How to find co-founders for your tech startup

Startups are the talk of the town at the moment. With the growing economy in Bangladesh, the scenario is very opportune for entrepreneurial minds.

However, we tend to focus on the projects that succeed as examples of startups. And as a result, many projects that fail miss our attention. And this deprives us of learning the possible drawbacks in a startup project; principal among which is a lack of suitable partners and co-founders.

A startup, especially one related to technology, requires all hands on board. And many hands at that. You’re going to need a combination of people equipped with a variety of skills. Let’s take a look at how (and whom) to assemble.

Us and them

Firstly, a business idea can feel lucrative to like-minded people. This is usually a good thing, but can also be quite the opposite. While choosing a co-founder for any startup, one should involve individuals with complementary characteristics and interests. Too many of a kind might leave weaknesses elsewhere.

Before looking for people to bring onboard, analyze what you bring to the table.

For tech startups, it is necessary to have people on board with necessary, relevant technological know-how. Since startups are heavily dependent on initial investment and funding, people with said faculties are an advantage. Startups are usually time and effort consuming; so your partners need to be okay with both. Most of all, you must only involve people who are trustworthy. It is what it is.

Where to look

It’s important to be very specific while looking for personnel. If you need an experienced, professional individual who can take care of the technological side of things, specify a position such as the CTO and the responsibilities and requirements involved.

The first place one should look is one’s own personal network. There are many ready, able and willing individuals looking for the right project; and they might be closer than you think. Look for referrals to individuals within your own social groups and discuss the prospects of the project with them.

There are several virtual meeting places for individuals to link up and go for entrepreneurial projects. COFoundersLab, Founders Nation, YouNoodle are among the most reputable. The advantage of these mediums is that you can assess qualifications and match up to requirements to individuals in a specific and fast-paced manner.

In addition, look at job listing boards and local university seminars. These places are often frequented by interested individuals who might find your prospects exciting.

In Closing

It’s important to have specific goals and matrices for your project in place. It helps determine the parameters of founder duties. It also helps communicate the fact that you are seriously invested in your project. This might positively affect the recruitment process. Lastly, it is of paramount weight to take your time with this. A startup can be a very delicate project and might be what you end up doing for the rest of your life. So take care in picking whomever you do it with.

Top 5 reasons why startups fail in Bangladesh

A startup can be undoubtedly called the buzzword of the century. People have started to believe in the thought that building your own startup is their only possible way of becoming a billionaire. However, not all startups succeed like Facebook, Amazon, Snapchat etc. Here are the top 5 reasons why most deshi startups fail.

Not having a proper business model

Top 5 reasons why startups fail in Bangladesh

Having a well-analyzed business plan is the first and foremost thing a startup should have. The business model should include why they are building their startup, what is the product and how they are going to sell and reach to the people. The business model should have a proper revenue model and also how they are implementing the supply chain. 

At times founders assume that because they will build such an interesting web site, product, or service,  customers will beat a path to their door. That may happen with the first few customers, but after that, it rapidly becomes an expensive task to attract and win customers, and in many cases, the cost of acquiring the customer (CAC) is actually higher than the lifetime value of that customer (LTV).

Not understanding your customers

Top 5 reasons why startups fail in Bangladesh

Market research is a crucial thing in building a startup. As a founder, you might think, “I have an idea of a wonderful product, this should work.”

But in reality, not every product will suit everyone.

You have a great concept of starting a service that will allow car owners to rent their cars when they’re not being used. Sure, it may work wonders in the USA. But will it work in Bangladesh?

Without doing proper market research, you may never know whether people would actually pay for the product. It is a futile project to build a product that nobody wants.

Not marketing the product the right way

Top 5 reasons why startups fail in Bangladesh

Marketing your product is the only comprehensive way to make your products known to potential customers. You might have a great product, an amazing team behind it and a product that cater to the right customer group. But without a proper marketing channel, your product will fail to reach your customer. Hire the right marketing team or outsource it to the right agency. Hire consultants who can tell you the best way to market your product. Every little detail is crucial.

Not having a proper team

Many experts consider the startup team is the most crucial part of a startup. If the team members don’t have proper understanding amongst each other, they will not be work with each other for long.

Pathao had been successful because the team members had an amazing sense of understanding amongst each other, which dates over 10 years.

Not being able to adapt

Top 5 reasons why startups fail in Bangladesh

Eric Ries model of Lean Startup is very popular amongst startup founders, which states the importance of having a minimum viable product. But a core concept they miss is that building the minimum viable product is not everything, they need to adapt it with time.

You might have a great concept and you’re ready to jump ship. But in this mercurial market, if you don’t make necessary adaptations, your startup is bound to fail. 

