To tighten purse strings, software maker moves office to rural backwater
Most companies have been put in harm's way because of the ongoing pandemic, but a local software and mobile application developer stands to benefit from the new normal.
Advanced Apps Bangladesh Ltd (AAPBD) had a plan to relocate their back office to a remote haor area in distant future but due to the Covid-19 they are fast-tracking the project.
"We had a plan to shift the office to our village in Sunamganj, which is 185 kilometres northeast of Dhaka, and the pandemic has compelled us to move fast," said Md Shafiul Alam Biplob, chief executive officer of AAPBD.
The company mostly makes mobile applications for four countries -- the USA, the UK, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia -- and so far developed about 400 applications.
"All the industry leaders and policymakers speak about decentralisation but none moves out from the city," he said.
The software company has been operating in Mirpur DOHS in the capital for the last few years. However, it bought a one-acre land in a village named Ahmedpur of Dharmapasha in Sunamganj district to take its whole back office there.
Though the village is situated in Sunamganj district, all of their regular communication is done through Netrokona.
Biplob has a family-run agro business—Advanced Agro Farm Bangladesh—in the village and in a sudden decision he is relocating his office there.
"Our workload has increased in the Covid-19 time. But it was very tough for us to work together as our developers live in different places," he added. "Cost is also a factor."
Biplob faced several gigantic challenges in making the plan work: he had to convince his colleagues and lay a long fibre cable for internet.
To get internet connection, Biplob contacted Telecom Minister Mustafa Jabbar, who also hails from the same region.
The minister asked state-owned Bangladesh Telecommunication Company Ltd to help Biplob. However, the entrepreneur had to buy a huge three-and-a-half-kilometre-long fibre cable and take the responsibility to maintain it.
Staving off all the headwinds, the AAPBD started functioning from the backwater office recently after the telecom minister inaugurated a 50 Mbps-strong internet connection in Dharmapasha.
Securing a stable electricity connection was also a challenge for the company as four to five hours of load-shedding is a commonplace in the area.
So, the company arranged solar power and generators also, Biplob said, pointing to the intention of developing their office as a private hi-tech park.
"I thought it would be tough to convince our developers but surprisingly almost all of them were willing to go there to live in a remote place," said Biplob, who won the BASIS Outsourcing Award in 2013 and Startup Award in 2015.
AAPBD also manages rented houses for their developers in their village and is now planning to build their own dormitory.
The AAPBD has already shifted half of its 50 employees there and hopes it will complete relocating the entire office by December. Only the marketing team will remain in Dhaka.
Biplob said they are now working with banking software and developing wallets for two state-owned banks and toll collection software for bridges.
For the last few years, the AAPBD team has been faring well although the company's performance was not up to the mark last year when it was able to generate $300,000 in overseas earnings.
Recently, the AAPBD got some new work orders from its US buyers, he added.
The company was incepted in Mymensingh in 2009 but due to poor internet quality in the district town, its office was later moved to Dhaka.