Thriving Startup Ecosystem Adding to the Country’s Economic Prosperity:
According to a study done by the Progressive Policy Research Company, startups create more than 3 million jobs each year and remain at 3 trillion in market value. In the local context, these enterprises can contribute to the domestic economic momentum by creating more jobs through their innovation, playing an important role in changing the local economy and education system. For a developing country like Bangladesh, this unique approach of the entrepreneurship ecosystem is going to develop a culture of digital adoptions in every aspect of life, which will contribute to the country’s vision to become a middle-income country.
Bangladesh is slowly making its presence felt across the Asian belt, driven by its population of 164 million who are mainly from the median age of around 27.9 years. Investments across the country have almost quadrupled over the last decade, with more than 102 million people now having access to the internet and 94 million successful mobile internet penetration. A staggering 62% of the young population are now quickly adapting to new technology, opening up to new ideas and exploring new avenues of improvement, thus, bolstering the entrepreneurship ecosystem, which has since drawn over USD 200 million from international investments from big-name corporate investors and venture capitals, investing in industries like FinTech, Logistics, and Mobility over the last four years. The middle class is also growing at a strong 10% per annum and expected to reach 34 million by 2025. More than 1200+ active Startups now generate 1.5 million+ employment – who are also the active consumers of products and services made by startups, as part of the country’s everyday life. These are strong signs which indicate that Bangladesh is perfectly placed to become an important crown jewel in the Asian Subcontinent, propelled by more and more young people who are willing to take risks and push for greater innovation.
The startup ecosystem which mainly formed around Dhaka and Chattogram has been growing on the back of sectors like IT, e-commerce and digital marketing. Gradually, the focus has been shifted to ride-sharing and logistics due to the rising consumer demand as well as recent investments received by industry players: Pathao (US$12 Mn from Go-Jek), Shohoz (US$15 Mn from Golden Gate Ventures), Deligram (US$2 Mn from Skycatcher). Fintech company bKash, with an active user base of 31 Mn and investment from Ant Financial, is changing Bangladesh’s mobile financial sector and encouraging new entrants. Driven by the recent shifts in technology and business processes the demand for online courses is growing — giving rise to Edutech startups.
But beyond these cities, entrepreneurial culture is not that vibrant and result oriented. In an effort in finding the root cause, Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority has conducted a study on 100 startups located across the country and has come up with challenges as follows:
High Office Cost: Nine out of the ten startups identified the high cost of having an office to run their operation as a major challenge
Growing utility cost: Founders have also pointed out the increasing cost of the utilities that creates a barrier into their regular cash flow in the early stage
Little to no mentoring and incubation support beyond Dhaka and Chittagong: Startups formed in Dhaka and Chittagong get priority from the hubs created by different incubators and venture capitals and other private sources. But beyond these cities having a call of mentorship or incubation barely takes place. As there are no hubs those can work as a mutual place for the founders and mentors to establish a relationship
Lack of entrepreneurial culture: As the support functions are not available, the entrepreneurial culture beyond the city areas have not been developed. As a result, a large chunk of youths are not able to utilize their full technological potential.
National startup programs are too competitive for local startups to make a place: Most of the startup’s competitions are organized nationally, where local level entrepreneurs coming up with local solutions hardly make a place. As a result, entrepreneurs in the regional level are not having enough room to be mature and compete nationally.
Realizing the potential, Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority (BHTPA) is taking various initiatives to create new entrepreneurs to create jobs through promoting and encouraging entrepreneurship, therefore, we are developing Start-ups in the Hi-Tech Parks located across the country. With dedicated space, free internet, electricity, free utilities, and other fringe benefits designed only to curate Bangladeshi and global startups. To develop a collaborative approach to develop world class startup ecosystem for local and international startups in the Hi-Tech Parks BHTPA is coordinating following activities:
Outreach Training Programs, organizing of the training, workshops, seminars and mentoring sessions for the Bangladeshi Startups
Quarterly sessions with the VCs and accelerators / incubator networks located globally to help Bangladeshi startups to obtain seed and growth stage.
Supporting development of the startup ecosystem in Bangladesh with policies and legal issues by organizing events on such pressing issues.
Opening up new markets for Bangladeshi Startups and vis-a-vis
So far, more than 100 startups have received one-year in-house incubation facilities from the BHTPA. This incubation facility is available to avail by prospective entrepreneurs in all hi-tech parks across the nation.
Developing Entrepreneur Supply-Chain:
Startup Idea Pitching: Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority has taken initiative to build startup cultures at the regional level by organizing focused startup competitions only for the regions. So far, in the first Startup Idea Pitching Program, Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority has connected 2000+ startups from 5 regions (Rajshahi, Jessore, Khulna, Chittagong and Sylhet) from which 143 startups have already received free space, utilities in the parks located in those cities. Along with infrastructure support, these startups are also going to receive one year long dedicated mentoring support, curated communications with the potential VCs. So, then they can graduate as a sustainable business within one year and make room for the next batch.
Keeping the culture development in mind, Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority is working to provide skill-up, grooming, and mentoring support to the rest of the startups from the idea pitching to become ready for the next intake. This will allow Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority to have a regional basis potential list of entrepreneurs and can plan supporting programs in years to come.
Unibator (University based Incubator): According to the Data of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, about one million (10 Lac) students enter the job market every year after graduation. As per the graduation rule, all graduating students must submit at least one thesis or similar academic project to be eligible for the completion of the graduation. But in almost all cases, these projects or concepts / theories or ideas remain confined to the report with no practical use of the ideas. As a result, students tend to choose repeated topics, performing a copy paste, rather than working on new concepts or innovative ideas.
Through the UNIBATOR program, Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority (BHTPA) hopes to bring a change in the thinking process of our educational institutions and upcoming graduate level students regarding the thesis / academic projects. The name UNIBATOR has been derived from the statement, ‘University Incubator’ that will be connecting graduating level students to guide them to pick up topics to find solutions to national challenges. So far we are in the first phase of the Unibator Program.
Adviser to Honorable Prime minister of ICT Affairs
ZUNAID AHMED PALAK, MP
Honorable State Minister
N M Zeaul Alam PAA
Bikarna Kumar Ghosh
Managing Director (Grade-1)