Sarper Sılaoğlu, CEO and founder of Boni Global tells us about efficient IoT solutions that allow workers to stay socially distanced.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sarper Sılaoğlu: We are all fine and staying safe. Hopefully, everyone reading this is also safe and healthy.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Boni Global.
Sarper Sılaoğlu: I’ve always been focused on entrepreneurship and developing new technologies to make life easier. We worked on small initiatives with my friends, and then we focused on getting settled in Istanbul. I started to work on mobile technologies. Mobile marketing was rising at that time, so I wanted to lean on retail solutions with the vision that we will make payments from our mobile phones. For about two years, I worked for the Micro Credit Program, which offers small amounts of loans to female micro-entrepreneurs. The story of Boni Global started with ITU Electronics and Communication Engineering working together in an R&D project in 2011. We developed the Loud Steps mobile application for accessible navigation to help individuals with visual or auditory impairments move comfortably in complex communal spaces such as campuses, shopping centers, and airports. With the start of the pandemic, we shifted our focus to solutions to help businesses stay open safely by protecting the workforce. Safe Steps is an IoT solution that allows workers to stay socially distanced as they work through smart wearable devices with proximity sensors that detect social distancing violations, record risky interactions, and allow for the data to be visualized on a dashboard for simplified filiation.
How does Boni Global innovate?
Sarper Sılaoğlu: At Boni Global, we are very focused on the human factor when we innovate, and we make sure the end-users benefit from it. When the pandemic broke out, we saw great potential for our technologies to be used as a solution for the problem of social distancing at the workplaces, which was the driving force behind the innovation of Safe Steps. With Safe Steps, we wanted to protect one of the most vulnerable groups in the pandemic, which is the frontline workers who have to work on-site rather than remotely. So, we focused on the specific needs of workers in the manufacturing industry. From the design of the wearable devices to the features of the mobile application, all aspects of the solution were developed, keeping these needs in mind. By making it safer for the employees to work, we also provide real business benefits to our clients.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business?
Sarper Sılaoğlu: Since we were able to pivot very quickly to provide a solution for a very important problem that the pandemic has brought, we were able to stay relatively unaffected by the pandemic.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Sarper Sılaoğlu: The most important decision we made in regards to human resources was to allow our employees to work remotely from the beginning of the pandemic. We were able to successfully launch a new product by working from home most of the time. We were also lucky enough to have a spacious office that will allow our teams to stay socially distanced while they work when they do come to the office
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Sarper Sılaoğlu: We are now using digital tools more than ever to keep both our clients and our team as safe as possible. Like many other companies during the pandemic, we are using remote collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom for customer meetings. We are attending different digital fairs, webinars, and other online events to reach customers who might be interested in our services.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Sarper Sılaoğlu: As well as all the countries, the Turkish Government announced support programs aiming to fight against the pandemic. We did not apply to any support programs because our company was efficiently working. However, as an R&D-based company, we have applied to one of the calls from the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, namely TUBITAK. Our proposal was a quick solution for the pandemic and also for the later stages, a general health and safety solution for the employees in general. Our proposal is approved among hundreds of other applications.
Your final thoughts?
Sarper Sılaoğlu: The world is going through challenging times, but with compassion, mutual understanding, and efficient use of our technological capabilities, we can get through this as soon as possible. As Boni Global, we will continue to innovate to improve our work safety solution Safe Steps for the pandemic and beyond. We are currently rolling out the new Emergency module, which will help clients be more prepared for emergency situations and achieve the highest standard of safety in their facilities.
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