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COVID-19 Tech Updates: Startups Attempts Diversification Amid Coronavirus Fallout, BASIS Seeks Government Supports for Members

As the coronavirus pandemic outlook gets grimmer by the day, the fall out from the breakout continues. Across markets companies are enduring tough times and making difficult decisions like pay cuts, layoffs, budget cuts, postponing recruitment, and raising money at lower valuation among other things. Many companies are quickly looking to find new opportunities and verticals to offset unfolding losses. 

Pathao gets into grocery, reopens Pathao Tong: Pathao announced last week that the company has reopened its Pathao Tong and is getting into grocery. The company says it will deliver groceries across Dhaka and offers contactless delivery if you pay digitally and ask the deliveryman to drop your deliveries outside your door or apartment. This is an excellent move on the part of Pathao given the fact that ride-hailing is one of the most adversely affected industries during this outbreak and subsequent lockdown. However, while the demands for groceries continue to rise amid the lockdown, finding enough deliverymen has become a challenge for most on-demand grocery delivery services in Dhaka. 

WebAble races to play a role in COVID-19 communication effort for NGOs and brands: Marketing and advertising is yet another industry that has been affected adversely by the COVID-19 fallout. Dhaka-based digital marketing company WebAble has taken a host of initiatives to position itself as an expert in COVID-19 communications for both development organizations and brands. The company itself has been working on putting together non-branded communication materials with a view to creating coronavirus awareness. The efforts have been paying off, albeit slowly. WebAble is now working with a number of development organizations and non-profit organizations in coronavirus related communication. While it is hard to gauge how this move can potentially help WebAble to shore up its revenue fall from COVID-19 fallout, it should allow the company some breathing space during this difficult time. 

Startups eye layoffs and salary cut: At least three startups we spoke with have taken measures of layoffs or salary cuts or some combination of both to tackle the fall out from the COVID-19. Most startups operate with limited cash reserves, mostly between 3-6 months. While the Bangladesh Government has announced an economic plan for export-oriented industries, no specific plan has yet been announced for startups. Unless there are some support systems in place for addressing startups, many early-stage companies are likely to face dire financial conditions as the fall out from COVID-19 continues. 

BASIS demands grants and loans for software companies to survive the fallout from COVID-19: The Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) demands a BDT 660 crore grant and BDT 500 crore in loan with a limited interest rate of 2% from the government to help member companies survive revenue fallout from COVID-19, reports the Daily Star. BASIS has some 1,400 members and “the government grant will be used to supplement staff salaries and office rents” of members.

Mohammad Ruhul Kader is a Dhaka-based entrepreneur and writer. He founded Future Startup, a digital publication covering the startup and technology scene in Dhaka with an ambition to transform Bangladesh through entrepreneurship and innovation. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, and society. He is the author of Rethinking Failure. His writings have been published in almost all major national dailies in Bangladesh including DT, FE, etc. Prior to FS, he worked for a local conglomerate where he helped start a social enterprise. Ruhul is a 2022 winner of Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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