Innovators provide sources of inspiration to one and all, and Bangladesh has a few IT organisations and individuals that have shown the path for thousands to follow. Some of these tech gurus have had an impact in ways that affect our lives every day. But these heroes often remain unnoticed as the people at the helm have hardly any time to recognise them, and this is where The Daily Star ICT Awards come into the picture. This is the third edition of the newspaper's flagship event, where it has conferred recognition to four organisations and a person for their extraordinary contribution to the country's digital progress.

SYEDA KAMRUN AHMED, CO-FOUNDER, BAGDOOM.COM
Category: Digital Commerce

Winning Company: Bagdoom.com

Bagdoom.com is a digital marketplace where businesses can sell their products in various categories including electronics, handicrafts, lifestyle and groceries.

What makes it different from others is that it reaches out to local women entrepreneurs and artisans with the opportunity to sell their handicrafts directly on the site, minimising third-party involvement.

“This is giving them the chance to earn fair money,” said Syeda Kamrun Ahmed, co-founder of Bagdoom.com.

Businesses in Bangladesh have long been built on foreign products -- choking local industry.

To make this process more efficient, Bagdoom.com has introduced a section, Krishti, where rural women entrepreneurs can sell their products under one roof.

Customers can get those at the lowest price as they would be buying directly from the maker herself.

Being an e-commerce pioneer in Bangladesh, Bagdoom.com is always working to bring innovation to the sector, Ahmed said.

“We are working tirelessly to make e-commerce a force for higher economic growth of Bangladesh.”

Established in 2011 under the name of akhoni.com, the company was logging in revenues in the region of Tk 3 crore by 2016.

In 2017, the company hit Tk 7 crore in revenues and has been maintaining the growth trend.

For instance, in the first nine months of 2018, the company received 57,000 orders, in contrast to 27,000 in the whole of 2017.

In 2016, Bagdoom.com's total order number was 19,500.

“We have very positive brand equity and the driving force behind it is our team,” said Mirajul Huq, chief executive officer of bagdoom.com.


GEETEARA SAFIYA CHOUDHURY , CHAIRMAN, GRAPHICPEOPLE LIMITED
Category: ICT Solution Provider - Int’l Market Focus

Winning Company: GraphicPeople Limited

GraphicPeople provides innovative branding solutions to globally-renowned companies from all over the world from its headquarters in Dhaka.

The company, which is a joint venture between local Adcomm and a Danish company, counts household names like Dell, Microsoft, HSBC, Johnson & Johnson, Citibank, Volvo, Vodafone, Cricket Australia, GlaxoSmithKline, Nike, Pond's, Colgate, Starbucks, Verizon and Pfizer as clients.

“We can produce direct mail campaigns, traditional newspaper advertisements, brochures or outdoor billboards within time-to-market targets and at the region's most competitive costs,” said Imtiaz Ilahi, managing director of GraphicPeople.

Whether anyone needs a dynamic branded web presence or is looking for an enterprise solution, GraphicPeople's specialised project teams have the know-how to deliver.

Established in 2004 with just eight people, the company today employs over 250 studio professionals as it works as an offshore production studio for advertising agencies and brands.

As a leading production hub for international agencies, the company is also happy to take the collaborative approach, especially when volume and cross-geographical timelines become a challenge.

“The client is not a matter for us -- just their marketing strategy is.”

Because of its centralised setup and 24-hour studio, GraphicPeople can offer low cost, high-quality productions that reduce traditional time-to-market windows, irrespective of location, time zones and clients' operating hours. The company's revenue in the last three years was more than Tk 130 crore, the major chunk of which came from the developed market.

“We are now working to diversify our services and adopt new trends and changes of the market,” Ilahi said.


SHOHORAB AHMED CHOWDHURY, MANAGING DIRECTOR, SYNESIS IT LIMITED
Category: ICT Solution Provider - Local Market Focus

Winning Company: Synesis IT Limited

Synesis IT is a leader in creating large scale ICT solutions for the local market, with credits of delivering software for various ministries.

