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Why Climb Mountains When You Can Build One?


Maliha Noshin Khan


I mumbled across my notes as Anjan Tanmoy Basak, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Headless Technologies, sat smiling on my computer screen. I was about to learn the story and insights of a person who used to be a random engineering student at BUET just a few years ago, and is now the co-founder of a company.

It all started with five friends who would work on projects assigned in classes, and then started taking part in competitions, eventually winning some of them. Finally, after three years of friendship, passion, and work, they had their first official meeting on Victory Day, 2018. All five of them are still working together, Tanmoy says with pride.

Now, Headless Technologies is a start-up company that specialises in two branches of artificial intelligence (AI): Natural Language Processing and Computer Vision. The company also works on the Internet of Things (IoT), websites, and application designs.

When asked why they chose to go for a start-up that includes starting from scratch and potential risks, he was keen to say that early on in his life, he had realised that he worked most efficiently on things that he cared about the most.

“Why climb mountains when you can build one?” he asked.

Regular people, irrespective of their backgrounds, age, and upbringing, use AI in their regular lives. Tanmoy reminds us that a lot of things we do, like searching on the internet, Facebook-ing, and face tagging, are all products of AI.

He is even more optimistic and positive about the usage of AI in the near future. He explains how the future usage of AI, perhaps in only 5 years, will be much more realisable and solid. They will strengthen security through cameras and other means; there will be chatbots to answer questions in emergencies; there will be mass use of technology for the visually impaired.

On the note of AI replacing manual labour, he recognises that this is plausible. But he also explains that this is not a new phenomenon. Human beings have been naturally inventing towards making lives easier through technology. With every revolutionary invention, be it a hammer, a wheel, or the steam engine, people have lost jobs, and gone towards higher cognitive practices. AI is just another revolution, and humans have always adapted to survive. This is their nature.

Their most endeavoured product, “engaze.ai”, is about to hit the market this June. “engaze.ai” is a chat-bot, basically designed for restaurants and Facebook pages. It is capable of communicating both in Bangla and English. It responds to people’s common queries, covering the products of a page, restaurant menus, locations, up-and-coming and ongoing offers, etc. Basically, we will no longer have to wait for replies during emergencies.

They have also had the privilege of working with the government during the ongoing corona outbreak. Their “Corona Awareness Bot (CAB)” was built for the ICT division. The CAB answers every essential question that can be asked on Covid-19, and provides information about the treatment process. After two weeks of being launched, CAB has already taken part in thirty thousand conversations. It also has quizzes that make the conversation more children-friendly and interactive. 

After having worked both for foreign clients as well as the government, Tanmoy speculates that foreign clients are always responsible, timely, and goal-oriented, and the experience with the government has been no different thus far. The government was prompt in signing the deal and resource provision, and were also open and attentive to suggestions that they provided. In fact, he adds, in nurturing tech-based start-ups, the government is currently playing the most important role. The ICT Division is generating a huge amount of funding for arranging hackathons and idea competitions, and also supporting the market through private investors. However, while they are doing a great job at nurturing the seed, there needs to be more focus on planting. That is, when a company enters the market after it has been formed.

Tanmoy believes that this really is the era of Digital Bangladesh, and that start-ups in Bangladesh have huge potential in the global market. However, he believes that the term “start-up” is somewhat overrated and companies should instead use the term “start-up companies”.

“After all, they are first a company, and then they are a company who has an idea of their own, hence, a start-up.”

He also brings attention to how large global companies have started to invest in Bangladesh in the designing and production of many of their products.

“We have a large number of engineering students. If we can generate the skill sets demanded by the global market in our universities, we will certainly thrive.”

Their performance curve has been exponential so far. From one room, one project, and no clients, now they have 15 projects locally and globally, only within two years. 

“We love stepping into the office and working with the idea of ‘all work and all play’. We think as one.”

Headless Technologies believes that less is more, and wants to make the world easier through technology. They also endeavour for a market in Bangladesh which will reduce brain drain.

“We have a name that will make you wonder,” Tanmoy says as we prepare to end the interview.

 


Maliha Noshin Khan aspires for a world where people no longer judge based on presumptions.

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