The application allows users to access the internet for as low as Tk 5 to Tk 10, for an entire day.
The last year and a half were very challenging for most businesses as people were forced to stay indoors due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, which has been crippling economies around the world.
Amid the global pandemic, there were few innovative startups in the country that have proven successful as they solve real-life problems and help make life easier for the rest.
Bonton Connect is a startup that created a platform for its users to be able to share their wifi connections and earn credits which they can later cash out. The application allows users to access the internet for as low as Tk 5 to Tk 10, for an entire day.
In a country where mobile internet is still quite expensive and finding good connectivity everywhere is still an arduous task. The founders Samiha Tahsin and Omran Jamal wanted to come up with a solution where people can have access to the internet 24/7 and that too at a low cost.
At present, there are no such platforms providing this service in the country. “Due to the lockdown restrictions, we are not being able to go into operation on a larger scale, but we will soon as the lockdown eases a bit,” said Samiha.
The bottom 20% of the population in terms of the income distribution cannot access the internet, as 1GB of mobile phone data is equal to 11.4% of their monthly income, according to a report of GSMA.
As the pandemic has made people more dependent on the internet, be it in city centres or in rural areas- a huge chunk of the population is still outside the reach of internet accessibility. As of February this year, a total of only a mere 112.7 million people have access to the internet, according to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).
The platform already has around 10,000 hosts having launched only a few months ago in March. The company started its operations last year in the middle of a pandemic, focusing on enhancing its backend capabilities.
The number of users ranges between 250 to 300 at a time and the numbers are growing every day as the platform is gaining popularity among people.
The young entrepreneurs have already raised $100,000 from an angel investor which has enabled them to hire engineers and create a solid mobile phone application for the platform which can withstand any sort of security breach that might happen as networks are being shared.
Omran Jamal, one of the founders, is a student of BRAC University and is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering. Omran, having a passion for programming from an early age, started working professionally in many other startups previously; such as Jobike.
The other co-founder Samiha too, was into programming even before getting into university. She is also currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree from BRAC University. However, her path into entrepreneurship opened when her sister along with her took the initiative to help out artists who did not have an audience, to promote their work through online portals, by which they were able to make some money.
Bonton has a relatively small team of eight, all of whom are from computer science and engineering backgrounds.
The startup is mainly operating inside Dhaka in specific places such as Dhanmondi, Mohakhali and Mirpur. However, the word has spread to other parts of the country as well without any initiatives from the startup itself, simply through word of mouth.
Mohammad Ismail from Cox’s Bazar who mainly runs a small business also hosts his own wifi connection which is being used by people around him. Last month alone, he earned Tk 2000 using the Bonton app.
This shows the power of the internet and how it can empower people even through a pandemic where the country has been put under a strict lockdown. Taking inspiration from Ismail, others in the locality have also joined the platform to earn a passive income.
As the concept of the entire business model is still new, there are a few questions that might arise in one’s mind, such as sharing the same open Wi-Fi could lead to security issues which might be a serious problem to the host.
As a security measure, Bonton app puts a password in for the host and maintains a strong firewall that guarantees security and privacy for the host. It is one of the things the engineers at Bonton have been working on for an entire year before launching.
There are other concerns too, such as whether sharing Wi-Fi might slow down the internet and hamper the hosts’ own experience? To that, they answered by saying they have developed a system that recognizes the traffic usage and if there is high consumption, the user will be transferred to another network that has a more surplus bandwidth.
The founders plan to go nationwide eventually. The goal is to provide internet access to everyone. Currently, the startup is looking for a second round of investment that’ll help take the business ahead to the next level.