Dhaka Distributions, Cybersecurity, and Entrepreneurship: An interview with Prabeer Sarkar, Founder, and CEO, Dhaka Distributions (Part 02)

Dhaka Distributions, Cybersecurity, and Entrepreneurship: An interview with Prabeer Sarkar, Founder, and CEO, Dhaka Distributions (Part 02)


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From a student of English Literature to a banker to a programmer to an entrepreneur, Prabeer Sarkar has taken anything but a traditional path. This nature of defying convention is unsurprising as it serves as a defining thread of Prabeer’s life, including his endless transitions from starting one business after another, his passion for technology and technology business, his fascination for cybersecurity and his contribution as one of the leading software and cybersecurity entrepreneurs in Bangladesh.

Prabeer Sarkar is the founder and CEO of Dhaka Distributions, a cybersecurity company based in Dhaka. In this second and final installment of our interview with Mr. Sarkar, we talk extensively about Dhaka Distributions, the current state of Dhaka Distributions, its business and ambition going forward, the business of cybersecurity in Bangladesh, we discuss his management philosophy, biggest lessons from his journey an entrepreneur, the best advice he ever received, the most important job of a founder and much more.

This was a much longer interview, so we had to break it up into two parts. This is the second and final part of the interview. You may read part one of the interview here.

Future Startup

Could you give us an overview of Dhaka Distributions such as the size of your team, operations etc?

Prabeer Sarkar

We are now a team of 56 people. When we decided to become a cybersecurity company we’ve made some changes in the organization in the sales force because selling cybersecurity on a solution and a technology basis is different from what we did with endpoint security. Antivirus is a very basic security product. With the products we are offering now, we are going to level two or three. We have made some changes to the marketing team to reflect that evolution. We needed experienced people who are good at building a corporate business. We have a strong technical team. Our previous experience certainly helps us.

We have come out of the B2C business. My B2C team has been converted into an SMB. B2C business is going to be very different in the coming days as ecommerce platforms gain dominating power in the market. With the rise of ecommerce platforms, the future of B2C business is very different.

Right now we are carrying 8 cyber security products. We have Eset for endpoint security. Eset is a prominent name in the endpoint security space. It has a strong portfolio. They are also expanding into EDR – endpoint detection and response.

We have Acronis, which is the world’s number one in backup software solutions. We already had barracuda. We’ve Observe IT which is insider threat management, and Tripwire, the inventor of file integrity management, vulnerability management. Tripwire is quite a big name in that sector. I took on Group iB, a Russian company, which is into threat intelligence, digital forensics, high tech detection, and prevention. It is quite a big name globally. I took up Qrator Labs, they are into anti-DDoS attacks mitigation. I also signed up with Network Intelligence, which is a company from India and based out of Dubai right now. They are into IT consultancy, incidence response- all those things.

We signed up with 8 of these companies and we are offering a complete range of technologies, services, and solutions in cyber security. We have got a 360-degree view of the cybersecurity requirements. If you look at Cybersecurity, NIST cybersecurity framework is taken more or less as a standard for cybersecurity. We can fulfill all the quotas and requirements of a NIST cybersecurity framework.

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Future Startup

How many clients do you have now on the cybersecurity side?

Prabeer Sarkar

We have worked with over a thousand clients already in the corporate sector.

Future Startup

You mentioned that you serve a couple of thousand clients at Dhaka Distributions. Officextracts was one of the most successful technology companies in Bangladesh in many ways. Now you have managed to grow Dhaka Distributions as well. What are the things you have done to grow the business? If I frame it differently, basically, what does it take to grow a business?

Prabeer Sarkar

Business comes down to demand and supply. That’s the crux of it. I’m trying to feed the market. My philosophy is simple – you can’t sell anything to anyone unless they need it. I don’t go and sell to people. Rather I put an option on the table based on the requirements of a potential customer, and then the customer chooses and decides. I’m not a putting up a brand there. I don’t ask people to buy my product. I’m not going to a customer and say hey I want to sell you Tripwire or whatever other products that we have. It is not like that. I try to understand the problems of a customer and convince him/her that this is your problem. And then I offer him solutions based on his/her requirements.

