In developed economies, employee stock ownership or employee share ownership is a common practice, where high-performing employees can acquire a share of the company.
Brain Station 23, a software development company, began implementing this practice in Bangladesh since its inception in 2006.
Brain Station 23 is essentially structured and modelled around consultancy firms. In consultancy firms, employees who excel at their responsibilities are most likely to get partnership opportunities. The COO, CFO and CTO of Brain Station 23 had started their careers from the bottom wrung and now hold shares in the company.
"When I co-founded Brain Station 23, I was just a university student. The other founders could have just hired me as the CEO with a handsome salary, but instead, they offered me a 50% partnership. The ownership has always pushed me to deliver my best, and that is why, under my leadership, Brain Station 23 has conquered so much," said Raisul Kabir, a co-founder and CEO of Brain Station 23.
Brain Station 23 recently partnered with Ernst & Young Global Limited to establish an international model, where the best 80 employees will receive a small share of the company.
Not just about the money
Besides an employee-driven model, the philosophy of work at the company is interesting in many ways.
Bajlur Rashid Sourav, one of the lead engineers at Brain Station 23, usually reaches the office after 11 am. On busier days, when deadlines set off alarms in his head, he prefers working from home to get things done smoothly.
"The best part of working here is the flexibility. The office expects nine working hours in a day, and as long as we deliver, no one cares if we are present at the office or not," he added.
Brain Station 23 is essentially an outsourcing company that helps other businesses get third-party IT solutions. The management of the company strongly believes that creative jobs, like web design, should be given the highest extent of flexibility.
Employee satisfaction is a crucial component of the company's uncompromising performance. "We are not just another company where employees will work for the sake of money. We have designed our company to create fulfilling jobs. By fulfilling jobs, I mean work that is interesting, that ensures good money and builds solid employee-employer relations," said Raisul.
Brain Station 23 is one of the few companies in the country that offers its employees both provident fund and gratuity, along with a quarterly performance bonus.
A humble beginning and continuous growth
Raisul Kabir, a fresh graduate from BUET, founded this company to solve a software-related problem of Latitude 23, a renowned Dhaka-based architecture firm. The digit "23" in the name of the company denotes the latitude of Bangladesh.
They started their operation with only four employees. Back then, the ICT industry was still in a nascent stage, and the potential for its growth had neither been evaluated or estimated.
"When we started [Brain Station 23], our country's IT industry had not flourished to this level. Only three million people had access to the internet. Working in the industry was challenging, and only a few companies dared to explore this field," said MJ Ferdous, the COO and one of the directors at the company.
When formed, the company initially focused on the international market, and added the local market to its portfolio four years later. Since then, there has been continuous growth.
From the beginning, the key challenge was to hunt the top talent in the country. The majority of web designers and developers preferred moving abroad for better opportunities.
Hence, Brain Station 23 has branched out in different countries including Germany and Netherlands so that these individuals can work remotely from their comfort zones.
As of now, about 128 million of Bangladeshi citizens have access to the internet. Export earnings in the IT sector exceeded $1.3 billion in 2022. The country has more than 700 IT companies and the market is quite saturated. But the demand is always increasing.
Currently, Brain Station 23 has a team consisting of more than 650 IT experts. They have executed more than 2,000 national and international projects. The company is referred to as one of the top three software firms in the country, which has been paving the path for beginners for more than 16 years.
The company has 11 dedicated teams for diversified services like e-commerce, healthcare, banking, fintech, etc. There are different teams for different regions as well. At any given time, Brain Station 23 handles more than 50 projects simultaneously.
They have designed mobile banking apps for five leading banks in the country and served international entities like Telenor, British Telecom, Axiata, Metlife, etc.
The company has more than 12 tech partners, including Google Cloud Platform Partner, Adobe Solution Partner, AWS and Microsoft Gold Partner.
They have even been awarded the best outsourcing organisation title by the Bangladesh Association of Software & Information Services (BASIS) for seven consecutive years.
However, the journey was not easy, that too in such a short period of time.
"I think our open-mindedness to partnerships and collaborations took us to our 'road to Damascus.' Whenever a company or someone from an individual level wanted to collaborate with us, we welcomed them wholeheartedly.
This tendency has broadened our horizons more than anything else and helped us get important clients," said MJ Ferdous.
Brain Station 23 is a flat structured organisation, having no middle management between the executives and the frontline employees. This structure enables efficient teamwork and a healthy working environment.
"I do not have any personal room at the office. I sit in the common space with my team, eat the same food with them and experience the problems they go through first hand," added Raisul.
Empower and pay it forward
The company is actively recruiting engineers and software developers every other month from all over Bangladesh. The recruitment process is entirely automated and everyone gets a fair chance to join the team.
It takes around six months to prepare a newly recruited employee with necessary training on Java, Python etc. The training is given based on the requirements of teams.
"Skill development of the employees is something we have never compromised with since the beginning. We even bring foreign experts for our training programmes," added Ferdous.
The COO thinks that the youth of Bangladesh is full of potential. "During our recruitment process, we come across youngsters capable of doing wonders. I believe Bangladesh will lead the global industry in coming years," he said.
Brain Station 23 thrives to empower people to achieve more with less. The company envisions itself operating in 15 different countries within 2030.