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What We’re Watching In 2020

Dhaka’s tech scene has seen some increased activities in 2019 compared to past years. Overall deal flow increased driven by an increased angel and seed-stage activities, although growth stage deals remain far scarce. 

2020 offers mixed signals with a lot happening in the economy. Interest in Dhaka’s tech scene remains strong. There are some companies doing fascinating things.

We’ll be closely looking for breakout companies, mature stage deals, new tech trends, and policy initiatives to support tech and entrepreneurship, and technology education. But there will be plenty of other events that will matter in 2020, too. Here is a list of verticals and subjects we plan to follow closely in 2020.

eCommerce: Apart from the aggressive push from Daraz and Evaly, little happened in ecommerce this year. While Daraz and Evaly continue to push in the market, the overall market size of ecommerce remains minuscule compared to overall retail in the country. We’ll closely follow how existing players operate as well as activities from players like bKash and others forces to shape the market. 

Transportation: We’ve got a handful of companies in the broader transportation space. Shohoz, Pathao, Obhai Uber are there. Ride-hailing will remain a focus area with an eye for consolidation in the market. Then we have companies like Jatri, Zantrik, Truck Lagbe, Jo Bike and Loop that are working on different aspects of transportation. Transportation is a major problem, we will follow intently how the industry shape up in  2020. 

Enterprise: Dhaka lacks enterprise/B2B startups, particularly on the product side. There are a lot of service providing enterprise companies such as Brain Station 23 but there are few enterprise product companies such as Zoho. In 2019, we have seen a few such as Landknock, Cramstack, and we are hoping 2020 will be a big year for enterprise. 

Travel: Travel is one of the top sectors in Dhaka in-terms of number of deals in 2019. There are a large number of OTA operating in the market. The market is likely to grow competitive and we’ll be watching how travel market shapes up in Dhaka as the industry increasingly become digital. 

Education: Education is among the few verticals in Dhaka that has a ready market across the country. There is a growing demand for quality education. The solutions available in the market have been proved to be insufficient. We have seen some EdTech initiatives but mostly limited in scale. We hope to see some big efforts in this space in 2020. 

Health care: How new healthcare players take on various aspects of healthcare and healthcare delivery in Bangladesh. 

Finance: We need a few good competitors to bKash and there is none.  

Tech policy: Now almost every major tech sector has to pay VAT. But there has been little work on meaningful tech policies such as how ecommerce companies should deal with merchants, should the ecommerce marketplaces be allowed to have white label brands or what should be the relationship between drivers and ride-hailing companies, or what should individual data privacy look like in the context of Bangladesh. We expect Bangladesh will start addressing some of these more serious questions around tech in 2020. 

VC and funding ecosystem: Local venture capital funds continue to struggle to raise investment in Bangladesh. We will closely follow how some of the active investors overcome this challenge as well as how the overall VC ecosystem shapes in Dhaka with international funds coming into the country. 

Tech going mainstream: We now have fashion-tech companies, Food-tech, retail-tech, logistics, shoes, ready-office, and we are expecting tech companies will explore many more mainstream verticals in 2020. 

Energy: New energy and climate change-related enterprises. 

Future: AI, robotics, blockchain and future technologies that are likely to have an outsized impact on our world. 

Entrepreneurship education: There are many initiatives around startup and entrepreneurship. We plan to meaningfully contribute to this area in 2020. 

Ruhul Kader is a technology and business analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Future Startup and author of Rethinking Failure: A short guide to living an entrepreneurial life. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, technology policy, and society. He can be reached at [email protected]

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