With expansion the company will now be the second largest commercial tenant at the tech park 

ICT: Southtech Bhutan Pvt Ltd (SBPL), a tenant at the IT park, will expand and employ 50 IT graduates shortly.

The software developing company is a sister company to Southtech Ltd based in Bangladesh. It set up show at the IT park in February, this year.

“We have decided to recruit 50 IT graduates under the Graduate Skills Programme (GSP) of the labour ministry whereby the ministry provides financial support for training and we guarantee employment,” SBPL CEO Pema Tashi said.

Under the programme, the graduates will be trained in Java, a computer programming language.

The company currently employs nine software developers, two business analysts, and one systems administrator, all of whom are Bhutanese.

Pema Tashi said that since the company’s establishment, four months were spent to train their developers and business analysts. They are currently involved in works that include the coding of certain parts of core banking solutions, outsourced by the parent company in Bangladesh.

“The current cohort of IT graduates with us have proved themselves worthy through diligent and continuous effort to improve themselves,” Pema Tashi said. “The sister-concern company, Southtech Ltd based in Dhaka has voiced their satisfaction with the progress and output provided by the Bhutan team.”

While he acknowledged that training and continuous professional development has to be imparted to the Bhutanese IT graduates prior to them being able to work on “real-life” projects, he pointed out that with the right training and exposure to high standards of software development, they were able to handle complex software development work.

While the company is currently only involved in outsourced work, it eventually hopes to cater to domestic demand. “Bhutan today is heavily dependent on imported software application solutions from simple accounting and inventory system to complex applications like ERP (enterprise resource planning) and Core Banking Solutions (CBS) which costs in the millions,” Pema Tashi said.

“Though there is no official data on the country’s spending on imported software applications, it is my safe guess that it is in the hundreds of millions,” he added. “Ironically, this is in stark contrast with the hundreds of IT graduates languishing unemployed. I believe that there is ample opportunity in the domestic market to absorb hundreds of IT graduates if they are provided the right environment to develop their skills and technical professionalism.”

Initially, SBPL planned to up scale to a size of 30 employees. However, based on the performance of its existing employees, it has chosen to up scale to 64 in its first year of operations.

The company currently operates out of the rent free incubation space provided at the IT park. But Pema Tashi said that SBPL will be leasing and moving into commercial space from next month as “the current space will no longer be ideal, not to mention inappropriate.”

Another IT park tenant, Scan Cafe recently also expanded to employ more than 400 Bhutanese youth. But problems associated with limited transportation between Thimphu city and the park threaten to prevent further expansion.

Pema Tashi said that SBPL also expects it will face a similar problem following recruitment of the 50 IT graduates. He said currently, the company’s employees had moved closer to the park to avoid the transportation problem. “But with a expected large number joining us, I am sure commuting to workplace will become an issue for many,” he said.

Related to the three-hour internet outage for Bhutan Telecom customers, yesterday, Pema Tashi said that internet connectivity is the backbone of SBPL’s operations. “Disruption is felt immensely and unfavourably,” he said. “We definitely welcome efforts to improve internet reliability. I believe that only a true international redundancy will resolve this problem.”

While the cost of internet connectivity was another issue of concern, recent negotiations between the information technology and telecom department and Bhutan Telecom have resolved it, he also said.

Gyalsten K Dorji