An Interview With Walid Uz Zaman Khan And Abir Mazumder Of Beatnik Designs

An Interview With Walid Uz Zaman Khan And Abir Mazumder Of Beatnik Designs

Walid and Abir are the co-founders of a Dhaka based Design and Creative agency called Beatnik Designs. Three founders, Walid, Abir, and Mufrad Mahmood Chowdhury, started the company with a team of 3 people and 3 laptops, and bootstrapped for over 2 years. Today Beatnik has a sizable team and growing fast.

We recently had an opportunity to talk with Abir and Walid about their journey as entrepreneurs and their highs and lows and experience of building a company from scratch.

Please briefly tell us about yourself and your passion.

Walid: I’ve always been passionate about creativity, and various ways in which creativity itself can be a discipline honed, nurtured and guided to help fulfill a purpose. I studied business and wanted to bring my business knowledge and creative inclination together.

Abir: I am a Finance Geek. I have experience of working in Telecom, an investment bank, and an IT firm. My passion is solving problems, collaborating, networking and helping brands grow.

Describe your path to what you are doing today.

Abir: Me and Walid have been friends since our College days. Walid started his career at Maverick Studios, and I worked as an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) Consultant for some time.

ERP Consulting helps you to solve problems for businesses while you interact directly with Entrepreneurs. It gives you a thorough look into how a business is run and how a business can be nurtured. I have worked with 4 clients in 3 countries. I also worked at Lightcastle Partners for a short stint during its startup days, and went on to work at Robi as an Integrated Planning Specialist.

At my work I had to co-ordinate responsibilities ranging from creative work, design as well as technological duties. Then it was during the first Startup Weekend Dhaka that I and my co-founder met and started to think about doing something together.

Walid: I started working in design and advertising since my early undergrad life. I used to work at Maverick Studios during their early days and worked till mid-2013. I also took courses on interior design, basic photography, and concept art. You can tell from these that design is one my passions.

By the time I was in my final year I was confident that I want to build a career in design and advertising. And my education from IBA, Dhaka University helped a lot to take the necessary steps to start the company.

What was your underlying motivation behind starting Beatnik Designs?

Walid: You will find that lots of businesses take creative promotional effort in Bangladesh, but more often than not the creativity is not congruent with the brand image, or does simply not serve any purpose in furthering the brand’s growth.

We have realized that there is a space to better serve customers who look for creative works with equal emphasis on functionality. At Beatnik we aim to fix this problem.

We are a creative agency but we put a lot of sweats in making our work effective while not losing its creative aspects.

Beatnik Designs

Beatnik Designs

Briefly tell us about Beatnik Designs. What Beatnik Designs does?

Abir: Beatnik Designs, as the name itself should suggest, is a Creative Content Creation and Experience Design Agency. We offer Content and Graphics Design Services (video, graphics, product, and package design), Digital Marketing (Social Media Apps, Content, Games) and Experience Design (Web Design, Web Apps, UX, UI) and more.

Some of our clients include Dhaka Dynamites, Bengal Meat, Tupperware, George’s Café, IPDC, IDLC and Nandos. We also built the new GP Music App.

When and how did you get the idea? Once you got the idea, how did you manage initial funding and connected all the dots and started it?

Abir: As we said, the idea was always there given that we have been passionate about design, branding, and entrepreneurship. We started lean and remained so since these days. Alhamdulillah, we never needed a third party to fund us and we started with putting money from our own pockets and reinvested every cent we earned.

We started with 3 people and 3 laptops, and bootstrapped for over 2 years and now here we are. We received proposals from interested investors but did not follow through because our goals weren’t aligned.

Big companies are usually reluctant to let their campaigns run by the new kids on the block, the startups. To address that, more than once we have had to give away work for free, to prove our capability.

What was fist one year look like?

Walid: We were very cautious during our first year. We were not very keen about Digital Marketing during our first year. We gave it time, worked, and kept a low profile. We haven’t made a lot of effort to promote ourselves even now.

We tried our best to ensure that our work speaks for itself and it is evident as 99% of our clients come to us through recommendations by other happy clients. And more than once, we have provided various services free of cost to provide a taste of what we are capable of. We believe that good works payoff. And for us, it definitely did.

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

Abir: Early on, our main obstacle was with funding. As we said, we had to press on and work by ourselves with a very small team and be patient till we came across our big break.

Our second obstacle was with explaining our services to people. It is something we struggle with even to these days given the variety of services we provide, and also given the lack of general awareness regarding aspects of Marketing such as User Experience.

Big companies are usually reluctant to let their campaigns run by the new kids on the block, the startups. To address that, more than once we have had to give away work for free, to prove our capability.

We believe that building relationships and maintaining trust is important and also providing best service to such an extent that the clients WANT to pay the top dollar.

What are the few challenges you faced as an early stage founder?

Abir: Walid, thankfully, always had this sorted out with his family. They knew his passion and the fact that he would pursue it no matter what. For me on the other hand, the transition was not an easy one.

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

Walid: We would probably add a few more great projects in our portfolio… and maybe a few more PS4 games. Other than that, by the grace of Almighty, everything else should remain the same and we are happy with what we have accomplished.

Beatnik Designs 02Have you had any mentor along the way? Do you think everyone should have a mentor?

Abir: I would like mentions few names who have inspired us a lot: Saif Kamal bhai, the founder of Toru, Ejaj Ahmed of BYLC and Anthony Gardner. We believe in development through collaboration. On our way to becoming who we are people always play critical role that we must not forget. Having a mentor is a privilege, and a necessity.

Walid: I learned a lot from the team at Maverick. Especially Afeef Zaman and Ahmad Niaz Murshed bhai from Maverick taught me a lot. Other than that I must mention Salim Sadman Pathan from Telenor Digital. He has been an amazing patron of Beatnik.

Have you ever failed throughout your journey? What do you think about Failure?

Abir: We are no strangers to failure. I had a failed project before starting Beatnik. It was an IT Firm, with a team scattered across the globe. It largely failed because it was difficult to manage people sitting across multiple time zones. But I don’t regret because I learned important things.

Walid: At Beatnik so far we haven’t had any major failure yet. We have always been cautious with our clients. We never chased clients too big, and also we have a habit of delivering more than our promise. I believe there’s nothing called failure. You either succeed or you learn a lesson or two.

5 lessons you have learned from your journey as an entrepreneur.

  • Take care of your team and your team will take care of your clients.
  • Sometimes it is okay to say no. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  • The journey is never a straight line there always are ups and downs, but the resultant, or the overall progress towards goals is what really counts.
  • Being Customer centric is important, and feedback matters.
  • Add value to your clients, even if it is beyond your contract.
  • Learn.

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

Walid: Currently I am reading David Ogilvy’s ‘Ogilvy on Advertising’ and Leander Kahney’s ‘Jony Ive – The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products”. I was never much of a heavy reader, however I keenly watch and study films and documentaries. I believe that to be a better creative thinker one needs to a study works of great creative masterminds.

Abir: Currently I am reading ‘Zero to One’ by Peter Thiel, ‘Creative Confidence’ by David and Tom Kelly, and ‘the White Tiger’ by Aravind Adiga. Some of my favorites include The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho), the Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) and Delivering Happiness (Tony Hiseh).

Image: Walid Uz Zaman Khan And Abir Mazumder [From left to right]

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