Great organizations are built on shifting landscapes. A unique insight. A changing market. A new cultural transformation. When you combine a shifting landscape, a unique insight, and changing cultural reality, you invariably come up with a recipe for building fascinating organizations. That is if you can read the writings on the wall and are willing to take the leap.
We are in a similar shifting landscape in terms of the future of work. We live in an increasingly connected world where work is getting disentangled from the office. The need for going to a fixed place to do and deliver your work has greatly diminished. The rise of distributed work is changing not only the work itself but also our workplaces and our economies.
It has given rise to a new wave of remote work and an outsourcing boom. Humans are no longer prisoners of geography. Rather geography could become your advantage. Companies across the world are now more open to finding teams across the ocean to do their work as the line between whether you are working from the office or remotely diminishes. This has created a new boom period for the already huge global outsourcing industry.
The idea of outsourcing is an old one. It started way back in the 1700s when manufacturers started shifting the manufacture of goods to countries with cheaper labor during the Industrial Revolution. When we call China the factory of the world, this is essentially what we are talking about. Services outsourcing, however, is a relatively recent phenomenon. For instance, IT and customer service outsourcing, also known as business process outsourcing (BPO), in India, one of the leaders in the world in the space, began in the 80s and 90s. Today, India prides itself as the home for some of the world's biggest outsourcing companies such as TCS, Wipro, Infosys, HCL Technologies, and Tech Mahindra among others.
Bangladesh has carved a small space in the BPO industry of the world. A small number of Bangladeshi software companies now serve clients across the globe. Some companies provide customer service management, IT solutions, and various other BPO services. However, the industry is just getting started. The global BPO market is going through a transformation as it goes remote. Bangladesh is ideally positioned to take advantage of this shift in the market.
A young company is hell-bent on exploiting this new opportunity. Founded in early 2018, Qormotho is a BPO company that started with the ambition to provide business process outsourcing services to clients in the foreign market. The company hires talented young individuals in Bangladesh and gives them an opportunity to get valuable experience in working with international clients. It supports clients who are looking to outsource their various business functions and works with them to get their jobs done using technology platforms and solutions.
The core value proposition Qormotho offers is simple: high-quality BPO services at a competitive cost. For its people back in Bangladesh, the company promises excellent learning opportunities, great working culture, and a performance-driven benefits structure. The company has come up with a three-pronged thesis to support its business case.
Pillar one: Bangladesh is a country of young people. A significant percentage of its 164 million population is young. The median age of the country is 26. This offers an incredible opportunity if we can properly use this group of individuals and give them the opportunity to exploit a promising and deserving career break. However, youth unemployment has been a challenge for the country.
Pillar two: Over the last few decades, the world has become increasingly connected. Today, we live in a world where goods to capital to humans move from one end of the world to another end with quiet ease. The internet and technology revolution has taken this integration to a different level. Today, we can access services and products from across the world at our fingertips.
Pillar three: The internet revolution has also transformed work and service delivery. We now use products and services produced in other parts of the world. The rise of the outsourcing industry has disrupted the service delivery model. Digital products and services are now made in one part of the world and consumed in another. Customer services are managed remotely.
The coronavirus pandemic has pushed this trend to a new height. From a small trend, remote work has become the norm. You can work for a foreign company sitting in Bangladesh or anywhere in the world. This has transformed how we approach work. It means companies in the USA or UK can access skilled professionals in Bangladesh and other markets and get their work done at a better cost without compromising on quality.
This is the context where Qormotho, a Dhaka-based business process outsourcing company, comes in. Qormotho sees itself operating at the intersection of these changing dynamics of the world and the work.
Founded by three friends — Kamal Uddin Gazi Jishan, Asad Akber, and Ahmad Hamid, Qormotho has used this three-pronged reality as its founding thesis. The company says it sees the young population in Bangladesh as a gold mine that can help international companies utilize the high-quality talents available in the Bangladesh market. The company aims to leverage the advantage to establish Bangladesh as a destination for skilled talents across accounting and finance, IT, customer services, and other business process outsourcing services for companies across the world.
