Dasho Topgyal Dorji

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How tycoons from Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka built thriving business empires

Moinak Mitra, ET Bureau | Mar 14, 2014

The Times of India

Bhutan's bounty hunter

Bhutan's Dasho Topgyal Dorji too has made strides with his Tashi Group. Being the previous Bhutan King Jigme Singye Wangchuk's cousin certainly helped.

As the landlocked dragon nation of 800,000 people gradually opens up to the rest of the world, Dorji trains his eyes on infrastructure, banking, telecom and tourism. Of course, Tashi also manufactures the ubiquitous Druk brand of juices, jams and pickles, with its juices accounting for some 25% market share in India.

Dorji's Kolkata-based right-hand man in India and president of his Tai Industries, Rohan Ghosh, claims that Tashi does far more than the general perception.

"It is not just juices, jams and jellies, we also make ferro-alloys and are into many core projects," he says, perhaps mirroring his promoter's background, who went to Norway in the 1980s for an advanced degree in metallurgy.

"When we do a project, he (Dorji) is actively involved and apart from hearing out consultants, he personally visits plants of other companies in various countries to get a first-hand feel," Ghosh elaborates.

By all accounts, Dorji is the richest man in Bhutan, though his rugged demeanor with long flowing mane and adrenaline-pumping rafting quest defy the suave etiquette of boardroom culture. But Dorji is hands-on. He runs some 40-odd companies under the Tashi Group banner with 3,000 people, which has wide-ranging interests from brewing to aviation.

As most of these companies are unlisted, it is difficult to put a value to Dorji's net worth, but the array of businesses that he runs is mindboggling and in sync with Bhutan's neo-liberal regime.

Dasho Topgyal Dorji has come a long way since 1959 when the Tashi Group was founded by his late father, who imported Indian spices to Bhutan. He understands fully well that Bhutan has been a late riser in Asia's economic boom story and now wants to seize every opportunity with gusto. Dorji hails from a family of aristocrats and nobility as his ancestors ruled Haa Valley, some 115 kilometers away from the capital, Thimphu.

But Dorji seems to wear the elite tag lightly as he prepares to win contracts to exploit resources of the still virgin dragon state. Apart from brewing Druk beer, he's one of the few bottlers of Coca-Cola in Bhutan.

Besides, among the two telecom service providers in Bhutan, his TashiCell occupies pride of place, the other being the state-owned Bhutan Telecom. He relaunched Tashi Air, Bhutan's first privately-owned airline last year and already has a footprint in the travel trade with hotels run by the Taj Group and Singapore's Como Group besides managing Druk Hotels.

As his country opens up, the 48-year-old is keen to get in people and processes from overseas to lay the foundation of learning across his diversified empire.

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