An Interview With Jannati Hossain

Jannati Hossain is the co-founder of the Velocity- a car modification company, Managing Editor of Torque – an automotive magazine, and the Managing Director of Echo Sparks-a gaming zone and music café. Building things is in her blood. Jannati knows what it means to become an entrepreneur and how hard the trajectory of a maker is. However, she could not help but to follow her calling of becoming her own boss and making her way into the world.

We spoke to Jannati about her passion, journey, struggle, and about her ride on the roller coaster name entrepreneurship.

Society makes it a bit difficult at times, plan goes wrong, we hit the wall sometimes but even then what can be more satisfying than having the ability to believe in ourselves and delving into the journey that matters and imagining immensities over the limitations.

Editor’s Note: When we are publishing this interview Jannati is in Jail! Her family and friends claim that the allegation against Jannati is false and staged and there is a lot happening behind the curtain. We are not sure about what really happened but we demand justice for Jannati.

Anyways, cars, automotive contraptions, and a little bit of the jet planes – not very unlike the SWAT Kats state-of-the-art fighter planes, were the things I was most passionate about. The little toy cars that my brothers received were the center of my attention – not resting till I pulled it all apart and put it back together again – at times quite different than what it used to have been.

Bar mixedPlease briefly tell us about yourself and your passion.

As a child I was always powered by the concept of motion and speed out of many other interests and hobbies. With a mixed exposure to different subjects – thanks to my motivating parents and mentors, I grew up a tomboy trying to have it all. The cliché of being lady like was something I was bored with and what set me apart from that frontier was the idea of how interesting the world was when you did not follow a set of roles already sorted out for you due to your gender and the presets it trails.

So I grew up exploring the different divisions in the XY-sector of the world – given for the better half of my school life most of my associates were boys – brothers, cousins, classmates etc.

Anyways, cars, automotive contraptions, and a little bit of the jet planes – not very unlike the SWAT Kats state-of-the-art fighter planes, were the things I was most passionate about. The little toy cars that my brothers received were the center of my attention – not resting till I pulled it all apart and put it back together again – at times quite different than what it used to have been.

Currently, I am majoring under English Literature at North South University, while contemplating another in Management alongside. I have also acquired a Diploma in Photography enjoying it in my spare time. Apart from which, I deeply revel in having learnt seven different languages and their culture, which inspires and influences my work all the time. In this era of massive globalization, I believe this has been one of my monumental advantages so far.

The cliché of being lady like was something I was bored with and what set me apart from that frontier was the idea of how interesting the world was when you did not follow a set of roles already sorted out for you due to your gender and the presets it trails.

Describe your path to becoming an entrepreneur and what you are doing today.

I started my career as a school teacher while I was doing my A-levels. I was quite content being able to teach school children and be a major part in their education as they grew up. However, I knew this was not my calling, and being young and energetic, I still had time to explore. Becoming an entrepreneur is something I reflect that a part of me had always known. I didn’t enjoy being told what to do, or when to do it. I believed in my actions being a part of my decision making process, and I was very driven to work towards building up my own company at some point in my life.

Back in 2011, towards the end of my teaching career, my best friend and now my fiancé – who also shares my car-enthusiasm, suggested that we open up a car modifying company. The car industry was booming, more stock cars and reconditions coming in – despite the outrageous amount of tax, and the people with a taste for diversity, or uniqueness were lining up to soup up their rides. As the number of people vamping up their cars increased, there was a segment who was tired of the second-grade products found at Dholaikhaal or Bangla Motor. So being one of the connoisseurs in car remodeling and modifying, me and my partner invested in Velocity – a car modification company. I joined as co-founder and the CEO, while my partner – Raymen Siddique, is the COO of the company overseeing a very significant portion of the engineering and the product detail.

Becoming an entrepreneur is something I reflect that a part of me had always known. I didn’t enjoy being told what to do, or when to do it. I believed in my actions being a part of my decision making process, and I was very driven to work towards building up my own company at some point in my life.

