In the desolate gewog of Gakiling in Haa, Ugyen, a class XII graduate, has not only found a niche for his business but is thriving on it.
Gakiling is in Sangbaykha Dungkhag. Horses were the only mode of transportation and the charges used to be an expensive affair. Now, of course, there is a motor road.
Ugyen had just left school after class XII when his cousin, who was working for a bank, brought him to the gewog to explore business opportunities.
Ugyen quickly noticed the hardships that people in the gewog faced. “I saw people coming with loads of rations on their backs just to get their works with the dungkhag done. It was even difficult for people coming to settle court cases,” he said.
It was not only a business opportunity for him. Towards the end of 2013, the dungkhag gave him the approval to operate a shop. By April 2014, he was in the business.
Rice, milk powder, salt, sugar, tea and other necessities are for sale in a hut in the vicinity of the dungkhag headquarters. This makes the lives of villagers and staff much easier.
Ugyen had one regret, though. He is not able to provide the goods at market rates because the transportation charges are unreasonably high. The pony charge for a bag of 50 kg of rice used to be Nu 1,000.
Horses are gone and now it is the Bolero pickup trucks transporting goods by road. The new road has helped him offer better prices.
But what makes Ugyen proud is that he was able to make his living by providing the people in the remote community with basic necessities. He said that he sold salt at a loss at one point of time, but it is the satisfaction of serving people that kept him going.
Everything went as planned until the government’s farm shop came to the dungkhag. The farm shop is Ugyen’s newest competitor and he knows well that a government service provider holds the advantage.
Since the farm shop came into existence, Ugyen stopped selling goods that the farm shop sells. He now focuses on toiletries and other goods that the dungkhag may procure on short notice, like mats and scarfs.
Ugyen, originally from Langthril in Trongsa, is admired by the people for his entrepreneurial drive and for bringing goods to the doors of people, and for living and serving the remote locality.
Despite fewer customers and the uncertainty of being able to continue leasing the land on which the shop stands, he still provides the only source of entertainment in the community – a carom board.
Come evening, officials, labourers and visitors gather at Ugyen’s shop to unwind the day with a game of carom.