The story of WebAble - A new blend of online marketing

Ovick Alam and Shadab Mahbub first met in August 2012, at BridgeWee – a coaching center for English medium students who want to enroll in public universities. Shadab was Ovick’s student at BridgeWee and Ovick found out that Shadab has experience in working online, while he too had some experience as he initially founded BridgeWee online in 2009. Sometime around then he and Shadab began talking about online marketing and discussing about the prospects and came to a conclusion that something should be done. However they never went into the implementation of what they had concluded.

Shadab eventually enrolled in Dhaka University and is in his second year of university now. Shadab has been working online since 2009, primarily as a free lancer. He used to be the junior copywriter for a software company in the US. ‘I learned a lot from the US software company about how businesses market online, how ecommerce works, how different tools of online marketing work and was eager to explore how these techniques apply for businesses in Bangladesh.’ said Shadab

A year later they reopened the chapter of their initial conversation regarding online marketing and this time they wanted to do something about it. The two of them began researching about the prospects of online marketing and what can be done. They came to understand that the introduction of technology in Bangladesh is still new and that online marketing was solely done by a few big brands and wasn’t applicable for small to medium businesses. Since then they have been trying to figure out what to do and explored the horizons of online marketing.

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‘We had a lot of ideas as to what could be done and we wanted to work on a constructive service that businesses could gain from’ said Shadab

They launched their first campaign with Jagoo in September 2013. Jagoo was looking for about 200 sponsors for the children studying in their school. This campaign continued for two months through various online platforms and they implemented a proper system online through which more sponsors could be introduced.  And it eventually helped them to get sponsors not only from Dhaka but from all over the world. They basically did online marketing for them, starting from advertising, designing, copywriting, including setting up a Facebook page. Through this vigorous campaign they were able to engage 235 sponsors for the project. ‘We gave them a 2500% ROI’ mentioned Ovick

It made them realize that the ideas they had actually work and could help small to medium businesses. They also figured out that they would be a bottom line driven agency. This is when WebAble came into being.

 ‘We are extremely bottom line driven and we look at the numbers’ said Shadab. ‘There is a lot of scope for creativity in this line of work but the effectiveness and creativity at WebAble comes down to the numbers’

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In February 2014, WebAble got their second client. It was a small boutique in Dhanmondi called ‘Adam & Eve’ which was owned by Zakia Rezwana. Despite having a Facebook page and a store, she had much difficulty in promoting her brand. WebAble approached her and offered her their services. The first product that Zakia needed assistance in marketing with was couple’s pillow covers for valentine’s day. The entire campaign was based on Facebook. The biggest challenge while marketing these was identifying the target audience. ‘This product had to be advertised to two different age groups, the young who are in a relationship and the mature who are married’ said Shadab ‘And that’s exactly how our approach was.’ And within seven days, 150 pillow covers were sold at Tk. 1299 per piece.

Meanwhile WebAble was getting new clients and the London Grace school was added to the list.

Prior to this, they used to work from home but after these successful campaigns they realized that they required a team for WebAble to perform better and offer their services to a greater audience.

It was a day in February when Ovick and Shadab had to attend a meeting which got cancelled. While walking in the streets of Lalmatia, they began wondering as to how rent office space when they didn’t have enough revenue coming in. Despite that they went looking for office space anyway and found the suite where they work now. Money was a vital issue for them but on a whim they made the advance payments on the suite from their own savings. It dawned upon them that it was a ‘do or die’ moment and that they had to take the risk.

Anis Hannan Chowdhury, another co-founder, came onboard right before they rented out the office space. He was born in Bangladesh but raised in Saudi Arabia. After his O’Levels he returned to Bangladesh and resided in Chittagong. During his A’levels Anis and Ovick met each other at a youth leadership program at the Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center.  Eventually Anis moved to Dhaka, enrolled in NSU, and started his own company called Designerium, a web development company. After WebAble came into being, Ovick met Anis and explained how more could be done and spoke about his ideas. Anis later hung out with them, saw their work and decided to join the team from February.

In the short span of 4 months, WebAble was able to work with a whopping 32 brands, which include Dell, Kaspersky, Symphony, Olympic biscuits, among others. The response they are getting is undeniably great. They hope to be working with 15-20 extra brands soon.

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The entire team of WebAble is young, vibrant and eager to learn. They currently have 30 employees, of whom only 2 are university graduates. Given the fact that they are mostly students, it doesn’t stop them from giving in the extra effort and working in full time hours.

The initial challenges that they faced were mostly based on limited resources. At the beginning it was the three of them and only one designer and there were also struggles in regards to getting clients.

‘We have faced the challenges that every other start up does and we have successfully emerged from that and currently have 10 designers working with us’ stated Shadab.

How the people at WebAble function on a regular day is simple. For every client there is an account manager. In the morning the managers figure out the tasks they have in hand for the day, including being in charge of the content and advertising. For every campaign it all comes down to the numbers and if the ratings have dropped, they take it as a sign that this isn’t working and they change their approach. ‘We have certain analytics target to meet everyday’ added Ovick

In terms of services, WebAble offers any kind of services online, including app development, web development and Facebook marketing. ‘All our work is based online’ stated Ovick and added that their main strength lies in optimization and content development. He goes on to explain that WebAble creates brilliant content based on data and that is then sent to their target audience to maximize their ROI online.  They work across several online platforms and design their content to cater to these platforms. ‘Whenever we get a new project, we look at the data and tailor our campaign around it, be it with colors, content or design’ said Shadab.

‘Unlike other digital agencies in the country, we target only professionals on Facebook, LinkedIn, twitter and Slideshare, being very active on the latter’ Ovick informs. ‘It is incredibly difficult to do business to business marketing on Facebook but we have been very successful in achieving that’

Ovick explains that the whole idea behind WebAble was to build proper product that would entice other organizations to want to avail their services. He also notes that WebAble is solely financed by their revenue and not through any other avenues.

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WebAbe is growing exponentially and given their short lifespan in the business arena till now, they have already increased their size to three folds. The staff now comprises of 13 interns, 9 full time employees and the others work part time.

They stated that they have started late in the business, with greater competition, now that more agencies are working in this field. Most of these agencies are backed by big advertising agencies whereas WebAble does not have an advertising back ground but rather a tech background. Yet, because of the quality and efficiency of the services they provide, they have been able to attract a decent amount of business.

The founders expressed that the prospects of social media is huge and is here to stay. ‘Last month alone 10 lakh people joined Facebook’ said Ovick and noted that aside from the young generation, older people are now moving into these online platforms.

One of the unique features of WebAble is how eager the entire team is to learn. They train themselves online and buy licensed software for their employees instead of looking for the advice of older successful professionals. Not only does this help the company to get a better perspective and grow but it also helps the employees to gain further experience. ‘People working here can learn anything they want, be it design or web development’ said Shadab and adds ‘This freedom is an integral part of our culture at the office.’ They also mentioned how them being young is often misconstrued as their weakness whereas the founders believe that is their biggest strength.

‘Despite being a startup, we invest on our employees by providing them with the tools through which they can teach themselves’ said Ovick.

What sets them apart from other marketing agencies is that they come from a technology background which gives them the edge over their competitors as they primarily come from an advertising background or are backed by big advertising agencies.  ‘We are young and we get things done’ said Ovick

As for the future, the founders are very hopeful. They plan on expanding to other districts of the country and eventually go global.