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New Startup to revolutionize Bangladeshi music industry: A conversation with Saddam Azad, CEO of Dugdugi

Saddam Azad
Saddam Azad

Dear readers, we have really good news for you this time- if you are a music lover then we must say things are becoming more fun for you in coming days. A new start-up named Dugdugi has started its operation to revolutionize Bangladeshi music industry. Dugdugi, founded by two Bangladeshi young music lovers, Saddam Azad and Wakil Ahmed Isnadaims to provide the much-needed transformation in the Bangladeshi music industry.

Recently, we spoke to Saddam Azad, Co-founder and CEO of Dugdugi to understand what's going on inside Dugdugi and many more. Saddam Azad holds a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Business from the London School of Business Studies and a BSc in Management from the London School of Economics (LSE). He worked for high-end digital marketing agencies such as New Brand Vision in London, followed by a couple of years as the Creative Director in a trendy West London start-up.

Saddam returned to Bangladesh to build start-ups that solves the unique problems in his homeland and sincerely believes that the future of tech innovation lies here in Dhaka and that this city will soon be the Silicon Valley of the East.  

Future StartUp: What is Dugdugi, and what was the main idea behind Dugdugi?

Saddam Azad: The music industries in developed countries had been shaken up by a man named Steve Jobs early in the last decade. The effect of the iPod and iTunes has transformed how people consume music - forever. People were not limited to their private collection of LP and/or CDs any more. There was a whole world of music out there and you get to have access to it all.

This phenomenon fundamentally shifted the music industry from brick-and-mortar stores to the brave new world of the internet.

A number of other players emerges within this paradigm. Their value proposition is not just limited to having an internet catalog of music which can be purchased - they extended the model by giving access to music via streaming for free or on a subscription basis. Spotify is a prime example of this business model that has been wildly successful in Europe - and now they are eyeing the North American markets.

Deezer, GrooveShark, SoundCloud and the 'rediscovered' MySpace have all ventured into this space. One the fundamental value propositions these companies make is that the listener has access the entire world's music catalog using any device in their pocket or lap. Listeners of the new generation have already adopted this model of "access over collection".

Now, this brings me to the "setback" in the Bangladeshi music industry. The only reason the industry is struggling to stay afloat is the complete and utter lack of adoption of the new developments across the world. In a globalised world where consumer behavior transcends borders, lack of adaptability can kill your business. Record labels have taken absolutely no initiative to meet the needs of the modern listener.

Dugdugi, admittedly, is not a brand new idea but we're not a copycat either. Our core concept is to develop a platform that complies with the needs of the modern Bangladeshi consumer and monetize the traffic effectively for generating royalties for the record labels and artists. We won't be cloning some foreign app and trying to market it here - we are here to build a product that meets the unique needs of Bangladeshi listeners, record labels and advertisers.

Dugdugi aims to provide the much-needed transformation in the Bangladeshi music industry.


Q 2: How did you come up with the idea?

I came from a marketing and advertising industry background with extensive experience in the field. Also being passionate about music and software technologies, this idea has been fermenting within my head for almost a decade.

Having met with my co-founder, Wakil Ahmed Isnad, who is an avid listener and a hobbyist musician, the idea gained some traction at the StartupWeekend Dhaka in January 2013.

The idea stemmed from the needs of the struggling music industry and the aspirations of the advertising industry. The co-founders realized that these problems can be solved with innovative software engineering.

Q 3: Please tell us few things about the business model of Dugdugi?

People in Bangladesh are used to concept of acquiring 'digital' content for free. Intangible products such as software and music are not perceived as worth hard-earned money. Therefore, charging listening with a subscription fee or having them pay per stream would not be taken very well - as our research has revealed.

We intend to keep the music free for the listeners. Our motto is to build "a virtually unlimited catalog of tracks - free from every device".

But someone has to pay the bills, right? The company needs to generate enough money to pay substantial royalties to the record labels and independent artists as well as make billions of dollars in net profit. I'm kidding about the net profit.

Before I explain how Dugdugi will sustain itself, let me explain a major problem in the existing advertising industry in Bangladesh:

In the early days of economic emancipation, the country's economic boom and the rise of corporations was supplemented by a remarkable boom in the advertising industry. The early corporations and newly entering multinationals (think Unilever and P&G) were spending serious cash in reaching this vast untapped market. Our local enterprises matched and even raised the price to expand their business. The race to capture market share was everywhere.

A few decades down the line, Bangladesh is in every corner have access to cellular phones, the internet, Lux, Cocacola and other such products. From the corporate point of view, these markets have either reached or very close to reaching market saturation. In these circumstances, mass market advertising no longer cuts the cheese.

Today, companies are diversifying their products and services: Package A for youth, Package B for working professionals, Package C for housewives, and so on. Segmentation of the market and targeting strategies for different segments has now become common practice.

However, there is a tremendous problem in the advertising industry. Due to the lack of set-top boxes attached to televisions in Bangladeshi households, lack of analytics data from radio channels and other mediums, advertisers have no scope of reaching their target audiences and advertise their specific services. Advertisers can only hope to blindly shout their value proposition and hope that their intended audience gets the message.

Dugdugi comes in with an overwhelming base of urban youth, packed with world-class analytics for advertisers. Our platform allows advertisers to reach students and young working professionals specifically. We provide exact details of the reach of the advertising campaign and help assess the effectiveness. Dugdugi is the only such platform where companies looking to target their products at the youth market have access to such rich set of analytics.

We're here not just to save the music industry; we're also revolutionizing the advertising industry.

Listeners would be served an 10-15 second recorded advertisement in between the tracks. Advertisers get great value because of such targeted nature of the campaign, the listeners don't mind a few tasteful ads in between an endless catalog of music and the labels/artists get paid every time their music is streamed. It's a win win.

Q 4: Who are the key players in the initiative? Please tell us few things about Dugdugi team.

BizCube, the nation's first business incubator proper, is providing incubation services to Dugdugi. The incubator provides critical advisory, crucial contacts and other means of aide to its incubates to ensure success.

Mr. Asif Rahman, the C.E.O of A.R. Communications is providing the critical server-side support by giving Dugdugi access to his world-class server architecture. Dudgudi is able to serve thousands of concurrent connections simultaneously due to this vital support.

Other key players are advisors such as Mr Fayaz Taher, who is providing essential business advisory and helping in guiding the company in the right direction.

Q 5: What are your short-term goals for the initiative?

The short-term goals are to increase the brand recognition, gradually increase the catalog of the site by signing partnerships with record labels, ensure that the software framework is stable, perform trial-and-error with advertising campaigns and building a team of dynamic, enthusiastic people.

Q 6: What are your long-term goals for the initiative [where do you want to go in long run?]?

Dugdugi aims to become a mass-market product in the long run. The company has Android and iOS apps in the pipeline along with a large set of features that will be developed.

The long term challenge for Dugdugi is to build a catalog of 20,000+ tracks of all genres and all kinds of music found in Bangladesh.

Q 7: How did you manage fund?

I injected the initial capital required for the development of the prototype. The company is yet to raise any seed capital but there are ongoing talks with a number of parties regarding an investment.

Q 8: Would you like to give us a snapshot about the current state of Dugdugi?

The current state of Dugdugi can be summed up as follows:

- Active pursuing record labels and unsigned artists for expanding the catalog.
- Ongoing the process of incorporation
- Engaging users and strategizing for user acquisition
- Engaging in talks for investors and interested parties
- Actively building the software platform

[P.S. Future StartUp doesn't take responsibility of any transaction with any company we feature. Please do your own research while having a Business deal with the company we feature.]

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