Outsourcing poised for big jump


Mamun Ahmed didn’t think twice about becoming a software programmer after graduating in computer science from a public university.
The 27-year old, who joined a foreign IT firm after his graduation in 2009, says he earns Tk 80,000 every month making mobile apps.
He dreams of being fully established in his profession but is somewhat hamstrung by the limitations that 200,000-odd software professionals routinely face in Bangladesh.
One of the common problems they encounter involves selling their apps. Usually, a software is uploaded to an app store through a developer’s account before it can be sold. But paying the fee requires opening a foreign currency account, which is very complicated in Bangladesh, said Mamun.
Shantanu Zaman, another programmer, agrees. There are many who aspire to become IT professionals here and they have proved their worth in workplaces. But they aren’t seeing ‘enough’ success due to lack of wider initiatives, he thinks.
Outsourcing is quite common in the sector but there aren’t large companies for outsourcing in Bangladesh because of lack of entrepreneurs, Zaman said.
But the Bangladesh Association of Software & Information Services (BASIS) is hopeful, which has 700 members.
It recently launched a campaign to raise export of tech products to $1 billion and the number of professionals to 1 million through its ‘One Bangladesh’, Vision 2018.
But it could take a while before the target can be reached given the current level of export.
Bangladesh exported software worth $101.6 million in the last fiscal, which is 38% of total exports.
Although the growth was 43% than the previous year, experts say it is not enough.
“This current growth will not lead to export worth $1 billion within 2018,” former BASIS President Habibullah N Karim told bdnews24.com.
“A lot more private and government attention is needed for infrastructure, manpower development and marketing if this was to happen,” he said.
The current BASIS President Shamim Ahsan thinks overcoming some challenges can help Bangladesh to reach that goal.
“There are infrastructural deficiencies … internet needs to be cheaper and branding needs to be done internationally,” he said.
“Almost $200 million needs to be invested before $1 billion export target can be met. The amount has to be equally divided between government and the private sector. Currently, the government doesn’t even spend Tk 20 million on branding!”
Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, former chairman of the task force for software export and IT development, said Bangladeshi companies must make themselves internationally competitive to boost export.
“The companies we now have are very small. Foreigners who want to give orders aren’t interested in small companies. Another thing is – these companies resort to gimmicks in order to attract foreign contract, claiming they can do everything.
These claims often lead to their scepticism. Even their brochures say, “we do everything.”
Another issue hampering outsourcing is most Bangladeshi companies lack the experience of working in big projects abroad, he said.
The government, however, claims that they are trying to provide necessary for assistance for the sector.
“The government has been providing all forms of support. We will also help if any particular area needs it. But they (BASIS) have to say where they need it,” Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed told bdnews24.com.
Almost 70% of the Tk 4 billion-internal market is dominated by foreign companies, said Habibullah.
That is because big projects are funded by foreign donors and they make it conditional that the work must be done by internationally-reputed IT firms proven financial strength.
The automation project of the National Board of Revenue, for example, had to be given to foreign firms because Bangladeshi companies did not meet the requirements set by the foreign funders like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, he said.
“The sector will flourish if government regulation is eased in order to accommodate local companies,” he added.