IT Park’s most successful company is facing transportation problems for its employees

Employment: Despite a desire to employ more Bhutanese, the IT Park’s most successful company, ScanCafe, may not be able to do so until more transportation between Thimphu city and the park in Babesa is provided.

ScanCafe, a US-based company that digitalises, edits, and organises photos and videos, currently employs 330 Bhutanese at the park. The company recently upscaled by employing another 150 Bhutanese.

It plans to increase the number of its Bhutanese employees to 450 by the end of this year and has also leased more space at the park in addition to the 10,000 sq ft it currently occupies.

However, the company has suspended any further expansion.

ScanCafe CEO Naren Dubey pointed out that while talent availability, telecom, and infrastructure challenges were not an issue anymore, the company is facing a problem in transporting their employees to and from the IT park.

“The part that I’m really struggling with and I think we may have to stop the growth is that there is no transportation available beyond a certain number of buses,” he said.

Currently, Bhutan Post provides two buses, once in the morning and once in the evening.

But with only 32 seats each and standing room for another 10 passengers, at most, the seating capacity is inadequate for the company.

However, it was also pointed out that the buses are not exclusively reserved for ScanCafe employees but all those working at the IT Park, which further decreased capacity. There are around 450 people working at the park today.

Also, the buses are not frequent during the evenings, and usually have to be requested for, it was said.

“It was okay until six months ago when I had only 180 employees but now, when I’m going to 400, already my employees are struggling,” Naren Dubey said.

He pointed out that initially when IT parks were set up in India, they were located outside the cities, and the government inserted extra buses on the route to the park for the employees. He added that as the IT parks were a profitable enterprise, the parks would also start their own bus service in an effort to attract talent and have a higher occupancy of their buildings. The bus service was not free.

“We’re happy to pay and we don’t want a subsidy on transportation but somebody has to do that,” Naren Dubey said. “I don’t want to become a bus company, I’ve come here to train and hire talent.”

He pointed out that further expansion has been frozen until the government, Thimphu TechPark, or Bhutan Post provides some guarantee.

Information and communications minister DN Dhungyel pointed out that the issue was discussed by all organisations concerned, yesterday.

Lyonpo said that the ministry has requested Bhutan Post to increase the number of buses to five instead of two. However, Bhutan Post has responded that adding more buses on the route may not be possible at once.

He said that Thimphu TechPark would discuss with its tenants if a staggered reporting time for employees could be introduced.

“Unless they can go for a change in the timings, Bhutan Post will not be able to give additional buses because mornings and evenings are rush hours for government and corporate employees and students; therefore one option is to change the reporting time for employees at the park,” he said.

Other options to solve the problem are being explored. “If the arrangement with Bhutan Post doesn’t work, we might as well go to the private sector,” Lyonpo added. “This is a special arrangement that I’m trying to do.”

Meanwhile, Bhutan is now ScanCafe’s largest centre. It has a centre in India with at least 280 employees and one in the USA with 50. The company began business operations at the park in May 2013.

Naren Dubey said that turnout for the last interview was above expectations with 420 candidates showing up. He said that unlike previous interviews, the latest batch was subjected to a more rigorous one-hour test, similar to an IQ test. “Because we need a person to be smart, intelligent, creative, and able to understand English instructions and story telling,” he said.

On average, the Bhutanese candidates performed better on the test than their Indian counterparts in Bangalore, Naren Dubey said. He added that productivity was still higher in its Bhutan centre.

Based on educational qualifications, experience, and test score, employees start with a salary of Nu 7,000-12,000, with productivity and work quality determining increases.

“My belief is that if this project is successful, which I will know in about 6-12 months, I believe they could be making 30 percent more, than what they’re making today,” he said.

Naren Dubey added that success would mean the US market considers their work a superior product, the company’s profitability improves and grows at an acceptable rate. The CEO also pointed out that meditation classes had been introduced at the park on a voluntary basis for employees. “It’s a right thing for employees to be happy, they do better work when they’re happier people and it adds to GNH,” he said. He also pointed out that 70 percent of their Bhutanese workforce is female.

Gyalsten K Dorji