How young were you when you first took an entrepreneurial step?
I was thirteen years old, and in 8th grade. My friends and I were very enthusiastic about sports, football in particular. There were so many of us who wanted to play but there weren’t any tournaments being organised for our age group. So we decided to start hosting football tourneys of our own, and soon figured out that this could be turned into a business. I founded an event management startup named “Enlighten Events” with five of my friends.
What was your first business about? Did it go as planned? What did you learn from it?
Given our knack for football, almost everything we did at the time was surrounding the sport. We loved the game and wanted to promote it through football tournaments, FIFA gaming competitions and match screenings. My time with Enlighten exposed me to diverse situations and made me a better speaker. Be it approaching big local brands for sponsorships or engaging with crowds of 150+ people, my work with Enlighten taught me to be more confident. A quality that would be crucial in the years to come.
The plan was to expand to hosting all sorts of events. We tried to start a series of concerts under the label of “Live Inc.” We planned a series called “Clash of the schools,” which was a tournament featuring 12 competitions such as debates, football, cricket, swimming and stuff like that. It was basically a “mini Olympics” for all schools in Dhaka. These were good ideas, but they weren’t executed.
During my time with Enlighten, we had a lot of good ideas for businesses, but truth be told, we got lazy. This is where I learnt that ideas aren’t worth a dime without proper execution.
Who supported you the most in the hardest of times? Who is your biggest inspiration?
If you’re going to do something unconventional, be ready to fail, and when you fail, make sure you have someone to help put the pieces back together. Doesn’t matter how emotionally detached you think you are, everyone needs a support system. Someone who loves you unconditionally, someone who understands your thoughts, feelings and goals, a voice of reason at times when it’s impossible for you to think clearly. For me, it’s been my mother.
Inspiration comes in different forms, at different stages of life. From an early age, my mother has inspired me many times, in different ways. But above all, she has taught me never to give up. We live in a noisy world where almost everyone is following the crowd. You need courage to find your own path, to keep going even when society tells you with certainty that you’re going to fail. But most of all, you need to have the stomach to constructively handle failure.
Did your studies suffer because of your extra-curricular activities?
I’m currently studying in the 12th grade at Scholastica school. I go to the office each day after attending school. Initially it felt weird entering the office wearing the school uniform. But then again, everything I do, in a way, is different. Taking job interviews of people at least a decade older than you, spending late nights working at the office and being able to build things, at scale, that can improve the lives of people around you, are not experiences every 17-year-old goes through. I don’t mind putting in extra hours to get good grades when I know that it’ll enable me to do the kind of work that I love.
So far, the hard work has paid off. I’ve received an academic achievement award from a national daily for my O’level grades, and have been able to be a part of three promising startups in the past year.
What were the biggest hurdles you had to cross?
It was difficult accepting the fact that my first business, Enlighten Events, wouldn’t work out the way I visioned it to. It was my first real company, and it was difficult letting it go. I spent about a year unsure about what to do next. I started coding when I was 12, and started learning graphic design soon afterwards. I sucked at both at first, but kept practicing. Three years later, those were the invaluable skills I used to build my first real products.
Your recent initiative “Dhaka Rides” has been getting much attention. Tell us about how you gained the inspiration and how it started.
Dhaka Rides is a service with which you can share an air conditioned car ride to anywhere in Dhaka. As we all know, our city’s traffic scenario is worse than ever. There isn’t enough public transport, as a result, we have ridiculously overcrowded buses and expensive CNG fares. We believe the most realistic to way tackle this problem is to promote carpooling in the country. We’re building a safe, comfortable and affordable transport service for everyday use. The goal is to help solve Dhaka’s traffic problem.
Dhaka Rides is one of three promising startups currently incubated at HackHouse Dhaka. We have hardly scratched the surface in terms of what we want accomplish with Dhaka Rides. There’s a long way to go and we have wonderful team working hard to get us there. We’re constantly looking for feedback to improve our service so if you’re reading this, check out www.dhakarides.com and let us know how you think we can build a better service for you.
What are your future plans, personally, and with your ventures?
I’m still split between studying engineering or business, after high school. I’m fascinated by both and believe that brilliant things are possible at the intersection of these fields.
I see myself spending more time and energy working on Dhaka Rides in the future. Focus and perseverance are needed to make good things happen, and those are things I’m willing to put into this project.
Favourite place to eat in Dhaka - Star Kabab
Favourite hangout spot in Dhaka - George's Cafe
Sporting interests - Football
Hobbies - Reading and playing FIFA