The RIGSS Blog

To stimulate analysis, innovation, and forward thinking, and generate new ideas and insight
on subjects that matter in 21st Century Bhutan.
A humble tribute to celebrate learning, leadership and service that His Majesty The King continues to champion.

Launched on 21st February 2021 to commemorate the 41st Birthday of His Majesty The King

DISCLAIMER:
The views and opinions expressed in the articles on the RIGSS Blog are that of the authors and do not represent the views of the institute.

OF HARDSHIPS AND HOPE

The Journey of an Entrepreneur
POSTED ON February 21, 2021
Tashi Wangdi
Founder, iHub Bhutan

I feel the real struggle in life begins after we graduate, especially on this side of the world, where students are unaware or have not planned about where they are headed. Unlike many others, I had a smooth start at first because I knew what I wanted. But the journey has been a rough ride and continues to be so even today. After graduating in 2013, I had the opportunity to work in one of the associations in the country and got a job in Singapore.

During my stay there, I learnt about the concept of co-working and incubation for aspiring entrepreneurs, which was (and still is) new for Bhutan. With excitement to bring this concept back home and hoping that things would be convenient like that in Singapore, I left my job and returned. Within days, the dream of bringing change almost got shattered. This began when I had to wait for about a year to get a business license. We talk about the ease of doing business in Bhutan, but many startups give up before even trying because of such lengthy processes.

Four years have passed since I joined the entrepreneurial world with my dream startup iHub. I built this startup to help other startups through pre-incubation programs and co-working space. Many of them struggle in their early days because they do not meet the right mentors to guide them. And for a young startup, co-working space is essential as it creates an open, collaborative space where we could rent a desk at an affordable price and create a network to connect. 

It has been a lonely journey so far. I learned from my mentors, who are experts, and I share what I know to aspiring startups with the little knowledge I acquired about the entrepreneurial system. I am always grateful to my friends who have always stood by and supported me. They have been my guides in this journey, and without them, I am certain I would not have made any mark in the entrepreneurial community.

Although iHub was able to create some positive impact in the lives of some startups, it has been a continuous challenge for me all along. 

Looking back from where I started, I realize that it was never easy. In building a startup ecosystem, I had less or no time for my family, friends, and myself. There were times when I was without a single penny for months and had to sell off personal belongings to sustain myself. And I did all these because I had decided to take that risk in life, knowing the challenges of the entrepreneurial world.

iHub so far has not made any profit because that was never the intent. I aspired to build substantial social capital and meaningful connections. What has given me joy is that through iHub, three startups established their businesses. They began by hiring mere tables and chairs from our co-working space and now have their own offices. They have raised more than Nu 37 million and created employment opportunities for more than 20 people. Happy Delivery, an online delivery and logistic business, Sadone Design, which specializes in modern designing of traditional arts and crafts, and Chechay Sanitary Pad, the only female-led business in the group, are some of the startups that have fared well so far.

Amid all these experiences of happiness and struggle, for me, RIGSS came as a blessing. Through RIGSS, I understood the importance of "self-love" and the ability to look at things differently. Very few of us from the private sector can afford to attend the RIGSS programs. This Royal Soelra is something I would cherish throughout my life. The process of reflection and finding purpose made me realize how much I had missed in life while chasing my dream. After RIGSS, I immediately adopted a core value for myself and iHub - "Possibilist" and "Doing Business with Values," respectively.

In the modern business world, we are mostly profit-driven and forget the real principle that binds and makes us unique. So through the iHub program, I have always tried to integrate doing business with values. And since I follow the principle of possibilist, no matter what, I always find ways to keep myself and iHub going. The year 2020 was a challenge for everyone.  Even my business got disrupted, and I had to join one of my startup friends who kept us busy and earned a minimal amount to sustain through these challenging times. Before that, we planted trees on behalf of others and made our living during the initial days of the pandemic.

Now with my personal core values, I can explore markets beyond Bhutan. We are currently partnering with agencies abroad to provide entrepreneurial training both within the country and overseas. I always believed in social capital, and now I have an extended network of friends and experts from my RIGSS days, on whom I can always rely.

2020 taught us that together, we could do a lot. And that we are too complacent and have never explored things that we can do. This will be over soon. And I have learnt that what doesn't kill you makes you even stronger.

Before joining RIGSS, I had a different perspective of our system or government. Now that I had the opportunity to interact with my cohort and attend impactful lectures and immersion programs, I have learnt that my friends are young and smart, with the potential to make a difference in our system. I learnt to place national priorities ahead of personal interests and work towards national goals no matter where and which agencies we are in. I have discovered my calling, and my place in the nation-building process.

Technology/Innovation