The idea is simple. Qormotho hires young qualified people who are skilled in finance and accounting, customer service management, operations management, and information technology and train them to work with international companies in the USA, UK, Middle East, and other markets. These companies get high-quality services at competitive costs that they couldn’t avail in their market. Young people in Bangladesh get exclusive employment opportunities that offer both excellent learning opportunities and a promising career path.
The thesis makes perfect sense. It is a great deal for international companies who are looking for BPO services.
Skilled workforce, cost-effective. Bangladesh has a large young talent pool of highly skilled and English-speaking workers, including software developers, accountants, engineers, and business process outsourcing (BPO) professionals who can provide professional services at lower costs than in many other countries.
This makes Bangladesh an attractive destination for foreign companies looking for skilled workers to support their business operations. With training, these people can compete globally. There is a growing demand for outsourcing services in the US, Europe, and Middle Eastern markets. With the rise of tech and remote work, this has accelerated over the last few years.
Favorable business environment. The Bangladesh government has taken several steps to promote the growth of the technology outsourcing industry, including providing tax incentives and investing in infrastructure. These factors, combined with the country's large and growing economy, have made Bangladesh an attractive destination for businesses looking to outsource.
An equally good deal for local talents. This offers excellent employment opportunities for a young and educated population.
Qormotho has already shown excellent capacity at exploiting these trends to execute well and grow. In a short time, the company has successfully won clients across markets on the back of quality obsession, excellent customer service, an excellent working environment for its people, an organic marketing strategy that relies on happy customers, and an ambitious team. The company has doubled its revenue and team size every year over the last two years. It now looks to expand its services and more markets.
In today's article, we take a look into the origin of Qormotho, the secrets of its business model, its products and services, its culture, and its ambition and strategic direction going forward.
The talent arbitrage. In many ways, Qormotho is a talent arbitrage company. Arbitrage in investing is trading that exploits the differences in price between identical or similar assets in two or more markets. Almost all businesses use some sort of arbitrage. Mango is produced in one location and is sold in a different location. Smartphones are made in one country and are sold in a different country. Arbitrage is everywhere. Migrant labor has also made labor mobile over the years. However, technology has taken it to a different level. The rise of the internet and remote work has made talent arbitrage possible. Talent arbitrage is different from other goods because you couldn’t make talent mobile before. The internet has made it possible. There is a high demand for accounting, tech, and customer service professionals in the UK and there is a sufficient supply in Bangladesh. With proper training, internet and tech now make it possible to connect these locations and make talent arbitrage possible. In many ways, Qormotho is in the business of this talent arbitrage.
In fact, that was how Qormotho came into being. The company has an interesting founding story. Qormotho’s founding Directors live in three different countries — Asad Akber lives in Bangladesh, Kamal Uddin Gazi Jishan lives in Qatar and Ahmad Hamid in the UK.
The founders were motivated by the idea of providing business process outsourcing services to clients in the foreign market. They had observed a gap in the market that many companies in these regions were outsourcing their non-core business activities. They saw that Bangladesh has an excellent talent pool to serve these clients with exceptional services at competitive costs.
“We saw a gap in the market and an opportunity to make something happen. It was a light bulb moment for us,” explains Ahmad, one of the co-founders of Qormotho. “Remote work is the future of work. Companies usually try to reduce costs and look to find an efficient approach to operate. That's where we come in.”
Kamal Uddin Gazi Jishan offers the missing perspective in this thesis. Jishan says. “I worked as a lecturer of accounting in Bangladesh for a while. As an ACCA lecturer, I usually met skilled young accounting students who could compete in the global market, given the proper training and access to work. I could see that these people could become financial analysts, accountants, bookkeepers, and finance managers to lead accounting and finance functions for any company.”
Bangladesh has a youth unemployment problem. Many young people don't get opportunities despite being qualified and skilled. Qormotho founders thought this makes an excellent case for a company like Qormotho, which could serve clients internationally and create opportunities for young Bangladeshi talent.