Like our content? Follow us on our Facebook page for regular updates. Take a moment to write to us with your stories, contributions and suggestions. Contact us for advertising and partnership opportunities at [email protected] Thank you!

11 co-working spaces in Dhaka

Co-working spaces are now an option considered by many entrepreneurs and businesses. For many, it is a great way to cut costs and avoid the hassle of renting a full office. Buying furniture, decorating, hiring support staff can become expensive for a startup. Many startups just need a desk and some wifi for their operations; small teams need affordable spaces with a meeting room.

Some freelancers, designers or members of remote teams want to leave the isolation of home offices, but avoid the distraction of cafes. Shared offices also give the opportunity for many to network, to share resources and contacts. 

How to decide on a space?

Location: Take into account the reality of Dhaka traffic, and consider the location when picking a co-working space. Proximity to home can save you many productive hours wasted on the road. 

Cost: Cost is a huge factor, compare different packages before deciding. Packages include space for daily, weekly, hourly, monthly use. Most co-working spaces in Dhaka offer Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, emergency backup power, an in-house multimedia system, office equipment, and kitchen facilities. The spaces significantly vary in price which affects the quality of each of these facilities.  

Does your business need a place to meet for weekly meetings? Will a desk in an open office be sufficient, or do you need to make a lot of phone calls, so a more private room is a priority? 

Decide which features are important to you and are essential for your work–do you need a projector, a studio or a training area? Make sure you choose spaces accordingly. When you decide on a package that is best suited for you, make sure you understand what exactly is included in it.  

Work Environment: Another essential part of work-life is the environment. In your first visit, check for the behaviour of the staff and of others who will share the space. You want to decide on a place where you can work comfortably and effectively. If your budget allows, look for places that are spacious, clean and well lit for maximum ease and therefore, maximum productivity.

Co+Lab Dhaka, Baridhara

Moar, Banani 11 & Dhanmondi 27

  • Address 1: Ventura Iconia, Level 3, H. 37, Road 11, Block H Banani, Dhaka, Bangladesh, +880 1733 711 297,
  • Address 2: Moar Dhanmondi 27, MIDAS Center, Level 3 Holding 05, Road 16 (New, Dhaka 1209, Bangladesh)
  • Phone: +880 1714-116110
  • e-Mail: [email protected]
  • Website: http://www.moarbd.com

Bonik coworking, Badda

  • Address: Arma Majeda Malik Tower, House No# 215 (3rd floor), Merul Badda Bir Uttam Rafiqul Islam Ave, Dhaka -1212.
  • Phone: 01811480832
  • Email: [email protected]

Shuru Campus, Badda

Regus, Crystal Palace Gulshan and UTC Centre, Panthapath

  • Address 1: Crystal Palace, Gulshan 2, Dhaka
  • Address 2: UTC Centre, Panthapath, Dhaka
  • Phone: 09611886795
  • regus.com.bd

The Business Center, Gulshan 1

Locus BD, Banani 11

  • Address: Tower 52, Level 6, Road 11, Banani, Block C (8,672.10 mi) Dhaka, Bangladesh 1213
  • Phone: +880 1701-005480
  • Website: www.locusbd.com

Hubdhaka, Mirpur 11

  • Address: Building #7, Road #3, Section #7, Mirpur 11, Dhaka 1216 close to the Dhaka Zoo.
  • Website: http://www.hubdhaka.com/

Open Co-working, Bashundhara

  • Address: Advance Glory, 2nd Floor (South Side), Plot-15, Block-A, Bashundhara Main Road, Bashundhara R/Dhaka, Bangladesh 1229
  • +880 1716-873660
  • www.workatopen.com

JMC Shared Office, Banani 11

Toru Chayya, Banani 11

13 Co-Working Spaces in Dhaka 6

Toru Institute of Innovation has opened up their space for co-working.
Location: House-2 Road-4 Block-F, Banani 11 Dhaka, 1213
Contact [email protected] for more details!

Sure-fire ways of getting an ICT loan in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is recognized as the third-largest population to outsource their resources through the internet and mainly through freelancing. However, when it comes to start-ups, many struggle to gain a firm foothold. By the entry of 3G internet in 2013, usage has boosted over 22% by the end of 2014.

Needless to say, the government has been taking steps to realize the dreams of a Digitalized Bangladesh; and have introduced multiple ways to broaden the field of entrepreneurship in multiple sectors alongside including ICT over the years. Along with the Government, private organizations have started offering loans and grants to realize the potential of these budding ventures. 

Here are some ways of getting a loan for an ICT organization or start-ups:

StartUp Bangladesh

The Government has taken the initiative to make an Eco-system where entrepreneurship can be nourished to realize their full potential. This effort will allow the country to innovate at a much faster rate. And enhance the ability to create new jobs and to develop technical skill; all leading to realize the vision of Digital Bangladesh.  