We have a manual that carries about 20 different problems in cybersecurity. I send that to people. I found out that average IT managers or Information security Officers meet, on average, 5/6 people who try to sell various cybersecurity products to them. I don’t really think that an IT manager can really remember all these things because it is quite confusing. It can be one product that three different companies are trying to sell. It is not possible for an IT manager to remember all these things. But he knows one thing his requirements. So I want to tickle that area. I try to understand his requirements and then I go to him with the requirements. I explain to him what it means for him and what we could do to solve it. If he decides to go to some other brand, that’s his choice, I don’t say no to that. But I’m hitting on the problems and the requirements. That’s the core of my entire business strategy. I don’t go around trying to sell a product. Instead, I sell a requirement.

Future Startup

How does your marketing and communication at Dhaka Distributions work?

Prabeer Sarkar

I have a great marketing team. They are always out into the market. They communicate and build relationships with customers. From my side, social media marketing is there. The scale is still small but it is happening. Email is there. Marketing wise, most of these are routine work.

Future Startup

How do you operate as a company? Could you please tell us about your culture and how people work and collaborate at Dhaka Distributions?

Prabeer Sarkar

It is a horizontal culture. Anyone can walk into my room. I work along with my team 18-19 hours a day. We are a transparent company. There is no hide and seek. Teams collaborate across functions. For example, technical and marketing team work together.

We are in constant communication with each other. I’m open with everyone on the team. I can tell exactly who is doing what at any given point in time.

Future Startup

Do you have any set of principles or values or core tenets of your culture?

Prabeer Sarkar

First, make sure that the customer gets what he is promised. Customer comes first, no matter what. Second, ensure an excellent after sales support. We are paranoid about after sales support. Third, I’m not in competition with anyone. I’m not going to fight anyone in order to get business. I offer what I have and whatever I offer I’m the best at it.

Future Startup

What are the biggest challenges you have faced?

Prabeer Sarkar

The world is full of surprises. I’ve come prepared for that. I have chosen to come into this world of entrepreneurship, I have chosen to take responsibility for whatever burden comes along. Since we are a developing country, our challenges are different and harder than many other markets. We have taken them in stride. Complaining about them would not serve us well. We take each case as they come. There are many many challenges. It would take a long time to list them all. I would rather say that problems would always be there. It is true for every business. It is better for you if you come prepared.

Future Startup

What is your management philosophy?

Prabeer Sarkar

I value the person who serves tea in this office. Unless he serves tea, we are actually without tea. I’m doing my job within my capacity, he/she is doing their job at their capacity. There is no small job. We work on equal terms. He gets paid for his work according to his qualification and his expertise. But he is equally important to me as the other guy who is leading him.

We value the opinion of our team very much. It’s a democracy. We have a management team where there are representations from every department, we make decisions collectively.

Future Startup

What are the goals for Dhaka Distribution for 2019 and 2020?

Prabeer Sarkar

2018 was my year of liberation. 2019 is reorganizing myself. 2020 is winning the market again. Cybersecurity is not yet a mainstream thing in Bangladesh. Our goal in 2019 is establishing ourselves in the market as the cybersecurity company in Bangladesh. I want to go full throttle in the market. There is no other cybersecurity company in the market, we want to establish the fact that there is one in Bangladesh.

Future Startup

You mentioned about your two sons. Will they follow your steps into this business?

Prabeer Sarkar

My sons are independent human beings. I will not decide this for them. But the technology business is hardly a business for generations to continue. It is a passion-driven enterprise and I have to yet see if they want to follow. Not seeing it yet. One is on the way to become a Bart-at-Law in a few months. The other is in school appearing for O levels. He also wants to pursue Law for studies. The brothers seem to have a pact.

Future Startup

What is your take on the digital Bangladesh movement?

Prabeer Sarkar

Incredibly a right path to take. And there are lots of development from this concept. But, it is important not the start applauding even before the race starts. I see small steps hyped up to huge proportions. This is harmful. And from my side, I see an ocean of things to be done in cybersecurity in Bangladesh. I call it a Safe Digital Bangladesh.

Future Startup

You have won numerous awards for your efforts. Which ones are you particularly proud of?

Prabeer Sarkar

The Asia Pacific Region has countries which have incredible sales numbers and to compete with them on business fronts was unimaginable till I won a “Distributor of the Year” award in 2010, “Best B2B Distributor of the Year” award in 2011, “Outstanding Performance Award” as a distributor in 2018 and The Russian Embassy in Bangladesh award for being a top businessman for Russian products in 2013.

I cherish each and every single award that I have received in my business career but the 3 above were in competition throughout the Asia Pacific.

