Why the overnight popularity of BiP in Bangladesh?

WhatsApp is being criticised globally for its security issues and forced to delay the enforcement of its newest privacy policy. This resulted in a rise of non-mainstream apps like Signal, Telegram and Line to rise up. Among these, BiP seems to have caught on with Bangladeshi netizens.

Launced in 2013, BiP is an instant messaging platform developed by Turkey’s largest telecom operator Turkcell. The majority of shares are owned by the Turkish government through a sovereign wealth fund. Right when WhatsApp dropped the news of their new privacy policies, like many governments, Turkey shared their discontent openly. On January 10, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s media office announced that it will switch to local app BiP to brief journalists from now on tipping the scale in favour of BiP’s market share.

Upon inspecting the news media of the last several months, news appearance of Turkey was prominently visible. As Turkey has religious, political and historical ties with Bangladesh, news about Turkey might have worked as an echo chamber which might be the reason why Bangladeshis were drawn to BiP, according to Umme Salma Tarin, Assistant Professor of Department of International Relations, Bangladesh University of Professionals. “Religion plays a strong role in the sentiment of Bangladeshis.  Starting from the membership in OIC back in 1970s to Turkish first lady’s visit to Rohingya camps a few years back, Turkey has been able to portray a positive image in the minds of our people.” she said. She also added, “Turkish TV shows and celebrities are quite popular in Bangladesh now. These all indicate growing affinity towards Turkish products and BiP’s newfound popularity is probably reflects that very sentiment.”

Many Facebookgroups that discuss Islamic topics were seen promoting the app terming it an app ‘for Muslim ummah’. Many of the posts displayed Bangladesh and Turkey flags with Erdogan in the background. Some YouTubers were seen promoting the app in their video. Industry experts think that these are nothing but a content makers way of generating content that is in demand and has the future scope of monetisation.

Special Correspondent of Channel I and President of Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB), FaridurRahamanPantho pointed out it the rise of BiP has a direct relation with the digitisation of Waz and Milad (Islamic religious congregation). “We can see live telecast or recorded streams of Waz and Miladnowadays. Often these are under scrutiny as the content of these congregation are sensitive in nature. Followers of these might think BiP as a way out.”

Tech experts are accepting the popularity of BiP positively though. “Over dependency on one app is never a good thing”, said CEO of BDjobs and former BASIS President FahimMashroor. “It’s a good thing that we are seeing people opting for multiple messaging app. Every app will try to enforce their policies so it is best not to be reliant on just one”, he added.  

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