Nyema Zam, the founder and CEO of Samuh, Bhutan’s first OTT platform, talks to Business Bhutan Reporter Nidup Lhamo about her winning the Business Rise Awards 2022, the challenges and opportunities running the country’s first streaming platform, and interventions required to develop a vibrant creative sector in Bhutan.
- Congratulations on winning the Business Rise Awards 2022. What does this Award mean to you and the country?
Personally, it is a big honor for me to receive the Business Rise Awards 2022 for the category ‘Females leading Business Operations in the Media, Broadcast and Technology Sector’. An amazing line-up of inspiring women leaders and trailblazers from around the globe were nominated for this award, and to be included in this group of women leaders itself was special for me. I am proud as well as deeply humbled that I could represent Bhutan in this global stage. The award is also a testament of how individual efforts can make a big difference in developing our nation, how each one of us as a citizen of Bhutan has the power to lead change and be a role model not just in our country but in the global space, something that His Majesty has always spoken about.
- The Award was given in recognition of your achievements as a woman leader running a successful business within the broadcast and technology industry and for your outstanding leadership in achieving remarkable business growth. In substantial terms, how would you quantify this achievement?
Prior to the establishment of Samuh, the only platforms available for the screening of films were a few theatres in the major towns of Thimphu, Paro, and Phuentsholing. The lack of screening facilities and distribution infrastructure impeded the growth and development of the film sector in Bhutan, directly undermining the potential of the industry in creating economic and livelihood opportunities and its contribution to the overall GDP of the country. Samuh has bridged this critical gap by providing a highly scalable digital platform for filmmakers and content creators to showcase their films in Bhutan and across the world, optimizing the potential of the creative economy. Further, Samuh has consciously adopted a content creation model that is industry intensive to leverage the available technical and creative skill pool and engage a large number of professionals, and support production teams from the creative sector in Bhutan. This has not only been a boon during the pandemic but has also disrupted the creative sector, creating additional opportunities for people interested in the sector.
- What are some of the challenges confronting you and your company that require strategic policy interventions?
As a pioneer in the market, the challenges are many. The biggest challenge is the high cost of the Internet and the lack of digital payment gateways that support the OTT model.
The other challenge is that the skill pool in the industry is quite limited, which means we have to spend additional time, effort, and resources in developing the creative ecosystem. The other challenge is the low level of intellectual property and copyright awareness among Bhutanese users. These are some areas where we require interventions. But we have been working on developing innovative solutions to address these challenges. In fact, these challenges have only helped us to grow stronger, and smarter and adopt creative approaches to content creation, problem-solving, and resource management.
- In your acceptance speech, you said the number of women CEOs in the technology, media, and broadcast sectors is significantly lower than men, and in developing countries, this number is even lower. What can be done to increase the number of women leaders not just in the media and technology sector but also across the spectrum?
To start with, I feel we need to see more women leadership at the highest level of our bureaucracy, ministries, and corporate and private sectors. Our government and our corporate sectors need to put policies in place that prioritize and create opportunities for women’s leadership. The more women leaders we see, the more young girls and women would have role models to look up to. This, I believe, is very important, especially in Bhutan where we are used to seeing mostly men in leadership roles across the sectors. If women do not get the opportunity to lead, they do not get the space to showcase their leadership abilities and build confidence and greater acceptance for women leaders.
- And finally, what do you think needs to be done to develop a vibrant creative sector in the country?
A lot can be done to develop a vibrant creative sector in Bhutan. Firstly, the creative industry must be recognized as an important sector with the potential to make a significant contribution to the overall Gross Domestic Product of the country. And this can only happen when we realize and understand the immense scope and potential of the industry. We need proactive policies that support more investments in the sector, policies that facilitate easier access to finance, and above all genuine efforts to transform the sector to harness its full potential.