The chronicles of Bangladeshi startupreneurs
Taking the plunge
The startup fever is now ubiquitous, but what is it that triggers someone to get the ball rolling? Of course embarking on this journey bears different significance for different types of startups, quite understandably due to their distinct visions. Ayman Sadiq, CEO of 10 Minute School, an educational website and one of the most talked-about startups of recent times, avers, "Economic, geographic and information barriers were three of the most acute problems on the road to accessing educational facilities that I wanted to address."
But not everyone starts off with weighty approaches though; some just choose to play around with ideas. "A bunch of us were just trying things out like gaming events, and we were loving it! That's how we got the kick and decided to continue," quips Sheehan Rahman, CEO of 7TEEN, a youth organisation.
The stumbling blocks
Entrepreneurship is not a ride free of hurdles of course. Those with a shaky faith in the face of uncertainties will nix their ideas even before making an attempt to materialise them. Make sure you're not one of them.
Right from funding and legal procedures to having the right team on board, the struggle is never-ending. Once you do set things up, the pressure just gains momentum. "Serving customers with consistent quality is the biggest challenge while you're on board. Communicating your vision is not always easy," says Shayeera Tasneem of makeover platform Roopkotha.
But there's also the social/emotional hit that you have to take. Having at least your family's consent to your venture is deemed crucial. "It is important that you don't get bogged down by any social stigma, family concerns, etc. If you do it right, you'll have the greater privilege of inspiring your peers to pursue their dreams," contends Al-Amin Sarkar, founder and CEO of youth employment website Unigigg.
And it goes without saying that you can almost take for granted that there will be economic and political hurdles, particularly in the Bangladeshi context. But that is also why you have endless opportunities here. Seriously speaking—if you can make it here in Bangladesh, you can make it anywhere in the world. As Mahmudul Kabir of Dhaka-based car rental platform Oggro says, "No external hurdles are too big for entrepreneurs if they have persistent willpower."
Doing a full-time job is one thing; managing an entire startup day and night is a completely different thing. Co-founders will be there, but the workload is often most exhausting for the CEO. Mahmudul Kabir says, "I remember getting orders even at midnight initially, and I had to personally drive them through at 6 a.m. in the morning because I couldn't contact my drivers late at night. But I didn't want to say no to my clients either."
The average day bears tiresome work for almost all startupreneurs, but the extent depends on the type of business you are in. Roopkotha, for instance, is a makeover platform and hence the diurnal workload is less hectic than a full-scale service-providing business. Ayman Sadiq mentions, "My team and I have been travelling all across the country to try reach out to as many institutions as possible. It's a messy routine but it's fulfilling."
Quoting Mahmudul again, "Entrepreneurship is beyond full-time. You have to take care of all mundane details, because at the end of the day, it's your brainchild."
Myths versus reality
Startups tend to boggle most, especially because the misconceptions are many. A common bubble that most of us live in is that your idea will be discovered by someone or the other and thereby you'll make it. As the Roopkotha beauty enthusiast asserts, "You're going to have to market yourself."
Delving into the Bangladeshi culture of startups, you find most young souls imagining it in line with the utopian world of Silicon Valley—and hence the setback is massive here. A giggling Ayman admits, "Our entrepreneurial ecosystem is nothing like theirs. So forget having multi-million dollar acquisitions—get to the field yourself and get your hands dirty." Hence, no matter how passion-driven you are, make sure you consider financial requirements in the initial phase itself to not go broke midway.
Having said so, the world of startups isn't all grim either. It can be just as fun if your will is intact throughout and you don't let the frustration get to you. "Some people think that if they fail, others will question their credibility. This is not the case. Keep testing your ideas, and if one doesn't work, move on to the other," says Mahmudul.
The success recipe—is there one?
By now we know that even though the journey is bittersweet, it is definitely worth the plunge. But is there in fact a secret formula to success? Mahmudul says, "One word—perseverance. Try thinking out-of-the box. Don't quit your idea the moment you hit a brick wall. Keep evolving." Also, ask any entrepreneur and a unanimous recommendation will be to always have a committed team on board. Otherwise you're doomed.
What is more, you must have a vision for the future and be aware of the competitive front. While the Oggro team aspires to become "the market leader in the pre-booking space and a strong player in the on-demand market", the 7TEEN gang says, "We want to be the first name that comes to your mind when you think of any youth-oriented activity. And by youth, we mean its associated energy, not an age."
Hence, for you to avoid burnouts and hiccups in the process of setting up a venture, you must keep on track with the plan, be persistent and keep motivated.