But I specifically want to add here is that the biggest award I have received in business is the faith and trust of numerous customers. I have made friends for a lifetime coming to business. Nothing can beat this.

Future Startup

The best advice you received.

Prabeer Sarkar

Never lose your cool. Be calm and resist the temptation of giving a reaction when the situation is challenging. Never react in a difficult or adverse situation. It is the best advice that I have ever received. I have followed it since and it has helped me.

Future Startup

Building a company is a challenging endeavor. It is putting your 100% every day. There are ups and downs every day. It is psychologically demanding. It takes on your mind and body as a person. How do you deal with stress and challenges that come with being an entrepreneur?

Prabeer Sarkar

I would thank my wife for that. She has supported me throughout my journey and taken the whole brunt of it. I have been giving almost all my time to the office, she has taken care of our personal life and done that with grace. I thank her for that.

The other thing is: of course there are challenges. But I opted for it and did r it knowingly, why complain about it. I can’t run away from it. I love the thrill of building a business.

Future Startup

How do you operate as a person? What does a typical day of you look like?

Prabeer Sarkar

When it comes to my business and entrepreneurial life I’m an organized person. But I’m quite the opposite when it comes to personal life. I usually get up early by 7:30 am in the morning. It has been my habit for the last 20 years. I work late and seldom go to bed before midnight.

I start my day talking to my principles, checking emails and social media. I then get ready for the office. My first half of the day goes into communications and attending other urgent works at the office.

My real work begins after lunch. As I mentioned, I work late into the night. I’m a movie buff. I watch movies whenever I get a chance.

Future Startup

What advice would you give to people who are just starting out?

Prabeer Sarkar

You have to be 50% crazy and 50% organized to succeed. Often starting a business in an act of leap of faith. You can’t foresee everything. You have to be aware of that and understand what you are trying to achieve. Passion is critical at this stage to drive you.

Second, you have to be a responsible person. It is not a game that you start. People depend on you. Your decision and actions affect real lives. When you promise something, you have to understand whether you would be able to deliver it or not.

Third, there are things that you take on crazy strides. But you also have to have plans to back your stride up. That does not mean you spend all your time planning. Many people have an ideal understanding of starting a business. Business does not happen in boardrooms or drawing boards. Business takes place outside of your building. It is a balancing act. You have to find a balance between intuition and deliberate planning.

Fourth, building a business takes a long time. You have to patient and stick to what you are trying to accomplish. If you give up, you are finished. The problem with many people is that they give up early. When they see problems coming, the first thought comes to their mind is how to escape. But you have to resist these urges to quit if you are to succeed. There will be pressures and challenges. You have to build the muscle to bear that burden. If you are someone who can’t handle pressure, you better not get into a business.

Finally, many people complain about lack of money and investment as a reason for not being able to start and succeed in business. But money is seldom the most important thing in business. people is the most critical thing that makes or breaks a business. In the early stage businesses, a lot depends on the person who drives the business. More often than not money is secondary to the success of a business. Your job as a founder is to become that person who makes a business successful. It is about becoming.

Future Startup

You have been into this ‘starting a business thing’ for several times, what should be the priorities for an entrepreneur in the early days of a business?

Prabeer Sarkar

No business is built on one deal. You might have a big deal now but you should always look forward and ensure that you have more in the pipeline. Unless you can create that funnel, it would be difficult to sustain your business. So you have to build a business funnel to ensure regular deal flow. Understanding this reality is of supreme importance for early-stage entrepreneurs.

Build a great team. People make or break a business. The team has to be treated and maintained properly. Unless you have good people, you can’t build a successful technology business. Find great people and take care of them.

Future Startup

This is a little cliche but I wanted to ask this. If you look back to your journey, whatever success you have achieved in your life, what has contributed most to your success?

Prabeer Sarkar

Doing the right thing at the right time. Having a very good team. Having the support of the family members. Most importantly, hours and hours of dedicated work. That’s it. There is no trick to it.

Future Startup

We are near the end. We had an interesting talk with you. One question to end it all. Are you happy with your journey?

Prabeer Sarkar

Yes. Extremely. Why should I not be? The IT industry is a fascinating world and Cybersecurity is the suspense and the thrills. I enjoy every single moment of my work. It keeps me young. I get to make younger friends as it is a younger business platform. Their presence inspires me. I wonder and amaze myself at the developments that happen all around every minute. Honestly … it’s Prabeer in Wonderland!

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