YK Poudel

While many consider the establishment of online mobile banking as an authentic digital transition in Bhutan, customers, particularly the elderly and those without access to mobile banking services, continue to walk around stores in search of the e-load service.

Of the 45 shops that Kuensel reached out that previously used to provide e-load services, only eleven continue to provide the e-load service.

Samten Wangda, 43, is a regular user of e-load facility. He finds it difficult to find a shop that provides e-load recharge. “Only a few shops now provide the service. It is problematic for elderly people without access to mobile banking apps,” he said.

One of the shopkeepers said that she no longer could make a profit out of e-load business like in the past. “This could be one of the reasons why many shops ceased selling paper vouchers and data packages,” she said.

Several shopkeepers said that with modern mobile banking facilities that support recharge, providing e-load is not a profitable business.

Lobzang, 59, said, “Until a few months ago, we used to see paper vouchers, and ‘e-load done here’” posters in every shop. Although I have mBOB app, I don’t know how to recharge data or talk time. This is cumbersome for elderly people like me,” he said.

The owner of Tandin Tshongkhang at Changzamtok, who used to purchase e-load service in bulk for both Bhutan Telecom and TashiCell said, “It costs a minimum of Nu 20,000 to purchase an e-load from Telecom and the six percent commission that we used to receive from TashiCell has been stopped as well. This has affected the business.”

As per Bhutan Telecom, the shopkeepers who provide e-load facility will be briefed on the revision in the minimum amount of Nu 5, 000 e-load that a shopkeeper has to buy which was Nu 20, 000 previously.