Rupayan Chowdhury, chief executive officer of Synesis IT, spoke to The Business Standard about the company’s existing software and services plus expanding the export potential of Bangladesh’s ICT market
Synesis IT Ltd is a CMMI Maturity Level 3-certified ICT solutions provider in e-governance, e-health and Contact Center Solutions. The company has been working: on health, education, agriculture, telecoms, finance, local governance, energy, power, and business process outsourcing (BPO) sectors – for 13 years. Currently, more than 350 dedicated employees and industry experts are working for Synesis IT.
In an interview with The Business Standard, Rupayan Chowdhury, chief executive officer of the group, shares Synesis IT's success story.
TBS: Could you please briefly describe your organisation's journey?
Rupayan Chowdhury: Back in 2006, Shohorab Ahmed Chowdhury – currently the managing director of Synesis IT – and I dreamed about establishing an ICT organisation that would become a globally-respected information technology company.
In the beginning, we were fortunate that we found another partner, Belal Hossain Bhuiyan, chairman of the board, as an angel investor. At first, we focused on exporting software to the US market. We were doing well at that moment. However, the recession hit in 2008. Our orders were decreasing at a significant rate. At that time, we looked for an alternative market. I had a good experience in the government procurement process. We focused on e-governance. When the Digital Bangladesh slogan came about, we took it on with the utmost seriousness. We knew that Bangladesh would be a good investment in the digital economy. We focus our strategies and innovations around e-governance. That makes us Synesis today.
TBS: What are your organisation's major working areas?
Rupayan Chowdhury: Our four major working areas: e-Governance, e-Health, Contact Center Solutions, and Tenderbazar.com. Aside from these major areas we also work on Mobile value-added service (VAS), plus research and communication sectors.
TBS: Tell us about your popular software and products.
Rupayan Chowdhury: Synesis IT has many popular, innovative and successful projects plus services of its own – as well as for government and private organisations.
From e-Governance, we have the Central Biometric Verification and Monitoring Platform for the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation. It is award-winning and one of the most prestigious and innovative projects on a global scale.
Then we have the Online e-TIN Registration and Re-Registration System for the National Board of Revenue. It is the first project of Bangladesh's government to use an Approved and Automated Digital Certification Platform, where citizens can obtain certificates online – without any physical interaction – from anywhere, at any time.
Another important service of ours is the Citizen-to-GoB e-Payment Gateway System. A2i took the initiative of establishing a centralised e-payment system or a People to Government (P2G) platform.
Synesis IT has also designed a web-based application, Online MPO Processing System for DSHE, to support Monthly Payment Order (MPO) online.
Our other services for this sector are the Web-Based Total Office Process Automation for BPO, Online GD: Lost and Found Application Service for Bangladesh Police, and MIS for Bangladesh Safety Net System for the Poorest for the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief.
From the e-Health section, we have the Shastho Batayon 16263 call service. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare established this largest and first-ever One-Stop and Integrated National Health Call Center in 2015.
We have other e-health related services like the Sena Shastho Seba: Tele-Health Call Center for CMH, Bangladesh Army, Mind Tale 7899: A 24/7 Mobile Based Mental Health Service (Synesis IT Owned) and Medical Helpline 789 for Banglalink and Airtel.
We have also created Tenderbazaar.com, the largest platform where all Bangladesh's tenders of Bangladesh are simultaneously available in one place.
TBS: How dominant is the software market in Bangladesh?
Rupayan Chowdhury: Though the RMG sector remains dominant in contributing to the country's GDP and workforce, ICT [Information and Communications Technology] is the new underdog that may soon catch up to it – due to large foreign investments, government incentives, and favourable policies for the industry.
Unlike other industries, however, ICT has the potential to directly impact and transform other markets with the overreaching effects of: automation, Artificial Intelligence, big data, and advanced analytics.
In 2017, BASIS member companies alone accounted for $800 million's-worth of export volume on the market – with actual figures estimated to be $0.9-1.1 billion. At the moment the country has approved 28 IT parks to achieve the vision of Digital Bangladesh. Although, the government also set a target of five billion dollars in exports and two million employed by 2021.
TBS: How are local companies doing? What is their current status on the local market?
Rupayan Chowdhury: Bangladeshi ICT organisations export software and ITES [Information Technology Enabled Services] to more than 60 countries around the world and the number of exporting companies – excluding freelancers – is about 400. In terms of export destinations, the US dominates; European countries like the UK, Denmark and the Netherlands have emerged as major destinations during the past few years.
A number of companies regularly export to Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and South Africa – where sizable Bangladeshi expatriate communities have played an important role in creating attractive market demand for communication-based IT services.
The local market still takes up most of the business of the software and IT services industry. About 63 percent of BASIS member companies are focused only on the local market. Over the past few years, the ICT sector of Bangladesh has been growing at a consistent rate of around 20–30 percent.
TBS: How many jobs do the companies generate?
Rupayan Chowdhury: As you know, the number of registered ICT companies is more than 4,500 and around 3,00,000 professionals – mostly IT and other graduates are employed by the industry. Compared to other traditional mainstream industries, this sector's contribution for overall employment creation is significantly high. In terms of creating high-quality employment – with an average monthly payment of Tk15,000 - 20,000 per month – the software and IT service industry is surely one of the top graduate-employing sectors in the country.
TBS: What are the main obstacles to developing this sector?
Rupayan Chowdhury: Market analysis finds that three leading obstacles affect this sector. These are related to weak infrastructure – both general and sector-specific, a lack of access to finance plus subsidised bank loans and unskilled labour with insufficient effective training in line with the needs of the industries. However, due to government initiatives like providing training and developing a skilled workforce for this sector, we now have skilled manpower.
TBS: What is the size of the software market in Bangladesh?
Rupayan Chowdhury: The size of the local market in Bangladesh is more than $1 billion. A major buyer is the banks. After the banking sector, the main purchaser is the government. There are 1,031 BASIS member companies who are providing IT services on the market. The export market size is between $800 million to $1 billion.
TBS: What are the possibilities of exporting software from Bangladesh?
Rupayan Chowdhury: The possibility is very high for our country. We will have the opportunity to export software to Africa and developing countries in Asia like: Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Tajikistan, etc. You know, Pakistan recently launched a Digital Pakistan campaign and Bangladesh is their role model. We will have a good opportunity there. We will also have good opportunities in developed nations such as: Japan, European countries, Australia, and the US as well.