ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Will a new plastic card revolutionize retail in Bhutan?

Bhutan National Bank is launching a prepaid Visa card today. Other banks are offering or have plans to offer similar cards. According to the information provided by BNB, the card can be used for Internet online shopping.
Since this card is "usable only in India", it would be interesting to see if it can be used when buying from non-Indian online vendors. If that is the case, and the card works on sites like E-bay, PayPal and, it can signify a dramatic change in shopping habits of Bhutanese. Some products are all but impossible to buy offline - for example, Internet domain names. Many other products, which are impossible to find in Bhutan, are easily available for online purchase, with many vendors now shipping to Bhutan. In addition, products such as small electronics are cheaper when purchasing online. If these cards become popular, a significant shift in the retail habits of Bhutan's urbanites is expected.

P.S.: For someone travelling to India the card can be a convenience, as there is no need to carry piles of rupees. It can also benefit Bhutanese students who study in India. However, there are also big risks involved with the card, including online and offline scams. The consumer has to be educated about the risks. Here's an idea for BNB: As a service to your customers, provide a brochure that explain the entailed dangers and how to avoid them. Whenever dispensing the card to a customer, include the brochure in the package.

Rupee-Denominated Prepaid Card

BNB rupee denominated prepaid card is a plastic card. This card needs to be loaded with the desired amount not exceeding Nu. 50,000 from our bank and can be used in India at all ATMs, POS terminals of VISA merchants and on-line shopping.

  1. The card is usable only in India
  2. The maximum value of Nu. 50,000 can be loaded at one time
  3. The card can also be loaded while the customer is in India
  4. There is no limit to the number of loading of the card
  5. The validity of the card is 2 years from the date of issuance of the card
  6. Online shopping via internet
  • Plastic money - Hassle - free, and convenient alternative to cash
  • Protects from the loss of cash
  • Online monitoring of the detail transactions
  • Can make purchases from the POS terminal
  • Don’t have to look for Indian Rupee for travelling to India

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