Prabeer Sarker is the founder and CEO of Dhaka Distributions, a cybersecurity company in Dhaka. After graduating with a degree in English Literature from Dhaka University, he started his career as a banker in 1986. Two and a half years into banking, he became a programmer. He then left his banking career to become a full-time programmer at a World Bank-funded project. After leaving the World Bank project, he worked for a private technology firm for a brief period before starting his own venture.
In an all-encompassing interview with Future Startup, he shared his journey and lessons on entrepreneurship that we believe can help people in their journey. Here is an excerpt from the interview:
From Prabeer Sarker:
Entrepreneurship is a conviction, a deliberation, and a passion to follow that conviction make an entrepreneur. Not dreams. Anyone can dream. Only a few pursue to fulfill. Musicians or artists are not made on hypes, symposiums or lectures. It’s the talent. Business is an art and Creativity. People generally see money in it only. And that takes away the aesthetics of the performance. My summary of entrepreneurship is simple. It is a creation, a work of passion, a belief, a near-madness pursuit to achieve that belief, and a process that has an impact on the economy, trends, and development.
For the entrepreneur, I guess Steve Jobs said it all – be hungry. I just want to add – be stubborn and don’t ever give up. If an aspiring entrepreneur can’t adapt and change its futile to try. The road to any sort of success is not a rosy one. You have to toil for it.
My first job was with a nationalized commercial bank. I joined in 1986 and left in 1992. If you ask me, I have to admit that my journey into entrepreneurship was not exactly what I had dreamt or planned for. It happened. Life takes us places. I am not the legacy technology entrepreneur with the computer science background. I am a literature person. And I came with a completely different perspective of the technology business. And I pretty much enjoy doing it.
I left the bank in 1992 and joined a World Bank-funded project as a Programmer. The fourth transition in my life. I worked there for a year. Around that time, I came across a friend who was supplying computers to the project. He was working for his brother’s company and he invited me over to meet his brother. Meeting him, was my fifth transition. He offered me a GM’s position in the company. I don’t know why, but I accepted. And I landed myself into the world of business. Unfortunately, the company failed within a year because of internal partnership issues. And I ventured out to the sixth transition of my life.
I had 19 thousand Taka in my pocket. A load of confidence. And had started to dream. It was a daring attempt. But I started Technics Computers Pvt. Ltd. It was August of 1994.
Around 2006, I began to think. Rather started looking around for a way out to continue in this business. The SI business was average. No future. There was no excitement in it. And it’s not easy when you feel stale with what you do. You crave for new challenges.
Now when you start looking for a business it’s not just as simple as that. I was never a genius. Nor a great thinker or planner or even a dreamer. I define myself rather as an opportunist. Seeking an opportunity if it existed. I was not a core businessman and IT was the only place I knew. Incidentally, around that time I came across two things – a book on Blue Ocean Strategy and an order for Anti-Virus Software.
I saw my opportunity. I realized that with the internet growing so fast, the malware factor will follow even faster. After all, the world is full of bad people and the Internet was one place where people can do bad things without physical involvement or be at a place to do that also.
Online was a great place to be good and bad. The good did not concern me of course. The bad did. So, there it was, my blue ocean strategy defined – security software business. If you want to call me an entrepreneur, call me one only at this stage where I started my journey in the cybersecurity business. A business with a vision.
In January 2008, I formed another company – Officextracts. Launched Kaspersky Lab as a distributor in Bangladesh. It was a pioneering moment. At this seventh transition, I triggered off a series of reactions in the local IT market – sales of legal software, a battle against software piracy, awareness of cybersecurity, and the ease of software distributions in Bangladesh.
For 11 years I stayed a leader with Kaspersky Lab in Bangladesh. It has been a unique experience. The branding for the product reached every nook and corner of the country. Yes. I was successful with the product. Unfortunately, only last September 2018, I had a difference of opinion in business issues with Kaspersky Lab and I terminated the contract.
I guess, that itself is a historic step as I am one distributor in Bangladesh who had the courage to terminate the distribution contract at the height of the business itself. I haven’t come across anyone else yet.
To be honest, I was foolish enough to do that. I was too young to understand the magnitude of starting a business. But when I formally started, I went into it with a lot of confidence. That helped. Nowadays starting a business is a lot easier. Helps are available. You can get the information and support regarding how to start, manage your banking, manage your HR and so on relatively easily. That was not the case when I started. We did not have access to any of these facilities. Options to get support was limited.
Regardless, we started it was rather an intuitive decision. If I tell you now that I started with a proper plan, doing projections and all that, it would be a lie. It was more like following a dream. I followed my confidence.