IT Park: In another welcome move for the IT park, a Swiss company piloting there plans to upscale operations and form a highly skilled Bhutanese team of software engineers.

The company, Selise, is a software company that develops web applications for start up companies but its major source of income is from developing applications for multinational companies in the insurance, telecom and government sectors. It also has operations in Bangladesh, Europe and the USA.

This development comes on the heels of another software company from Bangladesh announcing in October last year its intention to open a office at the park and eventually rent commercial space.

Selise CEO Julian A Weber said that the company is currently on a recruitment drive in Bhutan and following its completion would look to rent commercial space at the park.

Thimphu TechPark chief operating officer Tshering Cigay Dorji said that the company expects to rent about 2,000 sq ft of commercial space within a year from now.

Currently, Scan Cafe, another international company, and Bhutan Telecom are the only two commercial tenants at the park. Scan Cafe has leased 10,000 sq ft and Bhutan Telecom 3,300 sq ft of the total 40,000 available.

Selise has already been operating at the park’s Bhutan innovation and technology centre (BITC) for the past eight months. There are other companies, including two foreign and one local call centre operating from the centre currently.

“Companies want to operate from BITC first because it is a furnished space and we allow that for a period of one year,” Tshering Cigay Dorji said.

“We’ve had a very successful eight months,” said Julian A Weber. In that time, the company developed an e-commerce mobile application for a Swiss company.

It was also pointed out that the application was entirely developed by its Bhutanese software engineers.

“This is not the typical BPO (business process outsourcing) kind of work, this is real high class type of engineering,” he said.

The company currently has three Bhutanese employed. Mr Weber also explained that the company had competed against major Indian firms like Amazon to recruit the three and convince them to work at the IT park.

Mr Weber said that when he found out about Bhutan in 2012 it was realised that there were no local opportunities for highly skilled Bhutanese software engineers. Besides being attracted by the government’s support and incentives, the company also saw itself creating such opportunities for Bhutanese software engineers.

Based on its experience so far, the company plans to upscale operations to about 10 Bhutanese employees. “Yes, we want to upscale now because of this great experience,” Mr Weber said. “Now our goal is to find more people,” he said. The company will be looking to recruit university students and graduates and even high school students if they meet the required skills.

Mr Weber acknowledged that finding talent may be a challenge and that the company is pursuing tie ups with universities and schools, and could contact Bhutanese working in India as well.

But he said that the talent does exist. “You do have the talents, there’re just unexplored, maybe they themselves don’t know they have this talent because there’re no challenges,” he said. “With developers it usually the case that you’ve really smart young students, then they go into certain companies where they do a very monotonous type of work and then they actually become useless,” he added.

While Selise’s global team can handle all projects, the goal is still to create a strong team in Bhutan that delivers high quality products in a short time period.

With India and China both large suppliers of IT skills, Mr Weber said services in Bhutan should focus on providing niche skills and going the extra mile in terms of quality. He said that he had found that government support, openness, and flexibility to be “outstanding” so far. He explained that while the high capital investments of moving to Bhutan had initially dissuaded the company, these costs had all been reduced.

However, he said the cost of internet connectivity has to be reduced and its reliability increased.

Tshering Cigay Dorji said that while internet connectivity has “drastically” improved compared to the past two years, the park is working with the telecommunications companies to further improve it. “Connectivity problems are quite rare now,” he said.

Another area of improvement required is better air connectivity. For instance, Mr Weber pointed out that there is only one flight a week between Bhutan and Bangladesh.

Mr Weber said that there is a big opportunity for Bhutan to attract data centres and that improvements in these areas would attract such companies.

Meanwhile, Southtech pvt ltd the Bangladeshi software company has already formed a Bhutanese team that is currently being trained. The company will be inaugurating their office at the IT park next month. The company is expected to eventually lease 2,000 sq ft of commercial space.

The IT park was developed as a 250,000 sq ft IT-focused mixed use area spread over 18 acres. The first phase of th project comprises 50,000 sq ft. By  Gyalsten K Dorji