Tuesday, June 18, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

What to make of the start-up culture in Bangladesh?

The entrepreneurial spirit is not enough. This is the first part of a two-part op-ed


Update : 19 Jun 2019, 10:08 PM

Bangladesh: The rising tiger of South Asia, the paramount strategic spot for Indo-Pacific peace and stability as well as socio-economic agility, not only for the country itself but for many superpowers around the globe.

Taking a quick look at the humongous pool of mega initiatives, collaborations between diverse sectors and countries, investments from both public and private sectors as well as FDI (Foreign Direct Investment), glancing through the recently published monetary policy of Bangladesh Central Bank, and amidst sudden proliferation of drives against irregularities and corruptions that were committed during the last decades, it is evident that in the audacity of a newer, greener, and more affluent Bangladesh, there undisputedly exist some flaws. 

The flaws of Digital Bangladesh and initiatives surrounding the revolutionary platform can be found in the “waste of capital” that occurred during the last decade while mostly capital was spent targeting the Sustainable Development Goals, and achieved many successes. One example of the flaw is the recent shutdown of the app of the railway ministry, and the positivity the railway minister flaunted by accepting total responsibility of the failure. 

The developing nature of many South Asian countries such as India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka contains some deeply rooted flaws which have some similarities in nature: Mass scale corruption by a group of people from within the system. Since it is 2019, a long time since the South Asian magic land liberated her from the brutal Pakistanis in 1971, isn’t it high time to change one key characteristic which might as well be a good start?

The characteristic? Of flying with the wind, floating through the trend, instead of the mentality of thinking outside the box. If we can’t change what is evil for the society with newer innovative solutions to give birth to goodness, the massive difference in distribution of wealth will continue to hike. Any innovative mind will continue in spiral motion towards the same black hole and continue to suffer without being able to generate effective solutions.

A plethora of children and their creativity at the most mesmerizing spot of Bangladesh, the longest sea-beach of the world, Cox’s Bazaar, are being sold for pennies instead of being mentored, cultivated, and motivated. A whole mangrove forest is being allegedly leased to a private company for ship-breaking purposes, an industry where many labourers have no safety whatsoever, with no growth of their technical skills.

The director of South Asian operations of Asian Development Bank, while signing off the highest financing in its history for Bangladesh, a whopping $2.10 billion, stressed that money will never be a bottleneck for Bangladesh’s growth. The main challenge will be implementation of initiatives, and will mainly be due to lack of skilled human capacity. 

Now, for any sound business mind, or even from a political angle, one question must rise among the people -- even after all these investments made for the development of the country, what can be the root cause of the flaws hindering the appropriate growth of human capacity? 

Without adequately trained employees, similar mindset holding co-founders, or strategically sound executives, all the growth will suffer small-time meltdowns, which can be avoided with the idea to innovate and accelerate, and the spirit to win.

As an aerospace consultant start-up founder, the challenges one faces in the day-to-day activities surrounding growing and strengthening the start-up can shine some light into the challenge the country is facing in developing strategic models to ameliorate the “human capacity,” which has been quoted as the primary challenge by experts in many sectors as the bottleneck for Bangladesh’s future. 

Bangladeshi youths have shown the ability to innovate, and have had an entrepreneurial mentality for quite some time now, and also have shown results by many mind-blowing innovative initiatives. For example, Pathao is a start-up which has broken the status-quo of regulations prior to launching into the market, which followed the very similar concept of the North American company Uber.

The founders of Pathao have shown a newer way of doing things. What happened afterwards is the rapid proliferation of the same concept under different umbrellas such as O Bhai, Oi Khali etc without understanding and studying the market demand, market need, rules, and regulations prior. 

And if one were to take a look at North America, it is becoming almost impossible for Uber to sustain -- for the competitors in their market, given the supply, have outnumbered the demand by a large margin. 

Anwar Shadat Jihan is an Aerospace Engineering Consultant based in Wichita, KS, US. He is the Founder and Owner of Midwest Engineering Solutions.

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