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One Entrepreneur’s Journey From Near Failure To Building A Global Messaging Company From Bangladesh

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Jan 19, 2015

Take 2008 as a scenario. How many messaging companies were there back then? The answer is: very few. Think again, how many of messaging companies that started in 2008 survive in market today. The answer remains same: very few. We start companies, take initiative, and make big plans but once we hit the brick wall we give up. But building a company takes time and building great ones take life time.

A M Ishtiaque Sarwar started his mobile startup MUTHOFUN the same year I started my university: 2008. For 2008 MUTHOFUN was a very ambitious idea. There were very few companies working in the domain. As a natural entrepreneur with passion for innovation and technology Ishtiaque wanted to build something that would do great things if not change an industry. MUTHOFUN did change something and became a successful business but most importantly it changed Ishtiaque as an entrepreneur.

Started in 2008 as a service project of Soft Tech Innovation Ltd., it took Ishtiaque 03 years to make MUTHOFUN profitable. “It was an excruciating journey”, says Ishtiaque once I asked him how it felt. My wife even asked me to shut it down once she saw I was struggling with it. But I was passionate about it and I knew there were opportunities in the sector.”

The Struggle

Ishtiaque Sarwar

Back in 2008 Smartphone was not a piece in everyone’s pocket like today. There were demand for ringtone, wall paper, and many other fancy kind of mobile contents. At the start MUTHOFUN invested in creating mobile contents. But it did not work out. The expense of building contents was way higher than the return. Moreover, market was changing every passing day and demand for such type of mobile content was eroding. At the same time, like all other startups Ishtiaque faced the universal problem of not getting enough attention and finding right niche to focus. It took him 03 years to see the light and make it work.

Startup is a unique kind of journey. There are too many problems to pay attention. You are running out of money. Your growth is drying out. You are not generating enough cash. You are yet to find your right niche to focus. Everybody around you is asking you to quit it.

All of these happened to Ishtiaque. Then after few yards of crawling he got his first break by starting working with SUST. In following years Ishtiaque added more services and work harder to serve his customer better. Today MUTHOFUN is making quite good profit with a consistent growth. Although started as a service wing of Soft Tech Innovation Ltd but with time it evolved into an independent venture for mobile content and messaging solutions.

Started in 2008 as a service project of Soft Tech Innovation Ltd., it took Ishtiaque 03 years to make MUTHOFUN profitable. “It was an excruciating journey”, says Ishtiaque once I asked him how it felt. My wife even asked me to shut it down once she saw I was struggling with it. But I was passionate about it and I knew there were opportunities in the sector.”

Present and the Future

MUTHOFUN now offers a long array of services including OTP-SMS-Two Factor Authentication, 2 Way SMS & SIM Hosting, SMS Campaign Services, Geo Location Based SMS, SMS Aggregation, SMS Banking, Subscription Based Messaging, and Push Pull Messaging Services. In 2015 Ishtiaque aims to work extensively with educational institutions with his new product from MUTHOFUN called EduPlus. Through EduPlus service MUTHOFUN aims to provide total solutions to educational institutions which includes Teachers & School Managements Web Panel (For Notice, Accounts Alert, Meeting alert, Greetings Attendance etc) with bulk messaging, optionally you can avail Push Pull Messaging (A short code with your schools short form up to 4 character, for fetching result & seat plan through mobile phone module).

Last year Ishtiaque launched MUTHOFUN in Pakistan and Jordan. In 2015 he aims to expand its service in few more countries in Asia including Srilanka, Nepal, Maldives etc.

Ishtiaque is also working to set up a local gateway server in Bangladesh to have more control on service and to become a Local Hub for messaging service which will have both local connectivity and global connectivity. Right now he provides services by using global hub which is less costly but does not give him full control over the service. “We want to make sure our customers are served better”, says Ishtiaque, “although this server setup will require a good amount of investment but this will make us capable to control quality of our services end to end. At the end of the day happy customers are your capital in business.”

muthofun-logo

Mobile is the future. With increasing access to mobile phones and internet people will be more reliant on mobile to receive services not only in one domain but in various other domains as well. Being said that, MUTHOFUN is in a unique position to experiment and grow and expand their span of services in many other places. “I love innovation and technology, says Ishtiaque, which is actually one of the reasons why I started MUTHOFUN at the first place. We’ll be focusing extensively on our education related services this year and will also try to experiment with few other ideas that we have.”

In 2015 Ishtiaque wants to focus on expansion and quality of service. While he dreams of taking the company globally he also is aware of quality of service he should ensure. “2015 is going to be good year for us at MUTHOFUN” says Ishtiaque, “we did really well in 2014 but in 2015 we really want to get past that threshold and set bigger boundary”.

There is a lot to learn from the journey of Ishtiaque but the most valuable one is of course the education of how to stay sane and keep doing the work you love even when you keep failing to achieve. In simple: persistence. Life is a long game of patience. You will hit the brick wall more than once but what ultimately defines our life is not how many times we avoided the brick wall but how many times we endured it.

The Lessons

There is a lot to learn from the journey of Ishtiaque but the most valuable one is of course the education of how to stay sane and keep doing the work you love even when you keep failing to achieve. In simple: persistence. Life is a long game of patience. You will hit the brick wall more than once but what ultimately defines our life is not how many times we avoided the brick wall but how many times we endured it.

Once I asked Ishtiaque what are the lessons he learned from his journey and would share with people who want to start their own business. He replied with the apparent answer: “have the passion and be persistent”. This is evident, what persistence can do, in his own life. He has turned an almost failed venture into a successful one. “Then understand your business, bits and pieces of it”. Ishtiaque was aware that there was opportunity in the sector but he just needed time to understand and play right.

Starting anything is more of a journey than an event. We should enjoy and love the journey regardless of outcome, even better, if we can dissociate outcome from the journey. Building a business takes time, if not a life time, you have to be patience while doing your best to make things work.


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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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