Calling All Student Entrepreneurs: Tell Us About Your Startup

10 Founder Stories You Should Read

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Apr 13, 2019

1. Life’s Work: An Interview with Rabeth Khan, CEO, MACOMM/Dentsu and MediaAxis/Carat

For those who don’t know Rabeth Khan, he is the Chief Executive Officer of MACOMM/Dentsu and MediaAxis/Carat, two of the successful and fast growing advertising and communication services companies based in Dhaka.
From a modest beginning of a 3 person agency, over the past years, he and his team have built an entire group of mission-driven communication companies – having businesses in media buying, creative, music and experiential marketing and digital marketing – from scratch, which continues to experience tremendous growth while staying true to its core values of conducting ethical business. And Mr. Rabeth is just getting started.

Mr. Rabeth, in his early 40s, is an extremely driven-person. As you go through the interview you will see that his journey is a story of being relentlessly resourceful – exactly what you look for in an ideal founder. And he is a deep thinker and takes a deep interest in learning and is a voracious reader.

Building a consequential business is a lot of thinking job. Conventional wisdom would not take you far. You have to see things beyond the surface and understand that most things are not what they appear to be. These are not easy jobs.

On the other hand, the story of Mr. Rabeth and his companies answers many pressing questions related to entrepreneurship including how to be relentlessly resourceful, build a great team and company culture, how to persist in the face of obstacle and challenges and so on.

In this insightful and intellectually satisfying interview, Ruhul Kader sits down with Mr. Rabeth to learn about his personal journey to what he is doing today, how he came into the world of advertising and the beginning of MACOMM, developments at MACOMM over the past years and to pick his brain about the strategy of MACOMM, and how he has grown the business over the years and build an empire from scratch and much more.

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2. Life’s Work: An Interview with Ejaj Ahmad, Founder, and President, Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC)

Ejaj Ahmad is the Founder and President of Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC). In this interview, he reflects on how his early life experiences and passion for public service and leadership shaped his future, the impetus behind starting BYLC, the current state of BYLC and his future plans for the organization, talks about his management philosophy and how he looks at the idea of leadership and life and how a strong sense of our own mortality can help us to live a meaningful life.

Life is short and ephemeral in nature, as Ejaj contemplates here, “our life is finite,” then he continues as if it occurs to him that “our impact can be infinite” if only we do things that matter and add value to the lives of others. The entire interview is sublime, insightful, and intellectually empowering. We believe Ejaj’s story will elevate you and inspire you to choose life over mere living.

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3. The Ambition Of Praava Health, Entrepreneurship, and Life: An Interview With Sylvana Quader Sinha, Founder, MD, and CEO, Praava Health

Praava Health Founder, Managing Director, and CEO Sylvana Quader Sinha walks us through her childhood and early life in the US and how her upbringing at a cultural crossroads, exposure to Bangladesh and its culture early in life, shaped her outlook on life and the world, reflects on her journey from the world of law, politics and development work to entrepreneurship, talks about how a personal experience with the healthcare system in Dhaka led to her founding of Praava Health, Praava heath’s journey from idea and a tiny team of a few people to a team of over 100 people, what went into building the initial operation of Praava, building the initial Praava team and raising money, Praava’s membership scheme, how Praava has used a combination of personal network, word of mouth and efficient execution to grow its business, the state of Praava’s business today, how Praava operates as an organization and how it has built a learning culture, and Praava’s ambition going forward, shares her insights on how to raise money, deal with the challenges of being a founder, the infinite potential of human capacity to do good, the importance of having good people around you and why the meaning and joy of life lies in creating impact and connection.

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4. The Story Behind Pathao’s Explosive Growth With Hussain M Elius, Founder and CEO, Pathao

Pathao Founder and CEO Hussain M Elius on the early days of Pathao, how it has evolved and grown from a small team of 30 people to a team of over 500 people in a span of a few years, the hard work and intricacies of scaling a business, Pathao’s business today and its ambition going forward, the most critical aspects of ride-hailing business, how Pathao operates as an organization and Pathao’s organizational culture, driver-rider-company dynamics in ride-hailing business, ride-hailing and transportation problem in Dhaka, the future of ride-hailing and Pathao’s business, and why entrepreneurship requires a certain amount of ignorance about how hard, uneventful and unglamorous building a real business is.