Right now, I am the co-founder, of three other start-up companies. Having worked as the Managing Editor of Torque – an automotive magazine, and the Managing Director of Echo Sparks – a game zone and music cafe, I am recently launching a craft house Bindu, where I try to incorporate fresh new designers working to promote the Bangladeshi culture and materials – like khadi, jute, leather etc. with an avant-garde approach.

Bar blue sqrWhat was the underlying motivation behind becoming an entrepreneur, although you know this is a very difficult journey and for a woman our society makes it way harder?

My father is an entrepreneur, and growing up trying to follow his footsteps might have given me the initial edge of becoming an entrepreneur later in my life. Being the eldest child, I was favored with being able to be very authoritative. It made me realize that I could never work under someone else’s authority, with very little liberty to be free to make my decisions without having to account to someone else’s dominion.

However, with all the flexibility, and freedom of being an entrepreneur, I knew the intense amount of stress, pressure, and anguish I would have to deal with. It’s like a roller coaster ride without a stop destination planned out! However, I have – thanks to Allah, been surrounded by an amazing group of people who inspired me all throughout the journey. I believe we are all very vulnerable in our own ways, but being an entrepreneur, you risk that twice. The emotional swings, the pleasure and pain timeline, the profit and loss bars, and the plans gone wrong are things that make us very dependent emotionally for support and encouragement.

Being a woman and in a business where authority comes at a certain amount of price, I faced a lot of scrutiny in the beginning. But being a woman of conviction, I was certain of a few things.

  1. If my words followed my actions and accomplishments, criticisms didn’t matter.
  2. When I keep my end of the bargain right, people are bound to follow.
  3. Being a woman lets me be different in my work. My working process is very different compared to my partner.
  4. If you know what you are doing, only fools will underestimate you.
  5. Focus is the key to accomplishments.

Our society does make it a little difficult at times. Being a woman, you have to endure a lot of unwanted backlashes – working hours vary because of safety issues, and working areas are to be dealt with great discretion. There are platforms where you are readily neglected and shunned because you are a girl.

Nevertheless, with a bit of tactics and some perseverance even that can be overcome. There are people who want to genuinely help you because you are a girl, and then there are some who look forward to taking advantage of you. I believe, working in our society, a girl has to be very prudent and shrewd at understanding who’s who.

IF You Liked This Interview Signup Here For Our Awesome Newsletter Coming Out Soon and Help Us To Spread The Story By Sharing!

collage-1Briefly tell us about Velocity. What do you do at Velocity?

Velocity is a car modification company. We modify cars into bespokes. Our branches of modification comes in three primary categories –

1) Exterior Modification – Where we soup up the outlook of the car. This ranges from body kit design and installation, to exhausts, stickers etc.

2) Interior Modification – Where we modify the inside of the car. This section is everything of the car inside it, other than the engine area – from Sparco sports seats to plush customized door sides, to dashboard, sound-system, navigations etc.

3) Performance Modification – This is where we upgrade/downgrade a car’s performance according to the rider’s preference. In the world of sports cars, performance is a very wide sector. Some consider this to be the only sector worth modifying at all. Unlike the Japanese counterparts who enjoys flashy moods to the outward profile, these particular group of enthusiasts invest their full attention to the performance of their cars – sometimes it’s about the smooth drive, sometimes the initial torque, and sometimes it’s the longevity of the engine’s health.

How did you get the idea? How did you manage funding and connected all the dots?

The idea incubated in a desperate haze where my best friend and I were contemplating taking things more seriously. We were both students and therefore very young and spirited. However, we were sure about what we wanted to do. So while my partner had more knowledge in the modification sector, I had the zeal to agree on pulling it through. It was at first considered very impractical when I had broached the idea to my parents, who thought it was not only ridiculous but downright impossible for a girl to run a company that would modify cars.

I however was driven further by the scrutiny and criticism. The more I got questioned on my plans, the more I became clear that this is what I had been preparing for.

