Design

Intelligent by design, humane by choice

Intelligent Machines is a Bangladeshi startup that uses technology to streamline and improve the operations of their clientele. But it is their unique work culture that sets them apart

27 March, 2022, 12:50 pm

Last modified: 27 March, 2022, 01:07 pm

Photo: Noor-A-Alam

“>

Photo: Noor-A-Alam

A tech company with almost no rules. People come and go as they please, or not come at all. There is an unlimited leave policy (line managers need only be informed). Salaries are based solely on employee performance, not tenure or certifications.

Undergraduates are routinely hired into leadership positions with full-time salaries (by industry standards), while they are allowed to work around their academic needs. All employees have access to extensive financial reports of the company.

Concepts like these bring to mind images of a startup in a relatively more developed environment, except, these are all facts about a Bangladeshi startup.

Everything about it seems too good to be true unless one gets a chance to talk to the people working there and experience how they work first-hand, and we did.

Intelligent Machines is a tech startup owned and operated by Bangladeshis that uses AI models, among other CS (computer science) based solutions. Photo: Noor-A-Alam

“>
Intelligent Machines is a tech startup owned and operated by Bangladeshis that uses AI models, among other CS (computer science) based solutions.  Photo: Noor-A-Alam

Intelligent Machines is a tech startup owned and operated by Bangladeshis that uses AI models, among other CS (computer science) based solutions. Photo: Noor-A-Alam

Intelligent Machines is a tech startup owned and operated by Bangladeshis that uses AI models, among other CS (computer science) based solutions, to streamline and improve the operations of their clients. Their clientele includes bKash, Unilever, British American Tobacco, Telenor and IDLC.

They earned $2.5 million in revenue in the last three years and grew by 185 per cent in the last year alone. But what’s more interesting than the statistics is the cultural engineering that enables it.

The founder and CEO Mohammad Oli Ahad is also proud of Intelligent Machines’ human resources, “We now have 19 team members from the IBA, 14 from BUET and 9 from IUT, along with our other highly capable talents. This talent density, we hope , shows a culture of no control, thus modeling the right behavior by leaders, and low-monitoring at the back-end is appealing and helpful.”

what they do

Intelligent Machines specializes in understanding their client’s businesses and their context, and finding solutions while employing their machine learning expertise to create value for them.

An anecdote by Ahad makes things easier to understand.

“The Finance director for bKash, Moyeen bhai, told me during a phone call that he was very concerned about the value of all the promotional material (banners, posters, stickers, etc.) was adding with respect to how much it costs to make those.

And we asked him if he could get us pictures of these points of sale and we’d determine from the pictures if the material was being correctly used.”

So they got to work and made Biponon, an AI model that can accurately recognize whether the POS (point of sale) material is being used properly. This means representatives from bKash now only go to the merchants when there is an issue detected by the AI ​​with the POS material, slashing workload and boosting efficiency notably – 76 per cent to be exact in this case.

Intelligent Machines specializes in understanding their client’s businesses and their context. Photo: Noor-A-Alam

“>
Intelligent Machines specializes in understanding their client's businesses and their context.  Photo: Noor-A-Alam

Intelligent Machines specializes in understanding their client’s businesses and their context. Photo: Noor-A-Alam

This is just one example of the several ways in which Intelligent Machines brings meaningful changes to the way these conglomerates do things, spurring productivity and the efficient use of research.

The intelligence of the “Machines”

People working at Intelligent Machines are exclusively called ‘Team Members’, they are never referred to as “employees”. We are accustomed to companies treating employees like simple assets that perform specific tasks, in a specific way, constantly.

But as the founder talks about the principles behind starting the journey of Intelligent Machines in the first place, it becomes clear that achieving the exact opposite of treating people like machines is what he set out to do.

“Among the many reasons for talented graduates leaving the country as fast as they can, is they feel that workplaces in our country do not properly reward or value their expertise and talent. We wanted to change that”. He is also concerned about domestic companies having to look across our borders for such solutions.

“If you open, say, a hospital or a coffee shop or any business today, you will try to find what software is being used abroad to empower or streamline processes in this industry and you’ll import that technology.

But we don’t think that’s the right way to do things, because a business that operates in Bangladesh, needs its system to cater to the Bangladeshi context. So, Bangladeshi talent meeting the needs of Bangladeshi businesses is the perfect marriage between the two and that is why it made sense for us to start this journey”.

People are kept at the forefront of everything Intelligent Machines does. It was apparent in every interaction we had with them.

M Oli Ahad holds a vivid vision of people in his heart about the people involved with Intelligent Machines. Photo: Noor-A-Alam

“>
M Oli Ahad holds a vivid vision of people in his heart about the people involved with Intelligent Machines.  Photo: Noor-A-Alam

M Oli Ahad holds a vivid vision of people in his heart about the people involved with Intelligent Machines. Photo: Noor-A-Alam

As Rafat, leading the Startup Journey team recounts, “One of the first things I had to do was to make recordings for this new project we were working on. This wasn’t even anywhere near my job description, but I went along.

I spent 10 hours at a senior team member’s home making recordings, trying and failing, but he was always so sure that I could do it, so confident in my abilities and so welcoming, that I never felt tired or wanted to give up”.

So exactly how do they do this? Is there mass hypnosis going on in the organization or is it just a carefully engineered culture of support, backed up by empathy?

At Intelligent Machines, it does not matter where the work is being done or how, as long as it is getting done. Team members are accountable only for fulfilling their responsibilities and not causing bottlenecks; how they achieve that is up to them.

About the author

Getprofitam

Leave a Comment