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‘The way to increase cash flow in the economy is to facilitate easy transaction’

Muh. Serajul Islam, CEO, ERA InfoTech

CEO of one of the leading tech companies in the country, ERA InfoTech, Muh. Serajul Islam is a banking sector veteran and was awarded as one of the most ‘respected CEOs’ in the country by Ajker Aorthokantha for his role in the company.

Fintech spoke to Muh. Serajul Islam recently. Here is an excerpt from the conversation.

Tell us a little bit about how you are coping with the pandemic situation and how is Era InfoTech adapting to the new condition?

There have been positive and negative impacts. ERA InfoTech works in the area of banking, mobile apps, microfinancing, SI, etc. We have recently been working on how to take microfinance management software to the boot level. So, there’s a negative impact of the lockdown that we face for sure.

The pressure has been harder on our work relating to microfinance and mobile apps. Especially, with the management of the disbursing of government’s stimulus package for the economically marginalized. We have made significant progress. We developed a few mobile apps.

Strategically, we knew that we needed special preparation for the situation. That’s why we started preparing even before the government announced the general holiday.

Working from home is quite new for this country relative to more technologically developed places. How effective is working from home for businesses like yours?

It is true that this is new for our country. This has forced us to rearrange our systems. For banks and NBFIs, there has been a lot of digitization going on. So, it’s easier in these sectors.

But two sectors in particular are hard to manage digitally, which are the manufacturing sector and the other is service. For the service sector we can move to work from home with some efficiency, but this will not be effective for the manufacturing sector. If we could introduce robotics sufficiently then that could help us with monitoring a lot.

There was a report that said 50% of the hardware and software companies might shut down due to the pandemic induced crisis. What are your thoughts on this?

There will likely be a disastrous situation if the current conditions continue. For example, hardware companies had to suspend 80% of their production for the lockdown. Whether these companies can survive will depend on how they are currently working, the strategic support, policy support, market condition, etc.

You often see that smaller businesses that do well tend to not think very seriously about their future. We need to promote our local products more. If you look at our neighbouring country, they are very emphatic on using their homegrown products. Our products are being used by big companies. Bank Asia for example uses local software. I would urge the government to give more importance in this area.

How can we have more cash-flow in the economy in light of the disrupted supply chain?

First of all, if we are talking about instant cash then discount can be used to great effect. So for example, if you sell a product to me and offer a 7% or 8% cashback as discount then I will have a great incentive to pay upfront. Consequently, you will reinvest the money I just paid to you and this will help create a cycle.

Secondly, in the case of bill payment, if I can pay utility bills from anywhere, then there will be much less pending bills. With more transactions happening more frequently, and at regular intervals, that will automatically increase cash flow.

E-commerce can play the most vital role here. If a robust e-commerce infrastructure was there then problems in buying-selling would have been solved. The transport system is a hindrance here. This is the biggest obstacle for e-commerce. As a result e-commerce is urban-based. It has not developed in the rural areas.

Another problem is that we have a lack of user friendly apps. This is particularly important in light of rural people’s lack of tech literacy. If these obstacles are dealt with, then everything will be much easier, and cash flow will get a boost.

Cyber security has been a big problem, albeit only getting attention when something big happens. Talk a little bit about your approach and attitude toward this.

This is a big challenge for us, given our area of work includes software. There are many aspects of cyber security and all have to be taken seriously. Hackers are smart and they should be taken seriously.

ERA InfoTech is very aware of this. We train our programmers in ethical hacking. So they know the vulnerabilities of our products and they know about the possible line of attack. This prepares us to trace any potential threat we might get exposed to. Ultimately, that’s the only way of ensuring security.

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