The president of Gedu College of Business Studies (GCBS), Dalston Pung, talks to Kuensel Reporter Chhimi Dema about the transformation happening at GCBS. He is also the vice chairperson for GCBS and College of Science and Technology. Dalston Pung from Singapore has a finance and accounting background with experience in multinational corporations and startup ventures. 

What changes would GCBS see in the next few weeks?

The first and foremost thing was to look at the academic changes here. And because I come from a commercial background, I was looking at some key things. First, are the undergraduates confident about going to the job market? The second is, if they are confident, what is making them confident, and if not why. The third thing is what the local and the global market are looking for. And last, are there successful Bhutanese graduates that are employed around the world?

It is not that the curricula are bad at GCBS. The key issue is the depth of the three-year programmes – are they spread out across different disciplines?

Maybe 25 years ago, that’s good [that the programmes were spread out] because the hired graduate for marketing could also do sales or business development. In today’s market, this is not the case anymore.

We relooked if the academic reforms here go towards the goal of having more depth and specialisations. So with that, in the coming months, we are revamping the two degrees offered currently into six degrees (marketing; human capital management; business management; accountancy; economics, and finance; and business analytics).

Do you have classroom facilities and the human talent to keep up with the new programmes?

GCBS is a big campus with 186 acres and we have enough land to house people in GCBS.

Our faculties have been doing consultancy work so it’s not that it’s irrelevant to them. They have the educational background to do it.

We have faculties, and as of now, we have about 57 of them. And we are planning to have teaching assistants, where third or fourth-year students step out of their comfort zone and assist the teachers or the lecturers to run tutorials.

How relevant are the new school and courses to the current market?

Students will be learning all the traditional fundamentals of marketing. But that’s not enough. What is more important today is the tool that has been launched.

Before it was the style of marketing, understanding brand personas or the needs of customers. But a lot of these are now automated. You can use tools that are built on artificial intelligence to automate those processes. So not just learning marketing, but actually understanding the tools that are available and choosing tool which is better or relevant for the industry.

A graduate from GCBS, for example, can walk into Kuensel and say that in my four years of study, these are tools that I have learned. And six of them are relevant for Kuensel because of that, I can cut down the process from reporting all the way to publishing, hence creating more content. And because of creating more content, I think I add value to the company. And with that, I think Kuensel has a whole lot of value itself.

What opportunities would the graduates from GCBS have in the global market?

As our organisation including the faculties and graduates upskill themselves, the question now is, will pay or the remuneration in the market be able to meet the current quality of students that we bring up?

My intention is that as we move away from the current status that we are in, and upscale students, they’re able to command a certain price because they know that they have that value. Now, two things will happen. One is they go out there and they say the reasons they are good and join an organisation if it meets their demands.

But on the flip side, if the market doesn’t continue to grow at the pace that we want to produce good quality graduates, the next option is to create competition. And when competition happens, people will start to drive up the intrinsic value of the organisation itself. By doing that, it forces the market to start recognising the organisation’s value and increase its services. Hence, there will be enough [opportunties for graduates] to go around to fit in a healthy organisation.

I believe that the opportunities in Bhutan will grow eventually, simply because the quality of the output is better.

In the region, there are only 11 colleges that have Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accreditation.  So as an organisation, one of our goals for the next five years is to get accredited; to eventually reach the stage where we’re saying that in the global market, we stand on par with all these business colleges that have the accreditation.

What’s the financial requirement for the transformation?

The wish list is quite big because we are sitting on 186 acres of GCBS, and then CST is also 50-plus acres. The requirement just to take care of infrastructure is in millions and that’s expensive.

At the initial stage, we don’t have the largest budget. The budget that we requested is good enough for us to kick-start the recommended changes, but it’s not going to be enough.

We are also looking at ways of increasing our budget through the avenue of self-making money. We are looking to generate revenue by bringing in international students. Can we offer short courses to upskill companies? They increase their own personal value in terms of their ability to contribute to the economy, and that will also help us in generating revenue.

Why is there a need for transformation?

I think it [the need for change] comes from two angles. One is, how can Bhutan participate in a global economy? Second, when we start looking at growing the well-being of the people, it is almost impossible for a country to sustain a local economy.

The need to participate in a global economy is very important. If the need to participate in the global economy is increasing the value of the well-being of the citizens in the country itself, then the question goes back to, do we have what it takes to participate in a global economy?

When you internally ask the question, do we have what it takes to participate? I think truth be said, other than the top five economies in the world who have all the power to demand, the rest of the countries in the world, including Singapore, have to consistently ask ourselves the question, do we have what it takes to participate in the global economy?

If the answer is yes, I want to participate, and no, I don’t have what it takes, then the last question is, what do I need to do to have what it takes so that I can participate in the global economy? So in that format itself, this is good because that simply paints the picture that there is going to be progress where we are going. That’s good news.