Travel Booking Bangladesh (TBBD) is one of the few startups in Dhaka that you can conveniently put as a textbook example of how to build a successful company from scratch – start small, test the market whether there is a need for your product, work hard, get some early traction and go from there.
The story of TBBD answers many pressing questions related to building a sustainable business and that too with growing your revenue instead of running after venture capital investments.
It is also a perfect case study for people who are looking for opportunities to build a business while having a full-time corporate career and often feel like it is infeasible to pursue an entrepreneurial endeavor while working full-time.
In an interview with Future Startup, published in April 2018, Kashef Rahman, Founder, and CEO, of TBBD shares how he started TBBD as a small side project and TBBD’s journey to what it is today.
Question: Could you please tell us more about the early early days of TBBD? How did you come up with the idea? What was the motivation? And then how did you get started?
I have been travel buff throughout my life. I got married in 2007 and after that, it became more frequent. I used to travel a lot with my wife. Even when we were short of money, we still made two big trips a year. People took notice of it and many of my colleagues and friends would come to me for help with their travel itinerary. I loved doing that.
I was doing it all for free. Soon it became a huge pressure. Making a travel itinerary is a time-consuming affair. It was taking up a lot of my time.
That’s when the thought came to me that probably I could try this as a business. The next thing I did was opening up a Facebook page and experiment. When someone asked, I would tell them that it was my company. I bought a separate mobile number, since I couldn’t use the company number, and started working on it on the side.
My first customers were some of my colleagues from Banglalink who were aware of my traveling habit. I created packages for them. Gradually, I started receiving more and more requests from people.
In the first month, I managed to earn the amount of about 4 tickets to Bangkok. Then I created a couple of packages, I created a Google Doc and promoted it on Facebook. This was completely new at that time. No one did that. I got around 400 to 500 queries. I was floored.
I took 2 days off from work and answered all the queries. Out of 400 people, 40-45 of them confirmed their booking and I realized the serious potential of this and decided to take a risk.
This was 2014. After much thought, I decided to I leave my job. I took a small office of 400 sq ft and hired 03 people to help me in the process. That’s how we started.
Today, we’re a team of 35 people. We have a separate technology team. We’re probably the only travel booking agency in Bangladesh that has their own tech team.
Today, we are a one-stop solution for all travel related services in Bangladesh. We have invested in building out our digital platforms as well.
I surmised that the hotel booking would be more in demand in the coming days. You can book hotels from our website with a local credit card and so. Going forward, we plan to invest even more in R&D to offer new and better services to our customers.
Question: What went into building the initial operation? Have you raised any external investment?
I started with my own savings. We had a few clients at the time so starting was not a challenge. Later we raised three rounds of investment. I raised a seed round after working full time at TBBD for a while – a small amount of investment for 15% of the company. For our second round, we got an IT company with us, Ice9 Interactive, who basically invested in the form of technology support. The majority share, 70%, is still with me. We have experienced phenomenal growth over the last couple of years. We have grown by almost 400% compared to our early days.
We moved from an office space of 400 sq ft to an office of 1250 sq ft. In 2016, we moved here to 27,00 sq ft and we’re moving again because there’s not enough space. We also have our 2nd office in Kemal Ataturk Tower.
My corporate experience and connection have helped me come this far. I have built a sort of trusted rapport with everyone that has come to know me. That really helped in kickstarting the customer flow initially. Since I have been an avid traveler, I could understand and serve other travelers well. I could understand their needs and all that have helped us to serve our customers better and grow.
This is an excerpt from our interview with TBBD Founder Kashef Rahman. To know the rest of TBBD story and how it has come to where it is today, you could read our in-depth interview with TBBD Founder Kashef Rahman here.