In Bhutan, small grants launch businesses and dreams

 woman in computer shop
Thanks to a small grant, Tashi Tshomo has been able to run a successful computer shop and Internet cafe, supporting herself and her family. (Photo: UNDP Bhutan)

In Mongar, Bhutan, Tashi Tshomo has much to be thankful for. It’s been four years since the 25-year-old received a grant of about US $1,750 to start a small enterprise for IT solutions, and her business has grown substantially.


  • The Income Generation Support Programme tackles the rise in unemployment in Bhutan, especially youth unemployment, which reached 9.3 % in 2011.
  • The initial phase of the project was launched in 3 of the poorest districts and led to the establishment of 44 micro-enterprises. It was expanded to other districts across the country in 2012.
  • Initiatives like these have helped lower Bhutan’s unemployment rate to 2.1% in 2012, as well as its youth unemployment to 7.1%.

Today she deals in computer and hardware sales, servicing and networking. She also runs Mongar’s only Internet café, and provides annual maintenance services to local firms and government offices. These services amount to profits of up to US $1,100 per month and have helped her support her family — she not only funds her husband’s studies in India, but also those of six of her siblings who otherwise may not have been able to afford higher education.

Tashi Tshomo received her grant through the Income Generation Support Programme (IGSP), launched in 2010 as part of a US $2 million Human Security Fund Project implemented by UNDP, UNICEF, WFP and UNFPA. This project aims to increase basic education and literacy in Bhutan, as well as employment for vulnerable people, including youth and women.

The IGSP was initiated by UNDP, in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources, to tackle the rise in unemployment in Bhutan, with a particular emphasis on youth unemployment, which reached 9.3 percent in 2011.

The first phase of the programme was launched in three of Bhutan’s most impoverished districts to train youth in entrepreneurship so they could create small and medium enterprises (SMEs). A total of 63 youth were trained, mostly in the manufacturing sector, leading to the establishment of 44 micro-enterprises, including bakeries, furniture units, a dairy farm, a weaving centre, souvenir shops, a restaurant, units for potato chip and paper manufacturing, a beauty parlour, tailors, a lemon-grass extraction centre, as well as IT solutions.

The initiative was expanded to other districts across the country in 2012. In addition to establishing small businesses in the country’s poorest districts, this programme has encouraged youth to stay in rural areas and led to further job creation, including 67 jobs from the original 44 businesses.

Since setting up her business, Tashi Tshomo has invested in three more computers for her Internet café and provided training for two staff members. She also applied for a loan to further expand her business and open a photo shop.

Initiatives like the IGSP have helped lower Bhutan’s unemployment rate to 2.1 percent in 2012, as well as its youth unemployment to 7.1 percent. The Royal Government of Bhutan, with UNDP’s support, aims to continue to generate similar employment and lower these rates even further.

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