So I left my job as a teacher, and with the little amount of fund we could muster from our meager bank accounts we initiated the first phase of our launch – acquiring suppliers. In the meantime, we also had a friend volunteering to partner up with us, who had brought in a significant amount of capital. However, me and my partner were both freshers in university and we had a very crop-cut amount of time we could invest – relying mostly on our third partner. Hench the business suffered, our third partner panicked and left, my current partner was contemplating closing down in the face of the losses.

I thought that this was it, the end of my career as an entrepreneur. But then if I had given up then, and not taken up the initiative to fight for our company, it probably would have been a memory now. We managed to convince some personal investors who would take a very large amount of interest, but would invest nevertheless, and I stepped in as the CEO taking charge of the marketing and managing sectors.

We have relied mainly on focus and my partner’s talent in understanding car modification to get us through the rest of the journey – which of course, like every other business, has had its ups and downs.

I however was driven further by the scrutiny and criticism. The more I got questioned on my plans, the more I became clear that this is what I had been preparing for.

A technique for producing ideas

A technique for producing ideas

What was first few years look like? Please share few of the lessons from that time.

The first few years were exciting as it was difficult. I personally was doing something that I would have literally paid for. However, because me and my partner both were students, our work times were very limited. While he would be at work from morning till afternoon, I would join up from late afternoon to night taking shifts in management, dealing with customers, product survey etc.

What I learnt from being involved so little was that, the goals we were planning were barely being met. A new business is like a baby that needs constant attention. Situations often come up where the decision makers need to be present and alert. Because Velocity was primarily based on a showroom and products, customer satisfaction had to be handled very cautiously so they come back the next time. But with very little funding for marketing we had to depend on consumer brownie-points and the face value we projected. We learnt that people will criticize everything unless you truly are able to make them realize that they are exchanging value with their money.

Tell us about few major obstacles you faced at the beginning and the way you outperformed those obstacles.

Finding a good source of supply was one of our major obstacles. We were aiming to be better than the existing products that came sealed and signed as second grade. My partner took tours outside Bangladesh to secure the best supplies personally, while we made sure our employees were up to the mark of rigorous work. Finding trained workers were very difficult but eventually we did, while training some into the basics ourselves. I believe it is very easy to be unlucky as it is to be lucky. Having what it takes to find and choose employees who are driven and inspired was a tough road. We faced product and monetary displacements, social and legal issues, even at times gender bias where customers quite frankly, preferred to talk to my partner because they were uncomfortable talking to a girl.

These broad spectrum of the society would take more than me and my business to fight with. There are issues that need to be worked at on a social and more global level. There are obstacles that are less easily outperformed. But despite of the adversaries, if you want to start a business, you must be sure you realize these as facts that you have to deal with, and keep going no matter what. My partner was very understanding and quite truly a gentleman who, when facing problems like these would gently refer these said customers to talk to me about a particular design they wanted to create. In fact, he would generally encourage me to do the talking while he engaged into something else that needed taken care of.

Stories of 6 Bangladeshi Woman entrepreneurs

Stories of 6 Bangladeshi Woman entrepreneurs | Click On Image For More

Have you faced any problem just because you are a woman founder? If so, please do suggest what we can do to fix this culture.

As I have already mentioned, being a woman founder, it is a given that we have to, at some point, face gender bias and unequal and sometimes crude treatment. Not only was I underestimated – given my profession is not very mainstream for a woman, I was very much unappreciated – the details of which are unfair and quite sad. I believe that if a woman wants to start a business, she must and most importantly know her job very well. I emphasize on the importance of knowing the job is because by doing so, she leaves no chance of anyone taking advantage of her. I feared being ignored, laughed at, ridiculed, and worst, concluded worthless so much that I constantly kept up with the technologies, information, and methods related to my profession. While talking to my suppliers/clients, I was thus confident and focused. I knew what I wanted as well as I knew what I had to do and what was what. While some I impressed, others I believe to have intimidated – which, honestly, was not my plan.

