Building A Home Care Service Marketplace In Bangladesh: An Interview With Shariat Rahman, Co-founder and CEO, Amar Astha

Building A Home Care Service Marketplace In Bangladesh: An Interview With Shariat Rahman, Co-founder and CEO, Amar Astha

Co-founder and CEO of Amar Astha Shariat Rahman reflects on his entrepreneurial journey, talks about his technology-enabled Home Care Service startup Amar Astha, how Amar Astha came into being, how the company operates, its business model and product details, the state of Amar Astha’s business today, its ambition going forward, shares his thoughts on the challenges of being a founder, optimism, and passion as an antidote to stress and challenges of being a founder, the importance of having meaningful relationships in life and much more. 

Future Startup 

Could you please tell us about your background and elaborate your path to entrepreneurship?

Shariat Rahman

I completed my graduation in Industrial & Production Engineering from BUET in 2009. After working for 1 year in the textile sector I went to Germany to do my Masters in Bionics (Bio-inspired technology). While working at the university as a researcher in a European Union project, I started learning programming and software development from self-interest.  I lived there for 6 years. 

In 2016 I came back to Bangladesh and started working in a medical equipment startup. Our MD was involved in equipment selling and I was responsible for software and mobile app development for our company as well as other purposes. We developed an app called ‘Amar Doctor’. Initially, it was very popular. I learned a lot while working there that helped me a lot to become a real entrepreneur. 

Future Startup 

When and how did you get started with Amar Astha? What motivated you to start Amar Astha

Shariat Rahman

Due to some personal reasons, I decided to leave that company and started ‘Amar Astha’ with my BUETian senior Javed Ikbal vai in December 2018. We had good traction from the beginning. I officially left that job in February 2019. 

We didn’t have any office when we started, I used to have meetings with caregivers in different restaurants in Mirpur and other areas. 

Initially, we started with Nanny, Attendant and Nurse services. Luckily I had enough clients due to my academic background as our services are very sensitive to get people’s trust.

Future Startup 

What went into building the initial operation of Amar Astha? 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.  

Shariat Rahman

I used to be the real worker of the company. I did almost everything in the early days. I had to receive phone calls from clients and caregivers. I also used to visit clients’ houses with caregivers. Thanks to my bike that made my life easier and efficient. 

As I and our CTO Javed Ikbal vai both have the IT experience, we could easily decide to implement an automatic business management software including CRM and chatbot. This technology made our journey very smooth. The revenue we got was enough for us to sustain until the MVP stage. 

In April, we decided to pitch our business proposal to potential angel investors. Luckily, we got a tremendous response. Then we rented our office in Mirpur 1 and hired some employees in July 2019. We closed our 1st round of funding in October 2019.

Future Startup 

Could you please give us an overview of Amar Astha in terms of services you offer, how many users you have, the size of your business, etc? 

Shariat Rahman

We are basically a technology-enabled Home Care Service company. You can order our service through the Facebook page, website, and android app. Our home care services-

  • Trusted and Trained Nanny and Babysitter for taking care of kids.
  • Attendant and Nurse for senior citizens and bedridden patients.
  • Physiotherapist, Speech Therapist, Occupational Therapist and Psychologist for patients and special children.
  •  We collect Urine and Blood from home. After the diagnosis in our partner lab, we send test reports through email or home delivery. About 600 tests are available on our platform. 
  • We also have a physiotherapy center and dr chamber on our office floor.
Shariat Rahman and Javed Ikbal, Founders, Amar Ashta
Shariat Rahman and Hanif Ahmed (from left to right)

Future Startup 

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

Shariat Rahman

Our business model is quite simple. We take a commission from each service provider (monthly or session-based). Most of our caregivers are freelancers. 

Future Startup 

How big is your team? Could you tell us about your culture at Amar Astha? 

Shariat Rahman

We have 5 full-time employees with more than 100 caregivers. Our culture is based on open-minded thought to set a new standard in-home health care service industry.

