Streetpreneur (Street entrepreneur): An unconventional conversation with an unconventional entrepreneur

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Oct 23, 2012

Well, I’ve an elusive memory. Sometimes, it seems I’ve an eraser in my head that erases out specific information. Say, Neilkhet is off on Tuesday, it’s not something that you can afford to forget when you live in DU dorm. But this week I did. However, I don’t regret it now.

Rafiq & his Shop

Let’s get into the talk. Last Tuesday, I went to Neilket, for two things: buying few books, and buying something for my little sister. But, as I said it was closed and I had nothing to do but get angry on me. I was roaming there for few minutes. Then I met with Rafiq, a young man in his 25-30, I’m bad at guessing age, and a street entrepreneur on his own right! Well, I’m sure you’ve already started wondering that what the hell this "street entrepreneur" thing is. Let me make it clear. If you are living in Dhaka city then you must know them. They sit on street with something moveable with their varieties of accessories, some sells shoes, some sells plastic materials, some sells mobile covers etc.

Rafiq is like all of them. There in Neilkeht, on my bad day, I met Rafiq. Although it’s a off day here, he however, opened his shop (on street). His business is mobile cover, headphones, money bags, and few other trifle accessories that I can’t remember name now. As it was a off day, so there was not many customers to deal with and Rafiq was in a quasi-leisure mode. So, I approached him with a purpose to talk and to know about his life. And we had a long conversation on various things. I asked him about his life, business and few other things. At the end I felt like: this is my best experience of the day.

Here goes a snapshot of conversation we had:

Me: Hello, I’m Ruhul, I live here in University Dorm and I work for a website ( he did not get what website is). Can I talk to you for few minutes?
Rafiq: Sure.

Me: What’s your name?
Rafiq: My name is Rafiq, and my home district is Noakhali!

Me: Where do you live here in Dhaka?
Rafiq: He said he lived somewhere around Azimpur.

Me: How long you are doing this business?
Rafiq: For 7 months.

Me: How did you get started with this?
Rafiq: well, before starting here I was selling small bags on walk to shoppers and then one day I started this, I can’t remember how!

Me: What was your amount of capital when you were starting?
Rafiq: Well, may be BDT 4000 or BDT 6000

Me: Was not it difficult to start with that small money?
Rafiq: No, because I don’t have to pay any rent for my shop and also I don’t sell anything that is costly.

Me: How much do you earn every day after paying your cost and other expenses?
Rafiq: Actually it varies day to day. However, in an average I earn BDT 500-1000, sometimes less, sometimes more than that.

Me: It means you earn BDT 30,000 per month?
Rafiq: Not that much actually. It's within BDT 20,000

Me: Why are you doing this than doing a job or something certain? Don’t you think this business thing is risky?
Rafiq: Actually, I don’t know anything that much. Moreover, there are actually no job for me. So, I took this way. And job is also risky. They often fire us. You know people are no good!

Me: Well, do you have any problem in doing this business?
Rafiq: Yes. Often police disturbs us and takes away our products. And we need to pay to police and other people to sit here. Moreover, it’s problem to run business when it rain.

Me: Do you want to scale/make your business big?
Rafiq: I don’t know. I think this is quite sufficient for me. And I don’t know how to make this big.

Me: How is life? Do you like the way you live your life? Are you satisfied?

Rafiq: You see, we are simple people. We don't have much though we want. We don't exactly know how to change things and we don't expect that things will be changed for us any way. However, life is not bad. Yes, we have problems and there is nobody to care about us, though, you know our life is like that.

Me: Thank you Rafiq for being too nice to me.
Rafiq: Thank you sir.

Rafiq is a street entrepreneur and there are too many of them who live out of our consideration. Neither Government nor any mainstream community bother about them. But they are real people with real courage to live a life. Unlike us, with big degrees and big fears, they take life as it comes to them, without fear and preparation. In rainy days they stop selling and do something else to keep life rolling. But they never stop living. They never give up to fear. And I guess they know how to live better than that of us.

(Edited & paraphrased)

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Ruhul Kader is a technology and business analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Future Startup and author of Rethinking Failure: A short guide to living an entrepreneurial life. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, technology policy, and society. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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