Five challenges for student entrepreneurship in Bangladesh -Tansen Rose
“It was difficult for me to start the venture and of course to continue it besides my studies,” said Morium Islam, founder of a Boutique start-up. She is a fourth year student of Home Economics College situated at Nilkhet in Dhaka. Importing clothes, beaded purses and showpieces from India, she sells those products in Dhaka city through E-commerce. “Starting a business is really challenging in our country” sheexpresses, “Every student entrepreneurs must face difficulty in different areas”. When she initiated the business she had no support but only criticism from her friends, relatives and people around.
Asad Mojnu, one of the founders of Rajkutir, took an initiative of selling winter clothes on December 2016. However, lack of networking skills caused him to fail in finding a qualified manufacturer. The products he received afterhand weren’t upto desired standard and he failed to meet customer’s needs. Thus, many students, desiring to be entrepreneurs, drop out in different stages of their business.
In contrast, there are many examples of successful enterprises started by the Bangladeshi students. For instance, Himel Ahmed, a student of Social Welfare at University of Dhaka, planned for vending Punjabi two years ago. The investment he made back then still provided him with notable returns. “Along with studies, each student would face challenges to keep their eyes on business. Nevertheless we made it easy for ourselves,” he told.
For a country like Bangladesh, where a large level of investment is needed for economic development, student’s ventures could be remedy for it. Despites some challenges, if students come forward with their innovation in doing business, Bangladesh will explode in the economic field. They just need to remember the following challenges and be resilient in overcoming them.
Doing a business is like raising a child. Starting a business may not be difficult, building and fostering it towards success is the hard part. As business expands, there are more and more challenges that may come constantly. The whole process of raising revenue, managing business, hiring and training employees, distributing products and creating systems needs to be conducted by students. On account of that, students must have patience. In our country, most of the optimistic entrepreneurs are interested in getting returns as soon as possible. They tend to seek profit within couple of months. This culture does not go with a visionary. To be successful they must be patient for have a long term. It may minimize the short-term profit-seeking attitude.
“Entrepreneurship is an illusion, it’s not for you, it’s for those people who have enough family backup, but I used to stare and smile at them,” said Himel. Entrepreneurs who have the will-power to become business leaders eventually have to confront criticism. .There will always be people who criticize the young entrepreneurs even sometimes deter them from doing a business. Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin group, also faced criticism when he started his venture. Mr. Branson suggested for new entrepreneurs not to let cynicism prevent them from pursuing their dreams and to stay connected with the people who believe in them. He adds,“There will always be people out there who are wary of new ideas, or who seek to bring down people who want to do things differently. I know, because those sorts of people have criticized and discouraged me many times in my career. But all you need to do is stay passionate, work hard and stick to your beliefs”.
Mr. Tareq Rahman wanted to found a venture for handicraft items. He communicated with the suppliers who make handicraft items in Rupganj, Brahmanbaria, Sirajgonj and other different areas. Mr. Rahman started an online business with little investment. After running it for six months, he could not tackle the shortage of investment. This was the reason that stopped a student from becoming a visionary businessperson. Getting fund for a student of our country is difficult since no bank or financial institution usually want to provide financial assistance. As the people havea stereotype that students are not qualified for business and they are not able to return the money, therefore angel donators are rare in our country. Initially students should adopt a business that has minimum operating costs and does not need large level of investment. If they concentrate on becoming intermediary of the products, it would offer them financial security as well as required knowledge.
Managing business besides study:
Md. Matiur Rahman, founder and CEO of Green Info Tech, personally believes that students should start their business as early as possible in their honors life. In spite of difficulties, they can relate their theoretical knowledge with practical activities when they start a business.Aspirant students can manage their businesses through their own strategies. In our study, Mele is successfully handling her business with her education and taking it as an advantage, not a burden. She regularly attends the classes, rest of the time she spends for the business. There are three strategies for operating the business besides education that are good planning, prioritization of daily tasks and managing the time. Every night, students can think of the work for next day and plan through some apps like Asana, Todoist and Todo etc. with a view to making every single second properly utilized. For managing the time, Covey’s time management matrix would be helpful that would assist to understand which tasks are urgent and which are important and how to manage them.
Getting right sources:
There are three areas of doing a business like becoming a producer, becoming an intermediary, and becoming a retailer. To start a business with any of the phases needs enough information sources so that the entrepreneurs have availability of suppliers and high bargaining power. In most of the cases, students do not have enough networking or knowledge about suppliers in order to select the perfect one.
The founder of Rajkutir failed because he had scarcity of information therefore he had to settle for a manufacturer who could not provide the products as promised. If he had many options to choose, he might not have to drop out from ongoing business. Perfect networking is a social capital that helps growing the start up through providing information about potential investors, potential suppliers and prospective customers.
Punit Arora, assistant professor at the Collin Powell School, suggested that students should at first find out their own skills and reach out to someone who has unique knowledge, skills, and expertise. Approach the networking as any other part of a business that must be given equal importance. To maximize the networking, students should maintain a plan with specific goals that they need to follow. Networking with the right people not only increases the capacity of a start up but also motivates the students to precede their start-up.
Bangladesh is the eighth most populated country in the world. The population has multiple problems which provide young entrepreneurs with many problems to solve. Though these five difficulties may interfere in their start up, they can easily tackle it by following strategies. Students may conduct the business at minimum investment with the help of E-commerce, F-commerce, and M-commerce etc. It is high time to begin a start up. If one can’t do so in this technological era, he or she may never be able to do the business at any time. If students do not initiate for the business then who will? If this is not the perfect time then when is?
The writer is a post-graduate student at the University of Dhaka.