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Cultural beliefs hinder infusion of GNH in business

If Bhutanese businesses are to prosper, they need to shed the cloak of traditional beliefs and practices, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said.

A member of the Royal Research and Advisory Council and the former chief election commissioner, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi was talking about the need to attune Bhutanese business mindsets towards Gross National Happiness of Business at the ongoing 7th International GNH Conference in Thimphu.

He said entrepreneurs and the government would have to re-emphasise happiness as the crosscutting social impact in all cycle of commodities and services.

“Therefore, for the GNH of Business society, the social, cultural and historical aspect of beliefs are necessary factors not only to maximise the profit but also to sustain business happily,” he said.

Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said the attitude ‘Gon bachi, ma gon zhag’ loosely translated as ‘If you want, take it otherwise leave it’ needs to change.

It is also true as an expatriate observed that as long as a Bhutanese likes a product, the individual would not question the price, he said.

“Even as the world runs with rat-race of modern economics, Bhutanese businessmen or shopkeepers are happy turning off a customer from the door,” he said.

He said that unlike in the regional markets, Bhutanese shoppers neither take to bargaining nor would they entertain it.

Whereas, elsewhere almost to the point of irritation of the customer, the shopkeepers or the public relations employees woo and entice customers or visitors. There are various qualities of goods such as one for the keep and another for sale.

Bhutanese goods and products are commonly talked about as sub-standard, because Bhutanese tolerate it.

He said the nexus between vested interest and scruples must be broken with monitoring and evaluation, which should not be treated as a separate function of administration and management alone. “It is inbuilt in what one does,” he said.

“It’s a tragedy that a Bhutanese entrepreneur or promoter would start his business with an attitude of an established business house,” he said. For some, he said, the indicator of success as a business is having an office of the chief executive officer and a four-wheel drive vehicle. “A positive balance sheet and positive turnover may be secondary,” he said.

He linked such behaviours to traditional business beliefs such as tshong means profit or khebsa and tsongni (for sale) means quality becomes immaterial.

He said that most Bhutanese as Buddhists would never become filthy rich. As more endowed one becomes it is likely that the individual would sponsor or indulge in expunging on Buddhist rituals and ceremonies, to the extent of outdoing one another.

While these create employment and promote arts and crafts, they do not contribute to the overall quality improvement of the entire community as a whole.

“These do not help in transforming them into principled businesspersons but make them crave to accumulate more,” he said. “So in the modern economy the traditional values need to be adapted.”

In that what one sells has to be the best while what is charged for has to be its worth. GNH of Business needs to create three conditions for the country and the Bhutanese capable to grow smart businesses.

It should make their business respectful, add value to the society to enhance the social well-being, and products and services must contribute to the overall well-being of the society.

He said that the launch of the GNH certification framework for businesses in the country would uphold ethical conduct. “In short, GNH of Business should produce a win-win outcome for the seller and the buyer.”

Tshering Palden

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