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Incubator of business ideas

TECH PARK The tech park at Serbithang provides a different sort of entrepreneurship promotion program, which helps incubate business ideas.

The ideas are owned by either individuals or enterprises who are starting up, or by those who are already established, but looking into new projects.

Bhutan innovation and technology centre (BITC) at the tech park, which started in May 2012, has nine incubatees.

“It’s a mixed-use incubator and open to any kind of business idea,” chief operating officer with Thimphu TechPark, Tshering Cigay Dorji, said.

While owned by the government, the centre is operated by Thimphu TechPark limited.

Three components make up the centre, incubation, data and technology centres.

Tshering Cigay said, while they have been able to provide mentoring, training and networking, the centre has not been able to provide seed funding.

“As part of centre’s plan, there’s supposed to be seed funding from the government, but it was clubbed together with cost of setting up the centre,” he said, adding the data centre, which was to generate income had not taken off as expected. “The other issue is how to disperse the funds, especially with the central bank’s regulation that only banks can provide loans.”

Because of funding constraints, the BITC has only been able to bring in volunteers, through whom the incubatees have been able to develop association with other business outside Bhutan.

The centre, as of now, is not making any income. “The incubatees provide Nu 2,000 a workstation, and whatever is collected as fee isn’t enough to pay electricity bill,” Tshering Cigay said.

As operational cost, Nu 4.5M was provided by the government, which is enough only for about a year.  “Because of it’s nature, being a social venture, there were no other private takers,”Tshering Cigay Dorji said.

Despite the setback, Tshering Cigay Dorji said, the centre has potential to do well. “It’s different from other programs, and it gives space for regular meeting, access to experts and creates an environment for innovation,” he said.

Basant Chettri, one of the incubatees, said the benefits have been mainly in the form of trainings, networking and space. “The financial help hasn’t materialised, but I think it was because of circumstances beyond the centre’s control, like the Rupee shortage,” he said. “But the main idea was to impart business skills, so the ideas have far greater chance of succeeding.”

Basant Chettri’s business, involved in the construction sector, is already established with offices in Thimphu and Punakha. “We’ve not just one but many ideas and, by joining the centre, we’re able to learn the business environment,” he said. “Currently, we’re into project management, but we’d like to become an agency that provides a  full range of expertise like design, project management and construction.”

Ken Dobruskin, Advisor to CIMAS Bhutan, an IT-enabled service company stationed at the centre, said, in terms of facilities, the park was not complete. “We’ve had to make some accommodation, having had to bring our own heaters, despite the park supposed to have state of the art heating system,” he said. “Otherwise the working environment is nice.”

Ken Dobruskin said, initially, a lady advisor’s presence at the centre made a lot of difference, for she was instrumental in getting volunteer international experts. “But her contract wasn’t renewed by the TechPark in India.”

By Kinley Wangmo

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