Although entrepreneurship is not a new concept in Bhutan, a recent labour ministry study has found that the social and economic conditions are still not conducive for new start-ups.
With societal and cultural norms dictating the lives of the Bhutanese, educational institutions were found to produce employees instead of employers. This is a significant finding for it calls on policy makers and educationists to inculcate the values of entrepreneurship in schools.
The study has come at a time when efforts are on to give entrepreneurship a boost. The REDCL schemes despite being mired in controversies were initiated to harness the entrepreneurial skills of the unemployed by giving them easy access to credit. The priority sector-lending (PSL) scheme was also launched to allow aspiring entrepreneurs to access credit and initiate start-ups.
These programmes are however, yet to gain pace. While some dzongkhags have started receiving business proposals and loans for a few have also been sanctioned, the PSL scheme has not gained momentum. It has been learnt that people prefer REDCL loan schemes to PSL because its interest rate is almost half of what banks are offering. There are also reports of some dzongkhags not receiving a single business proposal for PSL while some dzongkhag committees have been unable to meet, what with most of their officials on election duty.
What could compound this situation is the lack of support from the community to entrepreneurs. The study reports that most graduates believe that starting a business is an expensive affair and that one needs strong social connections. They are not wrong. Our children are growing up with this understanding of entrepreneurship and when such norms inform their career choice, getting them to venture into business would pose a challenge.
But despite challenges, there has been some progress, number wise, at least. The study reports that in the 10th and 11th Plan, a total of 444 new business start-ups were initiated. Civil society organisations are also engaged in supporting entrepreneurs and this has to be sustained and encouraged.
Entrepreneurs are hailed as agents of change because their innovations create jobs and boost economic development. Bhutan has just begun to see its potential. The recent schemes may have opened an avenue where a business idea is enough to begin a start-up. But if the perception of the youth, the schemes’ target, towards entrepreneurship remains shaky, we have much work to do.
The study recommends a business research center to enhance the youth’s knowledge on the labour market scenario and to have a business idea and opportunities inventory as a resource document. Our youth and policy makers must tap the power of technology in not only making these resources available but also in initiating start-ups.
Entrepreneurship is not a smooth process especially when funding and mentorship are scarce. But when there is political will and concerted efforts are made to encourage entrepreneurship among the youth, the society must work together. It must create a conducive business environment. It must start by redefining entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship still at embryonic stage: MoLHR
March 31, 2018
Entrepreneurial drive among the young people is still at an embroyonic stage, according to labour ministry’s study on assessment of entrepreneurial intentions amongst university graduates.
While the young demography is indicative of potential pool of entrepreneurs, the study has found that social norms are more influential and that this directs youth to take up salaried jobs.
“Career in entrepreneurship is still viewed with some degree of scepticism,” the report said. This is in contrast to the global phenomena where entrepreneurs drive economic progress of a country and create more jobs.
More than 2,000 graduates from national graduate orientation programme 2015 were interviewed for the study.
The labour ministry has identified that low level of entrepreneurial education in schools and tertiary institutes as a deterring factor in promoting entrepreneurship.
“Most tertiary education institutes offer traditional academic courses that generate employees rather than employers,” it stated.
The survey also found that most graduates and parents perceive creating jobs as a responsibility of the ministry. “The notion that government should create jobs must change and entrepreneurship should be encouraged as a viable career choice.”
It has been found that graduates with business management courses have higher likelihood to opt for entrepreneurship as career choice. There is also a higher correlation between entrepreneurial intention of jobseekers and their parents’ jobs. Probability of youth venturing into business increases if their parents own business or earn higher income.
The study also found that female graduates are less likely to opt for entrepreneurship.
Current economic and social conditions, according to the study, are not favourable for new startups. This is because starting new business is expensive and there is less community support.
To improve entrepreneurship scenario in the country, the study has recommended establishing a business research centre that would serve as a resource for those with limited idea.
Availability of a small seed grant from the government or a collateral-free loan is also recommended. In particular, youth credit guarantee scheme should be specifically designed for people aged 14-24.
“Initiatives like Rural Enterprise Development Scheme and reduction of interest rate have not resonated into entrepreneurial activities,” the study stated.
Support of private sector, especially the successful ones, is deemed crucial for the new startups. In this sense, faculty members of tertiary educational institutes also require more knowledge on the ground functionalities of businesses.
The study thus recommends the need for business counsellors. Entrepreneurship clubs in the school is also recommended.
AMICI DEL BHUTAN – ITALY