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Transforming cottage and small scale industries

The Bhutan Economic Forum for Innovative Transformation (BEFIT) conference has ended, but the journey towards catalysing CSIs begins.

A take away from the three-day conference is that Bhutan’s GNH-led philosophy of development is an appendage to place CSIs at the heart of an inclusive economy. Sustainable development is the global language today, as leaders and firms around the world are becoming socially conscious and investing to address global issues.

For Bhutan, it is a reaffirmation that the deliberate path our leaders chose is not wrong. We must now capitalize on this to explore partnership, technology and capital to attract foreign interest and investment in the CSI sector. Impact and sustainable investment, experts say is the future for financing and it is what Bhutan needs.

Our entrepreneurs and CSIs must unleash their potential with a sense of urgency. It is CSIs, particularly the social-consciousness-driven enterprises that can eliminate social issues such as unemployment and poverty in a sustainable manner. Because of its impact on the lives of the poor across the globe, small industries are emerging as formidable competitors to greed-based large-scale enterprises.

However, for the CSIs to catalyse the economic progress, it needs limbs to stand and move. To establish a strong CSI ecosystem, government must create and build conducive environment, regulations and infrastructure. Institutions, particularly banks must place their trust on our entrepreneurs. Each citizen could play a role in creating a feasible market. A simple conviction of replacing imported goods with local in our shopping carts can help our entrepreneurs grow.

But the reality is that our policies have become unpredictable with governments changing every five years. There is a serious lack of trust between the financial institutions and businesses, and people complain of exorbitant pricing of local goods. We need to fix this missing links to up-scale production and consolidate ideas, which entrepreneurs say in more daunting.

Many agencies are engaged in supporting startups in various forms. This has helped the germination of ideas into businesses. We have seen from the national CSI expo that products are emerging. Locally produced goods like soaps, noodles, chocolates, biscuits, souvenirs, toys, construction materials, herbal food and drinks, packaging materials, mobile Apps needs up-scaling. This is where intervention from agencies is crucial but lacking.

What is consoling is that the BEFIT has brought together all the stakeholders. A discourse has started. Domestic financing platforms like crowd funding and CSI bank have been launched. Policies have been revised. This is a good start. We must now shift gear before it remains a mere rhetoric.

As we continue our journey to diversify, there are two common things in all the startups, there is a social aspect to every business and the aspiration to expand, which is spurned by lack of capital, both human and financial. The government and other stakeholders must now position their radar towards the second phase of business cycle.

This is felt as a major reform that can leverage the CSI potential.

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