In support of these objectives, the government has created a fund under iDEA project. The Investment will provide all the necessary capital to pick up the pace in development and achieve success in the planned businesses and the process remains transparent, impartial and accountable.

Criteria for Application: 

The criteria to receive any loans or investment grants from StartUp Bangladesh are divided into the following categories:

  • IDEA SUPPORT – This requires a feasible business plan and an executable business plan.
  • Seed stage: Requires prototype of a business model and plan.
  • Growth stage: Requires a viable product and an existing customer base.
  • Guided start-up: Requires a start-up idea under national interest.
  • TARGETED INVESTMENTS – This fund may take part as a collaboration under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model or other entities that seem fit for this investment module that includes training up facilities.
  • STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP – This fund may take part in partnerships with local or international institutes to acquire the desired requirement for entrepreneurship development.
  • CO-INVESTMENTS – This fund may enter with other venture capital funds or funding entities that will help the development while sharing risk factors for the business, usually for larger investments.

Any application submitted is reviewed by a board of committee members who rank the top in the ICT industry and the procedures are then followed through step by step accordingly, all of which is listed in the official website of StartUp Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Bank 

The government has been taking steps to prioritize the roles of entrepreneurship in Bangladesh towards the ICT sector and has introduced the ESF (Entrepreneurship Support Fund) for multiple sectors in the country.

Included are ICT and the Agricultural sector while the previous EEF loan system that contained zero interest is abolished. However, this seemed unfruitful as most clients had failed to meet the expected outcomes. The ESF has a four-year grace period set, after which clients will have to pay 25% principle amount and interest every year. Which is a different approach from the previous EED loans. Clients themselves have to provide 51% as the impartiality of the project cost and invest it within one year after securing the approval from the Investment Corporation of Bangladesh (ICB).

Criteria for Application: 

  • ICT business model which needs to be feasible.
  • Cannot take any other loans for the project while in this program.
  • Needs authentication from clients – cannot be a defaulter from any banks in Bangladesh.

IDLC Finance Limited

A program launched in 2015 for financing for ICT entrepreneurs. It offers tailored solutions to boost businesses for their clients. The program “IDLC Udbhabon Loan” is in association with BASIS organization. However, it is not only financial services for ICT companies; but will also refer to corporate clients to BASIS if software purchases are required. And the customers will receive special discounts in this manner.

Criteria for Application:

To check for eligibility for the “IDLC Udbhabon Loan”; clients need to be 20 to 60 years of age. And the business applied for needs to be in two years of operation. However, the time of operation is halved for female entrepreneurs. After application, IDLC will reach out if the criteria’s are met and it is something they look forward towards investing.

Freelancers in Bangladesh will now get ID cards

Bangladesh Freelance Development Society (BFDS) and the ICT department took an initiative to create a database targeted towards the local freelancers. Under this initiative, ID cards will be provided to freelancers, bringing freelancing under an official working structure.

Read more: Kajkey.com: Making money from your laptop

This ID card validates a freelancer showing off his skills and achievements. They are calling this “The Free ID”. Other than showing off skills, it can also be used for banking.

“All this information will be fixed in the card with a QR code and only institutions that have an agreement with the BFDS can access it,”

Said Mustafizur Rahman, general secretary of BFDS.

Read more: 5 Bangladeshi platforms where you can pitch your startup

The card will contain the freelancer’s info, the earning statement, and his/her development in the career. According to data from BFDS, out of the six lakhs freelancers, only two lakhs earn actively.

Now, the ICT division of Bangladesh will be the ones providing the cards. While BFDS will provide tech support. Both parties signed an agreement regarding this. Other than that, BFDS signed a deal with Walton to allow the freelancers to buy Walton electronics at instalments.

Kajkey.com: Making money from your laptop

The issues are common: an event is coming up and there are so many details to manage or you just started a business with a great idea but need certain specialized skills to handle small technical tasks. Small business owners need one-off web-based content for a marketing campaign. Many entrepreneurs, organizers and companies do not have extensive teams of designers and developers.  Hiring freelancers can be the cheapest, quickest and high-quality solution to get the job done.

But how? Acquiring a suitable freelancer, usually on a time constraint becomes daunting. Even if you do find someone, their work ethic, efficiency and eventual product might not be up to par. 

The perspective from the other side of the table– freelancers may be very good at their job, highly skilled but can still find difficulty finding work. Most freelancers are not already established or reputed. Occasional “Hiring” posts on social media, and messages to acquaintances are not one’s best bet at finding work. Experience and skills do not equate to fulfilling tasks and realistic wages and commissions.

The core dilemma lies in this disconnect between employer and employee; the lack of a proper marketplace. 

