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Hard Times #01: Zantrik Founder and CEO Al-Farooque Shubho on Zantrik’s Response to COVID-19, Dealing with Difficult Times, Keeping Your Center Solid, and Post Pandemic World

“I went through a recession in my career in 2008. I was working at a Software Company that went down eventually and had to lay off the entire team. It was a difficult time. Finding a job was not easy. After much effort, I found a job but I became a permanent skeptic about good times. On the side of my job, I invested to upskill myself and started pursuing freelancing, which eventually led to my entrepreneurial journey. Hard times are difficult but if we use them wisely and be patient it could lead to better outcomes.” - Al-Farooque Shubho. 


In this episode, Future Startup's Ruhul Kader and Zantrik Founder and CEO Al-Farooque Shubho, discuss how he is dealing with the impact of COVID-19 emotionally, including how he is keeping his centered solid, staying productive, and dealing with difficult times, how Zantrik is addressing the challenges caused by the pandemic, including Zantirk’s pivot to a new initiative called Project Basement where Zantrik in collaboration with two other startups, how Zantrik is tackling significant reduction in revenue, remote operation, keeping the team motivated, and what the post-pandemic world might look like. 


We discuss: 

  • How Al-Farooque Shubho is dealing with the impact of pandemic personally as a founder? How is he keeping his center solid and staying productive?
  • The impact of the pandemic on Zantrik, its operation, and business? 
  • How is Zantrik responding to the challenges caused by the virus? 
  • Zantrik strategies to overcome pandemic challenges 
  • Dealing with difficult times and how Mr. Shubho managed his career post-2008 recession and lessons he learned from that experience 
  • Zantrik’s remote operation 
  • Thinking in structure
  • Advice for founders on staying sane, surviving the pandemic and more 
  • Post pandemic world 

Show notes: 

  • I’m spending a lot of time doing household chores and spending time with my kids 
  • At Zantrik, we started preparing for the pandemic in the very early days of the pandemic, back in February. We made plans regarding our response strategy as the pandemic hits and evolves. Now we are rolling out those plans one by one. 
  • I always prefer to have Plan A and Plan B. If Plan A does not work, we can always fall back to Plan B. 
  • I went through a recession in my career in 2008. I was working at a Software Company that went down eventually and had to lay off the entire team. It was a difficult time. Finding a job was not easy. After much effort, I found a job but I became a permanent skeptic about good times. On the side of my job, I invested to upskill myself and started pursuing freelancing, which eventually led to my entrepreneurial journey. Hard times are difficult but if we use them wisely and be patient it could lead to better outcomes. 
  • To deal with any crisis, the first thing I do is I consider what could be the worst-case scenario and then plan backward. 
  • Since we work in the automotive industry, our regular business is now completely off. We don’t have any operations. We discussed this scenario with the team and we came up with a handful of plans and one of those plans is Project Basement where we are working with build owners in Dhaka to set up basement shops amid this pandemic. We have other plans in the pipeline. 
  • When I come across a challenge, I try to think in a structured manner. I consider the challenge. I sit down with pen and paper. I identify the potential options and eventually make a decision and act. 
  • Structured thinking could be a very useful tool to addressing any challenge
  • You have to stay calm and be able to think objectively
  • The post-pandemic world is going to be very different
    • Many professions we highly value today may disappear 
    • Professions that we used to look down are going to be critical 
    • There will huge changes in how people spend and consume 

Al-Farooque (Shubho)
Al-Farooque (Shubho), Founder, Zantrik

Al-Farooque Shubho is the Founder and CEO of Zantrik, a Dhaka-based automotive services marketplace that connects service providers with vehicle owners and ensures on-demand quality service. Zantrik raised “a pre-seed round of investment early this year from Bangladesh Angels Network (BAN), Accelerating Asia, along with its network of Southeast Asia-based angel investors. Mr. Shubho ideated the Startup after an incident in which he was stranded on the road without any support. After further research, he and his co-founders discovered the enormous inefficiencies in the automotive services sector, driven by unscrupulous shop owners who often diagnose the wrong services, use inferior or wrong spare parts and charge exorbitant amounts, often in collusion with drivers looking to supplement their incomes with kickbacks.  Seeing the opportunity, the team went through the Scaleup Bangladesh program, an accelerator supported by BetterStories Asia Limited, and began operations through the founder’s capital and an investment from BD Venture Limited

Since that initial investment, Zantrik team has created a national network of workshops, served thousands of individual customers and developed tailored solutions for marquee corporate clients and partners.”

The company has been in the process of establishing a new model pre-coronavirus pandemic, of course it took a hit. 

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Go deeper on Zantrik here.

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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