Amidst the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and moratorium imposed on vehicle imports, the State Trading Corporation Limited (STCBL) has taken innovative steps to diversify its operations, recognizing the need to sustain and enhance the country’s dwindling foreign reserves. The shift in focus comes as a response to the dwindling foreign reserves and a growing emphasis on boosting local products.
The corporation is set to inaugurate a retail outlet in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in December which will showcase a diverse range of exclusive Bhutanese products, including mineral waters, juices, jams, essential oils, teas, pickles, and quinoa sourced from prominent Bhutanese markets.
Tshering Wangchuk, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of STCBL, highlighted the corporation’s innovative approach in response to the existing scenario. “Given the existing scenario, the STCBL’s activities are mostly imports of goods. We see the retail outlet as one of STCBL’s corporate social responsibilities to help the small and medium industries in the country sell their products.”
The retail outlet will be opened in a phased manner. The initial phase will feature mineral waters, juices, jams, essential oils, teas, pickles, and quinoa sourced from prominent Bhutanese markets. Subsequent phases will include books by Bhutanese authors, handicrafts, and an expansion to include fresh fruits and vegetables, contingent upon logistical feasibility.
The CEO said that the initiative is viewed as a significant milestone for the corporation, aiming to not only bolster foreign reserves but also promote cultural exchange between Bhutan and Bangladesh.
The CEO further added that the open retail outlet in Dhaka will be exclusively selling Bhutanese products, ensuring buyers ‘trust the quality.’ “We have been approached by a few retail outlets in Dhaka to put our products on shelves in their marts. However, we noted that our products will not stand out on shelves that are filled with a multitude of products from other countries,” the CEO said.
The corporation plans to use local media to promote the products and will be supported by the Bhutanese embassy in Bangladesh, ensuring the products stand out in the market. The corporation also plans to include books by Bhutanese authors in the list of products.
The CEO said, “We are sure that the retail outlet will promote Bhutanese culture in Dhaka. Apart from the products, the outlet will be designed and decorated with Bhutanese motifs to give a feel of Bhutan.”
He further added that once authors sign with them, they will take over the responsibility to transport the books from Bhutan to Dhaka. “We will have a dedicated shelf for ‘Books by Bhutanese Authors’ in the outlet.”
He said, “I am not sure whether this initiative will have a huge impact on the literary scene in Bhutan, but the outlet can be an opening for authors to sell their books in Dhaka, as it will benefit all the other exporters from whom we source the products,” adding that it could benefit them if they manage to sell a few hundred or thousand copies and may serve as an opening for future cultural exchange between authors from the two countries.
The corporation is keen on facilitating the exposure and sale of Bhutanese literary works in Dhaka, fostering cultural exchange and mutual understanding.
If the venture gains momentum, there are plans for further expansion, potentially reaching other cities in India. The CEO said that it will depend on the performance and success of this retail outlet.
The CEO further added that though STCBL is a business entity, this retail outlet is not solely for profit. “This venture is also to help the private businesses and to earn some foreign currency, apart from adding to the STCBL’s business portfolio.”
Nidup Lhamo from Thimphu