The Kajkey marketplace

Sabbir Ahmed and Ahsan Ahmed, came together to develop KajKey.com, an online local freelance marketplace. KajKey is positioning itself as the one-stop solution for both freelancers and employers.

Graphic designers, webpage and app developers, digital marketers and freelancers of other expertise can sign up for free and build their profiles. Employers can post their projects and receive immediate responses from interested freelancers. It is as of now the most efficient way to link up between employer and freelancer in Bangladesh. One the link is established, freelancers are able to make additional income and refine their skills.

Currently, active freelancers are earning anywhere between 30,000 BDT and BDT 100,000 per month from working via Kajkey.com

Tested concept, made for Bangladesh

KajKey eliminates the noise between employers and employees, building a smooth and efficient bridge from project conception to realization. A significant leverage of the platform is in that it is entirely in Bangla. This was intended to remove the language barrier a lot of people face.

The Bangla targeted approach provides a necessary foundation to properly discuss needs and expectations. It also helps to operate on a localized context and conduct transactions with local payment solutions.  Therefore, the platform has gained traction, with more than 50,000 users registered on the platform and availing opportunities on a regular basis.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

KajKey also offers a very simplified and efficient method of job finding and posting. Freelancers need to build their accounts and update it with details of their experience and portfolios of previous projects. Employers need only to post their projects with the title, budget, goals and related details. Freelancers will then bid on the project.  The process leads to a direct discussion between employee and employer regarding a project, providing for a satisfactory solution for both parties. 

More income generating features for freelancers

Kajkey.com also just launched their new platform KajKey V2 where freelancers can offer their services as a gig with their own price. Instead of solely applying for employers requests, freelancers can post a gig with a description of offered services, show examples of previous work, evidence of projects completed (total sales number) and of course, the cost of services. If interested users see something they require, they can order services on the gig pages instead of making a post requesting the service. 

Bright prospects

KajKey is swiftly becoming the go-to marketplace for freelancers and event managers. It has been endorsed by many prominent entrepreneurs and investors including– Hussain M Elius from Pathao, Kishwar Hashemee, CEO of Kludio, Ravid Chowdhury from Trucklagbe and RC Ventures, Rayid Isaam Faruq from B2M Games– among other prominent figures have endorsed and welcomed the platform. 

KajKey has eliminated a lot of the problems involved with employing freelancers and folks are recognizing the potential in the venture. It has provided employment opportunities to interested and able individuals and also contributes to decentralizing employment opportunities to remote places outside Dhaka. It is a project with massive potential that if realized, could permanently change how employment in these situations works.

If you find yourself organizing an event or web development project, try out KajKey and your job might just be made easier. Let us know about the experience!

Cookups shuts down its operations for app and food delivery

Acclaimed startup Cookups has announced a shut down of its operations in app and food delivery service. In a Facebook post earlier this evening, Cookups made the announcement, stating lack of sufficient funding as one of the reasons to discontinue.

However, the Cookups Facebook page will stay for their other venture, Cookups Rannaghor. Cookups Rannaghor is a delivery only kitchen serving Bangla cuisine.

Cookups released the following statement today:

Dear Diners,

It is with a very heavy heart that we need to announce that we have decided to discontinue and shut down operations for the Cookups app and food delivery service. Today will be our last day of deliveries. We are very sorry it had to come to this as we were unable to raise sufficient funding to continue. Thank you immensely for being part of that part of our journey and for believing in us and we are grateful for the opportunity we had to bring you delicious food from amazing cooks from around the city. We are however going to use this page for our venture Cookups Rannaghor going forward, which as of now you can order through Uber Eats.

Lots of love,

Team Cookups

-Cookup’s post from its Facebook page

Cookups began its journey in 2016, headed by entrepreneur duo Namira Hossain and Misha Ali. It rose to popularity in the following years as the largest online marketplace in Bangladesh for healthy homemade food.

Snapchat’s former Bangladeshi CSO, Imran Khan, launches e-commerce venture to compete with the likes of Amazon

A new retail website, called Verishop, has gone live recently. And it goes head-to-head with mammoth platforms like Amazon. The brain behind this venture is the former Chief Strategic Officer of Snapchat, Imran Khan.

Why Verishop

Khan being present in the business arena for quite a while had observed some of the frustrations up-and-coming brands have expressed regarding existing sites that have counterfeit products or that hurt brand integrity. Verishop aims to change that and create an even and transparent platform for both buyers and sellers.

The business model of Verishop

Verishop actually buys the inventory directly from the brands. This step is to prevent having counterfeit goods on the site. Verishop hopes this differentiating factor will help build trust with consumers, too.

Is the big tech too big?

Globally companies like Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet etc. are ruling the world. It takes much audacity to come up with a business that has to compete largely with Amazon itself. However, Khan doesn’t feel that the big tech is too absolute. And with proper differentiation of their services, they can have a sustainable business.

