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Mekong Business Challenge 2017-18 begins

Three teams of students from the Royal Thimphu College (RTC) will represent the host country Bhutan in the Mekong Business Challenge 2017-18 today.

The 12th Mekong Business Challenge will bring together 11 university teams to compete in the region’s business model competition.  The teams will pitch business ideas to a panel of judges from McKinsey & Company, Google, Holdingham Group UK, KrisEnergy and Manulife to clinch the top prize – an opportunity to represent the region at the 2018 International Business Model Competition (IBMC) in the USA.

Apart from the Bhutanese teams, two will be competing from Cambodia, two from Vietnam, two from Laos and two from Myanmar.

The winning team will receive an all-expense paid trip to the USA to compete in the IBMC to be held on May 10 this year.

Business and social venture ideas range from mobile apps to health care and also apartment / event space and innovative materials used in road construction to alternative energy, tourism and food sectors.

The Mekong Challenge aims to serve as a platform for talent development among youth in the region and to launch real businesses and social ventures that will have a deep impact on communities in the greater Mekong region and Bhutan.

The Mekong Business Challenge came about as a result of the National Business Plan Competition in 2006 hosted by the National University of Management in Phnom Penh. It has now expanded to include five countries in the greater Mekong Sub-Region plus Bhutan.

The format has also transitioned from a business plan to a business model competition which encourages students to design new and innovative business models and then test and validate their business model assumptions using lean startup techniques.

For the last two years that Bhutan has been invited to participate in the challenge, three teams from RTC were selected to compete in the finals, two in Cambodia in 2016 and one in Myanmar in 2017.

In 2016, the RTC teams won second and fourth places, and in 2017, the RTC team won second place.

This year, three teams from RTC were selected through open selection by submitting video pitches to represent Bhutan in the competition. The RTC-Bhutan team will present the final business models of their entrepreneurial ventures – ‘Guram’, ‘Shogjur-happiness is recycling’, and ‘Yukim’ wine.

The teams have since launched their businesses and refined their business models.

The Guram team members, Deepsika Chhetri, Phuntshok Dechen Yangchen and Tashi Darjey (all pursuing B. Com Finance) will present their business model called ‘Guram’, a candy-making business with a version of Bhutan’s own produced candies with 40% sugar and 60% organic honey. The Bhutanese candies also come with a special ingredient called ‘piper pedicellatum’, which is also known as an anti-aging agent.

The very first product of the team is caramel square, priced at Nu 5 per piece that comes wrapped neatly in a transparent plastic with the logo.

‘Shogjur-happiness is recycling’ is the second unique business model of Chhimi Dema, Nima Khandu (both pursuing B. Com Finance) and Sherab Choden Dorji (BBA in Marketing) that will turn waste paper into commercially valuable jewelries and souvenirs. They will make their entry into the list of handicrafts. The main objective of the team is to curb the growing issue of waste management in the country by recycling waste.

‘Yukim’ wine is, meanwhile, the third business idea of Choni Selden, Sonam Tshokey and Neema Tamang. They intend to manufacture low-alcohol wine from fruits such as plum, pineapple, pomegranates and pears in traditional ways.

The corporate sponsors and partners for the MBC are McKinsey & Company, PwC, Smart Axiata, KrisEnergy, Manulife, and RTC.

Chencho Dema from Thimphu

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