In this series, we introduce you to one of our three founders. Read on for a profile of co-founder and CMO, Thinles Norboo and why he started Ladakh Basket and what he wants to share with other budding youth entrepreneurs.
Thinles Norboo is a connector. He says he’s happiest working with others and creating new opportunities. As one of three co-founders of a community-based social enterprise, his love of public relations means he can introduce others to markets, suppliers and like-minded businesswomen and men. Given his personality, it was natural for him to be Ladakh Basket’s CMO. He’s a people-person and it’s reflected in his approach to entrepreneurship.
“For me since I grew up in a village, making a sustainable village is always my vision,” he says, “and I met my two co-founders [during a] Naropa Fellowship so we were on the same page to make sustainable villages.” It was a happy meeting of minds and the initial ideas for Ladakh Basket were formed. It was important to Norboo to showcase the incredible natural food products and crafts of Ladakh, as well as grow sustainable income opportunities for his community.
“Working with farmers will always be the reason for my happiness,” he says, “and as well, is Ladakh Basket’s value.” Norboo says he’s “overwhelmed with happiness” to work with the Ladakhi farmers and producers and helping in any way he can to work together and increase livelihood opportunities and incomes for farming families. After a successful mentoring partnership later on with the UNDP Youth Co:Lab initiative, Ladakh Basket was formally created as a community-based social enterprise selling organic local and indigenous products from Ladakh. Youth Co:Lab is the largest youth social entrepreneurship movement in Asia and the Pacific. To date, over 8,000 young entrepreneurs have benefited, by developing or improving nearly 1,000 enterprises and startups directly addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Community partnerships have been created to demonstrate and showcase organic villages and their indigenous products in the Leh district in Ladakh, and Norboo says now he’s thinking about how to deepen those local connections and bring them out into the wider world. But he says he was still surprised on his entrepreneurial journey. “We are the first company [like this] in Union Territory Ladakh,” he says, “and we didn’t think we will be somewhere in everyone’s mouth.”
He says that while he loves all the Ladakh Basket products, the one nearest and dearest to his heart is the Chamomile tea. “Every product is very special for me!” he laughs. “But one of my favourites if you ask is the organic Chamomile tea because I really like tea and as well we started our venture with these few products.” Sipping tea, Norboo says he often thinks about time and how to use our time more meaningfully. He believes perhaps some meaning can come from having a growth mindset and keep learning. Really, he says, “the sky’s the limit.” Reflecting on time’s meaning and use might also be influenced by Norboo’s hero, His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa, who Norboo admires not only for the spiritual direction, but because His Holiness is a committed environmentalist. “His leadership,” says Norboo, “is always awe-inspiring.” Taking a page from this too, happiness and optimism are reflected in Norboo’s personal motto: live happily and let others live happily.
“I am really optimistic about Ladakh Basket,” he says. “I can see [that] Ladakh Basket will reach every corner of the world one day.” It is a gentle but committed, determination to give Ladakh Basket global reach and influence on sustainability. He says he has learnt much on his journey and feels good entrepreneurship is about others. “It’s about how to deal with people,” he says, adding that he has learnt just how important good communication skills are, alongside leadership and teamwork. “This is a journey of learning and setbacks,” he says, “but never give up.”