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5. Analyzen, Digital Marketing, and Entrepreneurship: An Interview With Ridwan Hafiz, Co-founder, Analyzen

Ridwan Hafiz, co-founder of Dhaka-based digital marketing agency Analyzen, has an interesting entrepreneurial story. The kind we don’t come across often in our context. He studied engineering which he found too much for him to take and then went on to start a digital marketing agency instead with his friend Sumit Saha. That too in 2008 when there was very little understanding of digital marketing in the market. It was a tall order to make it happen. As expected, things did not go that well initially. But the two endured. After graduating from BUET, he had to take up a sales job at Banglalion while working part-time on Analyzen to make the company stable enough so that it could afford him. After a few years of struggle, from 2010-11, things started to get better and since then Analyzen never had to look back. “Things often change. Good days come. It takes time but it certainly comes. Your job is to endure and stick to it”, says Hafiz. Today, after nine years, Analyzen has a thriving business spanning multiple countries including Singapore and Myanmar, a brilliant team of almost 100 people whom Mr. Hafiz gives all the credit for what Analyzen is today and an ambition to become a truly global digital marketing agency from Bangladesh.

In this interview, Mr. Hafiz speaks with Future Startup about his journey to what he is doing today, initial challenges Analyzen had to face, talks about Analyzen’s international expansion plans and independent product strategy to how horizontal structure defines its internal culture. He discusses challenges in the digital marketing industry in Dhaka and major trends in the space and shares his ambition for Analyzen over the next few years, where he goes to get some email design inspiration and how he deals with stress and self-doubt. He reflects on his management style and on why finding joy in our work makes us more effective as professionals and why enduring difficulties is an elemental feature of entrepreneurship.

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6. Solaric, Future Of Energy, and Entrepreneurship: An Interview with Didar Islam, Founder and MD, Solaric

Didar Islam is the founder and Managing Director of Solaric. In simple, it is the SolarCity equivalent of Bangladesh. Started six years ago, Solaric has been revolutionizing the solar energy space in this part of the world with its innovations and better products. The 200 person company has a growing business spanning multiple countries including Singapore and Myanmar, launched three highly innovative products in Bangladesh and raised two rounds of funding. The ambition is to be in 10 markets in the next five years.

Mr. Islam is a deeply passionate person. Soft-spoken in nature, when he speaks he closes his eyes and speaks in full sentences often absorbed in his own train of thoughts. Prior to starting his own business, he worked a host of sectors starting from Academia – he started his professional life as a teacher at BUET which he left after a year to pursue higher studies in the US – to private sector both in Bangladesh and the US.

In this interview, Mr. Didar Islam illustrates his journey to what he is doing today, how Solaric came into being, its expansion plans and product strategy to difficulties he had to face due to the lack of support system for early-stage companies to how openness defines Solaric’s internal culture and why finding the right people remains a key challenges for his company and shares his ambition for Solaric over the next few years that includes expanding into few other markets and introducing its Solar rooftop technology, discusses the metamorphosis that the energy sector is going through and his views about the future of the sector and reflects on his management philosophy, hard work of entrepreneurship and why deeper meaning and greater satisfaction of life comes from building something meaningful that changes lives.

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7. OnnoRokom Group, Entrepreneurship, and Life: An Interview With Mahmudul Hasan Sohag, Chairman, OnnoRokom Group (Part 01)

There are few entrepreneurs in Dhaka’s technology scene quite as fascinating and inspiring as Mahmudul Hasan Sohag, the Co-Founder and Chairman Of OnnoRokom Group. Over the past years, he and his team at OnnoRokom have built a mission-driven entire group of companies from scratch which continues to experience tremendous growth while staying true to its core vision of building a better Bangladesh. There is an almost unsettling sense of worldliness in many of today’s entrepreneurs. Thanks to relentless Silicon Valley-isation of entrepreneurship, everybody wants to start a company, sell it at some point and get famous and rich. It’s not a problem per se. Getting rich, in fact, is great, but the vision and the pursuit of making a real difference through entrepreneurial endeavor are increasingly becoming a rare thing these days. This is one of the reasons what makes Mr. Sohag’s story and journey important and different. He is in it for a reason that goes beyond mere millions and his journey to where he is today offers invaluable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs.

