Young entrepreneurs dream of innovation-rich future for Ladakh

Young entrepreneurs dream of innovation rich future for LadakhLEH: Ladakh is standing at the cusp of a historic change and a group of 52 young, dynamic entrepreneurs have come up with several innovative projects across diverse fields to shape the future of the Himalayan region with sustainable solutions.

Over the last one year, these innovators, nearly one-third of whom are from the Ladakh region, under the umbrella of Naropa Fellowship, had worked on 22 separate thematic ideas, ranging from agro-tourism to sustainable greenhouses and from revival of Ladakh’s fading heritage to writing a graphic novel based on the pristine region.

Ladakh Basket, one of the projects, is helmed by three men from Leh district, who have come up with an online platform where one can buy indigenous Ladakhi products which are fully organic.

Stanzin Jordan, 28, a team member of this project, says the idea germinated from seeing local Ladakhi dry fruits and other products “not getting a sustainable market”.

“During the fellowship, we came up with this idea and we started by sourcing products from our own family farms. We have also spoken to local farmers whose products we want to merchandise, so that anyone can get these Ladakhi products,” he said.

The team already has a website and products on offer include grounded barley, roasted wheat, apricot kernels, walnut kernels, organic peppermint tea and organic chamomile tea.

Jordan, who earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science from the Indraprastha University in Delhi and a master’s degree in Buddhist studies from the Delhi University, said, he wanted to do something for Ladakh so he “came back to Ladakh”.

The venture started from the house of one of their team members, Thinles Norboo, 28, in Liktsay village, about 90-minute ride from Leh city and at an altitude of above 11,000 ft.

Jordan, who lives in Leh, said his family grows chamomile flowers in their backyard and it is one of the “most unique products” they offer as it grown in this region.

“The core purpose of our idea is to empower locals so that they get a platform to sell their local products. Another mission is to design local products, representing the culture and heritage of Ladakh,” said Sonam Stanzin, third team member of Ladakh Basket.

Another project ‘Agrow’ helmed by Ladakh native Jigmet Singge, Akshita Pradhan of Shillong, and Nischita Bysani of Bengaluru, all in their mid 20s, seeks to build reliable, economic and sustainable greenhouse solutions for high-altitude Ladakh using bricks made of plastic bottles, earth, sand and husk and cow dung.

Bysani, an architect, said the innovation seeks to offer Ladakhi people, greenhouses made of unconventional and sustainable material at a much lower price than a conventional greenhouse, used by local people to grow local produce during harsh winters.

Singge, who is also a singer-songwriter, is quite happy about the union territory status for Ladakh, said, “We want to design a sustainable future for Ladakh as we move forward. And our project is one such step.”

Ladakh will get a new identity on October 31 when it will officially become a union territory, a long-standing demand of locals.

Both Ladakh Basket and Agrow have been selected for an exploration programme at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mandi for a period of three months with a seed funding, he said.

The Naropa Fellowship, inspired by His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa of Drukpa Buddhist lineage was co-founded by His Eminence Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche and Pramath Raj Sinha, also founder of the Ashoka University

The 52 Naropa fellows, the first batch of the year-long fellowship, will graduate on August 25.

Other projects include, Lugu that seeks to revive the culture of carpet weaving and make it an industrial identity for the Ladakhi people through design and curricular interventions ,and Ladakh Argo Travel to develop and sustain agriculture in Ladakh by encouraging agro-tourism, where travellers would experience the farmers’ way of life and provide revenue to local agriculturists, officials said. PTI

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