“I think our vision is to be the best home for brands,” Khan said in an interview ahead of the launch of Verishop.

“Whenever the consumer is looking for branded products, we want to be their first destination. There is massive growth of direct-to-consumer brands.”

Verishop has launched with around 150 brands. Those include apparel makers Levi’s, AllSaints, DVF and Citizens of Humanity; home-goods retailer Boll & Branch; make-up company Lily Lolo and skin-care line Kora Organics.

An offer too good

Verishop offers free, two-day shipping with no minimum purchase, free returns and a 24/7 customer-service portal on the web. That means you can buy anything even worth 10 Dollars, and still can get free shipping! This new feature is something that most customers had been waiting for.

There are 2 main shopping sections, Tastemakers and Responsible Shop. Between these two, Tastemakers is solely targetted towards influencers. 

In this daunting attempt, let’s hope Imran Khan makes a difference to the world of e-commerce, as he has done in case of Snapchat. A reminder for the readers, this is the same Imran Khan whose BTV debate went viral on Facebook this year!

Like our content? Follow us on our Facebook page for regular updates. We want to hear from you. Take a moment to write to us with your stories, contributions and suggestion. Contact us for advertising and partnership opportunities at [email protected] Thank you!

With Handymama, the Uber of Handymen, revolutionizing household services

If one was to name 10 most prominent start-ups in the country in the recent years, Handymama would undoubtedly hold one of the top positions. With its on-demand cleaning, repair and pack and shift services, Handymama has quickly and conveniently become a trustworthy name in the industry of household services.

Recently, HiFi Public met with its CEO Shah Paran and CSO Rezaur R. Robin over a cup of coffee discussing the story of Handymama, what makes them unique, their ambitious plan to go global in the future and the ups and downs in the start-up scenario in Bangladesh.

HiFi: To start with, could you tell us a bit about Handymama?

Shah Paran (CEO): To get the idea behind Handymama, Handymama is basically an on-demand platform for maintenance and handyman services. It’s like Uber for handyman services. Like Uber, Handymama connects users or customers with verified service professionals like painters, carpenters, plumbers, etc. Basically handymen. We launched in April 2015, so this is our third year in the industry. Our services are available all over Dhaka and so far, we have over 1200 verified service professionals on our platform who work actively and at the same time we have had over 30,000 users in thee 3 years. Besides from that, over 1500 business have also taken services form us, using our platform, that is. This is where most people make a mistake however. They mistake Handymama itself for a service provider. But we are only a platform where we connect the customers with the professionals and ensure fair pricing, safety and security and quality maintenance of course. This is what Handymama is.

HF: So, what’s your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)?

SP: Our USP, firstly, the convenience, of course. Then there’s a matter of safety and security. It’s a one stop solution, you get everything in one place. You don’t need to have separate contacts of plumbers, repairmen etc. You can get everything on this platform and it is easily accessible any time. So, the convenience and easy accessibility is our USP, basically.

HF: How do you source your partners?

SP: A very common question and an important one. You see, the blue-collar people in are Bangladesh are mostly uneducated and not even institutionally trained enough. What they do is learn by practice, or by non-institutionalised mentorship. They don’t have a certification, they don’t follow any particular standard. So, working with them gets quite difficult actually. Our supply development team are the key people here. We have a few steps to source them. Initially our team goes to them in person, they talk to them, make them understand what Handymama is and how it works, how working on this platform is beneficial to them etc. Some of them understand and agree, some of them do not. Those who agree go through several screening processes and trainings. We supply them with standard tools and instructions. There are a few steps like these and after completing them, we make them our service partners.

Handymama, the story of a startup revolutionizing household services in Bangladesh

HF: Why do you think it’s profitable for them to partner up with Handymama?

SP: Let me give you an example, we have finished some B2B projects in mid-2017 where more than 3000 painters have worked whose income has grown by 47% by working with us. And continuously they’re getting jobs! And this is what basically happens when they partner up with us. Maybe in a particular area there are a few workers, and people know them because they’ve worked in that area for a long time. But what about those who have started out recently? They have no marketing or exposure. Handymama gives them a platform. They get more call for works now, and they’re getting works on a regular basis. We do not only fish out work for them, we also train them in skills like how to use an app, how to follow basic safety measures, instruct them on effective communication. These skills are as important as the work themselves!

What’s the best part you ask, that is when they work on they’re own, and almost in all the cases they are not aware or simply do not care enough about safety measures. So, they are not liable to anyone for any unfortunate accidents. Here in Handymama we bring in insurance for them once we finish training period.

