It took days to schedule an interview with Tapstar’s A.K.M Masuduzzaman. His busy schedule and immense workload keeps him on the run everyday. Nevertheless, he took out a few minutes to narrate his own experience of operating Tapstar from a coworking space.
Standing out from the crowd
At Tapstar, we actually have our own products. Most companies at this coworking space provide services but we are one of the few firms which sells products. We have some mobile apps and the main purpose of those apps is to help people in their daily lives. For example, we have an app called Selfie Editor, which helps in removing imperfections from pictures. This app provides a professional look to all the pictures you click in your daily lives.We also have an app called Parenting App. Parents can edit the pictures of their babies and we have almost 40 to 50 thousand people in that community. They even ask many questions about parenting to other parents. So these are some of our services at Tapstar.
Getting the inspiration
My initial target was to develop mobile games. But slowly, we realized that the market was becoming too competitive and it was hard to sustain the firm. Moreover, the necessary resources required to develop good mobile games were not available in Bangladesh. So we decided to tap into the mobile app market. We saw that people were becoming more inclined towards taking photos and making videos on their cell phones. So we thought that since taking pictures is becoming the trend, why not work with that sector? Hence we diverted from game development and came towards photo and video editing apps.
Taking the long road
I graduated in 2007 from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), one of the most reputed public universities in Bangladesh for engineering. I was very passionate about developing games and looked forward to my ventures. At that time, E-Sports outsourced quite a few important projects to Bangladesh and I worked for those projects. I worked there for almost 5 to 6 years before starting my own business venture. After that I left the job to start Tapster. See, the service based companies in Bangladesh have a big problem. They are completely dependent on the client. If a client tells us tomorrow that they need a PHP website, not a game, then we will have to prepare that instead. There are two problems here. Firstly, there is not much personal growth here. You are bound to the wants of the client. Not to the wants of the company but to the company’s client. So you have to cater exactly according to their needs. There is little scope to grow. Secondly, a stable job becomes mundane. A lot of people face it after 3 or 4 years and I worked for almost 6 years. Even I was feeling bored. Since I already gathered quite a bit of experience, I thought of why not make my own games? I can work the way I want and have full authority.
Some bumps along the way
Our initial challenges were two things: competition and lack of resources. By lack of resources, I am referring to the lack of good developers and app designers in Bangladesh. Another problem was that we did not do a proper market research. We had relatively little idea about the importance of market research.
Gradually, we started to realize our mistakes. After we managed to grasp the importance of assessing the competitors and doing more market research we managed to gather loyal users and now, we are in a relatively better position than before.
Perks of coworking
I did know about the idea of coworking when I started Tapstar. I knew about quite a few coworking spaces in Dhaka but those were a little too expensive for me. Plus, those were far away from my place. So we chose a coworking space, Hubdhaka, which was nearer to us and affordable for the team.
We can do our work remotely if we want. But at least in a coworking area, we have a physical space, where we can all gather and sit together. So the physical location itself is a big thing. If clients want to meet you, then it is more professional to talk to them here rather than from home or coffee shops. It also keeps us disciplined. There are always distractions when working at home and coffee shops are too noisy. So, I think that a coworking space eliminates those distractions.
Certain concerns when coworking
Well, there aren’t any problems I faced here. Yeah, sure, there are differences in opinions between some of us members, but that is everywhere. Coworking space or not, people will always have differing opinions. There can be one concern though: the issue of privacy. Some clients might not want their work or data be handled in a place where many firms work together. There are sensitive information and they might have insecurities about privacy and data protection.
Why coworking is growing in Bangladesh
It should obviously grow. I remember when I first took my own office, it was a huge space. It was around 1200 square feet but my team is small. But we were not getting a small space either. Plus setting up all the equipment and furniture was a hassle. At a coworking space, the logistic work is ready. So, for the small startups and entrepreneurs, a coworking space will definitely be a good option.
Tapstar’s future with coworking
Well, all coworking spaces have a limitation for members. For example if a coworking space can hold 30 people and my team size increases to 10, then it will become too cluttered. So when my team starts growing, it will be hard to accommodate them at a coworking space. So at that time, I definitely have to move out.
Advice to new entrepreneurs
Of course they should opt for coworking. I will give you an example from my personal experience. When we set up our own office elsewhere, we struggled a lot with other competing firms. Our team was small and expenses to manage a big office were huge. Here, however, if our team size changes, then we can simply ask for more chairs and pay for them accordingly or even reduce the seats if any of the team members leave. The flexibility we are allowed is unlike anything.