| 7 Essential Tips for the Success of New Ideas– as told by Fahim Mashroor |
This is the era of digital ventures and entrepreneurs like Fahim Mashroor, the CEO of BDjobs.com- the largest job portal of the country, are among the first movers and shapers who are transforming the digital landscape of Bangladesh. He founded BDjobs in 2000; he has experienced shifts in the industry, trends come and go and watched the market gradually mature over the decade. He was awarded the “Best Innovative Entrepreneur” by Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2008 and fulfilled his role as the president of BASIS in 2012 and 2013 consecutively. Recently, in 2018, he received the Best Entrepreneur award from SME foundation.
He shared valuable insights with us on what it takes to succeed as a digital innovator and entrepreneur. We asked about the essentials that innovators must follow, for long term success.
“Contextualize and adapt your ideas to the local market.”
He emphasized on the importance of executing the idea in a way that would be adaptive to the local market and environment. For him ‘innovation’ is not about creating something entirely new and that was not the case for BDjobs; similar ideas existed abroad. ‘Innovation’ occurs at the execution of an idea that is contextualized to the Bangladeshi context and therefore, distinctive. Bdjobs became a game changer because he applied this philosophy. ‘Innovation’ and its main challenge is in modifying the model from a localized angle in order to make it work and for it to be desirable by consumers.
“Ideas are not enough, execution is everything.”
Young entrepreneurs tend to primarily focus on the idea, and execution only comes second to it. He advised entrepreneurs to be more realistic about the challenges that they may have to overcome. The key factors for the long term sustainability and success of ideas are patience and attention to detail. What makes or breaks an idea, especially among infant companies, is to ability and focus to inch towards the main goal, while taking small steps, instead of trying to execute everything simultaneously.
“Get feedback early”.
Getting feedback is essential, especially in Bangladesh where there is more untested territory. It is imperative to assess the beta version and to consider the feedback from the masses while (not after) the product or service is being developed. Bdjobs and his other businesses are operated by focusing on agility and interactivity.
In order to do this properly, entrepreneurs and ideators must retain control over the process. For that to happen, he talks about a strength of Bangladeshi startups, which usually initiates with their own fund. This means that startups can exercise the freedom of operating their ventures and embed the feedback loop from the start.
“You must be hungry and passionate”.
When asked about the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur, he commented that the younger generation needs to have more hunger and passion. Both the qualities are intertwined. Money should not be the driving factor, rather, the hunger for creating something substantial should be the accelerator. He believes that every world changing innovation sprouted from the will and desire to bring about a change and not because the founder was solely profit oriented. The grit to produce something unique surpasses the motive to make money.
Any entrepreneur should be prepared to make sacrifices and be willing to leave their comfort zone. Speaking for himself, Fahim Mashroor said how his idea spurred from his yearning to be proud of the outcome and this required making difficult decisions. He believes that one needs to chase their passion with utmost integrity and profit will automatically follow. A new entrepreneur can be externally motivated by striving to make others proud, but the passion must be generated from within.
“If you are coming from the corporate world, know that the path forward is different”.
Entrepreneurship differs from the corporate world in many aspects, especially in terms of how hierarchy is maintained, how responsibility is delegated and the lack of rigid frameworks. In contrast to being a corporate employee, entrepreneurs, bootstrappers and innovators need to be multi-taskers and they need to share ideas collaboratively. The innovator has to take full responsibility for the idea and the brand. In this case, the innovator is just as important as the idea and he or she must give extra effort to establish their own brand image, rather than depending on the name brand of the corporation they may have been in.
In the Bangladeshi start up context, there is no valuation principle that anyone in the ecosystem can use as reference. At the end of the day, valuation comes down to negotiation. Currently, investors use comparative valuation, using companies from India, Indonesia, etc. as a benchmark. This is a bit of a gamble for both the entrepreneurs and investors, however this is the reality in an emerging market like Bangladesh.
When asked if there is an optimum time in becoming an entrepreneur, Fahim Mashroor advised to start early. Failures cannot be deemed as a deterrent. There is an advantage of having a couple of years of experience and being an established professional; establishing oneself in the market is important, as is gaining maturity, acquiring domain expertise and building networks that will eventually help in the new ventures. At the end of the day, the best time to start is when there are opportunities to fail and start again.