Bijoy Ekushey, the latest edition of Bijoy
(Photo: Ananda Computers)
Although Bangla (the national and official language of Bangladesh) is the seventh most spoken language in the world, there was no well-functioning, simple and easy-to-use software for typing in this language until the late 1980s. These technological limitations were particularly constraining the printing and publishing industries in Bangladesh and the Bangla speaking regions of India (West Bengal, Asam, Tripura, Monipur, etc.)
Understanding the need for and potential of a feasible Bangla Script Writing Interface, Mustafa Jabbar, a Bangladeshi journalist, took the initiative to develop the software and appropriate Bangla keyboard layout, which virtually changed the printing and publishing industry in Bangladesh. With the advent of personal computers in the 1990s for office and home uses, his invention gradually became popular among the public and private sectors, educational institutes and individual users in Bangladesh and parts of India. Mr. Jabbar’s “Bijoy” software and keyboard are now the most popular, widely used Bangla typing option in the world.
Mustafa Jabbar, Inventor of Bijoy Bangla Software (Photo: Ananda Computers)
The origin of Bijoy lies with Mr. Jabbar’s intent to publish a weekly Bangla newspaper in 1987. He quickly realized that technological facilities for Bangla publications were almost non-existent. Although the use of computer technology for publications at that time was limited, he was impressed when he saw an English language weekly using a Macintosh® computer. He started looking for ways to extend the technology for publications in Bangla. The main challenge was to accommodate the 50-letter Bangla alphabet, along with additional vowels and conjoined letters, within a standard Macintosh (and later, Windows®) keyboard, and to create an acceptable QWERTY layout standard.
At that time there were at least two other Bangla keyboard layouts: the “Munir” keyboard, which was developed in 1965 for use in typewriters, and the “Shahid Lipi,” which can be said to be the first complete Bangla typing interface. Mr. Jabbar wanted to overcome many of the limitations associated with the existing options by developing a new Bangla interface with a new layout. Success came after one and a half years of continuous work, and the first edition of Bijoy was released in December 1988. The keyboard layout and font designs were created by the inventor himself while the software programming was done by an Indian programmer.
Soon after the development of Bijoy, Mr. Jabbar established his own company, Ananda Computers and has continued to improve Bijoy and develop new software. The first edition of Bijoy was developed only for use in Macintosh computers. A Windows-compatible Bijoy came to the market in 1993 (on 26 March, the Independence Day of Bangladesh). Improved versions were gradually developed to overcome shortcomings of previous versions as well as to cope with newer versions of operating systems and hardware upgrades. A group of programmers and researchers are dedicated to regularly improving the Bijoy software under the guidance of Mr. Jabbar.
Ananda Computers has also developed a number of other software including interactive multimedia software for children’s education, a multilingual library management system and other training software.
The copyright for the Bijoy keyboard layout was first registered in Bangladesh in 1989, and later the second edition was protected by a patent in 2004. All versions of the Bijoy software are also copyright-protected nationally. The script interface system for typing in Bangla is patented under Bangladeshi patent law. Additionally, the word and design of the term “Bijoy” is trademark protected. Jabbar has made applications for a number of other trademarks related to the names of subsequent versions of Bijoy. As a business strategy, all intellectual property rights (IPRs) developed by the staff at Ananda Computers are retained by Mustafa Jabbar/Ananda Computers, which is consistent with domestic IP laws as well as with international practices.
Mr. Jabbar believes that the success of creating the right brand name rests upon how effectively these names can touch the heart of the people and at the same time reflects the characteristics of the products. The term “Bijoy” means "victory" and the very first edition of Bijoy was released on 16 December, the Victory Day of Bangladesh, in 1988. Subsequent products have also been named in a similar fashion: the last two editions of Bijoy are known as Bijoy Bayanno (Bijoy 52) and Bijoy Ekushey (Bijoy 21), commemorating the Bangla language movement on 21 February 1952, a very important and emotional event in the history of Bangladesh and all Bangla-speaking people.
