Android Toto Company: Pioneering ‘techtubers’ in Bangladesh
If you are looking for smartphone reviews in Bengali, the first name that will pop into your recommendations will be- ATC or the Android Toto Company, which currently boasts 1.32 million subscribers, the highest among similar Bangladeshi channels.
As the smartphone market grew, the tendency of brand promoters to deceive consumers with new 'features' has dramatically increased. Does anybody know why there is a macro lens in a mid-range budget phone with zero usability? This is where consumer technology reviewers a.k.a 'techtubers' come into play.
Today, young consumers spend an ample amount of time on YouTube watching product reviews to find the best tech products. Marques Brownlee, LinusTechTips, Mrwhosetheboss, and many other internationally renowned tech-review channels provide quality content in English. However, if you are looking for smartphone reviews in Bengali, the first name that will pop into your recommendations will be ATC or the Android Toto Company, which currently boasts 1.32 million subscribers, the highest among similar Bangladeshi channels.
One of the lead content creators of ATC's team, Ashikur Rahman Tushar, shared some interesting insights about their journey with The Business Standard.
Reminiscing how ATC came into life, Tushar went back to 2011, when Android was just being globally popularised. At first, the ATC was a community-based Facebook group, created by a few tech-enthusiast school buddies where consumers sought Android-related solutions. Slowly, they noticed the global trend of techtubing, and naturally, all of these contents were in English. Tushar and his friends aimed at overcoming this language barrier and making their own content in Bengali, to reach a greater audience in Bangladesh. The rest is history.
To explain the story behind their channel's name, Tushar chuckled. The name has two parts- Android and Toto Company. The 'Android' part of the name reflects the fact that the channel initially focuses solely on Android-based smartphones
But what about the 'Toto Company' part of the name? Answering this, Tushar said, "In our country, the term Toto Company is used as a common phrase, mostly by parents, to label the carefreely roaming unemployed youths. Due to lack of a dedicated studio, our work required us to move here and there regularly, therefore, Android Toto Company."
Every success story has its own trials, so does the ATC. Even now, pursuing YouTubing as a full-time profession, especially for a bunch of college students is considered a rebellious attempt. We asked how it was for Tushar. He replied, "When we started, YouTubing in Bangladesh was at its infancy. People only watched YouTube for entertainment. A very few people were familiar with the concept of tech-reviewing and those who were, they used to watch English reviews."
He added, "We had to start from scratch. For professional techtubing, brand support plays a significant role, which was not available at that time. Companies did not have review units to provide us with smartphones. So, we adopted a different way, what we like to call Bangla Style."
"We used to visit Shah Ali Plaza in Mirpur. There, we had to explain to sellers what tech reviewing meant. Some sellers were easily convinced, others were sceptical. Some of them allowed us to review their phones at their shops. That is how the first few years went by," said Tushar.
We asked for insights into the revenue process of techtubing. He frankly replied to us that there are typically two types of income sources for techtubers; YouTube AdSense and sponsors. "Due to poor ad rates, the revenue share from YouTube AdSense is relatively low in Bangladesh. Therefore, we have to actively work with sponsors for regular income," he elaborated.
Tushar continued, "We usually have three kinds of sponsors. Firstly, the unofficial smartphone sellers in prominent shopping malls sponsor us since their target audience matches ours. Secondly, the smartphone brands send us review units after the launch of new phones. Thirdly, we get endorsement opportunities from telco companies to promote their campaigns. Apart from these, we often get emails from international software or IT companies to endorse their products."
Since Bangladesh's smartphone market is somewhat import-dependent, we asked how it affected ATC in terms of content generation. Tushar replied, "At our initial phase, phones used to enter Bangladesh's market comparatively late. Thus, our videos were also released late and we used to lose a lot of views. This, however, has improved significantly with the growth of our local smartphone market."
As globally it is often noticed that brands tend to manipulate the techtubers to release paid content, we tried to know its relevance in Bangladesh from Tushar. This is what he had to say in that regard, "Brands naturally try to push paid content as they do not want negative reviews of their products. However, my observation is that companies are recruiting young members in their brand management team and these people know the value of honest and authentic reviews. Therefore, they never push us to fabricate our content."
He furthered, "ATC started off to save consumers from being deceived by brand promoters. So, we have always been truthful to our audience. Doing so, we had lost big financial deals in the past. However, what we could keep intact was our viewers' trust. Their faith in us gives us credibility and makes us stronger to hold onto our stance."
Talking about their upcoming content plans, Tushar explained, "We have recently started two new shows- Let's Explain, where we explain technology features that everyone should know of. Another one is Chhure Dao, where we briefly review a few gadgets in each video. As tech gadgets are becoming extremely popular, we will focus on reviewing gadgets while continuing in-depth user reviews for smartphones."
We asked about the most positive and negative criticisms received by the team over the years. To answer this, Tushar said, "When we began working as college students, working with big brands was a big deal for us. The branding teams always appreciated us for not following the traditional career paths and admired our work."
"Audiences always have different perceptions about particular brands. They often fail to accept any other opinion contrary to their previously set judgment." However, Tushar feels that people are becoming more rational and understanding with time.
Revealing what Tushar loved most about his profession, he happily said, "For tech enthusiasts, this platform (YouTube) can be enticing as they might get to explore new technology products and get a first-hand experience. Most importantly, online tech reviews help people make economically viable decisions. Brand promoters also tell us that consumer consciousness is increasing as a result of tech reviews."
At the end of the conversation, Tushar stressed that aspiring tech reviewers must have three core values to succeed; consistency, patience, and a survival-oriented mindset.