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‘A framework is needed to benefit from any government stimulus’

Dhaka Distribution founder and CEO Prabeer Sarkar talks to Fintech

Prabeer Sarkar/Photo: Courtesy

Prabeer Sarkar is known for his carving out a path that wasn’t there in the market. But he is perhaps even more skilled in adaptive business strategies. Fintech recently spoke with IT industry veteran about the impact of the ongoing pandemic and other related subjects. Here’s an edited excerpt of the conversation.

Talk about what you think has been the impact of coronavirus pandemic on the IT industry.

I see this from two different aspects. The first is the user group that uses IT and the other is the IT business side. These two overlap but I think it’s useful to look at them separately.

The impact on the user group is quite significant. It’s like being woken up to a new reality where you must rely on IT because you have to maintain social distancing. People needed to get used to the new paradigm.

I think the post-Covid world will look different. People that were doing well might do worse, and vice versa. And there is a big connection to where you are in terms of your IT communication competence. This is a skill, and everyone doesn’t have it. And that is going to be the outlier factor.

Working online will also change how things get done. Things will get done more timely because you are not fighting traffic jams for example.

Not all IT companies can convert their businesses to full-online overnight. This requires a mindset, skill force, resources, software and combination of all of these elements. The businesses will suffer inevitably because there is a global recession going on. But this doesn’t mean there will not be any growth. You have to work through this.

What kind of cybersecurity vulnerabilities are there during the pandemic?

There was an FBI report that I saw a few days ago. The complaints of cybercrimes have increased by 300% during the pandemic. Phishing also increased by 450%.

When you worked out of your office your IT manager oversaw the security and you worked within a format. Now when you are working out of your house, you are using your home’s Wi-Fi connection. It takes about a few seconds to hack your home router. This means the security level is almost zero. The entire system is compromised.

Phishing attacks are happening in the guise of information about the coronavirus. If you do not have a good IT hygiene sense, then you become very susceptible to such attacks. I think this is a great time for thinking seriously about cybersecurity.

The cybercriminals are not sitting idly. They are very active. So, if you are not actively taking measures, you will be a victim.

What about the current work system transitioning to the post-pandemic world? Do you think work from home will remain, at least in part?

I think everyone is different and different sectors have approached this differently. Some have actually decided that work from home will continue. But not everyone can do this, particularly in the manufacturing industry.

But there are certainly benefits here. You can get a lot done and your company will gain from it. You can save cost and time. I think the practice will continue but in varying degrees.

What do you think will be the impact on the IT startup sector?

I’m not sure how much you think of the startup scene as a ‘sector’ on its own. I don’t think there is anything unique about the situation for startups. They will struggle like others. If you can’t persevere you will fail.

What kind of changes you anticipate in the venture capital landscape?

I think people working in this area have their own methods. You need a pattern to predict anything. The situation due to the pandemic is causing problems in all the countries, but everyone is different in terms of the specifics of the crisis.

It will take time for the situation to stabilize and it is true for venture capital as well. Venture capital works in a certain way, and it is not gambling.

What are your thoughts on the government stimulus for the IT sector?

I think you have to be clear about what is a stimulus and what is an aid. Stimulus money is not an incentive. I think if we now get monetary stimulus that will be unproductive. If I use the money for paying my employees and other company expenses, then it will have been spent in an unproductive area.

This is simply because of the fact that this money will be used up after a while, and the government can’t give you more money again. The stimulus can help you survive, but it has its limits.

There has to be appropriate planning and a framework on the governmental level. This will set out how exactly we can benefit from a stimulus.

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