How bold. This was one of many thoughts that Bruneians (myself included) had in mind around 4-5 years ago when a new telecommunications service provider emerged onto the scene, cruising into range of society’s collective awareness under the name ‘Progresif’. In a nation whose population is fairly tech-savvy; to appear on the horizon under a flagship title of such temerity naturally raised eyebrows as well as levels of intrigue among the market audience. How bold indeed. How have they been faring since? Let’s find out shall we.
Having just moved into their new headquarters this year, the ‘castle’, as many passersby have begun referring to it as, is a 3-storey building that is easy to spot courtesy of the parapet ringing the rooftop perimeter. With 8 store fronts now under its jurisdiction and situated in strategic locations nationwide to better cater to clientele; this main office located by the highway at the Gadong Central Business District, is well-placed for the almost-300 members of staff who have the pleasure of calling this environment their very own during the working week.
From the red brick paved walls of the ground floor lobby where the Cultivate Café and online broadcast studio are located, to the spacious banquet hall and its accompanying kitchenette on the 3rd floor, as well as all the gems in between; every level follows a spacious open concept floor plan and formulae that, for the most part, incorporates the repetition of specific design elements. A brief tour of the building brings to mind the image of startups in Silicon Valley, and scenes from films like Robert De Niro’s ‘The Intern’. Knowing that there are corporate office spaces like this in Brunei is an aesthetic testament to the name this company bears.
Cultivate Café, which is open to the public (closes at 8.30pm) and is capable of accommodating some 20 people at any given time, is a dimly lit space with a jazzy vibe to it. With its namesake smoothly ingrained into the cement floor, other standout features of interest include a rainforest sketched onto a section of wall, while another is adorned by a cardboard stencil cutout of the world map. Multiple thumbtacks attached to string looped around personalised messages have been pinned all across this map, with some presenting congratulatory messages on the cafe’s opening, while one simply stated ‘I Am Batman’. This is a sentiment shared by the BHC team, we work late nights too.
The major feature at Cultivate Café is a rectangular window that offers a glimpse into a fully-decked out broadcast studio. With a roster of well-known personalities in the Brunei radio scene having signed on to helm in-house shows and facilitate discussions of interest to the local audience, here also lies opportunities for fruitful collaboration with other entities. For example, national broadcaster Radio Televisyen Brunei could easily increase the frequency of reaching listeners who may have wanted to tune in to a popular programme but were unable to at the time. Replaying these programmes online via the facilities on offer at Progresif HQ, will also strike the right chord with a younger generation wanting to see all manner of services made more accessible such as by downloading an the App. So the ideas are already there and only time will see how interesting endeavours like this progress.
A glass-paneled elevator, which provides a scenic view of the Gadong commercial area, ferries people between each floor and always opens up onto a graveled section of flooring that brings to mind an impromptu welcome mat. The repetition of specific design elements now becomes apparent. A cross-junction greets everyone getting of the lift above ground-level, branching off toward different departments and specialty-spaces, of which there are a few. The 2nd and 3rd floors are equipped with 2 common rooms for staff to mingle with colleagues as they enjoy a snack and a drink between bouts of work, while meeting rooms on these floors need to be booked in advance for group discussions and presentations.
Single-word posters decorate the corridors directly ahead of people disembarking from the elevator, with messages that encompass the essence and soul of what it is to be progressive displayed proudly: Passion, Motivation and Ideas, as the bedrock for development. The matching iconographies to these taglines, in the form of a heart, monitor and light bulb are nice embellishments to a corridor occupied by seats both stylish and ergonomic, as well as spherical lights resembling twined balls of yarn. This efficient use of space helps to subtly mask the transitions between the different departments while turning it into another area for laptop-toting staff to plonk themselves down when a change of scenery is needed. Having access to different spaces to suit your frame of mind, is a simple yet innovative way of helping staff to get out of a rut and into the zone and maximise their work output.
One of the more interesting aspects of Progresif are its many community-related pursuits aimed at boosting the development of creative arts in the Sultanate. One such programme called ‘Write This’, hosted annually in July by a group of graffiti art enthusiasts called Stain.bn, has seen so much support from Progresif that 2 custom (and interesting) pieces of acrylic artwork created by a Singaporean participant adorn the walls of 2 offices on the first floor.
Highlighting their social commitment further, is a music recording studio on the premises that local bands can sign up to utilise. When used in combination with the technical and production support services rendered in-house, after-hours jamming sessions have thus far been productive affairs, with musicians’ refining their skillsets and taking valuable knowledge back home. Still in its early stages, this initiative to help develop the local music industry is one that we all hope will experience a measure of success, as it will undoubtedly have positive implications for talented Bruneians on quests to release a solid LP. As circumstance would have it, just as the BHC team wrapped up this discussion on community-related contributions to society, two senior members of staff arrived back at HQ from an event held for the younger generation at the Youth Centre in the capital. Progressive in their beliefs and aggressive in action taken, it is always a pleasure to see a corporation walking the walk.
The offices, lounge and conference rooms allocated to the Chief Executive Officer are based on the 3rd floor and occupy the right wing of the building while the opposite end is equipped with a kitchenette that aids in catering to events taking place at the adjacent banquet hall, as well as a Surau. From the official launch of Dart Sdn Bhd – Brunei’s own version of service providers like Uber and Grab – to an Agrotech seminar promoting new farming technologies; companies and associations can apply to make use of this well-equipped space.
Last but not least, and in tandem with the green-eyed envious stares from the BHC team, there is a gym up here too! Okay, the gym is still currently in the early stages of being set up, but that doesn’t alter the fact that in a few months’ time staff will be able to maintain their fitness levels while distressing at a fully functional gym immediately after work ends. Where do I sign up?