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Founder Stories collection: 05 excellent founder interviews

I. Mohan Belani on the making of E27, the future of media business, the importance of trying things, great founders, and a good life

Mohan Belani is the founder and CEO of E27, a Singapore-based Pan-Asia tech ecosystem platform. Mohan and his team have built a Pan-Asia ecosystem platform in a time when the media business is considered one of the most challenging verticals. From a small team of four, E27 today is a team of close to 30 people and has grown to become a leading business matching and tech ecosystem platform for startups, corporates, and investors in Southeast Asia. 

This conversation with Mohan is one of my best interviews in recent times. It is raw, sublime, retrospective, and full of directional insights. We talk about Mohan’s journey to what he is doing today, how E27 came into being, the early days of the company, the trial and tribulations of the early days, his lessons from those days, the state of E27 today, and the ambition going forward, building media companies in today’s environment, future of media business, his takes on what makes a great founder, self-reflection as a personal growth strategy, life as a journey of making meaning, life-changing books, why leaving our ego is important for our work and growth and much more. 

Read the full interview. 

II. Shaerul H. Joarder on building Parcelmagic, the dynamics of the logistics industry, and entrepreneurial lessons

Shaerul H. Joarder is the co-founder and CEO of Parcelmagic, a Dhaka-based tech-first logistics company, primarily serving a broad range of eCommerce companies. Logistics is one of the fast-growing verticals in Bangladesh. The fast growth of ecommerce has created new opportunities in the sector. The last few years saw the reinforcement of this reality with several logistics players raising meaningful capital. Parcelmagic says it has developed a product that is unique and addresses many of the major challenges in logistics and a strategy that allows it to deliver excellent service to its customers. 

I recently had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Shaerul. Mr. Shaerul has over 30 years of experience working and seeing the Bangladesh technology industry evolve. He started his career in the software industry and worked across industries and markets in the technology industry. 

We talk about his journey to entrepreneurship, the evolution of Bangladesh’s technology industry, how Parcelmagic came into being, an overview of the company today and ambition going forward, what separates Parcelmagic from other players in the vertical, logistics industry in Bangladesh, fundamentals of building business and much more. 

Read the full interview.

III. Rayana Hossain on growing ISHO, designing organizational dynamism, furniture business, and upsides of being yourself  

Rayana Hossain is the founder and CEO of ISHO, a Dhaka-based furniture brand. From a humble beginning, ISHO has grown to become one of the fastest-growing furniture brands in Bangladesh. The company claims to be the number one online furniture brand in the country and is now eyeing expansion beyond Bangladesh. 

ISHO is a fascinating company. Achieving fast growth is not the only thing that separates the company, ISHO has built an equally fascinating organization over the years. And companies and founders would be wise to pay attention to the emerging furniture behemoth in Dhaka.

I recently had an opportunity to speak with Ms. Rayana. We talk about the evolution of ISHO, what separates ISHO from other local and global furniture brands, the dynamics of the furniture business, how ISHO has built a culture of relentless dynamism, secrets behind ISHO's excellent growth, her approach to work and leadership, and how building ISHO from scratch has changed her as a founder, her thoughts on design and organization, the ambition of ISHO going forward, why a constant outward-looking orientation can limit our growth, and much more.

What follows is a lightly edited transcription of the conversation. This is the second appearance of Ms. Rayana on the Founder Stories series, you can read her first interview here. The interview is full of original thinking and unique insights. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed doing it. Build great things! 

Read the full interview.

IV. Mahadi Hasan Sagor on building an everything platform to empower SMEs in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has more than 8 million small and medium enterprises. The sector makes up approximately 25% of the country's economy and combinedly generates 40% of the overall employment. Let that nugget of insight sink in, and then look at the challenges SMEs face in the country. It is a long list. We’ve written about the challenges of SMEs many times here and here. For context, SMEs struggle to access finance, hire skilled manpower, access training support, bureaucratic procedures, etc. 

A 2013 study found that over 40% of SMEs lack access to formal credit. World Bank says the SME sector in Bangladesh has a financing gap of $2.8 billion. These challenges push SMEs to borrow from microfinance institutions and the informal sector at prohibitively high-interest rates. 

It is complex problem without an easy solution. SMEvai, a Dhaka-based platform that has developed several services for SMEs, says the mix of solutions for the development of SMEs has key blocks missing such as opportunities and services for SMEs to equip themselves for growth and run their business more efficiently. 

SMEvai has launched several products to add these missing pieces. I recently had an opportunity to speak with my friend and Founder and MD of SMEvai Technologies Mahadi Hasan Sagor to learn more about SMEvai, the challenges SMEs face in Bangladesh, how SMEvai plans to address many of these challenges with its suit of products, and much more. What follows is a lightly edited version of our conversion. 

Read the full interview. 

V. Nuport, supply chain automation, productivity, and entrepreneurship lessons: An interview with Fahim Salam, Founder, and CEO, Nuport

Fahim Salam is the founder and CEO of Nuport, a Dhaka-based full-stack supply chain automation company. Nuport enables manufacturers, distributors, and eCommerce companies to automate their supply chain operations. As Fahim explains, “Nuport is a full-stack supply chain automation company. We work with manufacturers, distributors, and eCommerce brands in building out a back-end automation infrastructure so that you're able to scale and grow faster.”

Mr. Fahim has a multicultural upbringing. Born in Bangladesh, he grew up in Abu Dhabi and studied and lived in Canada before moving back to Bangladesh. Mr. Fahim started his first company when he was in college. Prior to starting Nuport, he was a co-founder at Dhaka-based logistics company Loop. 

I recently had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Fahim. We talk about the origin and evolution of Nuport, how Nuport work, what are the major challenges in supply chain management and how Nuport addresses them, the culture at Nuport, Nuport’s business today and ambition going forward, Nuport’s ambition to build an ecosystem of supply services, his approach to work and productivity, lessons from his journey so far and much more.

Read the full interview.

Mohammad Ruhul Kader is a Dhaka-based entrepreneur and writer. He founded Future Startup, a digital publication covering the startup and technology scene in Dhaka with an ambition to transform Bangladesh through entrepreneurship and innovation. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, and society. He is the author of Rethinking Failure. His writings have been published in almost all major national dailies in Bangladesh including DT, FE, etc. Prior to FS, he worked for a local conglomerate where he helped start a social enterprise. Ruhul is a 2022 winner of Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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