Cultivating Mind Power

Cultivating Mind Power

Thimphu, BhutanBhutan
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The Loden Foundation is dedicated to fostering an enlightened and happy society through the promotion of education and entrepreneurship. It runs an entrepreneurship programme to provide entrepreneurial opportunities and facilities to Bhutan's youth and seeks to overcome some serious social challenges faced by Bhutan. In order to do so, it aims to cultivate and harness the inner power of the mind.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Despite its romantic policy of Gross National Happiness, Bhutan is grappling with serious problems as its traditional subsistence economy is replaced by a consumerist lifestyle. Thousands of youth pass out of schools and colleges each year giving rise to an unprecedented problem of unemployment. The civil service, which is the main employer, is saturated and the private sector is still poor. The problem is worsened by the wave of rural to urban migration and excessive economic dependence on India. The nation is in great need of boosting its private sector and harnessing the human capital. It is also the right time to nurture a culturally sensitive, ecologically friendly and socially responsible business culture informed by the Buddhist spirits of right action, integrity and altruism.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The Loden Entrepreneurship Programme (LEP) is our solution. LEP was launched in order to give a helping hand to hundreds of young people who are searching for guidance and support to become entrepreneurs, to help curb rising unemployment and to promote a business ethos informed by Buddhist principles. The programme provides entrepreneurship training and gives interest-free capital without collateral and other educational and technical support and services including mentors to help young entrepreneurs start their ventures.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Drawing on ancient Buddhist wisdom, we believe in harnessing the internal power of the mind. Thus, entrepreneurial education is at the heart of our programme. We conduct biannual training for aspiring entrepreneurs when our voluntary trainers instruct the participants in topics such as entrepreneurial thinking, entrepreneurial ethics and skills, conception of business ideas and structures, financial analysis, operation and management, marketing techniques, customer relations and, above all, drafting business plans. Following the training, we announce the competition for interest-free capital ranging from US$2000-$20000. A jury of five experts follows a set procedure to shortlist at least twice as many businesses as we plan to fund in that year. At this stage, we mainly analyse the business plan. In order to assess the main factor of the person as an entrepreneur, the shortlisted candidates are interview by a panel of judges who make the final selection. Once the business are selected for funding, entrepreneurs are allocated two mentors each and our staff also regularly monitors them and gives additional technical and educational support. They become parts of the Loden network in order to benefit from each other's experience. The programme has trained over 400 aspiring entrepreneurs and funded 39 ventures so far leaving significant impact. For example, the tyre retreading centre run by a woman, which we funded with $16000, now has an annual turn over of $400,000, employs 10 people and mends tyres without having to ship them to India beside other social benefits.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are very few organisations and people working in the area of entrepreneurial promotion. When we started in 2007, only the government ran a programme and it still runs the programme mainly to give training and support vocational skill-based ventures. Three other autonomous bodies have started entrepreneurship support and business incubation centres in last three years. Yet, none of them provide a comprehensive package of educational training, interest-free capital and post-funding monitoring, mentoring and support system as we do. There are also financial institutions and micro-credit schemes, who provide loans for business start-up but we differ from them in focusing on educating and empowering the entrepreneurs and giving loans without collateral and interest.

Founding Story

The Loden Foundation was initially spurred by a close friendship and concern for child education shared by a student and a college porter. Karma was a smallish Buddhist monk studying at Balliol, Oxford in 1998 when he met Robert Miles, a large Welsh man who was a college porter. Rob was deprived of school education in his youth and wanted to help a child who may suffer the same fate. Karma found a bright girl child from a poor family in central Bhutan, who needed support to continue school and Rob sponsored her uniform and stationery with £50 a year. That was the birth of Loden, a scheme which grew to benefit the lives of many young people in Bhutan. In 2007, Karma was walking in the French Alps with his friends, Anne Tardy and her husband Gerard, who is a successful venture capitalist. The three discussed the curses of modernization in Bhutan: youth unemployment, delinquency, urban drift, high interest rates, etc. The problems called for a solution; LEP was born.
About You
The Loden Foundation
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

The Loden Foundation

Organization Country

, THI, Thimphu

Country where this project is creating social impact

, XX

Age of Innovator

Over 34

Gender of Innovator


How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Social Impact
What solution(s) does your initiative address to help emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses grow and thrive in underserved communities? (select all applicable)

Access to financing, Access to talent, Access to technology, Access to economic opportunity, Policy change/advocacy.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

Many of over 400 aspiring entrepreneurs who received our training are running businesses having started with funding from us or other sources. The businesses include some very innovative projects. They have learnt how to think of out the box, discern opportunities and take initiatives. The programme, with wide coverage in local media, has also a substantial impact in raising the awareness of entrepreneurship and encouraging the youth to become self-employed rather than seek a job in the government or another organisation as is the wont.

The 39 businesses we have funded have created an average of 5 jobs each and made good contribution to reducing unemployment and Bhutan's economic self-sufficiency. The financial success of a few entrepreneurs make a great difference to the living condition of many more people in a society where extended family culture is still strong. The programme has certainly stimulated both the government and other NGOs to rethink their strategies.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

We plan to continue the biannual training and train over 300 people in the next three years and fund around 15 projects each year to reach a total of 100 business by 2015. In addition, we plan to host annually the Global Entrepreneurship Week and World Entrepreneurship Day to spread the awareness of entrepreneurial thinking among the general public and in particular plan to sow the idea of entrepreneurial thinking in the minds of young children.

We also aim to develop a different and unique brand of entrepreneurial culture by imbibing, as universal human values, the Buddhist principles of right action and right livelihood, honesty and integrity, and business as an altruistic social venture.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

The failure of entrepreneurs to pay back the soft loan which will be recycled to fund new projects might deter our programme. Three out of 39 of our entrepreneurs had difficulty to repay us on time so far. We had to write off the loan for one entrepreneur on health grounds and partially write off for another whose business was affected by an earthquake. One entrepreneur was purely negligent in repaying and we had to take legal recourse.

As the loans are provided without any collateral, we take extra care in our selection to avoid opportunists and support true entrepreneurs. To ensure the projects succeed, we involve guarantors and mentors in addition to having regular supervisions.

We are mindful of donor fatigue and thus strive to widen our base of supporters.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

By February 2012, train 500 persons, fund 50 businesses and promote entrepreneurship among at least 10000 people.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Conduct one training session for aspiring entrepreneurs and two advanced trainings for our entrepreneurs

Task 2

Fund 15 business projects

Task 3

Organize 5 public events, discussions and debates on mass media and 10 talks and lectures at educational institutions.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

By August 2013, train 50 new persons, start to process 15 new projects and promote entrepreneurship among 5,000 more people.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Train at least 50 entrepreneurs including basic and advanced training

Task 2

Start the competition for 15 new businesses.

Task 3

Organize at least 5 events for the public on mass media and in educational institutions.

Tell us about your partnerships

Our partners include Bhutan Foundation, Hinman Foundation, Global Fund for Children in the US, Rigdang Education Trust, Youth Business International and Maitri Trust in the UK, Amis du Boutan in France, Magyar-Bhutan Society in Hungary, the Education Ministry, the CSO Authority, Institute of Management Studies, Read Bhutan and Hotel Uma Paro in Bhutan.

In addition to raising and channeling funds for us, these organisations share their expertise and educational resources with us. They also provide opportunities for building our human capacity.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

We aim to promote social volunteerism and earnestly seek experts to act as pro-bono trainers, mentors and judges. We are also grooming our staff and entrepreneurs to take an active role as trustees, trainers and mentors.

As an educational programme focusing on the internal power of the mind, we strive to foster innovation and creativity in the communities.