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Entrepreneur's success is an open book

Publish Time: 2017-11-06 Author: From: China Daily

Entrepreneur Ngawang Dondrum displays the notebooks he designed in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region. HOU LIQIANG/CHINA DAILY 

Take a look in any stationery store and you will find all sorts of notebooks for sale, but few that reflect the distinctive characteristics of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Entrepreneur Ngawang Dondrum aims to fill that gap in the market.

Born to an impoverished family in Nagchu Prefecture, one of the first things the 24-year-old looked to do after being admitted to the Tibet Agriculture and Animal Husbandry College in 2013 was to achieve economic independence.

After class, he would work several part-time jobs as a hotel waiter, construction worker, sanitation worker and tutor. During his four years of study in Nyingchi City, he only asked his family for money for once — about 2,000 yuan ($304) in his first year.

Inspired by Thubten Sherab, who won an innovation and entrepreneurship competition held in Lhasa last year with a pen he invented that can be used to write different types of Tibetan script with ease, Ngawang Dondrum began thinking about how he could help pass on Tibetan culture as well.

At first, he planned to also work on a pen — made out of wood, as is the Tibetan tradition — but found that he lacked the requisite wood-working skills and did not have enough money to cover the cost of the project.

So using the 30,000 yuan he had saved and the photo-editing skills he acquired by attending weekend workshops run by the Tibetan Literature Association, Ngawang Dondrum began designing his notebook.

His first trial run of 1,500 books, featuring a picture of a Tibetan language keyboard and a motto in both Chinese and Tibetan, proved immensely popular. He completely sold out within 48 hours after visiting just two schools in the cities of Lhasa and Lhokha, making 12,000 yuan in the process.

"I went to a vocational school in Lhokha city to advertise my notebook. It was so popular that I only had to wait at the school entrance. Monitors from different classes helped collect money for me and then came to take the notebooks," he said.

After selling another 1,500 notebooks of a different design, Ngawang Dondrum decided to make one that would be specifically used for practicing Tibetan calligraphy. He consulted two lamas, both experts in the art, and finished designing it in February.

The new book features pictures of the holy Mount Kangrinboqe, also known as Mount Kailash, and Lake Manasarovar on its cover, as well as a portrayal of Thonmi Sambhota — traditionally regarded as the inventor of Tibetan script — and a damburi, or traditional guitar thought to originate in Tibet's Ngari Prefecture.

Ngawang Dondrum said he is looking to add a machine-readable code to the book as well, which customers will be able to scan for tips on writing Tibetan calligraphy.

His company, also called Damburi, was registered in June and has been offered free office space in an innovation and entrepreneurship base in Duishigagyi village of Lhasa's Chushul County thanks to the local government's preferential policies for innovation and entrepreneurship.

"Damburi are still used to this day. I wanted to remind people to protect such cultural heritage with the name," he said, adding that he is now also applying for a startup fund of up to 50,000 yuan from the government.

"I am collecting stories from senior Tibetans and plan to cooperate with the tourism and culture authorities to print notebooks featuring the local culture of Tibet."

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