The pandemic has cut off the income sources of many families, which has led to youths starting their own businesses to support their families
With the pandemic taking a toll on the income of parents, many children have stepped forward with innovative ways to earn for the family.
Many have opened new businesses to support their families and build careers for themselves as well.
One such example is Faria Tabassum, who always loved cooking but never knew she would one day turn it into an endeavour that would give her earnings.
A first-year student of English at Government Azizul Haq College in Bogra, Faria took a big step forward when her father had no job and mother’s income through stitching clothes stopped amid the pandemic last year.
“It was challenging for me but I wanted to take the chance as it was a question of our survival,” she told Dhaka Tribune.
Now she delivers food by taking orders online. Her Facebook page and YouTube channel Fariha’s Kitchen is gaining popularity by the day.
Her family was left in financial straits when her father, who used to run a small electronics shop in Dhaka’s New Market area, became unemployed.
“The shop was gutted in a fire and my father was badly burnt. After spending months in the hospital, he returned home. He tried to revive the shop but could not bear the loan he took from a bank.”
Coming back to Bogra, her father was earning money by going to different houses in the town and working as an electrician. He also tried to start a business but failed.
“My father’s income was not enough to cover all the family expenses. So my mother took the helm of our family by making clothes as she had been sewing for 24 years,” Faria explains.
However, during the lockdown, her father’s income came to a total halt while her mother stopped getting any orders.
“I was left with no choice but to start my own business,” said a determined Faria who, after thinking for hours one night last year, decided to cook food to earn a living.
She said she started cooking whenever she found a new recipe since she had a lot of time due to her college being closed. She noticed that many were doing business through Facebook.
'I asked myself: Why don't I do the same?'
She said: “As I have loved to cook since my childhood and loved to learn new recipes from YouTube, I decided to start a fast-food business. At first, I kept common items on my menu, such as noodles, pasta and cupcakes. Then I started to sell pizza and by the grace of Almighty Allah, surprisingly I got 50 orders for pizza within 10 days and that’s why now pizza is the main dish of my page.”
She says that her mother, Nilufar Yesmin, buys necessary materials from the market and also assists her in cooking. And her eighth-grade younger brother Mugdho delivers food through riding his bicycle.
“I have taught my mother how to cook pizza, burger and cupcakes so that she can manage everything herself when my classes reopen,” she adds.
She earned Tk20,000 within 15-20 days. Her earnings went up – from Tk300 to Tk400 each day. She can bear all her expenses and contribute to the family as well.
By this time her father, Faruk Ahmed, got a job, the family had become stable. That has been possible because of Faria’s food business.
Covid-19 brought a whole lot of difficulties for all, but the poorer section of society or those who had lost jobs or were left with no income suffered the most.
This reality forced many youths to come forward to do something to earn money and support their families when it was badly needed. Faria was one of those thousands in Bangladesh.
Others who found the path to entrepreneurship
Similar is the case of Sonia Alam, a young female entrepreneur now studying at East West University. She used to give tuitions to meet her expenses but she has been running a clothing business since September 2020.
“I used to tutor students, which I lost to Covid-19 and could not even manage my daily expenses, let alone my tuition fees. This forced me to invest time and use my creativity to begin a small business.”
Beginning with Tk5000, she now earns a good amount of money by selling her clothes online, which can easily pay her fees for the semester that started online.
The story of a fifth-year student of Dhaka National Medical College, Afsara Anjum Arshi, is rather amazing. She is the founder of an online page named Foodgasm where she sells desserts, especially jar cakes. Sending anonymous letters and cakes is the key theme of Foodgasm.
“When the lockdown started, I stayed home all day. One day a cousin of mine opened a page on Facebook to sell birthday cakes. That inspired me to bake cakes for my family and friends. I opened a Facebook page and started with jar cakes because it was not so common here till then,” she stated.
“I requested my father to buy only five jars for me. Instead, he asked me to be attentive to my studies. But later he bought 20 jars and that was my only investment,” she adds.
Arshi says that in the very first week she got 500 orders for jar cakes, which was unexpected for her and she earned more than Tk1 lakh in one month, the highest income in the lifetime of her page. However, she had to write many letters by keeping awake at night. Sometimes her family members also helped her to write those letters as per customers’ demands.
Rajib Ahmed, the admin for Women and E-Commerce (WE), the country's largest Facebook group for women entrepreneurs says: “We started this group in 2017 and we had around 50,000 members until March last year. But within the following five months the number of members increased rapidly and now we have more than 1 million members.”
Rajib observes: “Only 10% of members of this group are active in their real life and trying to expand their businesses. There are so many women entrepreneurs in this group whose earning is zero taka, but still they are posting and trying to change their fortune, which is inspiring.”
Many youths have taken the pandemic as a challenge to change their fate and that of their families,’ he said.