Then there’s the matter of payment. In many jobs on their own, they face haggling customers, and the payment is usually on the basis of a verbal negotiation. Someone might dupe them or pay them less than what they were promised and there’s virtually nothing they can do about it. At Handymama we maintain a payment card for them, Handymama Secure Payment System, as we call it. We give them separate bank accounts, and after every job, the payment is transferred to them securely. So, there’s the convenience of payment of course.

You see, the shared economy is a revolution. If you look at Uber, when Uber arrived in Dhaka, people slowly stopped using rent-a-car services and the rent-a-car drivers migrated to the Uber platform. Consumers found Uber to be cheaper and convenient and rent-a-car drivers started losing jobs and shifted to being Uber drivers and started earning more. The same goes for the household sector. In the future, people will start using platforms like Handymama more, thanks to their convenience and workers will find it more profitable to use platforms like these instead of going solo.

HF: Indeed. So, you’re obviously aware of your competitors. Why shouldn’t I use Sheba.xyz instead of Handymama?

SP: If you talk about competitors, the local service professionals are also our competitors! You may as well ask why one shouldn’t directly go to them instead of using the platform of Handyamama. Anyway, so we don’t think that we are at the competition stage yet. The industry is huge, you know. I think you could still fit 10-15 players in this industry.

Where we differ with Sheba is, you see, Sheba is like a marketplace. It accommodates vendors and lets you choose your services and vendors. The payment, the services, the quality all of these are based on the negotiation between you and the vendor you choose. The decision making is entirely up to you. What Handymama does is that it lets you of the hook, we connect you with the best vendor considering the prices, ratings and services. You do not need to go through the entire decision-making process, the pricing, the negotiation etc. We connect you with the best one in the market. And in terms if quality, we have more control. We can impose the quality and pricing. And not to mention the safety security. These are not up to the vendors when they’re working with us. We control the pricing and quality, minding of course the welfare of both consumers and service providers. So, considering all these and from the user perspective as well, I think Handymama is more convenient and user friendly.

Handymama, the story of a startup revolutionizing household services in Bangladesh 2

HF: Great. So, as the founder of Handymama, could you tell us a bit about your journey? Obviously, there must have been a few bumps you hit on the road.

SP: Of course! I started out in the late 2014s, and at that time, there was nothing like Handymama! There were a few websites, yellow pages where you can get numbers of plumbers and service people. But there was nothing organised! I’ve hit a few bumps when I started.

I was responsible for the entire office setup when I was setting up my first office. This was before Handymama. So, I needed plumbers, electricians, carpenters and I had to go out and walk on the streets and personally get the workers to help me set up my first office. It took an entire month for me to set up my first office. It was then the idea of Handymama occurred to me. When talking about challenges with Handymama, the biggest challenge was reaching out to the blue-collar people at first. Because at that time, there was nothing like Handymama. So, there was a big trust-gap between us and them. There was the matter of security, payment, convincing them to work for us and making them understand how this is better for them. It was very difficult to make them understand the appeal of the idea.

And of course, since we were a new start up back then and the concept was entirely new, we had a hard time getting people on our team. But times are changing and more people are open to the concept of working with a start-up. We’re getting quite a number of CVs these days. It takes time, you know.

Also, starting out as a start-up in Bangladesh was never easy. The ecosystem isn’t quite ready yet. There were a lot of issues, mentorship, investments etc. We didn’t use to get that many users in the beginning. There were of course trust issues and the introduction of a new concept, it’s never easy. We do get a lot of customers now. Repetitive customers even. We’re growing.

Running a legal business gets pretty expensive too! But times are changing now! They surely are.

HF: Can you tell us a bit about your users? What is the target group like?

SP: You see, the product we’re trying to sell is not tangible. We have users from two perspectives, the blue-collar people who use our platform to get to customers and the customers who pay them to get the services using our platform. And the customers, they don’t take these services for themselves, they take the services for their households, offices etc. so, technically our users are the households, offices and establishments. People just pay for that. In Dhaka there are about 2.2-2.3 million households and this is a very big, a very opportunistic market for us.

Now if you talk about Target group, it’s mainly the middle affluent class to upper class families in the city.

HF: How to you reach out to customers, who are, say not our generation. Older generation. Typically, they are the household heads in our society, so there must be a certain trust gap here. How are you reaching out to them?

SP: Well, you can’t change these common perspectives over night actually. Obviously, there is a trust gap, it’s a new concept for them. The convenience of technology was a new concept for them a few years back and it’s slowly growing. It’s only obvious that they’ll be reluctant at first but once the reap the benefits of the convenience of this platform, I’m sure they’ll come back for more.

We’re reaching out to them through different outreach programs and campaigns. It’ll take time. It cannot change overnight. We have customers aged from 20 to 60 or more years old. I think that’s a phenomenal feat!

HF: Do you have any strict payment policy, say, to deal with haggling customers? You must face cases like that.

