When he was a student of Buet, Abrar Masum was living at his uncle's home where he used to see his uncle always struggle and get fussy with the guards and maintenance people.
Abrar's uncle used to pay them off with a hefty amount of money only so he would not have to go through the hassles every building owner goes through looking after the establishment.
"That is when I thought of a service provider company that simplifies and digitises this age-old system of building maintenance. Back then, this idea was already very popular in India. I want to popularise this concept in Bangladesh as well," said Abrar Masum, the CEO of Rokkhi - a smart apartment management system that, as the name suggests, protects the building and its residents.
In essence, Rokkhi aims to reduce a landlord's workload when managing a building's utility bills, looking after the tenants' needs, ensuring round the clock security, etc. Moreover, doing all these manually may turn into a monotonous job and leaves room for errors but a digital counterpart is more accurate and saves time.
In a recent conversation with The Business Standard, Abrar spoke in detail about Rokkhi, its services, benefits and the Covid-19 pandemic's impact on the business.
"Our aim is to ensure 24/7 protection to all the residents of a building and the best way to do this is swap register notebooks with digital methods such as an app which will register every guest who enters and exits the building," he explained.
Established in 2019, Rokkhi has continued to serve its clients with facilities such as lift maintenance, security and cleaning but in a more efficient and hassle-free way through the app.
The Rokkhi app has three categories for three separate tasks - security, management, services - all of which is done through the help of technology.
We asked Abrar to tell us how the app helps secure the building. "Our app acts like the registration notebooks most security personnels use at the entrance of a building to register guests. But instead, Rokkhi registers them digitally and keeps track of when they are coming in and going out," he answered.
He further told us how the app helps manage utility costs and aids the building committee to look after the establishment.
He said, "Every residential building has a committee which is in charge of collecting bills and looking after the building, and we have an option for these on the Rokkhi app. A committee member may need to run to five different vendors for five different services but most people do not bother to inquire about the quality of the services they are taking."
"Many times, they may even end up taking overpriced services which could have been otherwise available for a lesser cost. We have over 100 registered vendors on our app who provide building-related services at a rate cheaper than it is in the market," he added.
Aside from this, Rokkhi has a software for the building owners that keeps track of the utility and other bills and payments.
Abrar believes that it is very important for most multiplexes and other residential buildings to have automated security services. "The number of thefts may be low but even one incident of theft can ruin the residents' mental peace for a long time. Account management also gets hampered if it is done manually," he said.
So, why should anyone sign up with Rokkhi instead of installing CCTV cameras all around the building and hiring security guards to attend the gates round the clock?
In his response, Abrar said, "What sets Rokkhi apart from CCTV cameras and hiring security personnels is that Rokkhi digitises the whole process, leaving no room for errors. The best part is that residents will also be informed about who is coming and going to and from their homes. This saves time and captures the guests' identities."
The residents of a building under Rokkhi's watch also have the option to not grant access to anyone they do not want in their homes simply through the app. The security personnel can then deny them entrance.
If you are wondering how much Rokkhi's services cost, the digits may surprise you as it is more affordable than you would have guessed.
Rokkhi's services are on-demand and the charge is calculated on the basis of the building's requirements. If you sign up for all three services, the rate is Tk300 taka per flat per month. If you sign up for only one of the three services, the rate will then be Tk50 taka per flat per month.
"We have designed the costs keeping growth in mind, and not profit. With Rokkhi, I aim to popularise digitised apartment management services throughout the city before thinking about making profits," said Abrar.
In response to how the pandemic impacted Rokkhi operations, and more importantly, what new challenges did the pandemic bring to establishing a new company at a time of global economic disenchantment.
He said, "The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted our business both positively and negatively. As our client base is mostly older gentlemen, they prefer meeting in-person before onboarding our services. But the pandemic made it impossible for our executives to visit their homes."
"However, every cloud has a silver lining and the sudden reliance on technology made it easier for us and our clients to reach out to us safely. The occasional lockdowns make us fall behind but as soon as the lockdown restrictions are lifted, Rokkhi comes back in full force," he concluded.