On the other hand, the story of Onnorokom Group answers many pressing questions related to entrepreneurship including how to find your co-founder, be relentlessly resourceful, build a great team and company culture, design a great product through iteration, how to persist in the face of obstacle and challenges and so on. Mr. Sohag and his team at Onnorokom has been building one of the most consequential technology companies in Dhaka over the past years and have done important works in a host of sectors. The group has businesses in education, research, and innovation, software, hardware, ecommerce, publication and more.

In part one of this eminently insightful and intellectually satisfying interview, Ruhul Kader sits down with Mahmudul Hasan Sohag to learn about his personal journey to what he is doing today, beginning of Onnorokom Group, developments at Onnorokom Group over the past years and to pick his brain about the strategy of Onnorokom, the state of its business today and ambition going forward, his take on competition and the biggest lessons from his journey so far as an entrepreneur and about the future of business, technology and society and contemplates metaphysical questions like meaning of life and more.

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8. Life’s Work: An Interview With Tamzid Siddiq Spondon, Managing Director, Zanala Bangladesh

Tamzid Siddiq Spondon is the co-founder and Managing Director of Zanala Bangladesh, a leading communication services company based in Dhaka. Mr. Spondon has a brilliant story to tell. Over the years, he and his team at Zanala Bangladesh, have built an empire from scratch. What started as a scrappy software development company in 2001, today, Zanala has businesses in communication, hardware and software development, tourism, pure food and much more.

In this empowering and immensely insightful interview, Mr. Spondon tell us about his early days and how his upbringing helped him in enduring the myriad challenges of entrepreneurship and life, how he ended up being an entrepreneur – first in his family, how Zanala Bangladesh came into being, Zanala Bangladesh journey to what it is today, what it means to be an entrepreneur, how he and his team have grown the business and built an empire from zero, lessons he has learned so far, and much more.

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9. Life’s Work: An interview with Prabeer Sarkar, Founder, and CEO, Dhaka Distributions (Part 01)

Prabeer Sarkar has seen it all in life. He lost his father when he was 13 years old. “I terribly miss my father even these days when I see a child walking on the street holding his father’s finger.” Life was tough but it was kind as well. His mother, who remains one of the biggest influences in his life, sacrificed a lot to ensure a good education and a good life for Prabeer and his sister. 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 1994 with 19 thousand taka in the pocket, he ventured out into his own entrepreneurial journey.
From a student of English Literature to a banker to a programmer to an entrepreneur, Prabeer 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 one way of living to another, getting into one uncharted territory after another, his fascinating 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 in Dhaka. In this interview, he reflects on how his early life experiences shaped his future, his journey to what he is doing today, beginning of his entrepreneurial journey, the impetus behind starting Dhaka Distributions, the current state of Dhaka Distributions, its business and ambition going forward, his future plans for the company, talks about his management philosophy, biggest lessons from his journey so far and how he looks at the idea of leadership and life and how a strong sense of our own limitations can help us live a meaningful life.

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10. How LightCastle Partners Has Grown From A Small Operation To A Full-Fledged Data Analytics and Impact Investment Solutions Company With Ivdad Ahmed Khan Mojlish, Managing Director, LightCastle Partners

LightCastle Partners Co-founder and Managing Director Ivdad Ahmed Khan Mojlish on LightCastle’s journey from a tiny one-room office to a team of over 30 people, how LightCastle tackled product-market fit in its early days by adapting to the needs of its customers, the art of business model and how to use flexibility in your business model to survive and grow your business, how LCP has used a combination of personal network, content marketing and efficient execution to grow its business, LCP’s business today, its expansion into multiple verticals including impact investment and its ambition going forward, how LCP operates as an organization and how it has built a learning culture, how to choose a book and reading as an antidote to life’s challenges, why execution is the key to success in anything you do, and why we should approach life with a sense of gratitude and a simple strategy to know whether your life is on the right track or not.


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