Kebab from Bangladesh
On the mechanical keyboard scene of Bangladesh in general, and on Kebab, the first group buy of the local community.
Published September 24, 2022
Khawar Ahmed aka qwertypad_ish contacted me with some info on the Kebab, a keyboard with an Alice-like layout offered by a small company called Keebot in a local group buy in Bangladesh.
This is the first time something like this has been done here and also the first proper group buy. The custom mechanical scene in Bangladesh is very new – Khawar.
I don't usually feature group buys, but since this one was already over, and I was intrigued by the keyboard scene in Bangladesh in general, I reached out with some questions to qwertypad_ish, one of the admins of MechaboardsBD, a Facebook group (with 1,700 members) aimed towards custom keyboards and enthusiasts, and also Sadnan, who is a member of the Keebot team – all this on the occasion of going mainstream by being featured in The Daily Star, a leading media organisation and highest circulated English daily of Bangladesh.
When did you start the Facebook group and how long have you been an admin there?
The group was created on September 2nd, 2021.
We started the group together with a few others: Vladimir Rocky, Samiul Alam, Noman Hossain, Kutub Uddin, Abir Ershad, Hossain Mohammad Faysal, Iffat Al Baki, Syed Z Ali, Shuvo Saha and myself (Vicky Khawar Ahmed).
Funny thing is we met through another group which was geared towards gaming and we often found it difficult to find custom enthusiasts who were not into just gaming boards. So we all decided to open this group together.
Link to Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/mechaboardsbd
Link to page: https://www.facebook.com/mechaboardsbd (we use this a lot for incoming queries, complaints, etc.)
How does the mechanical keyboard scene look like in Bangladesh?
The mechanical keyboard scene was predominantly popular because of pre-built gaming boards. Until around 2019/2020 where custom boards started gaining popularity, initially thanks to Skyloong and RK boards. Eventually it has grown with people participating in group buys and more and more vendors supporting the community by making parts more available locally.
Of course custom keyboards are very expensive so it's hard for everyone to justify spending so much on a keyboard, but the hobby is growing at a steady pace.
We have some people who are starting to explore QMK etc.
We also just ran a keyboard competition based on a voting system called KeebShowdown with a lot of success and with generous prize donations from members, admins and vendors.
The first ever local company to officially participate in the group buy as a vendor was KeyB Imports with the QK65 GB. This was a big milestone for us as a community. Prior to that we had official distributors from Keychron and some other brands.
These days most of us import parts or participate in GBs via proxies since shipping directly is very expensive.
Are there meetups in Bangladesh?
MechaboardsBD was actually the first to arrange anything of the sort last year, we got ourselves a table in a local Cosplay event that was hosted by a Cosplay group here. We plan on doing more meetups in the future.
Are there hotspots where some of you know each other personally, or you keep contact mainly online?
We are trying to arrange more meetups so that we can engage more with people. But for now we know each other via our community group. The group admins try to meet up at least once a month to discuss the activities of the group as well as look at our builds.
Were you involved in the Kebab project?
Are there any other teams similar to Keebot, or notable designers/builders who make their own keyboards?
Professionally Keebot is the first who are doing anything similar. We do have a few who have designed 3d printed cases and used existing PCBs such as DZ60 etc.
Here is an album with a lot of the Keebot Kebab Builds.
The article in The Daily Star is a big deal I guess.
Majority of newspapers with high circulation are in the local language. Daily Star is the highest in English circulation but would sit quite low when compared to local dailies as per the last media census.
Online it is on the top 11 in the country. [ed.: which is still nice in a country with a population of 168 million.]
Sadnan, could you tell me a bit about Keebot?
So about the group buy and KeeBot, basically Keebot was more of a hobby project for me as there isn’t anyone here in Bangladesh making the type of custom boards I was into, the mass produced boards are being widely available recently tho. So building boards for myself and later building them for others is pretty much how KeeBot started around a year ago.
Currently it’s a two man team, handling all the pcb design and all the other stuff. The group buy too was a personal project for me at first but it was turned into a public project seeing everyone’s response.
Is KeeBot still a side-gig or is it a fulltime job now?
Well as for me I’m a student right now and don’t have a full time job.
What about the timeline of the group buy? Any difficulties, lessons learned, etc.?
The GB took around 3-4 months from the initial date after confirming the orders. The main difficulty was that we hand soldered all the PCBs this time 💀 which took ALOT more time and effort than we imagined, and troubleshooting took alot of time as well. Other than some tolerance issues in the acrylic design we didn’t face much issues.
The one big lesson learned is trying to automate the process as much as possible and maybe how to fix some design issues as well.
While aimed at a general audience rather than keyboard enthusiasts, here is a link to the article about the Kebab keyboard: https://www.thedailystar.net/tech-startup/news/first-ever-bangladeshi-custom-mechanical-keyboard-project-kebab-3120486
I have quite a few keyboards actually, but my current favorite is a Think 6.5 V2 both in 1U and 2U variants. I am running then with Holy Pandas (Yok Housing, slow springs), with Domikey deserted Island Keycaps, SMRT PE Foam from Green Door Geeks and Stupid Fish case foam.
The Thinks have to be my favorite keyboards and took me nearly a year to get them.
I almost exclusively use tactile switches and my favorite being dark jades, specially on FR4 plates.
The setup is very mediocre you could say and nothing impressive. I run an rk84 with durock T1 switches. But would definitely try to upgrade to something better in the near future.
Published on Sat 24th Sep 2022. Featured in KBD #96.