The Qormotho founders started their BPO journey on familiar territory — accounting and financial services. All three founders have backgrounds in accounting and finance. Two of the founders are qualified Fellow Chartered Certified Accountants (FCCA) and still work in the field. This has allowed the company to provide excellent service to its early customers leading to higher customer satisfaction and retention. This is what we call founder-market fit. The deep domain knowledge of the founders has allowed Qormotho to build a durable competitive moat and chart a growth path for the company.
A humble beginning. Qormotho started as a small company of four people including the three founders. The company didn’t have an office in the early days. Everyone worked from home. The team worked on client projects across bookkeeping and accounting services.
“Three plus one was the team size,” says Jishan. “We had no office and mostly worked from home. We didn't enjoy many holidays because our foreign clients would demand work despite our local holidays, even during the Eid holidays. It was not a big problem because we saw it as an investment. We loved delivering the work.”
The first iteration of the company was not called Qormotho. Jishan, one of the co-founders of the company, had a consultancy practice called Gazi Consultancy. In 2018, when the three founders came together for the first time, they put together a partnership entity with the name A&J Global Associates. They worked on a couple of projects together. This was useful for the team to understand each other, and build trust, which has proven invaluable for the growth of the company. Often partnership ventures fail due to co-founder disputes. This period of working together rather informally helped build a lasting mutual trust among the three founders. After working in a semi-formal set-up for two years, they decided to put together a corporate entity, and Qormotho Limited was born in 2020.
“One common quality of the three of us is that we are always going above and beyond in whatever we are doing”, Asad recalls. Working a bit harder and taking a little bit extra on our shoulders. “When an opportunity came along in 2018, we decided to take it on. In the early days, all three of us worked hands-on, doing client work such as bookkeeping, accounting, financial reporting, etc. We hired trainee resources, often part-timers. We didn’t have a lot of financial strength. In fact, our financial offer was not that great. But we promised to build an excellent environment and flexibility, and opportunities to learn. Our initial trainees, who were mostly students, embraced the opportunity although our financial package was not yet market standard.”
But the early days were not devoid of challenges. The company faced challenges with retaining people. “We faced several challenges with resources”, explains Jishan. “Hiring is quite easy in Bangladesh. People agree to work with you. But retention is a challenge. For us, retention was a challenge in the early days and it still is a challenge.”
The company has taken lessons from those days. It has focused on improving retention and growing recognition of its brands to attract new talents. It has designed a workplace where people have opportunities to learn and grow.
“We treat our people as our important stakeholders,” says Asad. “We have put together a structure where it is mutually beneficial for us. We have always wanted to build a sustainable workplace where people enjoy working. In 2023, we want to strengthen that.”
The company also suffered a momentary challenge at the beginning of COVID. Several of its clients paused outsourcing work at the beginning of the pandemic causing cash flow challenges for the company. In fact, the Qormotho team had to downsize its already small operation. But they continued operating and a few months into COVID, things completely reversed.
“We recovered quickly,” says Ahmad. “Within the same month, we had a turnaround and went back to growth. COVID brought an unexpected growth spurt for us. Since Mid 2020, we have been growing consistently.”
That growth spurt continues. The company has been doubling in size every year. “We ended 2020 with a team of 10 people,” says Jishan. “In 2021, we became a team of 20-plus people and in 2022, we turned into a team of over 30 people.”
The growth has mostly been organic. The company quickly found acceptance for its excellent services. Its clients started to refer it to other potential customers leading to an organic growth spurt. And existing clients also started to ask for new services that Qormotho didn’t provide at the time. The company took on the challenge and has since expanded its universe of services.
“You know Qormotho means hard-working,” explains Ahmad. “We're always looking for ways to improve. We're always looking for ways to excel. We're always trying our best to be competent, challenge ourselves, and serve our customers better.” That leads us to Qormotho’s expanding services universe.
