Business development

Unlocking a herbal business opportunity in Timor-Leste

Thirty-six year old Ruben da Silva Gusmao knows that he will not be an employee for the rest of his life. He is motivated to become an entrepreneur, considering the vast unlocked business opportunities in the Timor-Leste market.

Feature | 27 July 2016
Ruben da Silva Gusmao
Thirty-six year old Ruben da Silva Gusmao knows that he will not be an employee for the rest of his life. He is motivated to become an entrepreneur, considering the vast unlocked business opportunities in the Timor-Leste market.

“After working for more than four years in the company where I am working now, I plan to start my own business. My family also supports my entrepreneur plan,” said Ruben, who holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering

Consistent with his educational background, he sees a promising untouched business opportunity in Timor-Leste’s herbal cosmetic industry. As a developing country, Timor-Leste is currently focusing on the agriculture, plantation and farming industries.

It is like a dream come true. I know a lot about engineering, but I do not have any business knowledge. I do not understand managerial matters and other business supporting factors, such as investors, marketing, business networks and so forth. I feel very lucky being able to participate in this competition."

Ruben da Silva Gusmao
Together with his two partners, who are pharmacists, Ruben has developed a herbal baby oil product made from candlenuts. Candlenuts are known for being beneficial for health and beauty and are one of main commodities of the country.

“Based on my experience as a father of two children, my family uses candlenuts for the health care of our children. Traditionally, candlenuts are refreshing and useful for children,” said Ruben, adding that he believes his product has a big market opportunity in Timor-Leste.

While developing his business plan, Ruben came across a website about the 2015 Innovative Business Plan Competition organized by the Business Development Institute (IADE) under the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs (MECAE). He immediately registered his business idea and joined the selection process, eventually reaching the semi-final.

“It is like a dream come true. I know a lot about engineering, but I do not have any business knowledge. I do not understand managerial matters and other business supporting factors, such as investors, marketing, business networks and so forth. I feel very lucky being able to participate in this competition,” he said.

As part of his participation in the competition, Ruben received business training and counselling from IADE. He learned about how to generate business ideas, how to conduct a market survey, and business management, including promotion, marketing, and packaging.

IADE programmes are supported by the International Labour Organization (ILO) through its Business Opportunities and Support Services (BOSS) Project. Jointly funded by Irish Aid and NZAID, the ILO-BOSS project works in partnership with IADE to deliver business development services to micro, small and medium enterprises, unlock business opportunities by developing functional value chains in specific sectors and promote better coordination and alignment of private sector initiatives."

“The market research analysis conducted during the business counselling, for example, was excellent. I was pushed to learn about how big my target market is and how strong the consumers’ purchasing power is. I also learned what promotions I should do to market this new product,” he said.

Ruben is now even more motivated to become an entrepreneur and is formulating plans to make his product known.

“My main purpose in joining the competition was neither money nor prizes. Winning or losing does not matter for me, for I have gained knowledge that will stay with me forever,” he said.

To date, while preparing the technical requirements for producing candlenuts oil, Ruben is also taking care of his business license and preparing a laboratory with support from IADE. He hopes that IADE’s support will accelerate the business permit process, which is considered new in Timor-Leste.

IADE programmes are supported by the International Labour Organization (ILO) through its Business Opportunities and Support Services (BOSS) Project. Jointly funded by Irish Aid and NZAID, the ILO-BOSS project works in partnership with IADE to deliver business development services to micro, small and medium enterprises, unlock business opportunities by developing functional value chains in specific sectors and promote better coordination and alignment of private sector initiatives.

The article was written by Tomas H. Guterres Ximenes and Clotilde da Costa, staff of the Business Development Institute (IADE) under the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs (MECAE)