Cultural bias and discrimination have undoubtedly limited the number of female role models in the business sector of Bangladesh. This phenomenon however is changing as adventurous young female entrepreneurs are coming up with brilliant startups.
On the occasion of International Women Day, we feature a pair of ‘two-women led’ startups which have successfully given Dhakaites something new and original.
Moar: A homely co-working space
The rising property rates in Dhaka are forcing people to work from their homes and meet their clients in restaurants or coffee shops. This is especially true in the case of startups, which are perpetually working on a shoestring budget.
This trend, however, has given rise to the relatively new concept for the capital of the 'common workplace' or 'co-working space', which addresses the budget crunch faced by startups, sales teams or individuals.
Jumping onto this bandwagon, two architect friends – Nabila Nowrin and Nahid Sharmin - founded a co-working space in Banani called Moar, a Bangla word which means 'a turning point on a road'.
“We founded Moar to address our own problem of getting things done in a cost effective manner,” says Nabila.
Nabila and Nahid came up with the idea of Moar out of necessity. Without an office, they were facing problems with meeting clients.
"My partner Nahid Sharmin and I had to meet clients in coffee shops as we couldn’t afford renting an office space in a decent location," Nabila says. "But the problem was sometimes our clients didn’t feel comfortable. We met a contractor at a coffee shop in Gulshan once, and he felt alienated in that environment".
Co-founder Nahid says there was also a cost implication for the impromptu meeting places.
"Our expenses were also increasing as we needed to pay the expensive bills of the coffee shops," she says. "That’s when we thought of establishing Moar, a co-sharing workplace where young startups could work as well as meet their clients in a proper ambiance".
The Moar co-founders believe that freelancers and other professionals who don’t work for the whole year can save money for the un-utilised period of the year if they rent a co-working space to conduct their business.
"Nowadays people don’t necessarily need a landline that’s plugged into a wall and they also don’t have to sit in front of the phone every single day," says Nabila. "An office worker can be mobile and be an on-the-go entrepreneur. It would simply be a waste of money to pay for a full-time office for many of them".
Jetechao.com: ‘Dhaka happenings’ with one click
With increased purchase power of the urban population and the tendency to go out more, Dhaka has become a city of 'happenings'. Cashing in on this new trend, two friends founded jetechao.com to let Dhakaites know about what's happening around town.
It’s a website which regularly lists and updates various events going on in Dhaka. Reem Shamsuddoha, one of the founders of this website says the idea of JeteChao spontaneously came to her mind three years ago in 2013, during a conversation with co-founder Mehnaz Tabassum.
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“We all used to live abroad prior to moving to Bangladesh. We used to talk about how life was monotonous and boring in Dhaka, and even if there were events happening, there weren’t enough sources to know about them. That’s when ‘JeteChao’ took its first breath,” she said.
However, at that time, starting an online event listing portal didn’t seem to be much of a business opportunity and hence the idea was kept incubated and undisclosed, she added.
“Finally in August 2015, we took the chance and launched JeteChao. Since then JeteChao has seen remarkable growth.”
Reem believes that the entertainment culture in Dhaka has evolved and grown in the past decade. Previously, family gatherings and occasional dining outside would do. Now there is a demand for more. This trend has spiked, especially in Dhaka.
“People only complain that Dhaka is boring and there isn't much to do because they don't have access to the information about what's going on in town," Reem says. "Jetechao believes that it is unfair if you can't go, just because you don't know. That is why we are here. JeteChao aims to be the number one, one-stop, entertainment solution in Dhaka".
The JeteChao website includes registration and ticketing options which are under continuous monitoring to ensure that their users receive their tickets on time.
“We want to facilitate everything and our website has the capacity to do that,” she says.