Six Startups See COVID-19 Surge in Demands

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Apr 30, 2020

The coronavirus lockdown has been devastating for many businesses. As virus ravages through cities and districts of Bangladesh with little sign of slowing down, many businesses struggle to find a path to surviving the lockdown. But a small fraction of tech startups companies is seeing a significant uptick in their business although many struggle to cope with the sudden surge in demands due to both a lack of preparations and the complete novelty of the situation. 

Among the companies seeing meaningful growth in their business are companies that help consumers stay indoors such as online grocery delivery companies, telemedicine services, and then there are online education startups that are seeing increased demand for online courses and training. In this article, I’m going to list 6 companies that have been seeing an acceleration in their business amid the pandemic. 

Timing and luck are two critical factors that affect the outcome of startups. Being able to be in the right place at the right time is luck. As Fred Wilson writes you eventually get lucky if you survive long enough because events happen in a time period and events bring fortune and misfortune. Like everyone of us, the pandemic has become a defining event for many tech startups in Dhaka and beyond. Many of these companies are certainly struggling to meet the increased demand in the market, but nonetheless they are in a far better position than the rest of the bunch who are struggling everyday to keep the lights on. 


Six startups prospering amid the coronavirus pandemic in Bangladesh


Chaldal

The leader in online grocery delivery in Dhaka has seen a spike in orders to the extent that it has been scraping to cope with delivering the orders on time. Chaldal works with essential items. The company has been playing a critical role in helping Dhakaites stay indoors amid the lockdown. There are a handful of companies operating in the on-demand grocery space and everyone suffers from managing a surge in orders. The best part of Chaldal is that the company has made a name for ensuring the stable pricing of critical essential grocery items despite the artificial price hike in the market. 

  • Chaldal was founded in 2013 by three friends Waseem Alim (CEO), Zia Ashraf (COO), and Tejas Viswanath (CTO). It was the early days of ecommerce in Bangladesh and online grocery shopping was not a thing in Dhaka yet. It took Chaldal a while to educate the market. In the early days, the startup was delivering 5 orders a day. 
  • From a tiny team of five people in 2013, it has grown to a team of over 600 people. The company has raised multiple rounds of investment from investors like Y Combinator, IFC, IDLC and more. It is the first Bangladeshi startup to attend the prestigious incubator program Y Combinator.

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Praava Health

Access to healthcare has become a critical challenge in Dhaka amid the coronavirus pandemic. Private doctor chambers are closed everywhere. People are not confident to visit hospitals amid the growing risk of getting infected. This has given rise to the telemedicine. Praava Health has seen a significant uptick in the number of telemedicine bookings in the past weeks. The company is also a part of the Government’s country-wide telemedicine healthcare initiatives amid the COVID-19 outbreak. 

  • Praava Health describes itself as “a network of Family Health Centers” and provides family doctors and diagnostics services in Dhaka. 
  • Founded by Sylvana Q. Sinha, the company started its full-fledged operation in Dhaka in February 2018 with one center in Banani.
  • It has since expanded as a team and as a business. The company has six labs that can do 250-unique tests and has built Bangladesh’s first PCR lab for molecular cancer diagnostics. 
  • Praava also offers a handful of membership plans and has a home care service where doctors and nurses visit patients at home and a fast growing telemedicine service. 
  • Praava claims that it has the first-ever fully integrated hospital information system in Bangladesh. 

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Khaas Food

The safe food company has been on an upward growth path even before the pandemic. The pandemic has brought a new opportunity for the company to serve even a larger group of customers. The company says it has been seeing double-digit growth every week since the beginning of the pandemic. The number continues to accelerate. 

  • Founded in 2015, Khaas Food started as a Facebook Page – taking orders online for a handful of food products such as Milk, Honey, and so on and delivering high-quality safe food to customers. 
  • Eventually, Khaas Food launched a website and started taking orders there as well. Over the past years, it has outgrown its Facebook page as well as its ecommerce company identity. 
  • Today, the company serves hundreds of orders daily and has made a name for being a leading safe food brand in Dhaka 
  • The company has expanded into physical retail and to date has 6 outlets in Dhaka and Chittagong that work both as retail outlets as well as warehouse and distribution centers. 

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Bohubrihi

Online education is one of the verticals that has benefited from the coronavirus lockdown. The e-learning platform Bohubrihi has seen its revenue to double in the month of lockdown. The company has also made several of its previously paid courses free to attract new customers. 

  • Bohubrihi launched its beta website in late 2017 and started generating regular revenues from mid-2018. 
  • Bohubrihi is an eLearning platform that offers online courses and training to professionals as well as university students. These courses are designed and offered in collaboration with industry experts and organizations in Bangladesh. In terms of course topics – the company primarily focuses on technology and business. 
  • The company also offers corporate eLearning services. 

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Ousud.com

Online medicine delivery has never looked this important any time before. Ousud.com, the online and offline pharmacy startup, has seen an extraordinary growth to the extent that the company has suspended taking orders through its website, although it continues to take orders on Facebook. Founded by Salman Ahmed, Sabbir Siddiqui, Dr. Istiaque Ahmed, and Bazlul Lutful, Ousud.com is a graduate of the ygap Accelerator program. 


Olwel

Olwel has been a unique company pre-pandemic. The company provides “essential doorstep healthcare service for patients who prefer to receive medical consultation at their home.” While Olwel has suspended its doorstep healthcare service due to circumstance, the company’s telemedicine service has taken off like anything. The company has also collaborated with a host of services providers such as on-demand ambulance services, on-demand medical testing services and so on that makes it even more relevant during this extraordinary time. 

  • Olwel, the Finland-based healthcare startup that operates in Dhaka, provides “essential doorstep healthcare service for patients who prefer to receive medical consultation at their home.”
  • Like many classic examples of breakout startup successes, Olwel is an outcome of personal experience – M M Aftab Hossain, co-founder, and Chairman of Olwel, had to suffer every time his parents needed to see a doctor, an experience which eventually inspired him to start Olwel. 
  • Mr. Aftab and his team started working on the idea in 2016 and officially launched in 2017 with 16 doctors covering Mohammadpur and Dhanmondi area. The company has since expanded its coverage and services.

Read more: 


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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 ruhul@futurestartup.com

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