You may have heard of the Kingdom of Bhutan, the only country in the world that measures its success using a Gross National Happiness index. This policy, conceptualized and introduced by His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, stresses the importance of socio-economic development, cultural preservation, environmental conservation and good governance in order to enhance happiness for its people. In support of this pioneering policy, Bhutanese businesses need innovative, creative solutions that generate and attract new economic opportunities while still allowing them to remain true to their people and nature. Aiven has proven itself to be one of those solutions.
Home to 800,000 people with a proud ancient heritage, the Kingdom of Bhutan has intentionally remained isolated from the rest of the world in order to safeguard its culture and nature. Technology traditionally arrives late in Bhutan. Television and the internet, for example, were only introduced in 1999, while cell phones arrived in 2003.
Figure 1: Religious festivals (tsechus) offer a unique cultural insight into the kingdom
Despite its traditional latecomer status, Bhutan has experienced a rapid growth in technology over the past ten years, leapfrogging other countries that committed to technological development well before Bhutan even first turned on its internet.
Why has Bhutan's technological growth been so successful?
After a peaceful transition to constitutional democracy in 2008, Bhutan began to take greater interest in developing new business opportunities with the outside world. Bhutan began to work alongside a handful of outsiders whom they trusted would help to develop the kingdom on the global stage while also supporting their primary interest of bringing happiness to its people, including the American businessman Matthew DeSantis. After DeSantis spent a number of years advising the government on systems development and policy, he started MyBhutan and Beyul Labs.
The most important industry was — and still is — tourism, employing over 20% of its labor force. Both MyBhutan and Beyul are heavily involved in tourism. The industry previously faced two main challenges which these businesses developed solutions to resolve. First, international customers had trouble finding reliable and accurate information about Bhutan travel online. Second, there was no easy way to directly arrange travel plans and services. This double whammy meant tourists were often unable to discover the joys of Bhutan. And even the persistent travelers who did faced additional issues in hiring their tour operator, receiving their visas, booking their airlines and lodging, hiring a guide, coordinating meals, and arranging a driver and vehicle. For the Bhutanese business, there was limited ability to generate web presence and there was a dropoff on customer transactions due to not having Bhutan-specific business solutions or CRM tools that could handle the complexities of the country’s unique tourism requirements. They also needed a secure, reliable method of receiving payments internationally.
We spoke with DeSantis, the founder and CEO of both MyBhutan and Beyul Labs, to learn why his companies chose to partner with Aiven to resolve these issues. We focused the conversation specifically on MyBhutan.
Rising to the challenge with Aiven
Due to the limited infrastructure in the country, MyBhutan focused on cloud-based technologies to support system performance. The company started with a self-managed DigitalOcean database, but was soon spending too much time maintaining it and fixing performance issues. They then switched to Aiven for PostgreSQL because it was a managed solution, and have been very happy with the change.
As DeSantis explains, “Aiven was an ideal database as a service solution for us. Specifically, Aiven’s managed Postgres database was very attractive for our main use case - storing all of our travel and tourism related data. Aiven’s simple and intuitive UI makes it easy to set up and configure databases and with one click of a button we can roll back, upgrade, and scale our instances. We’ve saved countless hours of time and money that otherwise would have been spent on supporting our infrastructure and likely a larger team to do so.”
MyBhutan also has high scalability needs. It has been building a robust dataset spanning 8 years and covering the entirety of the country’s districts and its businesses. It adds up to a lot of data over time. DeSantis says, “Aiven’s cloud-native data infrastructure gave us the ability to upgrade our resource configurations of storage and compute on an as-needed basis. Scaling is initiated by us and happens automatically in the background, with no downtime or interruption to the MyBhutan application.” An important added bonus is that the company only pays for what it needs, as Aiven’s scalable solution does not need overprovisioning.
Aiven can also accommodate requests from many different types of users, not just Bhutanese businesses. To serve the needs of the tourist industry, the service has to be responsive and reliable to international customers worldwide, most heavily in the US, Europe, India and China.
Figure 2: A guest overlooks Taba valley from Tango Buddhist Institute in Thimphu, Bhutan
Eco-friendliness is very important for both Bhutan and MyBhutan; it is in fact one of the main metrics the country uses to measure its success. The fact that Aiven uses renewable energy sources to power its servers is a clear sign of a shared, environmental philosophy.
Aiven also keeps the wheels of business turning without downtime and maintenance breaks. Asked about Aiven’s service reliability, DeSantis calls it “exceptional” and notes that Aiven has kept their promise of 99.99% uptime. That is key for MyBhutan, whose customers rely on online communication and sales.
And finally, the MyBhutan team has been impressed with the service and support offered by Aiven. According to DeSantis, Aiven’s team is friendly, responsive and effective in responding to questions and requests.
Going forward with Aiven
The Bhutanese are honest and creative people, as well as very well educated. From this perspective, there is great opportunity for the country to develop valued resources for the global skilled service sector; such as hospitality, consulting, computer software development, and customer support outsourcing. In order to generate business internationally, they need technology solutions that perform at the level of excellence that the Bhutanese do with their skilled services.
DeSantis and his team are looking forward to continuing to develop solutions with Aiven that create an even better future for the Bhutanese people and the country’s unique culture and nature. “Aiven’s competency and reliability and dedication to open source has allowed us to easily support multiple applications with this open source database,” says DeSantis.
Figure 3: Bhutan is one of the happiest (and safest) places on earth.
“We need trusted partners who we can not only rely on for the health of our business, but also for the overall well-being of a nation. Aiven has clearly become an essential one.”
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