A homegrown mobile application with the mind-boggling capability to send messages, make voice calls, order grocery and food, stream music and movies and buy tickets has started doing the rounds with a promise to make life easier for digital citizens of Bangladesh.
The beta version of the country's first social and lifestyle application, Kotha, was launched on Wednesday by Zunaid Ahmed Palak, state minister for ICT, at a programme held at the software technology park at the Janata Tower in Dhaka.
Palak used the app at the event and was so amazed by its features that he declared himself the brand ambassador of Kotha, now available for download from the Google and Apple app stores.
"To me Kotha is our Facebook, our PayPal, Netflix, Twitter and WhatsApp," he said, while promising the group of tech-savvy local entrepreneurs who developed the app support from the government in the form of office space and funding.
Such apps in South Korea, China and the Philippines have witnessed huge success. Korea has Kakaotalk, the Philippines has Tantan and China WeChat. "So why can't this app be a success in Bangladesh?"
"When we share anything in Facebook and Google all our data goes to them. They are taking the data outside the country and are also earning from us by using the data. Through Kotha we want to create a customer data hub in Bangladesh."
"We want to see Bangladesh as an innovative nation. Our young talents will develop search engines and communications platforms like Google and Facebook," Palak said, adding that he will work to popularise the application in the country.
Besides getting a Facebook-like experience, people can listen to music, watch movies, top up phones and use digital maps. Many more services are coming on board within a couple of months, when its full version will be rolled out.
Users will also be able to make payments, plan tours, take ride and buy tickets and games, which entrepreneurs think will ultimately change the social and digital lifestyle of people.
"This will be an 'all-in-one app' and will save a huge amount of foreign currency as it will draw a huge volume of traffic that is currently using foreign social media outlets," said Mahboob Zaman, chairman of Kotha Technologies Limited that is developing the app.
The app has already been downloaded more than 30,000 times and a huge number of youths are showing interest by sharing photos and videos.
Bangladeshi customers are generating a lot of data now by using different digital services and this will soon turn into a minefield, said Zaman, a renowned technology entrepreneur and managing director of DataSoft Systems Bangladesh.
"Certainly, data will be the next currency and if we have access to the data, people will experience drastic change in their lives," said Zaman, also a former president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services.
Every year different social media platforms like Facebook and Google are earning thousands of crores of taka from Bangladesh by means of users' data and that helps the brands connect with their customers as well, said Tashfin Delwar, chief executive officer of Kotha Technologies.
Delwar said they are working to establish a network for the app where small entrepreneurs can open accounts and can run their business digitally like WeChat does in China. Owners of Kotha are also targeting the Bangla speaking community as it is the eighth most spoken language in the world.
Entrepreneurs of Kotha said Bangladesh's economic growth, government's willingness, infrastructure, entrepreneurship, change in consumer perception and internet penetration -- all were contributing positively to the government's vision of Digital Bangladesh.
Nonetheless, the country is still dependent on foreign services for social networking and communication, they said.
Mohaimin Mostafa, its chief marketing officer, believes that Kotha will make an impact and add value to people's life.
Kotha will offer the Bangladeshis their own social media and communication tool and promote use of Bangla language, he added. Delwar, the CEO, believes Kotha will gradually replace Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber and other apps like these.