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Five Practical Business Lessons From Five Successful Bangladeshi Entrepreneurs

There is no guarantee of success when you start your journey as an entrepreneur. You will either succeed or fail. But one thing is sure that you will learn a lot more than other people who have chosen the easier paths, which will help you to be a better version of yourself.

Over the years, at FS, we have interviewed hundreds of founders building exciting enterprises in  Bangladesh on their entrepreneurial journey, trials and tribulations, success and failures, biggest lessons, and major epiphanies. In this article, we bring you five lessons from five successful entrepreneurs that beautifully encapsulate what it means to be a founder and the psychology of entrepreneurship

  1. Compete With Yourself - Mahmudul Hasan Sohag, Chairman of Onnorokom Group

In an interview with FS, Mahmudul Hasan Sohag, chairman of Onnorokom group shared the lessons he has learned throughout his entrepreneurial journey. One of the lessons he shared, which I think resonates with so many of us, is that we should not externalize the source of our motivation and look outward for our growth.  :

“If you need to compete, compete with yourself,” he said of how he thinks about competition these days. “Growing up, I used to be a highly competitive boy. I wanted to be the best in everything that I do.” 

Mahmudul Hasan Sohag said, “ I have been quite a high achiever throughout my life in many ways. I had suffered from this feeling of superiority and ego for quite a long time.” He now looks at personal growth very differently,

Over the years, however, he has come to realize that competition doesn’t bring positive consequences all the time and that ego is always the enemy to our personal and professional growth. 

He said, “Over the past years, I have consciously worked on this part of my personality and I think I’m in a better shape now.”

He suggested, if you do need to compete, do it with yourself.

Mahmudul Hasan Sohag said success should be collective and many ideas that we have today are not good for our collective success: “Personally, I don’t believe ‘in the survival of the fittest because it awakens unnecessary acrimony inside us. We need to look at it from a broader perspective, to ‘survive collectively.

2. Whatever Can Go Wrong Will Go Wrong - Waseem Alim, Founder and CEO of Chaldal

In an interview with Future Startup, Waseem Alim, the founder, and CEO of Chaldal, shared that the biggest lesson he has learned so far is “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong”, which is popularly known as Murphy's Law. Mr. Waseem said founders should be cautious when planning for and managing growth because growth is messy and you can’t exclusively rely on hope for things to go according to your plan. You have to take initiatives to minimize the chance of things going wrong. 

“If you are going to expand, whatever can go wrong will go wrong,” Mr. Waseem said. “Because that is like the strength of the chain is its weakest link. Murphy's Law basically is that.” 

Mr. Waseem said founders should look to build robust systems so that they could handle the shock of growth and things going wrong because things will go wrong. “So, you need to basically neutralize anything that can go wrong in order to grow. That's the way to build robust systems. Murphy's Law is true and that is something I have learned recently,” he said.

3. Work Hard And Be Humble - Hussain Elius, Co-founder and CEO of Pathao

 In another interview Pathao co-founder and CEO Hussain Elius shared the lesson he has learned as an entrepreneur:

“Work hard and be humble, there’s no secret to success.”

Mr. Elius said young adults who start companies don't realize how difficult it is to start companies; which makes them perfect candidates for starting companies. Because if people knew how difficult it was, none would start one.

“People don't realize that most of the time entrepreneurship is not very eventful and not a very glamorous job. It's a lot of hard work over a sustained period of time, where you don't give up.” he told Future Startup, “It’s the grind that you have to face every day. No matter what someone has to start, there is a lot of ground level, boring, and monotonous work.”

“If you see through my personal journey, you will see that I don't appear a lot in the media, especially before 2018. It was because I believe that people should keep their nose down to the ground, be humble and just work.” Hussain Elius said, “It's very important to have everyone follow their own north star metrics rather than vanity metrics. Work hard and be humble, there’s no secret to success.”

4. Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Can’t Do It, Not Even You - Ivy Huq Russell, Founder of Maya

  Years back in an interview with Future Startup Ivy Huq Russell, the founder of healthcare startup Maya, shared the philosophy of her life:

“Don’t let anyone tell you can’t do it, not even you”

“There is something about being an entrepreneur that gives you the feeling that you too can change things and have an impact. You too can influence people with your ideas and leadership,” Ms. Russell said of her view of entrepreneurship. 

To Ivy Huq Russell the biggest obstacle by far in Bangladesh is people saying that “it can’t be done”. 

“Most people will tell you that you cannot do this or that. But I take comfort in knowing that all the great entrepreneurs of our time, also went through similar pushbacks,” she said. “I think the biggest driver of success is determination, not letting anyone cloud your intent and judgment. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it – not even you. It’s a line from one of my favorite movies ‘in pursuit of happiness. Determination and tenacity are the most important factors. The other ones I would point out are to be confident in your idea but also be prepared to learn from your mistakes and from others.”

5. Be Tenacious - Maliha M. Quadir, Founder & MD of Shohoz

In one of the interviews with Future Startup, Maliha Quadir, the founder and MD of Shohoz, suggested young entrepreneurs be tenacious.

While sharing the story behind founding Shohoz, Maliha Quadir said, “When you pursue something as challenging as entrepreneurship you need a serious amount of tenacity. All my reviews at my previous workplaces and from my professors are almost the same: she is extremely tenacious. If she decides to do something she would do it. We started with that mentality that we have to do it no matter what.” 

 “Raising money is tough in Bangladesh. Besides, we already have two competitors who are doing great. These are all tough challenges. I was aware of all these challenges when we were working on launching ride-sharing in December. But we are also aware of the fact that the market is young. That the competition is just ahead of us by one year,” she said. “When we spoke with the investors they said one year is not enough time for a big market like Bangladesh. You can't call anyone a winner at that point in time. So then I plunged and took the risk. That was a big call. But I decided to take the challenge because you live only once.”

Tithi Chowdhury is an undergraduate student majoring in Botany at the University of Dhaka. She is a Trainee Analyst at Future Startup and looks after our Collective Knowledge initiative where she prepares interviews and writes articles on interesting topics. She is a voracious reader and loves listening to podcasts in her spare time.

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