The company has developed the National Health Helpline “Shastho Batayon 16263” for the health ministry, a round-the-clock medical advice and consultation service.

The helpline has been a huge benefit to citizens: it has already served 31 lakh, receiving about 6,000 calls a day.

Through the helpline, citizens can easily: seek advice on any health-related queries, get information on ambulance and nearby hospitals, place complaints against any hospital or clinic.

Synesis IT's another landmark project is the e-TIN registration system for the National Board of Revenue.

The system has so far served more than 38 lakh taxpayers, said Shohorab Ahmed Chowdhury, managing director of Synesis IT.

The company has also: established the central biometric information verification and monitoring platform, automated the postal department, created a platform to register complaints or get information on the various services provided by Dhaka WASA, and set up Tenderbazaar.com, a portal for tenders of both the public and private sectors.

“We have established the company to serve the country and change the society with our great inspiration,” he said, adding that the company is now working with a wide range of verticals like education, health and agriculture.

Established in 2006 with very limited manpower, its workforce now stands at upwards of 250.

Its revenue in 2017 was Tk 17 crore, up from Tk 8 crore in 2016 and Tk 6 crore in 2105.


MALIHA M QUADIR, FOUNDER AND MANAGING DIRECTOR, SHOHOZ.COM
Category: ICT Start-up

Winning Company: Shohoz.com

Shohoz.com is one of the fastest-growing tech companies in Bangladesh with its ride-hailing and e-ticketing services.

Through its website and mobile app, the company provides ride-hailing services for commuters, sells bus and launch tickets, and also offers passes to cinema, events and cricket matches.

“The meaning of shohoz is 'easy' and our idea was to make people's lives easy with the help of technology,” said Maliha M Quadir, founder and managing director of Shohoz.

The company started out in 2014 with the mission to make long distance travel in Bangladesh easy and convenient.

“We have started our journey in the travel domain simply because in a densely populated country like Bangladesh it is a big hassle to move around.”

In its early days it provided just bus and launch tickets and then branched into ride hailing.

Today, more than 10 lakh people are using Shohoz rides for their daily commuting, according to Quadir.

In the ride-hailing business, Shohoz's focus is on the bike segment, but it recently rolled out car service too as demand for such services is on the rise.

The online ride-hailing and ticketing platform has also managed to raise a good amount of foreign investment from the developed market to expand its business, Quadir said.

The company is now working to introduce insurance services for both riders and passengers.
The company is also entering the food delivery market and financial technology amid rising demand.
“We are moving ahead with the target,” Quadir added.

MD SABUR KHAN, FOUNDER OF DAFFODIL FAMILY
Category: ICT Businessperson

Winning Person: Md Sabur Khan
An iconic figure in the country's ICT business, Md Sabur Khan worked silently for the sector's development since the early years of ICT's orientation in Bangladesh.
Khan started his career as an IT entrepreneur in the very beginning of the 90s as he could foresee the booming demand for skilled IT personnel in Bangladesh and abroad.
He set up Daffodil Computers, which sold computers and provided ICT training.
Khan then moved on to assembling computers, and in 1995 Daffodil introduced the concept of computer superstore in Bangladesh. His Daffodil Group has gone on to establish 35 companies and was involved in more than a dozen large scale projects.
In his three decades in the ICT field, Khan also implemented lots of new ideas.
In 2002 Daffodil became the first ICT company to get listed on both the Dhaka and Chattogram stock exchanges, a milestone Khan is proud of.
“At that time it was unthinkable.”

In the same year, Khan merged his knowledge and vision with the country's orthodox education system to come up with Daffodil International University (DIU), an ICT educational institute that equips youths to become self-sufficient.

Today, Daffodil is also has footprints in the health and the e-commerce sectors.

Khan was elected the president of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2013, and is also a former president of the Bangladesh Computer Samity.

He also holds the position of director of the World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA), a consortium of associations from the ICT industry around the world, and chairman of WITSA's Global Trade Committee.