Chhimi Dema 

While many sectors have laid off their employees, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) companies in the Thimphu TechPark Limited (TTPL) employed more than a hundred individuals recently since March.

TTPL’s chief executive officer (CEO), Tshering Cigay Dorji (PhD), said that the pandemic has not affected most FDI companies based at the TTPL.

He said, “When the global economy is affected the demand for the IT services would fall. This impacts the scale of business operations, that way the IT sector will not be immune to the impact of the pandemic.”

From many companies at TTPL, ScanCafé, iMerit Technologies and SELISE Bhutan recruited employees.

Tshering Cigay Dorji said that in other countries, the lockdown affected the performance of iMerit- an IT service company offering data services in areas like machine learning.

“The iMerit services from other countries were given to the centre here since we had only one lockdown,” he said.

iMerit Technologies began its operations in 2019. The company hired 37 individuals and plans to recruit 20 more this month.

ScanCafé, a photo editing and photo book design company, employed 60 individuals including 50 temporary contract employees this month.

Operations manager at ScanCafé, Jagat Adhikari, said that for the 50 vacancies the company received about 450 applicants.

He said: “During the festive season in the USA, the number of orders increases. Therefore, temporary contract employees are hired every year for three months from October to December.”

According to the capabilities and performance of the individual, some of them were retained as regular employees.

Jagat Adhikari said that a person with basic computer knowledge could apply for the job.  Selected individuals were trained on the working-software of the company for 3 to 6 weeks, he said.

The company employees 300 people today. The employees are high school and university graduates.

SELISE Bhutan, a Swiss FDI company specialising in software development, recruited 18 individuals since the pandemic.

SELISE Bhutan’s head of business Kesang Wangchuk said that they were in the process of hiring additional five or six individuals.

He said that 38 individuals were employed when the company began its operation in 2014. Currently, 56 people are working in the company.

There are more than 600 individuals employed at the TTPL.

CEO Tshering Cigay Dorji said that TTPL’s vision as a company was to be able to export IT services.

“Bhutan’s economy is import dependant and we have a huge trade deficit. Other than tourism and hydropower, we don’t have the capacity in other sectors. So we need to strengthen our capacity in other sectors, and IT is one that has potential,” he said.

Improving the IT capabilities is vital, he said. “There are fewer IT professionals in the country. The education sector, labour ministry and the Royal University of Bhutan should bring more IT professionals.”

The economic activities in many developed countries are driven by the technologies, he said. “When the IT sector grows, more opportunities are created in the sector like the demand for IT programmers now.”

This demand for IT professionals encourages young learners to develop interests in STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects as they have the space to apply their skills, he said.

“Other spillover impact of growing IT sector will be the adoption of technologies by businesses and organisations. This improves efficiency and transparency.”