Entrepreneurship in Bangladesh
Background & History
Bangladesh, a South Asian country which was known as East Pakistan during the partition of Bengal at the time of India’s independence from the British in 1947. With the Liberation war Bangladesh gained its independence in 1971. It has a population of approximately 164 million people, making it the 8th most populous country in the world and the most ethnically homogeneous country in the world as 98% of its population is Bengali.
Pre-Independence Bangladesh has witnessed many dynasties and kingdoms rule over it. It was a major trading centre and a seaport, known for exporting textiles and ship building. The Dutch and the Portuguese were the earliest of the Europeans to set foot into the region, followed by the British. Post British rule, it was governed by Pakistan for a couple of decades, which was mostly a rule of economic, ethnic, and linguistic discrimination that resulted in the Bangladesh Liberation War.
It is the 39th largest economy in the world by nominal GDP. As briefly mentioned above that the region was a flourishing trade centre with an important seaport that enabled international trade, it also is the first regions in Asia to have a railway. One of the fastest growing economies and one of the fastest growing middle-income countries, Bangladesh has the second highest foreign-exchange reserves in South Asia. Major industries include textiles, pharmaceuticals, ship building, steel, electronics, energy, construction materials, chemicals, ceramics, food processing and leather goods. Most manufacturing is geared towards exports, with garment manufacturing being the largest for exports. Agriculture is the largest sector of the economy, providing for approximately 40% of employment to the workforce. In terms of services, Bangladesh is seeing an increasing growth in its Banking and Finance, Telecommunications and Tourism sectors. As per the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report, Bangladesh ranks 168 out of 190 countries.
Entrepreneurship and Startups
Bangladesh has close to one third of its population young, and about 80% of the jobs available are informal and low paying which is resulting in a strong job dissatisfaction by the youth and hence leading to entrepreneurship and starting-up as a more preferred option for many, which in turn provides a variety of jobs for those who do not pursue entrepreneurship but are vary of the informal job sector. The most renowned success stories is that of Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, that has successfully pioneered microfinance as a sustainable tool for poverty alleviation, for which Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
The micro finance success has triggered huge interest in the Fintech space. Some notable Startups in Bangladesh are:
Pathao a ride sharing and delivery platform
Sheba.xyz a services marketplace
Shohoz started of as an online ticket booking platform and is now offering ride sharing and deliveries as well.
Chaldal an online Grocery platform
KhaasFood organic and health food ecommerce platform
Bangladesh Startup ecosystem ranked at 98, lags far behind in comparison to the Global Startup Ecosystem. Total number of active startups in Bangladesh is 1000+, with 200+ startups launching every year.
Although a lot of young adults are starting up and creating employment for many, the fast technological advances globally are creating a shortage of skilled workforce to balance with the fast-changing requirements of a job profile. Skilling and Upskilling the workforce is going to be an important criteria to ensure success in sustainable business growth.
Although the government and many private institutions are promoting Entrepreneurship development initiatives, corruption, bureaucracy and administrative inefficiencies hinder growth. Addressing these roadblocks by not only passing reforms but also monitoring and ensuring timely and successful implementation is a key to making Bangladesh an attractive startup hub in the region.