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What Startup To Build In Bangladesh: Startups For Financial Inclusion

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Dec 25, 2014

I started a new series named ‘what startup to build in Bangladesh’ few days back in order to explore underrated and often overlooked potential ideas and opportunities. It interests me because there are lots of potential sectors where we can work, actually we should work, and where we need startups and also where true potential exists instead of few common spaces like e-commerce and social media but very few people are taking these opportunities.

As part of my exploration I asked my all time favorite Minhaz Anwar of Better Stories about what startup to build in Bangladesh. We had a short online discussion. Minhaz has a profound understanding about startup and a deep connection and engagement with startup scene in Bangladesh. Minhaz suggests, we are in a unique position to materialize the power of technologies to solve many of our problems, like-traffic, financial inclusion, logistics etc. later on we settled into financial inclusion as a potential space.

Like all other spaces, financial inclusion is a potential but largely untapped space in Bangladesh. Compared to many sectors like e-commerce and market place, financial inclusion attracted close to non-existent amount of eyeballs and interest although it has a big market size. As Minhaz Anwar puts: 'with 12 crore people having access to mobile, financial inclusion is a huge market to explore'.

Iqbal_Quadir, Founder, Grameenphone
Iqbal_Quadir, Director, bKash & Founder, Grameenphone

Opportunity

First, there is huge BOP market that needs access to finance and related services for hundreds of different reasons. Then there is ever increasing rate of mobile penetration. It only gets better every day. More and more people are getting used to transaction via mobile phones.

At the sample time, there is undying demand for easier financial services for various other sectors and also for varying array of customers.

Not only that, a number of venture capital firms throughout Asia are offering seed and early stage funding for financial inclusion startups.

Reality

No doubt it has potential but it has also strings attached. Unlike many tech startups where you only need a laptop and a modem to start, financial inclusion is a complex and capital intensive space to start in.

There are legal complexities and issues of permission from multiple authorities which puts your startup in a death row of bureaucratic procedures, there are compliance issues and it also needs sizeable fund to start operation. You just can’t start with a modem and a laptop. Even then this is a sector with immense potential and for anyone with right kind of preparation and mindset, this is a sure fire.

Example

bkash logo by bkash
bkash logo by bkash

We have our very own example of financial inclusion startup: bKash. bKash-a joint venture between Brac Bank and Money in Motion LLC, USA-facilitates money transfer through mobile phones. “bKash provides Mobile Financial Services allowing customers to send, receive, and pay money from their mobile phones. Send and receive money, or make payments the fastest way there is! bKash enables you to send money to anyone, using an advanced technology available on your own mobile phone.” (Via)

The number of people who have access to formal banking channel to conduct transaction is less than 15% whereas more than 68% of total population has mobile phones. bKash has capitalized on this problem.

bKash is only one example to think of, there are other problems to solve and other opportunities to take in the space. With ever improving technology we have opportunity to innovate in financial inclusion sector and we need many more startups like bKash.


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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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