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BASIS Softexpo 2017 returns with a bang

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The BASIS Softexpo was revived after five years with a much-publicised target of earning USD 1 billion from software exports by 2018, and a less-publicised target of building a USD 1-billion local software industry at the same time.

The BASIS Softexpo was revived after five years with a much-publicised target of earning USD 1 billion from software exports by 2018, and a less-publicised target of building a USD 1-billion local software industry at the same time.

Organised from February 1–4 at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) by the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS), the apex body of software and IT-enabled services, the expo showcased the progress and prospects of Bangladesh’s software industry.
Syed Almas Kabir, the convener of BASIS Softexpo 2017 and a director of BASIS, told The Independent that after the last Softexpo in 2012, the mega event of Bangladesh’s software industry has been revived this year.
“It is not that the Softexpo was not arranged in the last couple of years. It was organised along with the Digital World event. However, the banner of Digital World was very big, and since that event is organised by the ICT Division, we felt that Softexpo was overshadowed,” he explained.
“Since the software industry is growing and we have a target of achieving USD 1 billion from software exports by 2018, we have revived this event,” said Kabir. “That is not all. Apart from earning USD 1 billion from exports, we plan to create a USD 1-billion software industry in Bangladesh by targeting only the local market in the next few years,” he added.
 
Changing stance
Talking to The Independent, BASIS president Mostafa Jabbar said the earlier committees of BASIS had concentrated more on the exports markets. But they did not give enough emphasis on their own market.
“Maybe the idea of the previous BASIS committee was that it should have been export-oriented, but the truth is that we have a huge market in our own country,” said Jabbar.
He added that software companies can remain busy in the next 20 years only by providing software solutions to different government agencies. “As the incumbent president, I have been able to instil the thought in the industry that we have to focus more on our own country’s market,” he stated.
The ICT Division, too, believes that the indigenous software developers should develop software solutions for their own people, he added.
He said they have the target of hitting the magic number of USD 1 billion from software exports. “No other sector, except for the readymade garments (RMG) sector, has been able to attain the coveted billion-dollar mark in the export basket of Bangladesh. We want to attain that by 2018. Our current software exports stand at USD 700 million. I believe that not only will we be able to achieve that target of USD 1 billion, we will exceed that,” he said.
 
Key to success 
During the four-day-long Softexpo, more than 150 business-to-business (B2B) sessions were held at the business lounge arranged at the Softexpo arena.
At least 10 companies from the Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, the US, China, and other countries met with more than 150 Bangladeshi software and ITeS (information technology-enabled services) companies to talk about business and the prospect of buying software from them.
Asruf-ul Jubair, the business development manager of Windmill Info Tech Ltd, said during the expo, they had several B2B sessions with both local and foreign companies. “We have several products, including software and mobile apps. Many of the companies have shown interest in our products. We had a fruitful discussion,” he smiled.
Jubair hoped that the discussion they had in the B2B session would help them seal some business deals. “This Softexpo has provided us, the developers, with excellent opportunities to showcase our products. You would never find such a large number of business prospects under one roof,” he said.
Sazzad Ul Amin, an RMG factory owner, was looking for enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions for his new shirt factory. “I came to the Softexpo to buy solutions for my company. I had sought the services of an Indian ERP solution firm for my other company. But it was very expensive and their after-sales service was very bad. So, now, I am planning to buy local software and modify it in accordance with my company’s needs,” he narrated.
At the business lounge, Mahbub Jaman, a former president of BASIS and the owner of Datasoft, one of the largest software companies of the country, was found escorting a Japanese delegation.
Jaman said after the terrorist attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka, business had been very bad for a few months. “Now it is being revived. I have been travelling to Japan for the last couple of months. We have great software business and collaboration prospects with Japan. Now, a Japanese delegation has come to the Software expo,” he said.
He added that a seminar has been organised with the Japanese delegation and local representatives from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the software industry stakeholders about the prospect of Japan-Bangladesh ICT prospects.
“This discussion with other business entities has given us the opportunity to expand our business’s outreach,” he said.
 
Solutions through seminars
In all, 35 seminars on different issues were arranged in four days at the Softexpo. In these seminars, not only did several experts provide an insight into topics like cyber security, e-commerce, digital learning, start-up culture, entrepreneurship, and digital education, they also gave valuable recommendations for policy reforms.
Several seminars were held on cyber security, and the speakers said that without a comprehensive cyber security act, ensuring security and garnering foolproof confidence among the common people would be a distant dream.
Tapan Kanti Sarkar, the president of CTO Forum, said the recent cyber heist in Bangladesh proves that no business entity involved with digital transactions is secure in the country.
“We need comprehensive guidelines and policies about cyber security. That is not all. There must be a comprehensive act so that all business entities are compelled to invest in and maintain a strong cyber security platform,” said Sarkar.
To boost the mobile app development and create an ‘appstore’ ecosystem in the country, experts at a seminar recommended the development of an API (application programming interface) exchange of BDT so that people can buy mobile apps in BDT instead of USD.
At several seminars organised on the issue of e-commerce, people involved in the industry pushed for the development of the digital wallet culture to take e-commerce to the next level.
Rajib Ahmed, the president of the E-commerce Association of Bangladesh (E-CAB), said without a regulatory reform from the central bank and the complete formation of digital wallet, the development of the e-commerce market will stagnate at some stage.
“I believe this Softexpo is an excellent platform to raise our concerns and recommendations,” he added.