The logo of Bijoy is a registered trademark (Photo: Ananda Computers)
The software is sold on CD/DVD-ROMs in retail outlets in Bangladesh. Due to the underdeveloped Internet infrastructure and unavailability of online transactions, these products are not sold online. However, Ananda Computers’ website has a software download option; once downloaded, the software can be activated through a password that is delivered after payment confirmation. Two versions of Bijoy are available – a complete professional version for office use and a much cheaper (less than US$ 2) version for individual users. Mr. Jabbar is also contemplating the release of another version for students, which will cost less than US$ 1.
A licensing contract was signed between Ananda Computers and a few dozen computer vendors of Bangladesh who import Bijoy Keyboard layout printed keyboards from China. According to the contract, the Chinese company produces and exports Bijoy layout printed keyboards to Bangladesh, and Mr. Jabbar’s company receives royalties from the importers for each keyboard sold.
Bijoy Keyboard Layout (Photo: Ananda Computers)
The popularity and practicability of Bijoy, coupled with the low implementation of intellectual property (IP) laws in Bangladesh, have resulted in rampant piracy of the software. Additionally, a huge quantity of keyboards with the Bijoy layout printed on them used to be imported from abroad. The National Board of Revenue (NBR) of Bangladesh examined this issue following an application by Mustafa Jabbar. In 2008, after assessing and confirming that Mustafa Jabbar was the patent owner of the Bangla printed keyboards, the NBR issued a circular asking the customs department to prohibit and confiscate the import of pirated Bijoy software and Bijoy keyboards.
The biggest blow to Bijoy software and keyboard came when another company (Omicron Lab) developed a Bangla typing freeware (i.e., free-of-charge software application) in 2003. The new interface, known as “Avro”, includes a phonetic keyboard which automatically converts words written in roman characters into Bangla characters. However, Avro also incorporates the option for another keyboard, the Unibijoy keyboard, which essentially uses the Bijoy layout with only a few stroke differences. The developers of Avro themselves claimed 99 percent similarity with the Bijoy layout. Prior to releasing the Unibijoy keyboard, the developers actually contacted Mr. Jabbar for permission to use his keyboard layout, but they failed to reach any agreement. Nonetheless, the developers at Omicron Lab incorporated the slightly-modified version of the Bijoy keyboard in their freeware. As a consequence, Mr. Jabbar took the initial action by informing the Copyright Registrar of Bangladesh of the infringement, requesting him to take necessary steps. The Registrar issued a show cause notice against Omicron Lab in May 2010. In June 2010, the two parties reached an informal agreement for a peaceful solution under which Omicron Lab removed Unibijoy layout from Avro in August 2010, and Mr. Jabbar withdrew the case.
Bijoy has established itself as the most popular and trusted Bangla typing interface among a community of 230 million Bangla-speaking people. It has made a tremendous contribution in the development of computing in Bangla. Despite the increasing competition that Mr. Jabbar is facing from other Bangla interfaces, his pioneering role in inventing and continuously improving the software will undoubtedly put him in the history of Bangladesh.
Mr. Jabbar is one of the leading columnists writing about the development, use and role of information and communication technology in Bangladesh. He has served at important positions in the Bangladesh Computer Samity, Bangladesh Computer Club and Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services. He has also written a number of computer-related books including several school and college-level textbooks that are widely used in Bangladesh. An ardent promoter of education and technology for development, he established several computer and multimedia schools as well as two conventional schools.
A very novel initiative taken by Mr. Jabbar is providing support for creating and promoting digital libraries. Ananda Computers has developed a multilingual library management software that is now being used by many important institutes including the National Museum Library, Bangabandhu Agricultural University, Armed Forces Medical College and several branches of the British Council.
One of the major factors behind the success of Mr. Jabbar is his understanding of what the market needs. He was quick to realize that with the advent of computerization, there would be a growing demand for Bangla computing software, and that the market would be anything but small. At the same time, he was aware that the sustainability and growth of his business hinged upon due protection of his IP rights. Mr. Jabbar and his company continue to protect and enforce the IP rights of Bijoy and other products. A combination of these two factors has allowed Mr. Jabbar to retain the competitive edge of his inventions ever since the first edition of Bijoy was released in 1988.
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