Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Bhutan : Call centres caving in under business slump

10 September, 2008 - Two call centres entered Bhutan with much optimism two years ago. But today Paro’s TST system has closed down for want of business and Drukonnet is under pressure from its agents for nonpayment.

The call centres’ proprietors claim their losses have run into millions. They partly blame the government for their failures.

There was not only lack of proper framework in place for call centre operations in the country, the proprietors said, but also the help the government had promised did not come through.

Drukonnet said that the government had shown keen interest in the beginning but, at the time, neither government nor private operator was fully aware of how call centres functioned. “Moreover, the government promised to supply connectivity and equipment and we planned our business accordingly,” said a proprietor.

Plans were laid to start with voice-based business for which there was need for very good connectivity but the government did not provide it. This caused the company to switch to non-voice business which fetched less income.

“Business is available but we can afford to bring in only low end jobs, owing to our poor technology and competency of human resources,” said the proprietor.

Tshering Wangchuk, a co-proprietor of TST system, whose operations were suspended since January this year, said that they were trying to get business from abroad.

“We had contacts with the Indian vendors but there were misunderstandings and now we’re looking for direct contact abroad or with some big-timers in India,” he said, adding that they had started with telemarketing, which was not a big income generator.

Meanwhile, department of information technology (DIT) officials said that they were in the process of negotiating the connectivity tariff, which was taking time.

“The tariff is comparatively high and we’re working towards bringing it down,” said the deputy chief ICT officer, Sonam Dukda, adding that they had already signed a memorandum of understanding with a company in India. “It’s not a couple of months’ job.”

Sonam Dukda gave an assurance that connectivity would be provided before the end of this year.

Assistant programme officer of the department of human resources, Kunzang Wangmo, told Kuensel that the department had supported call centres in training the agents and also provided funds through a pre-employment programme, when one of the call centres suffered a financial crisis. The department had seen the call centres as avenues for job creation.

“They did create employment but not as we much as we expected because there was always some problem,” said Kunzang Wangmo, adding that they now had plans to frame guidelines to draw the line on how much support the government should extend to call centres.

By Kesang Dema

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