Most of us who grew up in Dhaka have observed the ever-saturating job markets, extreme rural-to-urban migration that is straining city resources and the scarcity of quality human resource all at the same time. Yet, it was exactly these issues which made Bangladesh, and particularly Dhaka, the gold mine for start-up businesses. When there are infinite problems, there are also infinite solutions to those problems.
Without quoting statistics, I believe it is still safe to say that the drastic start-up boom began in Dhaka sometime around 2010. I have always believed that Bangladeshis are brilliant at coming up with ideas, but even more brilliant at replicating them. As we had previously seen with the clothing boutiques, the hookah lounges, the fast food joints, and the event management companies, this new trend too, would become increasingly repetitive. Unsurprisingly, at least 40% of most Bangladeshi’s facebook friends can be traced back to a minimum of one failed start-up. Okay, so that was a fake stat I came up with based on mere observation, but there may just as well be some truth to it.
Coming back to the issue: if there are start-ups addressing ‘social’ issues mushrooming at every mossy corner of this concrete jungle, then how do we predict their tentative success? Again, based on personal observation over the past decade, I believe it is neither the first player, nor the last, that are most likely to succeed. Often times, the first leaders who take initiative to enter the game of creating a start-up with a highly innovative idea, suffer the most for being a bit too ‘progressive’ or ‘out of the box’. It is almost as if consumers in the market are not ready for this giant, drastic change that the company envisions. While this company or companies struggle to establish the relevance of the product/service, the demand, and the validity of the selling price, there are ten more players on the field- marketing the same product but with a twist. This twist can be a more competitive pricing, a better marketing tactic, a more specialized service within the same field.
Similarly, when the market has about 20 big players and a few hundred or thousand small ones providing a semi-identical service in different packages, each new start-up at this point has a vast range of competitors waiting to make them irrelevant. At this point, no matter how unique their brand positioning or marketing ideas are, there is always a consumer ready to question, compare and contrast with an existing product meeting nearly the same requirements or pitching nearly the same service. At this point, many start-ups face a complex identity crisis. They struggle to answer the question- how different is different enough?
Luckily, though, the current trend of creating and growing app-based social-issue targeted start-ups is not about to retire any time soon. Especially with government and private funding just about to enter the markets in full swing. However, there is a lot of other interesting discussions to be had at this point. As global statistics indicate, for every successful start-up, there are at least 97 failed ones. With that comes the generation of failed ‘Founders & CEOs’ and their return to the job market with the most refreshing interview questions waiting for them. That, however, is a discussion for another day.
The writer is the founder of successful start-up Career Solutions Bangladesh.