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Four Lessons From Fahim Mashroor On Building An Internet Company In Bangladesh

Fahim Mashroor, now famous founder of Bdjobs.com, is among the few people who got it right when it comes to building a successful internet company in Bangladesh. His company, Bdjobs.com, was valued at one hundred and fifty crore last year when Seek International became a partner in the company.

The journey of Bdjobs is rather interesting. It started back in 2000 when internet penetration was very insignificant in Bangladesh. The idea of starting an internet company back then was nothing less than crazy. However, Mashroo, right out of university back then, saw the future and took the risk. Although, it took him nearly a decade to build Bdjobs but he did it whereas many of us are struggling to build one even in today’s reality.

Currently we are working on an inside series on the making of Bdjobs and Fahim Mashroor on building a technology company in Dhaka. Following is a list of lessons drawn from few conversations between our co-founder Ruhul Kader and Fahim Mashroor.

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Understand the context
Context is the new king. We are living in a world where everyone has access to almost everything. Back in 2000 the scenario was comparatively different for Bangladesh than what it is now. Internet penetration was low and yet to become a mainstream trend. However, it was not entirely out of consciousness of people. There was no serious local player in online job market sector but there were successful international examples. Mashroor and his team were partly inspired by these international successes but they were aware of importance of context. They took lessons from those companies abroad but worked hard to build a local online jobs site.

“There were successful international job portals back then and we took inspiration from those sources,” said Fahim, “but we never tried to imitate them. We worked hard to build a job portal for Bangladesh market and took a hyper local approach, we still are that way. We kept our website very minimal and put importance on usability over anything else.”

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Plan for long walk
“We knew it would take a long time to make it work and we planned accordingly, said Mashroor. My personal understanding is that patience is critical. It is a long and tough journey. Patience and dedication are two elements that seldom fail.”

It takes a long time to build a business. More often than not, people misunderstand the idea of moving fast. Moving fast and becoming successful early are two completely different things. Especially in Bangladesh, when you are building a technology company where people yet to get a proper orientation of that particular technology it is extremely important to be patient.

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Keep your burn rate low
“In first three years,” said Mashroor, “our total burn was in few lakhs. I used to work from my own home. We turned a room of my home into office and we had three people working in data entry and few other stuffs”.

Today most people talk about lavish office, out of the place overhead and more when it comes to building a startup. However, advantage of a startup lies in its ability to survive lean.

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As a founder you do everything
“I remember for first few years I had to do almost everything. I did look after accounts, clients, HR and everything,” said Mashroor, “I don’t essentially suggest everyone to do that but it did help us a lot in-terms of keeping our expenses on check and also me learning ins and outs of the business.”

You can start with a big team or you can start small and then grow as your business grows. As a founder you need to be a hustler. You need to move your ass and get shit done.

Mohammad Ruhul Kader is a Dhaka-based entrepreneur and writer. He founded Future Startup, a digital publication covering the startup and technology scene in Dhaka with an ambition to transform Bangladesh through entrepreneurship and innovation. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, and society. He is the author of Rethinking Failure. His writings have been published in almost all major national dailies in Bangladesh including DT, FE, etc. Prior to FS, he worked for a local conglomerate where he helped start a social enterprise. Ruhul is a 2022 winner of Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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