Everything at Qormotho begins with the customer. Qormotho's business model is based on providing high-quality services at a competitive price. Qormotho uses a combination of technology, expertise, and a process-driven approach to deliver services to its clients. The company's team works closely with clients to understand their needs and provide customized solutions that exceed their expectations.
Over the last several years, Qormotho has consistently added new services to its offering, almost always at the request of its clients.
“The way we approach designing a solution is that our team looks into the problem, diagnoses it, and offers possible solutions,” says Jishan. “We become a back office for most of our clients. We are quick to respond when it comes to working with clients. We get back quickly in every communication and deliverable. For example, if there is a requirement, an inquiry, or any communication between us and the client, it must be quick. It is one of our strengths. And our clients appreciate it.”
Qormotho started by providing accounting and financial services. “We started with the financial services,” explains Ahmad. “It didn’t take long to grow. Today, we have financial services and we have also expanded into new areas. We now also provide customer support services, IT solutions, manage CRM software, lead generation, marketing, market research, and services on an ad hoc basis.”
Today, Qormotho Limited provides a range of business process outsourcing services. Its core services include:
1. Finance and accounting outsourcing services: Qormotho Limited offers accounting services to clients in various industries. The services include bookkeeping, financial reporting, tax preparation, payroll processing, and other accounting-related services. On the financial services side, the company provides financial consultancy, payroll, VAT submissions, mandatory reporting, data analysis, and research. The company works almost like a fractional CFO service for its clients. It helps clients analyze their financial statements before fundraising. It does cash flow forecasting. It offers day-to-day bookkeeping, and day-to-day reconciliations — bank reconciliations such as accounts payables, and accounts receivables. The company has a solid finance team who can provide excellent services. The company employs a team of finance professionals who have certifications such as Xero, Quickbooks, Sage, etc.
2. Operations outsourcing services: Outside of finance, the company provides customer support, CRM support, virtual administration, data entries, and lead generation marketing support. It uses modern applications and web-based portals to facilitate service delivery for its clients and end users. The services are often project-based with specific deliverables, or even full-time support, where Qormotho’s employees become the face of our clients, serving as a dedicated back office engine.
3. Tech outsourcing services: The company offers IT outsourcing services such as web development, software development, mobile app development, and other IT-related services.
Qormotho has benefited from a number of forces when it comes to its growth. The company launched just before the pandemic. COVID has pushed remote work to a different level. While the company initially suffered from the uncertainty of the pandemic, it quickly found a ready and growing market for outsourcing services.
“One of the reasons that contributed to our growth was COVID,” explains Ahmad. “When the pandemic happened, a lot of people started to work from home. Then suddenly it didn't matter any longer where you are working from. Technically, working from Bangladesh or working from the UK or the US didn't really make a difference because you are all working from home. If you are providing the same level of high-quality service, your location had minimum bearings to it. It also led to companies looking for cost-efficient solutions.”
The second driver is its reputation as a company that provides relevant, durable, and high-quality solutions. As we learned at the beginning of this story, the company started by providing financial services. When its clients saw the level of service being provided, they started to ask for support in other areas of the business such as managing their customer relationship management systems, and even lead generation. Qormotho now has an easier job — expand into the services that your existing customers are asking for. The company has simply done that. The demand from its customers led it to new territories. Moreover, its existing clients started to not only give it more work but also started to recommend it to other professional networks.
"We would go above and beyond to try and provide a service," says Ahmad. "We don't use many holidays if our clients need us. But that does not mean we don’t offer holidays to our people, we do. We structure it in such a manner that it works for everyone. Because if you're working with foreign clients, you have to maintain that."
The company regards the provision of great customer service as non-negotiable and a core part of its business offering.
“We started by offering finance-related business process outsourcing services”, says Ahmad. “When our clients saw our service was top-notch, they started to ask for services in other departments within their companies. We started to offer customer support services and manage their CRM system and we started to excel and grow on that front as well. We started to take on more tasks around operations, finance, and other business process support for our clients. We not only provide excellent services, but we offer a cost-efficient service for our clients. When a company sees that we're giving them excellent service at a fraction of their cost in the UK, they are more than happy to work with us. That has helped us a lot to grow as a business.”
