Business Bhutan’s reporter Dechen Dolkar talks to Nyema Zam, the Founder and CEO of Samuh, which is the first of its kind OTT platform in Bhutan that will provide exclusive Bhutanese video streaming service. Nyema Zam is a media and communications specialist with over 20 years of experience in media, marketing and communication. She is an Australia Awards alumnus with a Masters in Strategic Communication from the University of Western Australia.

Q. Samuh, the first of its kind OTT platform, was launched last week. Samuh is touted as Bhutan’s Netflix equivalent. How did you come up with this idea in the first place?

A. Samuh is an aspiration inspired by His Majesty’s vision for Bhutan. His Majesty has constantly emphasized on the need to embrace technology and innovation to solve our current challenges and to create new opportunities. Globally, the creative and film industries have witnessed tremendous growth through digital innovation and it was about time that we also leveraged digital innovation to transform and develop our film and entertainment industry. The Bhutanese film industry has played a critical role in the preservation of our language, culture and heritage. However, the lack of theatres and distribution system has been one of the major obstacles in reaching its true potential. Samuh is here to provide an alternative platform to deliver entertainment content to the people.

Q. For online streaming business, technology and content are the driving factors. How are you ensuring that both these are in place at Samuh?

A. From the outset we have been very clear that technology and content are key drivers of the streaming business. Over the Top Technology (OTT) has now made it possible for films and content from anywhere in the world to be available in the comfort of our homes. Samuh has adopted the same technology, the latest in streaming user experience, and combined that with a collaborative approach with our local filmmakers and industry professionals to create a platform with high UX and content diversity, catering to a wide range of audience groups.

Q. What kind of security measures have you put in place to address digital piracy, copyright violations and intellectual property theft that seem to be a major challenge for online streaming business? 

A. Piracy, copyright violations and IP thefts have been the biggest nemesis of digital content creators and the creative industries the world over. And we are very much aware of this. We have adopted the latest technology to deter and detect piracy and IP thefts. For instance, we use mobile numbers for sign up, this way our login IDs are linked with mobile numbers, which can be traced in case of copyright violation. All our content includes forensic watermarks, which can be traced back to the specific mobile numbers. We also use tokenization, studio DRM technology and have barred screen recording in all our mobile apps. We have a strong non-tolerance policy to piracy and copyright infringement, and will be taking appropriate legal actions in case such incidents occur. However, we are quite positive that due to our cheap and affordable subscription plans people don’t have to resort to pirated content in the first place. If people want to share with family and friends they can get a premium account for just 599 for four users. This means per user the monthly subscription fee is less than Nu 150.

Q. People in 60 countries have currently signed up for Samuh, an impressive figure for a startup that just launched a week back. What does this mean to your business, in terms of prospects, and the impact it could have for local entertainment content? 

A. Since our platform went LIVE on 29th June, more than 12,000 people in 60 countries have signed up and are watching Bhutanese content on Samuh. The response has been sensational.

And we hope as we create more exciting content, these numbers will only grow. Samuh believes in a collaborative approach, and in the last six months, we have engaged over 400 people in the creative and film industries in original content creation that have been filmed in different parts of the country. By next year, we hope to engage 1,500 creative professionals.

Films and music as we know transcend borders and language. And with Samuh, we can now truly take Bhutanese local content to a global audience. 

Q. What is the total investment of the project?

A. Samuh Project is financed by the Bank of Bhutan through the National Credit Guarantee Scheme (NCGS). The total project cost of Samuh is Nu 65mn, of which NCGS approved Nu 30mn. The project is also supported by venture capital investors and private individuals.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu