When the business strategies of successful companies are analyzed it can be seen that different companies have different strategies and approaches depending on various factors including the sector, stakeholders, competitors, market, etc.
What has worked for one may not work for another. But there are some commonly used strategies that startups across verticals used to grow their businesses in Bangladesh.
We have analyzed 25 interviews with founders of early-stage companies in Dhaka and put together a list of commonly used and successful growth strategies early-stage startups used. While all of these ideas might not apply to your business, these are useful ideas and companies have already used them to achieve excellent results.
1. Quality obsession
It may sound cliché, but ensuring the quality of the service or the product is the first condition of growing a business. Discounts may give a business short-term traction, but it is the quality that builds a loyal customer base and keeps a company on track.
If we look at the successful companies in the market one of the most common features is the high quality of their product that gives them an advantage over other players in the market.
Eddie Bearnot, the co-founder and CEO of Frontier Nutrition, said in one interview that prior to launching Frontier Nutrition, they spent 6 months in Khulna to refine their system and ensure the quality.
“We spent nearly 6 months refining our systems, resolving issues with quality and pricing, and finalizing our launch plan,” he said.
Quality products and services make an important contribution to long-term revenue and profitability. They enable a company to charge and maintain higher prices.
To Kowser Ahmed, the founder and CEO of Kow company, one of the main reasons behind the success of his company is the quality of their service. “The relationship with the customers should be based on three things: facts or reality, proper service, whatever the service you are providing, and be the nicest you can be to your customers. These are what made us successful,” he said.
2. Simple solutions and doing the basics well
Most of the successful companies we see today are successful because they found simple solutions to problems their consumers face that saved their time and energy.
In today’s world where life is fast paced everyone is looking for simple and easier options that can save them time.
When we asked Nizam Uddin Shipan, the founder and CEO of Print Wizard, how his company grew so fast over the years he said, “customers see our e-commerce service as something that is hassle-free and easy to work with. Our entire system is automated. It helps customers save time and effort. Due to these processes, customers see us quite positively.”
When we asked how Neo Farmer has achieved growth Tamzid Siddiq Spondon, the founder and Managing Director of Neo Farmers, replied, “I would not say that we have done something hugely unique. It has always been regular things and trying to do regular things better.”
Regarding the reason behind the significant growth of Zingo, Naim Ahmed, the co-founder and CEO of Zingo, said, “We have made it easy for sellers to sell a phone, you upload details, get paid and it is fast - within a day. We have made it easy for a buyer to buy it and that too at a competitive price. These two things have helped us attract users consistently.”
3. Choosing the right customer
Customers are the people who buy the service of products manufactured by a company and the company generates revenue from that. A wide range of people can be considered as the customer of a company according to the definition. But to grow a business, the company should know exactly which group of customers they should target.
Siddiq Abu Bakkar, the founder and CEO of Audacity IT Solutions, considers choosing the right group of customers as a critical part of growing his business. For new entrepreneurs, selecting the right target group of customers is important. Before looking for a client, make sure what are the characteristics you want in a client.
When asked what helped Audacity to grow, he replied, “ Having the right clients — selecting the right clients at the beginning of your business and providing them with quality service is important. Now selecting the right clients could appear to be a difficult thing to do for most early-stage companies because the general perception is that in the early days you do whatever you get, being choosy is not an option.”
“To my experience, however, having the right set of clients is critical for your growth. Even if it means losing some business. We have been lucky to have some excellent clients who have helped us to grow,” he added.
4. Right Marketing Strategy
“Value Proposition” is one of the nine blocks of Business Model Canvas. Having an innovative quality is not enough. You need to present your idea in a way so that your potential consumers can understand why they should buy your service or product. Hence figuring out the right marketing strategy is important for the growth of a business.
Regarding the marketing strategy, Tamzid Siddiq Spondon, the founder and Managing Director of Neo Farmers, told Future Startup, “We have used testimonials of our existing customers - when people tell good things about us we highlight those things. We have found that testimonials work.”
On the other hand Travel Bangladesh designs different strategies for different content distribution channels.
Ahsan Rony, the CEO of Travel Bangladesh, told Future Startup, “Apart from producing excellent quality content, we have paid a lot of attention to content distribution. We worked hard to find out a large number of distribution channels so that we could reach as many people as we could. We then designed strategies for each channel and worked hard to achieve the best result from each of the channels.”
5. Relentless experimentation and improvement
Mahmudul Hasan Sohag, the co-founder and chairman of Onnorokom Group, considers dynamism as one of the factors that have contributed to the growth and evolution of Rokomari.
In an interview with Future Startup, Mahmudul Hasan Sohag said, “We routinely add new features to the platform. It has been the case throughout the history of Rokomari. We have been adventurous in every way possible. We tried and continue to try new things every once in a while.”
One of the important aspects of growth hacking is that you have to measure everything. You generate ideas, test them and then measure their impact.
“We routinely make changes to our website, big and small, to see how people respond. We make these changes and then we see how it affects orders and other important metrics. We run tests with email marketing. We change font, color, headlines and try to see the impacts of each change in terms of conversion,” he said.
Regarding trying out new ideas, Ahsan Rony of Travel Bangladesh, told Future Startup, “We are constantly working on new ideas. For example, we organized an event where we asked participants to share their experience of local foods. growth is a never-ending learning curve.”
Mahmudul Hasan Sohag said organizations are dynamic entities and evolution is essential for survival.
“We analyze every call so that there are more value-adding calls and fewer non-value-adding calls. We have started an order tracking service so that customers do not need to call us about the delivery and they can see their orders for themselves,” he said.
6. Taking Action
The core motto of Pathao is “Bias To Action”.
When asked what played a role behind the fast growth of Pathao, Hussain Elius, the co-founder and CEO of Pathao replied, “We don't stay busy with just making plans.”
“Even if the plan is not perfect, we get down on the ground and we roll with it and push it through execution. That way we can incorporate market feedback faster and build products or operations around how things actually work and take the path-of-least-resistance forward,” he said.
To Fahad Ifaz, the founder and CEO of iFarmer, execution is the key.
In an interview with Future Startup, he said, “We can have brilliant ideas, but if we have cold feet when it comes to execution, try to think and solve all the operational barriers before launching something, then nothing works.”
If someone has an innovative idea then s/he should execute that even if there are risks, he says.
7. Flexibly Stubborn
According to Jatri founder and CEO Aziz Arman, entrepreneurs must be stubborn in the pursuit of their vision but be flexible in the execution of how they get there.
When he and his co-founders established Jatri, they wanted to develop a technology that would improve the passenger experience for public transport commuters. However, they envisaged it would have been through a B2C platform, tailor-made for Bangladesh.
That was a challenge for them because technology alone could not create a better passenger experience, the real change would be driven by the bus operators and the technology would enable them to provide better services. So, upon further discussion with the team members and advisors, they were able to create a B2B platform that supported bus operators.
“The crux of the story is that by being ‘flexibly stubborn’ in the execution of our vision, we were able to stumble upon a larger market opportunity than we ever imagined for our product,” he concluded.
8. Word Of Mouth
Word of mouth is considered one of the most effective ways of marketing. According to the Global Web Index, WOM is the fourth most-cited source for brand discovery among global internet users, behind search engines and ads seen online or on TV.
In fact, a study conducted by Wharton School of Business shows that customers gained from word of mouth tend to be more loyal than the customers gained from other sources.
According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.
While explaining the importance of WOM, Nizam Uddin Shipan, the CEO of Print Wizard, said that they have benefited most from the referral.
“Businessmen are a close-knit community. When one customer sees others' work, they ask where they did it from and when they mention us, we get new clients,” he told Future Startup.
When asked what strategy worked behind the growth of Kludio, Kishwar Hasheeme, the founder and CEO of Kludio replied
“We recognize our business as a ‘flywheel concept where you work on making an amazing product that keeps the customers happy, and they, in turn, tell their friends and family about the product. This helps with steady revenue and helps us sustain while creating a great experience for our consumers.”
In one interview Naim Ahmed, the co-founder, and CEO of Zingo, shared that instead of investing in marketing they put importance on WOM which was one of the main factors behind their growth.
Sylvana Quader Sinha, the founder, and CEO of Praava Health considers WOM as the most powerful way of marketing for the healthcare sector.
“If you come to Praava and have an exceptional experience, you might tell your friends and family to come and experience it, and that endorsement will be more powerful than anything you might hear elsewhere,” she said.
9. Solve the Right Problem
When asked what are the lessons he has learned so far Shubho Al-Farooq, the founder and CEO of Zantrik, replied paying attention to the core cause rather than the symptoms while dealing with an issue.
“We rarely pay attention to finding and solving the root problem and we don't do enough research. This is a huge lesson for me. As a result, we ended up investing in research and understanding the core problem. This is the most important lesson for us.” he said.
According to Michael Cooper, the founder of Innovators + Influencers, every business person needs to master the ability to define problems, or challenges, but very few MBA programs, leadership development programs, or management training programs teach this indispensable skill.
Michael Cooper said “ When it comes to determining whether you have defined a problem well, ask yourself or your collaborators if the solution to the problem is obvious or straightforward. Also, ask if it is a problem worth solving - many problems aren’t.”
10. Content marketing and digital outreach
Pointing out the importance of content marketing for the growth of a business, in one Interview Sheikh Shourav, the founder and Apploye Inc., said, “Our content has played a good role in helping to attract new customers. Almost 10-15% of our leads come through our content.”
“For time tracking related information, our blogs rank pretty high in search results that allow us to attract new users. We had to work a lot to prepare these contents and work pretty hard on SEOs, ” he told Future Startup.
According to Ahsan Rony, the founder, and CEO of Travel Bangladesh, organizing online events and social media have helped them to get traction.