Future Startup 

On average how many customers you serve per month? How have you attracted customers and grown Amar Astha? Could you tell us about the strategies and activities that you carried out to achieve the growth? 

Shariat Rahman

The number of customers varies month to month. Most of our services are monthly in nature. Some of our clients have been taking services from the beginning of the company. Some take for a longer period of time. Some end in a month. 

Recently, we are serving more than 90 clients every month. Initially, we used to get clients from online advertising, but most of the new clients come from the ‘Word of Mouth’ marketing from satisfied clients. The same strategy is applicable for the caregivers too.

Future Startup 

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

Shariat Rahman

Initially, we started with Nanny and Nursing services. Then we included therapy services. Recently, we are also providing Diagnostic and Psychological Counseling services. We could have started all the services together. But it could be a huge mistake as it took a substantial time and effort to serve clients for each service category and also ensure that the new services are provided by the right people. 

Entrepreneurs must remember that you cannot do everything in the beginning. You have to do one thing at a time. We have found doing one thing at a time an incredibly powerful strategy to scale your business sustainably. So be patient and grow with time.

Future Startup 

Have you raised investment? If yes, how much have you raised? What are the plans now? What does it take to raise investment? What should founders who are trying to raise investment to be mindful of?

Shariat Rahman

Initially, we started with our own money. After reaching the MVP stage, we raised about 65 lakhs taka as angel investments. Most of them are from my university (BUET) people, some of them are friends from school and facebook. Our main target was to prove that our idea and execution were viable. 

Luckily, we were one of the top ten Startups in the Bangladesh round of Startup World Cup 2019. It helped a lot to gain investors’ confidence. Moreover, our service quality was satisfactory to many people that helped to grow us as a trusted brand. As a result, investors thought that we were the right people with the right business idea to invest.

Amar Astha services
Amar Astha services

Future Startup 

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

Shariat Rahman

The biggest challenges were to find honest caregivers. Luckily, 90% of them have been the assets of our company. As the demand is increasing, the supply of more qualified caregivers is a challenge. 

The good news is that we are on the way to make partnerships with BRAC, World Bank Bangladesh, and Ibrahim Cardiac hospital to work together to train more people and employ them.

Future Startup 

How do your sales and marketing work? 

Shariat Rahman

So far we are using social media and word of mouth marketing and sales strategy. Some features are being planned to be published in some national newspapers.

Future Startup 

What are the goals for the future? 

Shariat Rahman

  • To expand country-wide
  • Establish more modern therapy centers with doctor chamber
  • To help qualified caregivers to get a job in developed countries like Japan, UK, etc.

Future Startup 

What are some lessons you’ve learned?

Shariat Rahman

  • Honesty is always sustainable.
  • Almost everything is possible if you are pragmatic and passionate.
  • Having a good relationship with people is very crucial to be successful.

Future Startup 

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous in the process of building Amar Astha?

Shariat Rahman

Yes. My previous experience (domain expertise) of working for more than 2 years in the medical sector. Also, my 6 years of experience in Germany helped a lot to implement technology to smoothen the whole business process. 

Future Startup 

How do you deal with challenges and stress that come with being a founder? 

Shariat Rahman

I am a highly optimistic and passionate person. I always share my thoughts with people around me. So challenges and stress cannot command over me. Moreover, watching good movies can give good refreshments as far as I experienced.

Future Startup 

What are your advice for founders who are just starting out?

Shariat Rahman

  • Try to have domain expertise in the field you are trying to build a startup
  • Choose co-founder wisely who can be your support in every phase of your business
  • Do not approach investors before having an MVP (minimum viable product). Also, remember that easy money can hinder your talent to flourish.
  • Make as many partnerships as you can. 
  • Please do not try to provide all services in a particular sector. You simply can’t do it. Scale gradually. 

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This story is made possible by our friends at Evaly, a leading digital commerce company based in Dhaka. Evaly is one of largest ecommerce companies in Bangladesh and has been changing online shopping in Bangladesh with its disruptive approach to digital commerce, learn more about Evaly here.

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