16 February 2021

How Two Bhutanese Telecoms are Unfaithful to GNH

There were times we didn't have mobile phones. It came and changed our lives. We are grateful to BMobile for leading that change. 

In the early 2000s, the mobile service was at least five times more expensive than today. Without smartphones, the purpose of phones was limited to talking and sending SMS, yet it was so exciting. Bhutan Telecom enjoyed the monopoly and exploited the people's curiosity. The fascinated people didn't realise that they have been robbed until Tashi Cell came by to help us understand that it could be done at a lesser cost. For that, we remain eternally grateful. 

However, now the two telecoms seem to have ganged up and decided to watch each other's backs. Their products are almost identical. And they have chosen to misplace their values at the same time. Of the several things that don't seem right for a business in Bhutan, the following two top the list of reasons why they are so unfaithful to the core values of GNH. 

1. Paradoxical Data Package Costing

It's good that we now have various small data packages to choose from unlike in the early days where the smallest voucher we could buy was Nu.300. However, the way the packages are priced is shockingly so pro-rich. 

For Nu. 99 you get 1330 MB of data, and for Nu. 699 you get 22,370 MB. Do the maths. If you can pay seven times the price at once, you get 20 times the data. They may argue that it's a typical bulk discount scheme, but for Bhutan, such a paradox is insulting the core value of GNH. 

Bhutan TelecomTashi Cell
Rate (Nu.)Data Volume (MB)MB/Nu.Rate (Nu.)Data Volume (MB)MB/Nu.
1926013.71926013.7
2941014.14966013.5
3952013.3991,33013.4
4966013.51992,72013.7
991,33013.42994,50015.1
1992,72013.74998,26016.6
2994,50015.159919,17032.0
4998,26016.677725,97533.4
69922,37032.099937,57037.6
79926,71033.41,29952,79440.6
99937,57037.61,49962,46341.7
1,19948,73040.61,99990,00045.0
2,499120,00048.0
2,999150,00050.0

Obviously, it's about who can and cannot pay. If you can afford to pay more, you get it cheaper. We want to rain where there is water. If you can't afford it, you have to pay more. The margin is significant enough to raise the question; why can't they share that offer with those who have no means to opt for bigger packages, if so much can be spared? 

It's much like the Duty-Free shop where the prominent people in society with all the means are given handsome discount quota. In contrast, the people who desperately need these discounts are selectively deprived—such a paradox. 


2. Unlimited Plans to Ruin a Generation 

The cheapest data package on offer with our telecoms is the unlimited plans sold at Nu.55 by BT and Nu.57 by TCell. But the catch is it's effective between 1 AM to 7 AM, the prime sleeping hours. If I have no other means, and I get unlimited downloads at night that's right for my pocket, I might as well put aside my sleep. Thus, thousands of people, mostly youths, are sleepless every night, ripping the benefit of this misguided scheme and missing on real things happening during the day. We are creating a generation of strange young people, who haven't met their parents for days because when they are awake, their parents are asleep. And vice versa. 
TCell Sleepless Scheme

BT Sleepless Scheme


When the telecom sales team sat to brainstorm and invent this 'brilliant' product, have they considered for once what would happen if their own children fall prey? When they watch the night traffic soaring, they see the money flowing in but do they put faces and stories to those numbers? It reminds me of the movie, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008). I don't have to explain this. 

A still from The Boy in Striped Pyjamas

My friends are petitioning against this scheme. Here is the link. I am signing the petition. We need you to sign and put pressure on the telecoms to do some soulsearching. 

There is a book called Proposed GNH of Business by The Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS). The summary of the book on BOOKNESE reads;

The idea of incorporating GNH values into business was first proposed by Prime Minister (2013-2018) Dasho Tshering Tobgay in 2015. He mentioned that the current business model of overemphasizing profit maximization and increasing shareholder values at the cost of environment and community was unsustainable. He expressed the need to recognize and manage these costs and risk and called for integrating GNH values into the business operation. Essentially, it meant measuring the success of a business by its ability to serve, facilitate, and engage with its stakeholders. -

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