Cell phone internet makes cyber cafes gasp for life [ Last Page ] 01/04/2015
Cell phone internet makes cyber cafes gasp for life
40 per cent shops closed down
Yasir Wardad:

Easy access to internet through cell phones has severely hit cyber café business in the capital and elsewhere in the country as users now have lot of options in their hands than going to distant cafés.

In last five years, more than 40 per cent of cyber cafés have been forced to down their shutters following a very poor response of customers, insiders said.

Introduction of Smartphones at a lower cost, parallel to orientation of high-speed internet facilities and limited prices offered by private mobile phone operators, have made the cafés outlive their necessity in the last five years, they said.

However, some of the cafés, which are in a grim battle for survival, have brought change in business strategies by including other segments like printing, photo shop, application submission for jobs, basic computer training, music and cinema downloading etc.

An official at the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) told the FE that mobile phone users in the country totalled 114 million in 2014 and internet subscribers 42.76 million in number.

Of the total, 41.30 million are now connected through mobile handsets, he said.

He said in 2010, the number of mobile phone users was 70.0 million. Of them, less than 5.0 million were connected to internet through their cell phones.    

The growing number of mobile phone internet users has severely affected the cyber café business in the country.   

Khan Mohammad Alamin, proprietor of E Zone Cyber Café at Lalit Mohan Das Lane in Lalbagh area in the city shut his business six months back and went abroad.

The then manager of the café Md Uzzal Hossain told the FE that from 2008 to 2012, they did a roaring business. After that, it started to go down.

He said a person now can use internet easily at lower cost through his/her cell phone or internet modem and has hundreds of packages being offered by the mobile phone operators.

"People can browse through his/her cell phones for 30 days by using just a Tk 300 package offered by many mobile operators. Broadband connection and 3G services can be enjoyed by Tk 800-850 a month," he said.

"Per hour browsing charge in a café was Tk 25-30 in 2009-10 which has been reduced to Tk 20 now, but the number of customers has declined by 80 per cent," he said.

Owner of BD Cyber Café at BDR Gate No-1 in Hazaribagh area Md Imran Hossain said they did business well until people had access to internet through their mobile handsets.

"I invested Tk 1.0 million so far since 2011 in the business," he said.

"Some 14 desktops were in operation for 12 hours of café time with 168 browsing hours in 2012. I managed to sell 100-120 browsing hours per day from which I used to get Tk 2500-2600 during that time," he said.   

"My monthly income was not less than Tk 30,000 per month then," he said.  

He was forced to reduce the number of desktops to six now and hardly can manage 25-30 browsing hours from which he can only pay for expenses in running the shop," he said.

"I've now started other computer and internet- related businesses alongside internet browsing to cope with the dull time," he said.

According to the Cyber Café Owners Association of Bangladesh (CCOAB), the number of cyber cafés in Dhaka city is now 400 which were above 750 in 2010.

According to the CCOAB, there were around 2,000 cyber cafés across the country in 2010 which fell to 1,200 in 2014.

The sector, however, employed above 0.1 million people and invested over Tk 1.5 billion in last 15 years in the country, according to the CCOAB.

Annual turnover of the sector is Tk 720 million, the association's data revealed.    

President of the organisation S.M. Zulfiquer Haider told the FE cafés flourished mainly after Bangladesh was linked with an under-sea cable in 2006 and young entrepreneurs came forward to set up cyber cafés in different parts of the capital.

He said later the business mushroomed in divisional cities as well.

He said the business reached its peak in 2009-10 and then started plunging following availability of easy internet service through mobile phones and modems at cheaper rates.  

He said 40 per cent of the cafes were shut down in the country. These failed to take appropriate business strategy with the post mobile-internet revolution period in last four years.

Mr Haider, also owner of Tetra Soft at Mohammadi Housing in Mohammadpur area, one of the oldest cyber cafés in the country, said the business is also seeing a new hope in this changing condition.

He said more than a dozen businesses can be done in a single cyber café.

Printing, job application submission, opening profiles or IDs of social media, photo shop, graphics, basic computer training etc can be added to the café, he said.

Vice president of the CCOAB Rokonuzzamnan Sujan said: "The cyber cafes, which have stayed alive, adopted a number of segments and their profit margin has been going up".

He said expertise is needed to survive in this business.

"Entrepreneurs, who are coming up with a minimal or medium capital must be skilled in computer and internet-related services," he said.  

    tonmoy.wardad@gmail.com
 
 
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