The simple answer to the question, “What do you do”, could really make a lot of difference. The enquirer could easily glean priceless insight based on the answer, ranging from whether he is a no-gooder or a potential suitor, to the extent to which his hometown played a role in his success (or absence thereof).
Different professions have occupied different rungs on a ladder of preference in the minds of the influencers of society. Expats, for instance, living abroad with the assurance (or perception) of higher disposable cash or a prestigious corporate profession flaunting fat paychecks, consistently top the charts. Lower levels of the ladder were reserved for the leftover lot, who make a lunge for self-employment to stay afloat.
The interesting thing is that things are changing.
Entrepreneurship, the least lucrative career path according to many, has ceased to be the fallback option. It is increasingly being embraced and sought with open arms and minds. And not only by the ones choosing to stay back in the country, but by those who were once wooed by the West.
Why this sudden shift, you may ask.
To start off with, the thought process of the millennials is different. Independence is preferred over implicit parental control. An appetite to make their own mark continues to provide the drive to do something different.
Graduates from top notch universities and executives from coveted Silicon Valley companies are no different. With markets in the West getting progressively saturated, markets in the east are becoming more lucrative. Obviously, when you have a huge population ready to embrace innovation, and a market not infested with competition, the possibility of making an impact is higher! And when making money ceases to be a motivation to charge forward, the urge to do something impactful takes over.
Besides, there is an emerging ecosystem of like-minded entrepreneurs, support services, technical services, training providers and angel investors – all tossed into common networking platforms to explore, co-create and innovate. The trend hasn't gone unnoticed by big players. Corporations with millions of taka in annual turnovers are opening cells geared towards the incubation of startups with a promising business model.
Moreover, the most amazing part of Bangladesh, which is the abundance of unnervingly insightful entrepreneurs, also plays a key role in fueling this phenomenon. An unmet need is usually immediately met with a customised product or service. Take for instance the thriving online business market which sees a majority of transactions happening in cash. This initially posed a quandary, as traditional courier services only delivered products, and had no cash dealings with receivers. That's when a group of business-savvy entrepreneurs introduced a new model of business where the courier services would not only deliver but also reconcile cash with the sellers. The traditional courier service companies gave in, and eventually started offering this service as well.
Additionally, the slow adoption of plastic money, primarily due to various issues hindering banking-service proliferation, has been more than compensated for by the burgeoning mobile financial services.
Add to that the availability of superior technology – cheaper smart phones, increasing internet penetration and accessible contents. Starting from carrying out a casual search on Java coffee to exploring a complex tutorial on Java Script, millennials have information at their beck and call. All of that further fuels the drive to embrace a non-mainstream career option.
Moreover, the inspirational success stories of flourishing businesses that emerged from rented garages often act as a motivating factor. Not only that, access to various trainings conducted by reputable schools also addresses the need-gap in knowledge.
As is obvious, the environment in Bangladesh today is very conducive to entrepreneurial growth. Throw in a sprinkle of courage, a dash of dream, creativity and lots of motivation to make a mark, and et voilà! Thus emerges the entrepreneur of today. With tenacity and hard work, they can surely take this particular career option to the highest level of the perception ladder!
The writer is a lecturer at the School of Business and Economics, North South University.