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Tech Startups Approach Reopening With Caution

1/  On Sunday, May 31st, Bangladesh reopened offices and transport services in a restricted manner after more than two months of lockdown. On the other hand, new coronavirus cases and fatality from the virus continue to spike. As offices slowly ease into more regular operation, albeit at a limited scale, companies across the board take a measured approach to reopen and resume operations. 

2/ We are seeing a number of approaches companies are taking to reopening after months of WFH. While some are more enthusiastic about reopening than others, almost every company is approaching reopening with caution. In fact, a large number of tech startups in Dhaka continue to WFH, reopening only the essential physical operation. 

3/ There are companies that can’t do away with physical operations such as manufacturing and banking and so on. These companies have been operating at a limited scale during the lockdown. Many of them are now slowly easing into a more regular version of operation, albeit at a limited scale compared to their regular operations. Many of these companies had to go WFH without much preparation and having any setup for running a remote operation. They had to learn the hard way. 

4/ Others remain cautious about reopening.  A large number of tech startups continue to operate remotely while taking a rather cautious approach to resuming office full fledged. As many as 10 companies we spoke with told FS that they are going to remain remote at least until June 15. Some are even taking a conservative view and not considering reopening in the next one month unless the virus situation improves. 

5/ Companies that are opening up limited physical operation, however, are taking a rather cautious and slow approach. Companies are doing a number of things to ensure safety of employees as they reopen such as designing weekly shifts to keep the number of people coming to office at a time limited, providing daily saftey equipments to employees such as musk, face shields, gloves and so on. Companies are also adopting various safety packages for employees such as offering medical facilities, healthcare benefits if anyone get affected, extra accident benefits, and other financial safety coverage. 

6/ A number of technology companies are considering keeping part of their operations remote and allowing a percentage of employees to WFH. This is a fascinating development given that almost every company went WFH amid an emergency and without much preparation and prior experience. Many had to scramble and short change to put together a remote operation. 

7/ Over the past two months, however, many companies have become quite used to remote operations and now are considering keeping part of the operation remote. This development is indicative of how things work and user habit changes. We can safely predict that many of the changes that we have adopted due to the pandemic is going to stay around even after the pandemic. 

8/ The overall situation gives an impression that a true opening up is not going to happen unless people are confident that they can safely go out and operate normally with limited risk of getting infected . 

9/ A meaningful opening up will take more than merely allowing people to open up and asking them to come out and operate normally. A true reopening will require trust and confidence in the fact that the virus outbreak is under control and that going out is safe and that if we get affected we have mechanics in place to get treatment and support. 

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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