The six hundred and fifty odd people who gathered at the Nowab Ali Chowdhury Sentae Bhaban in a daylong conference on December 11 had one agenda in mind: driving Bangladesh’s small and medium sized start-ups towards a fast lane.
To materialize that they reached into a consensus that putting a cap onto the aggressive entrance of the country’s telecoms operators and the multinational corporation is of paramount importance. The conference titled “Digital Star-up Conference-2016” was organized by Bangladesh Alliance for Fair Competition (BAFCOM), a new platform that was formed just a month ago in November 2016. Dhaka University IT Society (DUITS) was the co-organizer of the conference.
This was the first ever Digital Start-up conference on such a massive scale.
During the first part of the two part conference on Sunday, a total of 20 successful young entrepreneurs shared their experiences with the audience. At the second part the discussion about the future policy to protect our local startups took place. The speakers also discussed about formulating policy that could patronize the potential future entrepreneurs.
Laying out the main agenda of the conference Mustafa Jabbar, convener of BAFCOM said that they want to protect the local organizations, local entrepreneurs, small and medium size entrepreneurs and local startups from fading away into obscurity.
“We have arranged this program under the banner of BAFCO keeping that intention in our mind.”
Jabbar, who also holds the portfolio of the President of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) said that the foreign owned telecoms operators are foraying into the arena of start-ups in Bangladesh.
“Not only the telecoms operators, but also some of the large multinational corporations have expanded their business into the world of startups.”
Jabbar said that this is alarming because the telecom operators and the multinational companies have huge money at their disposal. “They can simply buy off ideas and people and destroy local start-ups in its nascent stage.”
Because of them, it has become hard for the small and medium size start-ups to sustain in the market, he said.
“We cannot protect our own children in our own market because these foreign players are storming here and grabbing the businesses.”
“We need policy support to make sure that this doesn’t happen. This platform BAFCOM- is created to ensure a level playing field. That will be achieved if and only if policymakers facilitate paving that way for us.”
About the telecoms operators entrance into the start-ups scenario, Jabbar said, “The Government has given them the license and spectrum to do business on voice and data sector. Now if they want to expand their hands onto the IT enabled service development sector then that will be a violation of Market Competition Act-2012.”
Rajib Ahmed, the President of e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (ECAB) said that from the very beginning of ECAB, it is up for the betterment of the small and medium size entrepreneurs.
“The small companies always got the utmost importance from us. For that we have been snubbed by many large companies.”
Ahmed said that the aggressive intention of foreign owned telecom operators and multinational companies can be stopped if the large local companies start to patronize the small and medium size start-ups.
“Unfortunately in Bangladesh, there are very few large local companies who have established their business interests in the IT sector. I am urging our large local companies to come forward for the protection of the small companies.”
Speaking on the occasion, Fahim Mashrur, CEO of bdjobs.com, Bangladesh’s largest job portal, said that today’s young startups are the foundation of future large corporations. “I want to say to our young generation that you should first come up with an innovative idea and then start working on it.”
“If the idea is proven to be very good, then I can guarantee you that the large local companies will come forward to invest in your ideas.”
During the first part of the program, a total of 20 successful start-ups founder including Mohammad Touhid Hossain, Chief Executive Officer of FiFO Tech, Shahabuddin Riad, founder of IT Bazaar BD, Didarul Alam, founder of esho.com, Mir Shahrukh Islam, co-founder of Bonstein, Shafiul Alam, founder of blancer, Dewan Shuvo, founder of chalo, Mohammad Abdul Matin of Doctorola talked about vicissitudes of their start-ups life.
During the second part, Kamal Kadir, Chief Executive Officer of bKash, Shamim Ahsan , General Partner of Fenox Venture Capital, Farzana Chowdhury, CEO of Green Delta Insurance Limited, Munir Hasan, youth coordinator of Prothom Alo, Russel T Ahmed, Senior Vice President of BASIS, Mustafizur Rahman Sohel, Director of BASIS, Hamidul Misbah, founder of Copyright Forum, Habibullah N Karim, Director of MCCI, Abdullah Al Imran founder president of DUITS talked about the policy changes and other necessary reforms for giving the start-ups the necessary level playing fields so that they can flourish.