This inbound demand has been met with a conscious organization design. The company has put together a huge effort to build an organization where people love to work and deliver high-quality work. It takes efficiency seriously, documents everything, and shares live data with its clients so that they also know what we are working on. It has also put together an excellent on-the-job training regimen for its people.
The company has a learning culture.
“From day one, we wanted to create a workplace where people will enjoy working, learn new skills, where there will be no bureaucracy and people will have opportunities to grow,” explains Asad. “We want to empower our people and give them opportunities.”
This focus on building a strong culture has helped the company consistently deliver high-quality work to its clients resulting in accelerating organic growth.
Qormotho has been obsessed with quality and customer service from day one. It has served the company well. The company then reinforced that growth flywheel with an excellent supporting culture. The company has worked hard to build a great team and give them an excellent workplace. Often the missing piece in any organizational culture discussion is the most important piece of any culture — people. Qormotho begins its ‘culture’ discussion there.
"When it comes to internal culture, we want to build a high-performing team, which we believe starts with hiring," says Jishan. We are selective and careful when we hire people." The company puts huge importance on an individual's willingness to learn and grow when hiring.
"We prefer people who are positive and have strong character," explains Jishan. "Rather than superior technical skills and knowledge, we look for people who have a growth mindset, and can bring a change. Technical acumen, knowledge, and skills can be taught but personality is hard to teach. So personality is what we look into when hiring. We look for people who are team players, and problem solvers."
This relentless focus on hiring the right people contributes to building an excellent internal culture.
The company also puts a ton of importance on its values which include quality service, innovation, and professionalism. A company-wide values award initiative recognizes people who reflect the highest level of value of Qormotho. People are daily reminded of these values. It also recognizes high-performing people.
The second aspect of Qormotho's culture is that the company empowers its people. It is a flat culture with almost zero bureaucracy. People are provided with regular learning opportunities. In fact, learning is always encouraged. When someone joins the team, they are allowed to perform and learn. They are trained and receive support regularly.
"We don't micromanage," says Asad. "We become a support wing for the management of Qormotho. We see what tools, knowledge, platform, and environment our people need to perform their work and we make sure that they get them and then everyone takes their own responsibility to make progress."
"The way I look at company culture is that you spend most of your time at work, 8 to 10 hours, five to six days a week," says Ahmad. ". “We spend a disproportionate amount of our time at work. Used properly, our workplaces can become excellent opportunities for our character and personal development. A good office environment could be life-changing for people. To that end, we ensure your work environment is comfortable, where you want to come to work, and look forward to working with your colleagues.”
Regular knowledge-sharing sessions encourage learning and create internal knowledge management. "We work with multiple different clients," says Ahmad. "Not every client is the same. If one of the employees learns something new, he shares that knowledge with the rest of the team. It helps everyone to grow together. No one's above one other, and no one knows more than the other person. We all have the same mindset and the same goal that we're working towards. That's the culture."
Qormotho makes sure its people are well-spoken in English, trained in interpersonal communication skills and continuously growing.
"We only hire people who are willing to learn and always willing to give their 100%," says Ahmad. "If someone is willing to give their 100% every day, you can teach them any skill."
The company encourages continuous study for its people. In fact, the continuous study is counted during performance appraisal. "If you're not studying then we're gonna mark you down when it comes to your appraisal because you need to get your education sorted, not just for us but because we only play a small part in the employee’s career path," says Ahmad.
This culture works as the glue that keeps Qormotho's growth flywheel going and reinforces it.
Qormotho is an interesting name for a company that serves international customers. It is a Bangla word and it is a bit of a tongue twister when it comes to pronouncing it. It can be a difficult word to understand and pronounce for a foreign individual who doesn't speak Bangla. But the Qormotho team came up with the name for certain reasons. First, they wanted a Bengali name so that it communicates instantly where the company is from. They wanted to put Bangladesh on the map with their name. At the same time, they wanted their name to communicate certain values and a story about the company. Qormotho is a Bangla word that roughly translates as “hard-working”. When someone hears that it tells a story. It tells what kind of organization a company is.
