TSEM – Innovative Toys Made in Bhutan

“Incorporating our culture, our local folk stories and art in our toys is also a goal. Our mission is to keep learning and improving the designs of our toys so that children can have fun while learning,” she added.

TSEM's Dzongkha alphabet boards. (Source: Facebook/tsembhutan)

  

By Dechen Dolkar | Business Bhutan

 

If you are looking for locally made toys for your children, TSEM undoubtedly has more than what you are looking for.

TSEM which means ‘Play’ in Dzongkha, is an educational toy manufacturing company in the country that produces wooden educational toys such as puzzles, Dzongkha alphabet boards and maps of Bhutan, among others.

Origins of TSEM

Started by a young couple, Ugyen Wangmo and her husband Gyalsten K Dorji, the wooden educational toys focus on Bhutanese culture and encourage problem solving. It also stimulates the development of motor and cognitive skills of children and introduces them to written Dzongkha.

Ugyen Wangmo, 32 said that they came out with the idea of making educational toys after the birth of their son in 2014 as the couple confronted problems in devoting sufficient quality time to their son on a daily basis.

The couple usually took the easy way out and handed over their mobile phone or placed their son in front of the TV after a long day at work.

Source: Facebook/tsembhutan

They realised through both experience and news articles that this was not a healthy activity for their son.

"Such technology and media relegated our son to a mere passive consumer of whatever he was watching on TV or playing on the phone," she said.

Aware of the fact that there would be other adverse impacts on their son’s development, Ugyen Wangmo said that they decided that they needed to be more attentive as parents and provide a more wholesome upbringing.

Loden Foundation's collateral-free loan kick-started their company

To solve their problem, the couple started a toy manufacturing company in late 2016 with a collateral free loan of over Nu 1.1mn from the Loden Foundation. The prices of a single product range from Nu 300 to Nu 1,600.

Since then, they have manufactured around ten types of toys and their most popular products are the Bhutan map puzzles and the Dzongkha alphabet boards.

Ugyen Wangmo said that they started with toys in the Dzongkha language as such toys were not available in the country. However, they are also planning to manufacture toys in English based on the demand of the people.

TSEM’s toys are infused with Bhutanese culture and folklore

“Incorporating our culture, our local folk stories and art in our toys is also a goal. Our mission is to keep learning and improving the designs of our toys so that children can have fun while learning,” she added.

Most of the toys are manufactured using wood, mostly waste wood which they found in sawmills and construction sites which would otherwise just be burnt or discarded.

They also use non-toxic acrylic paints for some toys and they strive to use local materials as much as possible. Most of the products are sold online through their Facebook’s page and by word of mouth.

“We also plan to start offering our products through some of the recently launched e-commerce apps,” Ugyen Wangmo said, adding that they use buses and taxis to deliver their products to other dzongkhags.

Thus far, their customers include private early learning centres, parents and tourists. They have even received a few orders from Tibetan communities living abroad.

 

This article first appeared in Business Bhutan and has been edited for the new Bhutan Times.


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