bhutanese community in New York City and gradually expand its reach to other parts of the United States.
Operated by Mr. Kelsang Buchung, a Bhutanese resident in New York, in partnership with Mr. Sonam Chophel, a CSI Aggregator in Bhutan, the store exemplifies a successful public-private partnership.The press release states that the Department of Industry, alongside the CSI Aggregator, identified dedicated and credible Bhutanese residents with extensive knowledge of business rules and requirements in the host countries to serve as partners in both the USA and Australia.
The press release stated that Mr. Kelsang Buchung and Mr.Sonam Chophel envision conducting sustainable business, contributing to the development of CSIs and nation-building in collaboration with the Department of Industry.
This partnership has received initial support for logistics and establishment of the store, while the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) Project of the Department of Trade provided partial fund support for the logistics costs of this transformative initiative.
The ‘Bhutan Store’ is not just a place to buy unique Bhutanese products; it is a celebration of Bhutan’s entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and culture. By reaching out to global markets, Bhutanese CSIs are paving the way for economic growth and sustainable development back home.
“As the sun sets over the Manhattan skyline, the ‘Bhutan Store’ in New York City stands as a beacon of hope and opportunity for Bhutanese entrepreneurs, connecting them to the world and forging new paths of prosperity for their nation.”
CSIs consists of economic activities covering production and manufacturing, service and construction sector. There is no universally accepted definition of CSI as different countries use various measures of size, depending on their level of development. The commonly used yardsticks are total number of employees, total investment and sales turnover. In the context of Bhutan, cottage industries are defined as those industries with an investment of less than Nu.1 million and engaging up to 4 people. Small industries are those under-takings engaging between 5 to 19 employees with investment in the range of Nu.1 million to Nu.10 million. Bhutan accords high priority to the development of CSIs as they play a crucial role in employment creation, income generation and in bringing regional balanced development.
Cottage and small industries account for a substantial number of industries in the country, playing a critical role in the industrialization and diversification of the economy. The underlying factors such as mountainous topography, scattered population, small domestic market and nascent stage of industrial development makes CSIs more suitable for establishment in the economic context as compared to larger industries. Therefore, considering the vital role of this sector in the economy, Bhutan designated CSIs as one of the priority flagship programs of the 12th Five year plan (FYP). To strengthen and build on the past initiatives to promote and develop CSIs, the revised Cottage and Small Industry Policy 2019 was formulated, which realigns the provisions to the changing business environment to stimulate the growth of cottage and small industries in the country.
In a further boost to the CSI sector in Bhutan, a group of start-ups last month established the Bhutan CSI Association, an association formed primarily for the benefit of CSI. The establishment of the association, provides CSI entrepreneurs in Bhutan a platform through which they can now interact with the government formally.
The aim of the association is to interact with the government for the growth and vibrancy of the entrepreneurs and CSIs. According to records with the National Statistical Bureau, there are more than 26,000 CSIs in the country.
Tshering Pelden from Thimphu