Two years later, in 2015, a group of young entrepreneurs started working on the idea of Sheba.xyz - an online platform that would establish direct connections between customers and service providers from various industries. Service providers from corporate, household, automobile, general electronics, and various other sectors are readily available to customers on Sheba.xyz. Launched at the GP Accelerator 2015, the project is now a fully operational business that has already attracted large investments from enthusiastic local and foreign investors.
The two projects mentioned above represent a few of many other groundbreaking ideas developed by modern Bangladeshi youth who have not only envisioned enriching society through digital technology, but actively worked towards transforming their ideas into realities. Accelerator projects and other similar initiatives by the public and private sectors to support innovative startup projects have become common in countries around the world. In Bangladesh, the number of such initiatives are growing.
Supporting innovate startups
GP Accelerator and Telenor Youth Forum, organised by Grameenphone and its parent company Telenor respectively, are prominent examples. Over the years, these initiatives have supported and continued to patronise innovative startups. The companies work as facilitators to help these young entrepreneurs develop their ideas into actual businesses that integrate a variety of conveniences into the daily lives of people. Many of the projects aim at addressing and effectively solving social problems digitally as well.
“Over the years, Grameenphone has transformed from being just a telecom service provider of voice services into a leading digital service provider. However, what makes Grameenphone stand a class apart is its continuous lookout for young innovators through various programs. We have designed a program that provides eligible candidates comprehensive support to enable them to make sustainable businesses out of their ideas. These see that these individuals go on to eventually establish them as youth leaders who are changing society for good, maybe in a way a young Elon Musk or a Mark Zuckerburg changed the world forever,” says Kazi Mahboob Hassan, Head of Transformation of Grameenphone.
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Many other companies in the private sector of Bangladesh are also stepping forward to make a contribution. SD Asia, an organisation dedicated to the startup scene, which has partnered with organisations such as Grameenphone to promote promising startups, stands out as an example.
A Digital Bangladesh
A well-deserved notable mention is the government’s Access to Information (a2i) project, under which a myriad of initiatives are ongoing to gradually digitise the nation and propel its transformation into the much coveted Digital Bangladesh. Comprehensive support programs for digital service-based startups are one of the key agendas of the project, which is directly regulated by the Prime Minister’s Office.
“Combined efforts by the public and private sectors are essential in achieving the vision of a Digital Bangladesh. Besides being an active part of GP Accelerator and Telenor Youth Fourm, Grameenphone has also conducted digital eco-system enabler programs such as the Smart City Hackathon, and is currently operating White-Board, a platform to support and empower the disruptive innovators of tomorrow. The company has played a leading role in the development of the telecom and digital sectors of the country in the last 20 years, and in the next 20 years, one of our priorities is to be a trusted partner of tomorrow’s leaders in their pursuit to carve a digitally enriched future for the nation. Our partnership with the ICT Ministry for its National Demo Day is another good example of how GP is supporting the government’s agenda for digital innovation through public-private partnership,” continues Kazi Mahboob Hassan.
Increased participation from the public and private sectors to nurture the innovative ideas of young innovators in Bangladesh ushers in greater optimism about a digitalised future in a Digital Bangladesh. Continuing this trend can only accelerate Bangladesh’s march towards comprehensive digitalisation, much like many of her developed counterparts.