SP: Of course! We do face situations like that actually. Not too often, but we do. In some jobs, people have to pay upfront, you know. There’s the case of buying materials and things like that. But in most cases, generally they have to pay afterwards. And we are working on a secure payment system to ensure that it gets down smoothly.

We have a specified time period of course. You have to pay within 72 hours of availing a service. Anyway, yes, we are working on a secure, specified method to ensure payment for services. It’ll take some time I’m afraid.

HF: Great. So, what are your plans for the future? Short term and long term.

SP: We’ll be expanding our service in a few other cities in the third quarter of this year. And Dhaka is a huge market for us, you know. We want to fully capitalise on it. We want Handymama to be synonymous for household services. May be in 5 to 7 years down the line. You could term this as a long-term plan. And hopefully by 2020, we’re planning to go global and expand in a maybe 3 to 5 countries. We’re working on it.

So, by 2019 hopefully we’ll expand to the major cities and by 2020, we’ll hopefully go global.

It was always our vision to take Handymama to a global stage and make it big enough.

Rezaur Robin (CSO): It was also our vision to work on employment and create at least 20,000 jobs within the next 7 years, specially focusing on women employment. We want service to be productized. We want people to buy services like they buy products.

Also, if we want to talk about impact, you see, people are losing jobs due to automation. Look at the RMG sector. So, the people in these sectors, what happens is that they have a very vertical skill set. They lose jobs if the industry adopts new mechanisms of productions that cuts off their need. We want to empower them with a diversified skill set. We’d like to train them and empower them with jobs, incorporating them into this shared economy. This is one of our core goals actually. To create employment.

HF: Do you think Handymama is leaving an impact?

SP: Definitely! As I’ve already told you, in one project we have employed around 3000 painters and their income has increased 47%. Also, what happens generally is we certify these workers. Since they do not have an academic or institutionalised validation, these certificated work as a validation for them. You get to know how skilled your serviceman is. You don’t have to rely on word of mouth. We even do police verification of these workers in many cases. Specially if they are going to work for our premium customers. And yeah, if we think about the user impact, as a user you don’t have to go around looking for a plumber if you want to get your plumbing fixed, just give us a call and we’ll take care of everything. You’re leading a very smart life that way.

RR: I can give you a breakdown. We have around 578 taskers who are getting works regularly, one in every 3 days period. Their income has increased about 200 times working with us. We have over 300 taskers who are earning an income of more than 1 lakh taka per month by using our platform. This is phenomenal isn’t it?

So, a cleaner who used to work small jobs here and there are now getting continuous jobs almost every day and earning beyond what they would’ve earned if they’d have worked solo. As you already know, we’re training them, providing them with tools, smartphones in many cases. We’re empowering the supply side and we hope that they pass these skills and trainings on others on their own. We’d want to create a chain like this. Create more trained and skilled workers. Transform the service sector.

HF: Can you elaborate on the premium customers that you spoke about? How does one avail the premium services?

RR: Our premium customers are specially the ones who are with us from the very beginning.  Handymama has been always a data driven and feedback driven service and the feedbacks of our early users has helped us a lot. So, we try to reward them with a premium service. Besides that, we have several CIPs and VIPs taking services from us, they get the premium services. These services include police verified workers, more skilled workers, early accesses to new services and the choice of requesting the same handyman for the next job.

SP: We’re planning to get the premium services under a more formal structure called Handymama elite. This is still in the works.

Handymama, the story of a startup revolutionizing household services in Bangladesh 3

HF: Great. Looking forward to it! So, that was a very insightful conversation about Handymama. Now, here’s a question for both of you. What do you think about the start-up ecosystem in Bangladesh? Honest opinion.

SP: I think the ecosystem is a lot more mature than it was in our time. Now with the accelerator programs and such, people are more educated about start ups and more welcoming. This is an indicator in the right direction, I’d say. But I think, as a very mentor-driven person myself, there is still a gap in the mentorship level. People who are experienced, who are expats, who work in HR, in marketing, in operations, they should come forward in helping out the young start-ups, because launching a start-up successfully is not an easy job. You need all the help you can get. We need to work on this. We need to nurture the young start-ups.

RR: I can vouch for that. Handymama had a huge backing from the Founders Institute and we have grown grammatically and the start-ups like us who has grown like these, they have collected money from very good sources and not just money, they have gained valuable mentorship, experience and guidance as well. We think this is important. Those who are entering this ecosystem needs to grow grammatically, taking all the help they can get. You need to seek outlet and knowledge on your own. Luck actuates effort you know. So, reach out for help.

SP: So, that’s it. The ecosystem is growing steadily, we think. And with a little goodwill and effort, this ecosystem will not buzz down anytime soon.