As I have already mentioned, being a woman founder, it is a given that we have to, at some point, face gender bias and unequal and sometimes crude treatment. Not only was I underestimated – given my profession is not very mainstream for a woman, I was very much unappreciated – the details of which are unfair and quite sad. I believe that if a woman wants to start a business, she must and most importantly know her job very well.

I gained the trust and respect of my employees and my customers. However my suppliers were harder to handle as they were varied and had a very gender biased understanding and aggressive demeanor, dealing with which needed more than car knowledge and management skills – it required street smart.

Here I greatly appreciate my father and my partner in imparting valuable lessons for survival. I believe street smart comes from not backing down from taking risks. For example, if I went to buy an egg, they would ask for three times the price compared to if a man had gone and asked for it – where it happens to be a very moderate expansion of the real price, up for a professional bargain. Street smart is being able to ask the price back at 1/5th and not backing down easily!

It is sad, how women – including my mother and friends, accept the prices vendors ridiculously quote out. I suggest women to not let these like so many other issues, intimidate them into taking a less profitable decision.

long shotPlease briefly tell us about your other initiatives. How do you manage all these things at a time?

I currently direct three new startups all of which are quite recent.

Torque

The journey of Torque started with trying to give something back to the community of motor heads and car enthusiasts. While my partner from Velocity and I were enjoying the research, knowledge, and news of the automotive world, we decided to bring it forth for the entire world to appreciate along with us. Torque is an English magazine on automotive and information related to cars, and everything on wheels – even your everyday skateboards as long as it’s interesting.

Echo Sparks

A music cafe and game zone. A place for people to come and enjoy a good time with good food, a mixed platter of music, and games. Co-founded by my friend and fellow enthusiast in music, games, and culture – Mustamseer Ashraf, it is the only combo of music cafe and game zone in Uttara.

Bindu Crafts

A fashion, crafts, and furniture boutique. Bindu is considered the point at which creation begins and turns unity. It’s also described as “the sacred symbol of the cosmos in its un-manifested state”. I have a team of fresh designers with new perspective, working on different projects to promote Bangladeshi crafts, culture, and products in their designs.

I manage all these by being very direct and precise about the different hats I have to put on. It is a fact that I am still a student, and that takes up a significant amount of my time. But other than that, I love what I do, and I suppose that is the most important thing about work. Doing what you love, makes it much easier and less stressful to operate.

If you are given with a chance to redo everything from the beginning, tell about few things, if any, that you would do differently.

I suppose to begin with, I would stop taking things personally – which at some levels, I still do. It’s an implicit struggle, but that’s something I would focus on the most. Professionalism begins and ends with being able to absorb criticism, contemplate it, and know which box to put it in. Is it the Important-Must-Look-Into-It box, or is it the Useless-Can-Be-Discarded box!

Do you think yourself a successful startup founder? If so, what is the one thing that contributed most to your success?

Success is very personal. I believe the first and most important milestone for success regarding anything is not giving up. Being able to carry on a plan along the road map is a hard job, and very frequently I see friends and fellow entrepreneurs complaining and contemplating settling into something else, more comfortable, less risky. But to be truly involved into something all 100%, give it time, commitment, and focus, is what brings success.

As a startup founder, and owner of more than one company I believe I would be successful as long as I don’t give up, or am misfortunate enough to have to quit. The road to success is not comfortable. It’s a process full of failure, errors of judgment, mishaps, and sometimes just plain bad luck! But getting to success, or staying successful is picking yourself up after you fall, brushing off the negativity, and taking another step forward until the falls become less frequent and less juvenile.

Success is very personal. I believe the first and most important milestone for success regarding anything is not giving up. Being able to carry on a plan along the road map is a hard job, and very frequently I see friends and fellow entrepreneurs complaining and contemplating settling into something else, more comfortable, less risky. But to be truly involved into something all 100%, give it time, commitment, and focus, is what brings success.

collage 2 (1)What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?