“We could have come up with an English name,” explains Ahmad. “Something like BPO International or similar. But it doesn't put Bangladesh on the map. It doesn’t go along with our ambition. We just don't want to be an outsourcing company. We want to be a company that is spoken about globally. And people should know where our company originates from by our name. When you go to our website, it explains that in Bengali Qormotho means hard-working.
When we were brainstorming a name we wanted a name that communicates we are from Bangladesh and at the same time, tells people what we do, and how we work. We wanted part of our ethos and our mission as a company in our name.”
That’s how Qormotho came as a name. “Even with our logo, when you pay attention it sends the same message that we love our work and we work hard,” adds Ahmad. “There are three-four elements of our work — we work with IT, we work with people, we work globally and all three of them are in our logo and it is green because it's Bangladesh. We came up with a name because it resonates with who we are. Think about when someone from the US or UK hears it for the first time, they say what does it mean, I can’t find it in the dictionary and they're gonna come back and they are gonna ask, what does it mean and then we tell them that it is a Bengali word and straight away they know we are Bangladeshi and we then explain them the essence of it. So, the name serves several purposes for us.”
"We wanted to take the market opportunity, create workplace opportunities for our young people, and also showcase Bangladesh to the world," explains Jishan when asked about the ambition of Qormotho. And it remains the ambition of the company. The Qormotho team wants to build an enduring company that is well-known for its services and that has an impact on society and the country.
The conviction happens gradually. Jishan agrees. "We didn't have that ambition and conviction on day one, we gained confidence gradually," he explains. "We realized that what we are doing is aligned with the digital Bangladesh vision of the Government and could contribute to achieving that vision. We thought that by helping our young people to benefit from their skills, we could put Bangladesh on the map.”
The fascinating part about Qormotho is that the founders see the big picture. People want to make money. But sole focus on money making can be detrimental sometimes. When building a company, you must look for something greater than money. Because building a company is tough and you go through all kinds of challenges. If you are not inspired by a bigger vision than money, you are unlikely to survive the challenge. The Qortmoto team gets it right.
“Our main intention, as Jishan explained earlier, when we formed the company it was not for money," adds Ahmad. "It wasn't about profit. It was about providing a good service, making a name for ourselves, and doing it well and doing it right. We wanted to provide excellent services. We knew we would make some profit eventually and that's what any company would aim for. But that was never our main ambition. We try to give back to our employees. We provide education support, we do regular outings, retreats, and team-building exercises, which are all paid for by the company. We help our people as much as we can. We give back to the community as much as we can. We believe if we take care of our people, great things will happen, in other words good karma.”
The company remains fixed on its big ambition. “We aim to build an enduring company that is well known at home and abroad and that people know as a Bangladeshi company,” the founders say beyond that. We want to set an example for the rest of the companies in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is doing well when it comes to garments, textiles, etc. We want to do the same for the services industry. We wanna put Bangladesh at the forefront. That's our goal for the future.” In the context of Bangladesh, the timing is pretty good for Qormotho. Bangladesh's government has set an ambitious target for technology export. Aligning with that ambition can benefit Qormotho in the coming days.
Qormotho Limited has significant potential for future growth. The outsourcing industry is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, driven by the increasing demand for cost-effective business solutions. Qormotho Limited is well-positioned to take advantage of this trend, thanks to its customer-centric approach and growing reputation.
But the path ahead is not devoid of challenges. The world is always changing. Sometimes it is the politics and policies. Sometimes it is the technologies and shifting landscape of business. In the near term and long term, Qormotho will have to find ways to address these challenges in the outsourcing industry.
For now, however, Qormotho should focus on maintaining its winning streak. Momentum is a good thing and should be treated as such.
Thank you Ayrin Saleha Ria for reading an early draft of this story.