HF: Right. It was great knowing you both. Thank you so much for this very insightful conversation and the lovely cup of coffee. We wish Handymama a great success!

5 Bangladeshi platforms where you can pitch your startup

There is an imminent need for entrepreneurs who are willing to change Bangladesh, home to 160 million people, for the better . Professionals are being encouraged to defy convention and pursue entrepreneurship over traditional career paths like doctors and engineers, now more than ever. However, entrepreneurs need the know-hows and the resources which are hard to get, especially at the beginning. With a growing local start-up ecosystem, we can only hope that more industry experts will pave the way for young bloods to build sustainable businesses.

A number of Bangladeshi startup incubators have been working closely with local talents to scale up businesses, especially tech ventures.

Our country abounds with go-getters who can shape our economic landscape for the better. And these platforms can be a breeding ground of startups that can have commercial success in Bangladesh, possibly across the world. Here are 5 deshi incubators where you can pitch your dream startup.

Grameenphone Accelerator 

The GP Accelerator is an incubator that accelerates 5 startups every year.
35 teams are called in to participate in a two-day long boot camp, from which 15 startups were selected for further rounds of assessment, face-to-face interviews and pitch presentations. Finally, after fierce competition, five companies are selected. This way, from over a thousand applications, 5 standout companies are selected on the basis of the team’s ability to execute and the strength of the business.

GPA provides a 4-month bootcamp at GPhouse. Office space, structured curricula, investor access and mentorship are offered to the top 5 teams in this program.

Teams get the opportunity to learn from local and foreign mentors, industry experts and professionals on critical development elements like term sheet, valuation, financial modeling, branding, etc. Starting from 2014, 5 batches of startups have graduated from this program. Winners receive seed funding of 12+ lakh taka and Grameenphone may take up to 8-10% equity. Some of the notable alumni include Sheba, CMED, Doctorkoi etc.

More about Grameenphone Accelerator

Toru Impactors

The Toru Institute of Inclusive Innovation has launched the ‘Impactor’ program for early stage startups. Saif Kamal, founder of Toru said in an interview, “We have always had accelerator programs or competitions, but ideas need extensive and long-term support in order to become impactful enterprises.” Impactor program is a 8-month long business incubation program for entrepreneurs who want to transform their idea, early form of a product or an early stage business into a successful business enterprise with a social impact.

30 Impactors learn through a series of workshops. From that cohort, 15 Impactors are selected to continue their engagement, building a business model canvas and growth strategy. The top 10 Impactors embark on a 6-month long journey of business incubation, taking their venture to grow and be investment ready. These Impactors are matched with experts from their respective sectors, receiving individually tailored support. The final 3 Impactors receive up to 10 lakh taka seed funding, and workspace from Startup Bangladesh.

Startups who have worked with Toru include Sheba.xyz, iFarmer, ShopUp and 10MS.

More about Impactors

Urban Innovation Challenge

“Our cities, our solutions”- with this motto, UIC embarked on the journey to find urban entrepreneurs to reshape our cities with a smart solution. UIC throws 5 challenges which are healthcare, wash, renewable energy, climate change and low-cost urban housing. 5 teams are selected for incubation and each of them receive 5+ lakh taka seed funding. Hands-on training, access to partnerships. further funding opportunities- UIC has it all. The best thing about UIC is that it empowers startups to make our urban lives better. Besides commercial success, startups should also demonstrate societal impact, which UIC strives to achieve. UIC is powered by BRAC.

More about the Urban Innovation Challenge

Tiger Cage  

Are you one of those people who binge ‘Shark Tank’ and wishfully think of a Bangladeshi reality show about seed funding? If yes, you’ve got it. ‘Tiger Cage’-an incubator in the form of a reality show where real investors meet real entrepreneurs. Startups with demonstrable prototypes pitch their idea to angel investors. The judges of this show are the ‘Tigers’; when they are convinced, they can choose to invest in the businesses. Participants can get funding of as much as 2 crore taka.

Intelligence Machines Limited, the first startup featured on the pilot episode, have raised 2 crore taka of funding in exchange for 45% of ownership. Sounds cool, huh? Tiger Cage is an initiative of Startup Dhaka.

More about Tiger Cage

iDEA Accelerator

iDEA Accelerator was founded by ICT ministry of Bangladesh to foster the culture of entrepreneurship among innovators. Startups that are in both ideation or seed stage are eligible to apply for enlistment. A big cohort of early tech companies have received funding from this platform. It is commendable to see that our govt. is taking part in the revolution of the startup era.

More about iDEA Accelerator

The startup culture may have been romanticized by movies and tv shows, but it’s quite challenging in real life, to say the least. It takes a lot of dedication, failure and passion to see a dream flourish. Do check out these prominent platforms to get that leg up. Who knows, you may be building the next Pathao or 10 Minute School.