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Bhutan says we can do IT too!

Bangalore June 9: The tiny Himalayan kingdom -- whose former ruler coined the term Gross National Happiness to suggest a better definition of quality of life than GNP -- has taken the first firm steps on its chosen road becoming an IT-enabled nation: On Tuesday, Bhutan's Minister for Information and Communication, Lyonpo Nandlal Rai, signed an agreement with outsourced services leader Genpact, whereby the latter will help help train young Bhutanese in IT skills and assist in setting up a BPO operations centre in the capital Thimphu.

The MOU was signed by Rai with Genpact CEO Pramod Bhasin on the sidelines of the NASSCOM BPO Strategy Summit here. Bhasin wears another hat as NASSCOM's Chairman. Bhutan's bracing climate, coupled with widespread knowledge of English, presented an opportunity to offer IT enabled services to the world, Rai said.

The key advantage was there for all to see -- at the MOU signing ceremony, the entire 20 strong Bhutan team which included the Secretary for Information and Communication, Dasho Kinley Dorji and the Secretary for Labour and HR, Dr Sonam Tenzin, were all seen to speak fluent, unaccented, English in a way that would have been difficult to find in an equivalent lineup of Delhi's bureaucrats and political bosses at any ' sarkari' or government function.Minister Rai revealed that he had studied in Bangalore.

Bhasin added that Genpact would recruit in Bhutan and train candidates on transaction processes, voice, financial and accounting services, among others, using its Indian centres, till Bhutan set up its own operational centres.

'IT'S BOTTOME'D OUT -- BUT WE MAY STAY THERE AWHILE'

In the main conference, Bhasin said, the downturn had 'bottomed out -- but we may be staying there awhile, before rising again'. Even in the recent recessionary months the Indian IT-enabled Services industry had grown at around 15 percent ( revenues around $ 14.7 billion) while the rest of the IT had achieved around 13 percent.

'SIMPLIFY IT!'

In future, NASSCOM would seek to partner not just with the Indian government, but with governments abroad, added NASSCOM President Som Mittal. The Association had made a strong plea to the new government in Delhi to extend the concessions to occupants of Software Technology Parks (STPI) and correct anamolies in the way profits of units operating within Software Export Zones (SEZ) are taxed. " Don't make India too complex to work in", Mittal said -- alluding to the cat's cradle of Indian tax laws that had international players tearing their hair.