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Lessons From Dhaka’s Online Job Portal Bubble

Jul 2, 2016

In Dhaka, we live in a perpetual bubble. At any given moment, there is something hot going on. And we are, a large number of us, busy doing that hot thing no matter how trivial or potential it is. In business, especially in tech, this is even more so. Technology, in recent years, has driven down the cost of starting a company. A mere internet connection can empower you to start a company.

While this is an advantage, there is a more clear disadvantage to it. People become less creative and lazier. We tend to follow the herd and do things that are easy and popular.

Tech is a relatively small industry in Bangladesh but it is an industry in which a growing number of young people is interested. At any given moment, as I said before, there is a bubble going on in the tech industry in Dhaka. A few years ago, it was online news portal, then online job portal and now it is eCommerce.

In terms of value and number, online job portal bubble is amongst a notable few that deserves attention and scrutiny. Today, there are a handful of these job portals helping employers and employees to connect. These portals work as a job board and recruitment tool for employers and job search engine for employees. Most of the existing players in this space offer almost similar service with no mentionable difference.

BDjobs, largest and most successful of all these companies, enjoys a significant lead largely because all of the other players are trying to simply build another BDjobs. Despite the competition, BDjobs has been able to continue as a leader. And it has first mover advantage along with reach, brand prominence, and a product that is competitive.

Contrary to that, all the competitors of BDjobs are trying to unseat BDjobs from its throne just by doing something at which BDjobs is equally good, if not better. There are some very important lessons to learn from this Online Job Portal bubble.

In tech, it is almost always winner takes it all unless you disrupt the winner. Almost all the notable players in the job portal space started because they saw an opportunity and they thought it would be easy to compete with BDjobs. But that assumption has proven wrong.

A crowded market with relatively low entry barrier always favors the incumbent and strongest player in the category. Moreover, when we perceive that a market is relatively easy to access, in reality, it is not that simple. Entry is never an important point, success is. Following the crowd and trying to replicate a success story with little to no innovation is a fool’s errand.

Business-wise, easy to do business is always a bad business. Hard problems are the best problems to solve. Something that is easy for you is also easy for the person next to you.

When there is a clear market leader and it is innovating, you better find another sector to exploit if your product is not a huge leapfrog from where the market is now. It is hard to succeed in a market, where there is an active and growing leader already, with a product which is not significantly different.

Bubble is not a new thing. It is pretty common in many other markets. Most of the time, it is a sign of collective death march and unjustified greed. People who follow the herd, die hard. Today, we even don’t remember many of the online job portal startups that started a couple of years ago. Following the crowd and dying for an easy catch are two sure-fire recipe for failure.

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Ibrahim works as an Intern at FS. He takes interviews, writes features, and meets entrepreneurs and makers and doers.

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