Bhutan’s first ever CSI Market hampered by lockdown and lack of customers

It has been two months since the Economic Affairs Minister inaugurated the country’s first ever Cottage and Small Industry (CSI) Market below the Start-up center located at Changzamtog.

The Minister had stated that there would be more such market places created in other parts of the country which was launched in aspiration of letting the CSI Market to act as a platform for entrepreneurs to market their products, encourage inter-business networks, enhance backward and forward linkages and act as a platform to exchange business related information. 

Since the launch, the market has not been able to operate well as the lockdown and other factors hindered the possibility for any significant activity.

Sangay Chedup, Executive and General Manager, CSI Market/Druksell said that the foundations are still being laid upon but the way forward for Bhutanese entrepreneurs is much deeper than simply basing their businesses on grass root levels.

He said that the trend so far has been in awarding people based on what their products were or giving some entrepreneurship training but eventually the businesses remained more towards the stagnant side in terms of operations, even after a few years.

He stated, “On the other hand, many businesses simply move into dissolution after 1 or 2 years of operation.”

He said, “The lockdown has affected many of the start-up entrepreneurs as normally they require working capital, few others among them who availed loans from Loden foundation or other entities may not have had those levels of worry.”

The General Manager said, “Moving forward, we have planned to conduct some workshops in post-production processes and instead of ranking or awarding in terms of product, this time we want to award for best design and packaging.”

He said that this is just the ground work from one side, as any market requires buyers and even if the entrepreneurs do their part in producing good items, it will be their own task to attract customers, which is another big challenge for the domestic market.

He added, “The need for our entrepreneurs is to understand that marketing, branding, promotion and other associated things are a huge part of going forward with their product.”

Out of experience dealing with domestic products and having worked with local entrepreneurs at Druksell, he said that many of the local entrepreneurs lacked consistency when it comes to developing their products beyond the initial work that they put into it.

He added that nurturing their product to stand out among others’ (mainly imported products) is another part of it. He cited, “If we look at some of the packages, they look very basic or not very appealing to the consumer’s visuals, when that happens, even if the product inside has more value packed in it, they lose on customers in other areas like design.” 

At this very moment the CSI Market has a range of more than 600 local products on the shelves, however since it is too early to call a success or flop after such an extended closure period during the second lockdown. The market place for now has hardly seen any walk-ins.

The General Manager said that for now, the Druksell team is working on familiarizing people with the products through online posts, as most of the producers he said might not have done enough marketing or emphasized on product descriptions.

He added, “Currently we are operating in diminishing returns as we do not have any direct support when it comes to payment of staffs and other operations, but we are hopeful that things will not always remain the same.”

He thanked the DCSI and the government on behalf of the beneficiaries for the support in allotting them the platform.

That being said, he added, “Many of our local producers focus mostly on short-term earnings and in the last 10 years of observation, only about 20 businesses have been consistently putting-in their side of the effort, in pushing out their products.”

He hopes that more entrepreneurs go forward with this mentality as it is crucial for the domestic market to flourish in partnership

 The project is supported by the Department of Cottage and Small Industry (DCSI) in collaboration with Druksell the largest online trade platform in Bhutan. Currently, the management is taken up by the Druksell team.

The CSI market is open on all days from 10 AM till 7 PM; it also has a small cafeteria for the prospective buyers and others.

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