I am still very young to decide or contemplate what legacy I am capable of leaving behind. But so far I would say I am capable of leaving behind the legacy of motivation and perseverance in the face of social sets and rules. Being a women entrepreneur in a sector I believe no other woman in Bangladesh has ventured forth, I believe I can leave behind that as an inspiration that nothing is impossible to do if you have the passion and zeal for it.

What do you think about failure?

Failure is very important for a startup for many reasons. The most important of which is being able to realize if she/he has what it takes to get up and restart. Also, it teaches on what to expect in the road and not be caught off guard.

Have you ever failed throughout your path? Please share a story of failure and the lessons you have learned from that.

There were many bumps on the road. None were any less significant or more enlightening than the other. However, while working on a significant number of cars, I underestimated the importance of the works speaking for itself. Visual portfolio for the new or prospective clients was very monumental for my company profile, given that we had very little investment in the marketing and circulation department as a startup. Furthermore, our web-presence could have been better glorified if we put up the visuals of our work more. By the end of working on our hundredth car, we realized how much slower our clients were in finding us, and how much less coverage we were having in lieu with the amount of time.

What I take from this lesson are two things.

  • Make a Visual profile for your startup – with a very tight leash on the cash, visuals work magic for a startup. Using your web-presence well and putting up completed works, or ones in progress, works well for your company profile.
  • If you want to go far, work in a group – My instant damage control for the situation should have been appointing someone to assemble the visuals. Instead, I depended on myself doing it whenever I had the chance – clearly an error in judgment.

IF You Liked This Interview Signup Here For Our Awesome Newsletter Coming Out Soon and Help Us To Spread The Story By Sharing!

What does a typical day look like for you?

Well to tell you the truth, my projects for the next day depict how my day would turn out to be. I mostly work on the move, and like to keep it that way. However, now with my fourth company on the launch, I have to keep moving without much choice – attending meetings, traveling to factories, scouring markets, and securing the best suppliers possible.

But even with the lack of a precise routine, I retain two activities no matter what – having a cup of coffee, and driving a car.

youth

Click On Image For More

If a young person comes to you and ask for advice on starting what would you tell her?

I would tell her/him to do what I did with my company – treat it like your baby.

I suppose young people are very spirited, but like many, including me, very unsure and unstable about things. The chances that they would panic and leave midway are quite high. I recall from personal experience that there were times I myself thought how life could have been easier if I decide to put a brake on things and let things slide. But I suppose perseverance is the most important thing while starting up young. Also the fact that I love what I do was quite vital in keeping me anchored. I quite frequently tell my associates how I would literally pay for what I do. Therefore, I would ask a young person starting up to be passionate about her/his idea or what it consists of.

I suppose young people are very spirited, but like many, including me, very unsure and unstable about things. The chances that they would panic and leave midway are quite high. I recall from personal experience that there were times I myself thought how life could have been easier if I decide to put a brake on things and let things slide. But I suppose perseverance is the most important thing while starting up young.

There are so many things that are important in the success of a business, but passion and perseverance are the foundations.

What book are you reading now? Tell us few names of your favorite books.

I normally enjoy reading poetry and short stories as they take up less time to finish given how my schedule requires me to be quite pre-occupied. Although, I have to read my fair share of novels and essays due to my graduation program in English Literature.

Nevertheless, the last book that I read was The Japanese haiku, its essential nature, history, and possibilities in English; with selected examples by Kenneth Yusada. I am going through a brief hiatus in regard to reading books and novels.

Being partially bookish while growing up, I enjoy rereading countless books out of which I’ll name the most significant few. My most favorite book is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, mostly because it was something that inspired freedom and strength in my younger self. Apart from that I enjoy every re-read of Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, L’Etranger by Albert Camus, and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.”

IF You Liked This Interview Signup Here For Our Awesome Newsletter Coming Out Soon and Help Us To Spread The Story By Sharing!

Bar blue sqr

Date: This interview was taken on 22 June, 2014| Credits: Interview-Ruhul Kader | Edited by Samantha Morshed | Images: Jannati Neha

We Recommend

Type to Search

See all results
Shares