Shourav Islam is the founder and CEO of Unifox Digital Media, an online marketing and software development company. Before starting Unifox he worked at Rocket Internet and few other startups of Rocket including Malaysia based Zalora. Shourav has an astounding body of work and a very interesting story. When he was in Singapore looking after the customer experience of Zalora, his inner self persistently advised him to go back to his motherland and do something there that would improve the lives of many. Paying heed to his inner self, Shourav left his highly esteemed job in Singapore that could help him make a fortune. Soon afterwards, he started with a small team to build on his big dream. As days passed by, it just kept getting clear that his decision was just the right one!
Few days ago, I got the opportunity to have a little chit-chat with this young and passionate entrepreneur. He walked me through his journey till today and gave some important advice for everyone out there with a dream to make something happen.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your passion.
Hi. I am Shourav Islam. My passion is densely concentrated in media, internet and more specifically online marketing.
Please walk us through your path to becoming what you are doing today.
After I graduated from AIUB, I launched my own business of fish and sea foods which is still in Uttara. I also started ‘Youth Express’, which was the youth version of BDnews24.com since I always have been very passionate about media. Soon afterwards I left to pursue Master’s in International Relations & Media Communications in Australia.
In the mean time, I got the opportunity to work with a company named ‘Telstra’ where I first learnt ‘customer experience’ matters more when a business comes online.
This knowledge and experience helped me when I joined ‘Rocket Internet’ which was only launched back then. I headed the customer experience department there to which all the other departments were connected. Once, the buying team of iconic.com.au approached me to connect them to the top garments company of Bangladesh. That was the point when I started switching my journey as a businessperson. While I connected them to a well known garment company of Bangladesh, we discovered that the internet has wide horizons for online business. We created a concept of ‘Internet Label’ which worked really well for online businesses and even for iconic.com.au.
Then I got transferred to Singapore to become the head of the department of customer experience of ‘Zalora’, another venture of Rocket Internet. I had amazing experience there as I could see the world of internet. These experiences motivated me a lot to jump into starting my own venture as soon as possible.
I wanted to bring internet business to Bangladesh and being absolutely non-political, I was intrigued by the ICT Act 2009, which motivated me more as I could see the prospect of internet business opening up in our country. So I moved back to Bangladesh with my company-‘Unifox Entertainment’.
I started my journey in Bangladesh in December 2013 and within 120 days I made sure my team became Bangladesh’s first Google AdSense certified partner. That’s when Unifox came to the limelight and people began to know about us.
How supportive have your family and friends been in your journey of becoming what you are today?
I always say that I am blessed to have a family who has never thought for a second time when it comes to supporting me and my dreams. One of the reasons why I came back to Bangladesh was because my mother was ill. But that lady was aware of the scopes I had abroad and did not ever ask me to get back to Bangladesh. Somehow I managed to read between her words and felt that she needed me and thus decided to step into Bangladesh once more. Looks like my decision was 100% correct! Also I can never be grateful enough to my maternal uncles who taught me to do real business and have been my mentors throughout my journey till now.
Tell us about your venture, Unifox Digital Media.
Unifox Digital is an Online Marketing & Software development agency located in Bangladesh, and boasts to be the only agency in South East Asia that blends the best of the old and the new media. As a certified partner of the Google advertisement engine, Unifox Digital Media helps local online publishers earn more from targeted advertisement.
UNIFOX is now working with the Bangladesh’s largest and first online news portal bdnews24.com, as well as with many other online publishers including ATN, Nayadiganta and Natunbarta.
How did you manage your initial funding and how did the first few months look like for Unifox Digital Media?
From the first day of my venture, I got Google AdSense as my partner and partnership with Google Adsense means earning a handsome amount since Day 1. By God’s grace, I could ensure my employees’ salaries as well as mine. As for my office space, I got it for free! I find myself lucky enough as I never had to borrow a single penny for setting up my business.
What projects are you busy with recently?
The biggest project I am busy with right now is hiring a team, which I consider to be the most integral job for business growth and development. Besides I am currently in Singapore attending Echelon Asia Summit. We are now focusing on product development in the area of healthcare, education and transportation.
Where do you see yourself and Unifox Digital Media 5 years from now?
5 years from now I definitely expect to see my venture as one of the leading agencies with a lot more products focused with not only advertising, but also like online grocery, fashion etc. I would like to mention here that every product of ours will be a business itself and will have a value added service online with backward and forward integration.
Has there been a point when you took a big risk for moving forward?
Risk is a part of business. Trying to deal with your regular stakeholders, in an honest manner, becomes a great risk in the business environment and culture that Bangladesh has.
Have you had any mentor along the way?
Yes. Definitely. As I have mentioned earlier, my maternal uncles have always been my mentors. In fact, even today they teach me everything starting from business etiquette to business strategies.
How does a regular day of you look like?
Well, my regular day starts early in the morning followed by a quick morning walk. Every morning I wake up with the thought of what business will be like today! Am I gaining money today or losing some?
Is there any moment that changed your life forever?
I left my job which could have helped me to make a fortune to come back to Bangladesh. My parents wanted me to stay back. But without a second thought, I decided to come back to Bangladesh. That moment truly changed my life.
Now I have my mother with me. Whenever I open my door, I can see her face whenever I want to. Can any bank account in the world be larger than this?
What piece of advice do you give yourself every day?
If you were given a time machine to go back to the time when you just started, what would you do differently?
During the initial days of my business, I did not have enough money to retain many of my potential employees. I really regret this and so would love to put some money along with me in the time machine while going back to that time so that I could retain them.
How do you conquer yourself in the moments of doubt that often suppresses many entrepreneurs?
I counsel myself by saying ‘whatever happens happens for a reason and for the best.’
Name few things/traits an entrepreneur should have to achieve success.
1. Really good Communication Skills
2. Ability to absorb and implement relevant knowledge
3. Be ethical, honest and dedicated.
4. Be true to your words and commitments.
5. A pint of luck.
What would be your advice to people who are just starting out?
My first suggestion would be not to go with the hype (!!). Secondly, whoever wants to start off, I would suggest them to ‘Dream’ first. When you are really passionate about something, you will dream the entire journey from where you are to where you want to see yourself few years down the line, whether you have any money or not and you will somehow make it happen!