Calling All Student Entrepreneurs: Tell Us About Your Startup

Inside Online Learning Platform Shikhbe Shobai With Rifat M Huq, Co-founder and CEO, Shikhbe Shobai

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Jun 14, 2019

Rifat M Huq is the Co-founder and CEO of Shikhbe Shobai, an online education company based in Dhaka. Founded in 2017, the company has grown significantly and built a widely recognizable brand in the online learning space within a short span of time. It offers paid courses on a wide range of subjects including graphic design, UI/UX, Web and app development, etc.

We recently caught up with Mr. Rifat M Huq, Co-founder, and CEO of Shikhbe Shobai, to learn about his path to entrepreneurship, how Shikhbe Shobai came into being, what is Shikhbe Shobai, how Shikhbe Shobai operates, the state of Shikhbe Shobai’s business today, its ambition going forward, growth lessons from Shikhbe Shobai, challenges of being a founder, lessons he has learned from his journey so far and much more.

Future Startup

Could you please tell us about your background and what you are working on now?

Rifat M Huq

I'm Rifat M Huq, you can call me Rifat. I specialize in User Interfaces, Graphic Design, Responsive Web Design, Front-end Development, Brand Identity, Digital Marketing, and Project Management. I enjoy work that allows for more user empathy and creativity. I believe it is important to pay attention to detail and focus on the little things that make a big difference for UX. As an end-to-end UX designer, I focus on Research and Interaction Design.

I am also skilled in completing Requirement/Data Analysis and UI. I’m an entrepreneur who loves to be part of a growing business. A UI/UX and Graphic Design Mentor who has been working in this sector for more than 6 years and trained almost 5500+ students. Currently managing a team of talented creative and multitaskers. I am Currently working as a CEO, UI/UX Mentor and Co-Founder of Shikhbe Shobai and Instructor.

I have completed my graduation from United International University. My focused area was EEE. I have solid 5 years of practical experience in online and offline teaching, trained almost 5030+ students all over the world. Also, I have started my freelancing career 3 years ago and successfully completed 250+ freelancing projects on the different global and local marketplace.

Future Startup

What motivated you to start Shikhbe Shobai? Why did you start a business in this sector? When and how did you start Shikhbe Shobai?

Rifat M Huq

Shikhbe Shobai was founded by 11 like-minded, young and motivated individuals with a vision to take freelancing as a career path to 160 million Bangladeshis and to create a community of successful freelancers.

Our mission is to help people learn the in-demand skills they need to achieve their full potential and establish a path towards a brighter Digital Bangladesh.

Shikhbe Shobai was founded in 2017 with an aim to empower people of 64 districts in online freelancing and to create a sustainable self-dependency through online employment model all over Bangladesh.

Shikhbe Shobai Founders | Photo Shikhbe Shobai

Future Startup

What went into building the initial product? How did you put together initial investment and other things to get started? Please walk us through what the first few months of your journey were like and the challenges you faced.

Rifat M Huq

We started our journey in April 2017. First, we have to give thanks to Socian Ltd. for sharing their office place with us. In July 2017 we move to Banani House#74, road # 7, Block # H, to our new office. I can recall those days that ways too messy, one of our interns even left us saying that she can’t work here. We used to sit in a bedsheet on the floor. That was the real struggling period.

Future Startup

Could you please give us an overview of Shikhbe Shobai in terms of services you offer, your business and users, team size, operations, etc?

Rifat M Huq

  • Formed the best and most dedicated team (currently 28 employees) in Dhaka, Bangladesh and established a proven business model in education, skill development, capacity building, and online employment arena.
  • Launched country’s first Smart Campus in Banani, Dhaka. Just after three months and nine months, we launched 2nd and 3rd labs respectively. We have now 3 labs in total in Banani and in two years we have another branch in Mirpur having 2 labs of 50 accommodation at a time.
  • Launched country’s first Online Support Center for Freelancers which provides 18/7 support to freelancers all over the country.
  • Shikhbe Shobai is an ITES company working for capacity building in the IT sector through developing skills. In the last 2.5 years, we have trained around 4500+ students across the whole country. Among them, 2200 students had trained up under "Online Education" platform. The happiest moment for us that already 1500 students are dominating the freelancing marketplace like Fiverr, Upwork, and so on. This year, on February 23, 2019, 1500 freelancers were certified in our certificate program and the top-rated freelancers were given awards, whose income was above $25000. Till now our trainee's cumulatively earned approximately $3,50,780 from those online marketplaces by selling their skills.
  • Impacted 1000 lives, secured 450+ families. We are proud to have a strong impact matrix which is on average 1 family per 5 students.

Future Startup

How have you attracted people and grown Shikhbe Shobai? Could tell us a bit about your process and activities that you carried out to achieve the growth?

Rifat M Huq

Quality is the key. We make sure that we offer the best courses and the best service to our customers. The second thing would be our credentials. The success stories of our students have helped us to attract more students.

Future Startup

What are the lessons you’ve learned in terms of growing a business? What other entrepreneurs can learn from your journey?

Rifat M Huq

Focus on your customer. Give them the best possible service. Make them happy and satisfied. The rest should follow. Business is all about serving your customers. As long as your customers are happy, you should be okay.

Future Startup

What is your business model? How have you grown your revenue?

Rifat M Huq

Students are the main customer for us. Our business model is simple. We offer paid courses. Students pay us for accessing our courses and we invest that money in operations and other areas. We offer a wide range of courses on various subjects including Graphics Design, Web Design, UI and UX design, Web Development, Android App Development, Digital Marketing along with special freelancing session for each course.

Future Startup

Have you raised any investment?

Rifat M Huq

We have raised an internal round of investment recently, mostly from friends and family who have invested before. I can’t mention the exact figure, I would say that it is a small round.

Future Startup

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced? What are the challenges now?

Rifat M Huq

We want to bring out a change in the skill development sector in Bangladesh which cannot be achieved overnight, so we are working towards that. We have small offerings right now, like international standard project-based learning.

We’re offering online courses for students outside Dhaka who usually don’t have access to these type of contents and also for students in Dhaka. We understand that there will be challenges. The answer to all these challenges is sticking to it.

We are operating in a new industry and as a start-up, credibility is a challenge for us. Customers are not essentially used to the services we are offering. It is always tough to break the status quo. That’s one challenge that we are trying to overcome.

Future Startup

How does your sales and marketing work?

Rifat M Huq

Word of mouth has been our biggest growth engine. We get a healthy amount of students through recommendations from our previous students. We are happy with that and we plan to continue to invest in that space so that our customers refer us. Apart from that, we have invested in channels like Facebook, university campaign, students meetup, affiliate meetup, Fair, etc.

Future Startup

What are the goals for the future?

Rifat M Huq

Shikhbe Shobai works to create a borderless world for skillful potential persons who are determined to develop their career and become self-employed. To achieve this vision Shikhbe Shobai works as a guide to help these dedicated soul regarding IT skill development and spread the knowledge for building freelancing career by showing them the online marketplace opportunities and career facts to them.

At Shikhbe Shobai Solutions, we aim to build a personalized learning experience for each of our students.

Future Startup

What are some lessons you’ve learned?

Rifat M Huq

People often underestimate the amount of hard work to build a startup. We often start with a rather cozy picture of hard work that entrepreneurship demands. That often leads to frustration in the beginning because we start with a lot of enthusiasm and we expect the quick results, and when we don’t see the results, it often hurts our morale. My lesson has been: never give up. As long as you stay in the game, there is no failure.

Future Startup

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

Rifat M Huq

Stay focused, work hard and never lose hope.


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