18 August 2020

8 Questions for an Aspiring Bhutanese Entrepreneur

When I was invited to talk to a group of young entrepreneurs at the “I’m an Entrepreneur” event last year in Thimphu, I had to stay up late into the night thinking of what to talk about because my regular subjects weren’t going to make any sense to the entrepreneurial audience. 

Young Bhutanese Entrepreneurs with Lyonpo Lok Nath
Bhutanese Entrepreneur with Lyonpo Loknath at RIM

So, I came up with a list of 8 questions a Bhutanese Entrepreneur must ask himself or herself, which is a compilation of bits and pieces of wisdom I have gathered from my encounters with successful entrepreneur friends, books, talks and from my own experience of founding and running Bhutan Toilet Org.

Despite several suggestions from the young entrepreneurs in the audience that day to rewrite my talk into an article, I didn’t get the right time or motivation to do it till today. The lockdown has given me a long and quiet time to catch up on the things I have missed, this being one. And I also thought if I shared this during the lockdown, chances of you reading it wholeheartedly and contemplating it is greater.

One of the organizers came to me after my talk and said, “Acho, I felt like you were talking about all the mistakes I have made.” I had to assure him that these were general theories that are often overlooked and that’s how we land up making the same mistakes;

Following are the 8 questions, in no particular order, an aspiring entrepreneur or a new entrepreneur must ask him/herself to ensure that they don’t have to make the same old mistakes people ahead of us made.

1.     Are you ready to start a business?

By hearing about some geniuses who made their millions in the early 20s, we are often tempted to start so early in life when we are still living off your parents’ handouts and don’t even know how to do a weekend shopping let alone process a loan or write a business proposal.

Like Jack Ma says, in 20's you work for others, learn how things work, how people work, how finances work and get a feel of the reality. Give yourself time to mature and become capable of making informed decisions. Harden yourself to face challenges with grace and dignity. Earn a little bit on your own to be able to sustain yourself. Therefore, don't rush, take your time.

2.    Have you built enough social capital?

Don’t waste your youth in fooling around, with social media around, you have the equal opportunity like anyone else to make a mark and stand out. Use it wisely to build your social capital. Get yourself known to people in a good way. Build networks. Your reputation and network will serve as a launchpad for your dream when you are ready. Build social capital early on.

3.    Can people trust you with their money?

It’s a greater honour to be known for your integrity than for your knowledge or wealth. A reliable and trustworthy person will attract investment and network. Your integrity will be your collateral and mortgage. Banks and Angel investors will invest in you blindly. Never mess with people’s trust. With an ill reputation, it will be difficult to make a foothold in the world of business. Don’t make that mistake. 

4.    Is your business idea realistic?

It’s good to have a big and bold business idea but at the end of the day, you need to be practical and realistic. Do your homework diligently, don’t get the illusion that your venture will work magic and go all out at once. Base your decisions on numbers and facts, not astrology or unfounded advice.

If your idea is big, break it down into manageable chunks and deal with them one by one. Some part will work and some won’t. Make adjustments. Bhutan has just 750,000 people.

5.    How much money you need?

Financial discipline is critical to the success or collapse of any form of business. For a start-up, it’s even more important to work out the finances realistically and borrow only as much as you need to invest. Don’t include the cost of buying a car.

The loan you take for business must be used in financing the business and nothing else. Work out a salary for yourself and your employees alike. Never mix your business account with your personal accounts. Never touch the capital. Don’t party on the whole profit. Reinvest the profit in the venture. Don’t Joke with your Finances if you want to go far in life.

6.    What is your strength? 

If your business is about making pickle, make pickle with all your heart. Make yourself really good at making pickle and let yourself be known for making pickle.

Don’t go off track to produce bottles for packaging pickle, set a branding company to brand and market your pickle, start an eCommerce website to sell your pickle online, start a delivery service to deliver your pickle, etc.

Just focus on producing pickle. You can’t do everything yourself. Focus on what you are good at and seek the help of those who are good with packaging, branding, marketing and delivering to take care of those elements for you. They can do it better, cheaper and faster.

7.    Is your conscience clear? 

Don’t start a business on the wrong footing. Research thoroughly to make sure that your business idea is socially acceptable, that it’s not infringing any copyright or patent law and that it’s not an exact duplicate of a business in the neighbourhood?

Even if your idea is not an original, at least make sure that it has something different to offer and that it’s not contributing adversely to the existing businesses.

First of all, there is no scale in our economy to accommodate more than one serious venture and secondly, in a small society, everyone will eventually know that you are trying to enjoy the fruit of someone else’s effort. Where is the honour in enjoying success, if any, on a stolen business idea?

8.    Do you know the art of Branding? 

For a business to make a first good impression and grow its presence in the market, it needs a good branding; from giving it a great name to designing a great logo and keeping its reputation high over the year.
Branding is a different art altogether, therefore, outsource it to someone who knows this art well and let them help you take care of it. If you don’t have the fund to outsource, at least reach out to your friends who are good at it and seek their support. Don’t take branding easy.

These 8 questions may be quite general, but when I wrote them (which is directly derived from my talk) I did it with aspiring or new Bhutanese entrepreneurs in my mind.

If there is someone you think one of these questions will help, feel free to share. And if, from your personal experience, you think you could add a few more questions, or change some of my questions, express that in the comment section below.


  1. Sir Passu is hands down one of the most experienced, well-read and a knowledgeable person in this field. If there was a nineth question, it would be: "Will you buy your own product or service?". We can't sell to others what we won't buy ourselves.
    Great article, sir.

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