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Being an entrepreneur

Numerous innovative products ranging from agriculture to ICT to textiles were on display at the Clock Tower in Thimphu during the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW).

Like every year, the Loden Foundation has spearheaded in coordinating a weeklong GEW in collaboration with the relevant government agencies and other relevant stakeholders from various sectors.

Prior to the GEW, during the GNH for Business Conference organized by the Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research, the “GNH of Business Assessment Tool was proposed to certify businesses”. It’s quite inspiring and heartening to know that the government wants business establishments to be GNH friendly!

However, on the ground, there are some challenges which maybe impeding the overall socio-economic development to be a GNH friendly. I refer in particular to fostering a viable and conducive entrepreneurship culture, for which we need the support and participation from the relevant stakeholders.

My greatest wish and hope is that aspiring entrepreneurs with the determination to succeed, good intentions, and a great business idea, get easy access to financial support. Unfortunately, the current scenario is that aspiring entrepreneurs can access financial support from financial institutions only if one has an equivalent collateral.

The government can certainly intervene to resolve this hurdle, and frame policies to expedite the process. There are many ways in which this can be done- the government could either act as a guarantor or provide a seed fund to financial institutions. They can frame a policy for financial institutions to support a certain number of entrepreneurs. Or they can provide the seed funds to reliable NGOs or organizations which our entrepreneurs could avail after fulfilling certain criteria. The best example of such a model is the DHI collaboration with Loden Foundation.

The other proactive action that would be of great help is streamlining licensing and approval (such as various clearances) processes, so that entrepreneurs can save time and resources, and so that entrepreneurs with plans which are in congruence with our overall national goals and objectives, are not discouraged.

Another essential service we look forward to from the government is an establishment facilitating mentoring and guidance for the existing as well as aspiring entrepreneurs. Along with that if research and development (R&D) units can be established so that all information is accessible in public domain. The government can invest to bring up more incubation facilities and tie-up aspiring entrepreneurs with relevant industries or organizations within the country and abroad.

The government could look into providing support and incentives through certain tax exemptions such as giving tax breaks for a stipulated duration. This would really foster and give strength to developing the entrepreneurship culture in Bhutan.

On the other side, equally the government of the day has come up with numerous initiatives to help and support the entrepreneurship culture in Bhutan. One of the best examples is the daring initiative of the government to provide financing to startups with the least interest rate without the need of collateral. Though the concern of the government, and our public at large, is to meet the current necessities- such as food production and its related activities- we should equally be bold enough to fund ideas which are of interest to youth and ICT driven enterprises.

The rationale behind this proposal is that we strike a balance in prioritizing equally the current need as well as starting to fund the ITES enterprises which will drive the economy in the future.

As much as we ask from the government and many other responsible organizations, the entrepreneurs on other end should equally take up roles and duties seriously. We must strive to gain more credibility and go beyond short-term goals, locally as well as globally.

It is a cliché, but true nevertheless, that entrepreneurs’ role should be serving the ‘tsa-wa-sum’ and try to save the world from falling apart, and that the ultimate goal must be enhancing the wellbeing of the people and communities around us. Is it too much to ask for? Is it not worth striving or working for? Entrepreneur or any other job-description, isn’t this the greatest and overarching duty for us all?

I believe that, as entrepreneurs, we have a greater role to fulfill to ourselves and the enterprise we are operating (or planning to establish). Our businesses must contribute in taking forward our national vision. It begins with improving the wellbeing of the people working for the business enterprise, and extends from there to bringing benefit to our community, to the country, and the world.

Entrepreneurs and their enterprises need to consider, beyond the profit and monetary gain to the owners, employees, and the country, which while important, are by no means the sole measure of our contributions as a citizen. It will be worthwhile to create and promote values such as sense of belonging and ownership, and the timeless human values of commitment, respect, compassion, love, integrity, and generosity.

The entrepreneur and enterprise must institute a dynamic system, provide mentoring for their employees and promote learning culture to keep abreast of times and change. Companies must ensure that employees have ample opportunities for personal as well as professional development.

In such an environment we build a better company, and by extension a better world.

Tharchen – The writer is a CEO and Founder of iBEST Institute. He can be contacted at www.tharchen.com. 

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