Gone are the days of hunching over a map or asking a complete stranger to find out a location in a locality. A smartphone in your hand can act as the guide, as you just need to input a few words for direction in a location app like Google Map.
While Google Map is there to give broad-scale solutions to finding a location, sometimes it misses out or fails to pinpoint an exact location, especially in a city like Dhaka where roads and alleys are intertwined like a jigsaw puzzle.
Al-Amin Sarkar Tayef, a Dhaka-based computer engineer saw an opportunity to cash in on this lacking of the otherwise very efficient google service. Three years ago, he founded Barikoi— a location data provider that aims to provide reliable location data in the local context.
"I have been facing this question since day one: Why the need for a location app when there is Google Map? Well, my answer is, we are not exactly catering to the needs of a regular 'individual' user, rather we partner with other businesses who need our location services," Tayef told The Business Standard.
The birth of an idea
Tayef first thought of Barikoi while he was helping a family friend to build a motorcycle taxi company named AmarBike.
"Initially, we did very well with five bikes, doing 50-60 rides a day, but there was a catch. We were losing Tk 20-30 per ride due to inaccurate location and the way people gave out their addresses. I realised that location is an important aspect that no one was trying to fix and get a grip on," he said.
Tayef, with help of some of his friends conducted a small research and found out that in early 2017, delivery men were wasting around 5,000 hours a day finding addresses and calling people for addresses.
"The problem looked legit so I pitched the idea of starting a localized location-based solution to my co-founders Sadman and Reedwan--both are my friends and both are engineers. They hopped in and Barikoi started," said Tayef.
"We came up with the name 'Barikoi' as 'bari koi?' which is one of the most common questions in Bangladesh and we planned to answer it more accurately than anyone else," he added.
How does the app work?
Barikoi uses application programming interface (API) to help their clients find address, geocode and reverse geocode place and city corporation information in Dhaka. It is basically a data platform, which means it collects, stores, analyses location data and peripheral data then productise them and serves them using an API.
"Our product concept is simple, anyone who needs location data or location-based data can easily plug and play with our API and reap the benefits similar to google maps platform or Mapbox," explained Tayef.
Initially, Barikoi started as a B2C (Business to consumer) app and the idea quite didn't work out for them. Later, they changed their business format to B2B (Business to business) and B2G (Business to government.)
"We charge per API request made to our platform for our B2B users and yearly contract basis with B2G."
Tayef said their tech part is very interesting as they solve problems very specific to Bangladesh.
"We have built a lot of tools/products/tech from scratch. For example, to identify data loops we need a system where we can visually verify or update our data. So, we have built Barikoi 'Drishty' – a google street view alternative which will be updated frequently as opposed to google maps which was last updated in 2013," said Tayef.
Barikoi also built an AI-based address transformer called "Rupantor" which transforms bad addresses to a standard address. "Rupantor is a one-of-a-kind tool in the world which is developed by local developers for the people for Bangladesh," he said.
Many renowned companies of the country including Pathao, Sheba.xyz, Chadal.com, Ajkerdeal whose operation models include product or service delivery business have already onboarded with Barikoi. The users of the app have already expressed satisfaction with their services.
Talking with The Business Standard, Adnan Imtiaz Halim, co-founder and CEO of Sheba.xyz said they usually tried to collaborate with local entrepreneurs, vendors from the beginning of Sheba's journey.
"For that reason, we used services offered by Barikoi and I am very happy with their location data which are very accurate and helpful for our business," said Halim.
"We have plans to use other services of Barikoi in future," he added.
Tayef recalled the days when they worked with ride sharing app Pathao, which was their first client.
"Pathao had a massive team for mapping and we collaborated with them as our first client. The deal was that we would help them to collect and verify data. Our first revenue was from Pathao," said Tayef.
"We take full responsibility for our data and we always thrive to improve," he quipped.