From failed dairy farmer to an entrepreneur

The CEO of iBEST institute, Tharchen’s life represents the rags to riches story. For screen and graphics, Tharchen works like a sculptor continually molding and remolding the entrepreneurial landscape.

Unlike today, venturing out into business was a career option riddled with risks. Tharchen conquered the tradition of showing preference for civil service when he graduated with a university degree. He can be best described as the man who journeyed the road less traveled.   

He started his career as a confused graduate aspiring to start a dairy farm. He remembers all the scorn and criticism he got from his loved ones then.

But he has a calm and serene air even as he speaks about his battles he faced.

Critics told him that it was stupid to even consider becoming a farmer when one had a college degree. Tharchen recalls people telling him that he would regret it when he saw his friends in cozy office chairs.

He has a Bachelor’s Degree in life science from Sherubtse College and was the only one at the time who took up a menial career- going back to the farm rather than trying to sit at a desk signing papers. “Opting for self employment as a herdsman was completely out of context then,” he laughs.

He set up a dairy farm with much difficulty including lack of finances, community resistance and friends calling him insane.

When he did finally conform to the idea of preparing for the civil service exam to secure a job after the failed attempt to start a dairy farm, he started working as a print reporter in one private newspaper.

While reporting he discovered the Loden Foundation and applied for a loan. With the Nu 450,000 he got, he became a dairy farmer officially in December 2010.

He compares being an entrepreneur and conceiving business ideas and executing them to a ticking bomb-full of risks yet fraught with possibilities. “The idea becomes you; the idea becomes synonymous and malleable with you that you become inseparable from your idea, unconsciously”.

His entrepreneurial journey has been akin to opening Pandora’s box-he got a revelation of the self, with all his weaknesses and shortcomings. However, the good part was that the experience challenged him to unleash his potential and strengths.  “It either makes or breaks you.”

Tharchen pointed out the tremendous challenges in cultivating self-discipline, commitment, pro-activeness, endurance, perseverance, and esprit de corps- all pointing towards personal leadership and management acumen skills.

It took him more than a decade to realize the skills an entrepreneur is required to have. He recalled how his first dairy farming venture failed because he did not have the skills. Calmly, he said that after his first venture failed, for almost two years he was desperate, confused and hopeless. “I call myself the failed dairy farmer,” he said with a grin.

Then he made a decision: after handing over his dairy farm to his parents he returned to Thimphu again and set up a private company.  On the sidelines, he worked on starting the iBEST institute to give concrete shape to his dream of story-telling. He chose graphics and animation as the medium fascinated him.

Since founding the iBEST company in August 2014, Tharchen leads the company as the Chief Executive Officer spearheading product development and strategies. Having availed numerous courses in Bhutan in the field of entrepreneurship, research, project management, mentoring and curriculum design, Tharchen has a broad overview of diverse professions. He is a passionate trainer and public speaker with specialization in project management and business development.

His latest and biggest project so far is the Nu 15mn animation film The legend of Pemi Tshewang Tashi.

As Tharchen finally finishes his tale of surviving against the odds, he gets up from his chair. “I have learnt that being an entrepreneur is like a baby learning how to walk without a rocker,” he says softly yet there is no denying the steely glint in his tone, “But the experience you gain in the process is overwhelming and priceless.”

Phub Dem from Thimphu