For Saif Ibn Mazhar, the road to entrepreneurship was not easy. His first venture, Think Forest, was formed with a lot of hard work and high expectations. But his very first try at being an entrepreneur did not work out as expected, and the firm had to be closed down in a few months. ‘It was a major setback for us,’ he said to us. ‘We just started off at that time, and we had to close it down. We faced a huge loss.’
But the failure was not enough to deter his ambitions. Within a few months, Mr. Mazhar came up with Tech Candle BD, a B2B firm which specializes in web designing, web development and software development for local companies. Mr. Mazhar uses his expertise from his previous experiences to do most of the complicated work for the firm. ‘We set up Tech Candle BD in January 2016, so we are still at an infant stage.’
After working for different firms, Mr. Mazhar thought of working only for himself. ‘Sure, the income is stable when you are working in a typical office, but for me, it was not enough. I did not want to work under someone,’ he explained. ‘So I chose to make my own firm and have a team of people work for me instead.’ Despite his initial hiccup on route his journey to be an entrepreneur, Mr. Mazhar has envisioned new plans for Tech Candle BD. ‘Since we are still new, we have deals with around 4 to 5 local firms,’ he said. ‘But we are targeting to make more deals with at least ten companies this year.’
To get over the difficulties of the initial stages of his startup, Mr. Mazhar chose a coworking space from which he could operate his business. ‘The first time I learned about coworking was at a conference,’ he recalled. ‘It was held in Bangabandhu Convention Center and was attended by many entrepreneurs and startups. There, the CEO of Hubdhaka, Mr. Sajid Islam discussed the concept of coworking, which fascinated me. Fascinated with the idea of working alongside people who have the same passion as me, I paid a visit to Hubdhaka’s office. I liked the working environment and decided to give it a shot.’
So what are his thoughts on coworking? ‘Fun,’ he said simply. ‘I find the workplace to be fun. We are all cordial and friendly with each other. The members here have similar ideas and thoughts. It is fun to share resources and news with them.’
According to Mr. Mazhar, the entrepreneurs in a coworking setting have a sense of independence, which keeps them all well knit and connected. ‘When I used to work from home, it was so…lonely,’ he said. ‘I used to get bored and quickly demotivated because there was no one to talk to nor anyone to share my thoughts with. I am usually an introverted person, but I get along with a few people here.’
But removing isolation is not the only benefit he reaped from coworking. ‘When I hear stories about someone’s success here, it motivates my teammates and me to work harder and do better,’ he said enthusiastically. ‘Just a few days ago, we celebrated the success one of the members for selling 100 million worth of products in 2016. It is not a competition here; it is inspirational.’
As the startup culture grips all of Bangladesh, the entrepreneurs and freelancers will need a fixed space to operate from. But there are several risks associated with it. ‘Firstly, it is risky to set up your own business because there is little logistic support for new entrepreneurs,’ Mr. Mazhar said. ‘ It is not possible for them to do every little thing by themselves. Secondly, it is too costly. From investment to operational costs, working from their own place in the initial stage will only lead to increasing expenses. At a coworking space, logistics support is available for the members and the operations costs are low. These factors are making new startup owners choose coworking.’
‘But most importantly, it is the newness of coworking itself which is probably causing this trend to pick up. As people learn more about coworking, we can see people setting up their own coworking places in their locality,’ he added.
Even though coworking is the best option for Mr. Mazhar now, does he see himself working in this setting in the future?
‘To be honest, this depends on the team size,’ he said. ‘Right now we have four team members. Operating from our own place will be too expensive and time-consuming. If we increase our team size in the future, we might have to relocate to another suitable option to met out the costs. At this moment, however, we are perfectly fine at a coworking setting.’
Before signing off, Mr. Mazhar shared some of his thoughts for the new entrepreneurs. ‘For new startups, I would suggest them to search for coworking spaces near them,’ he advised. ‘ It is the initial stage where you will need all the help you can get. When coworking spaces are ready to help startups, it is wise to take the chance. Being an entrepreneur is no walk in the park. But the freedom to work the way I want is available is there. At a coworking setting, I am working alongside many people who understand my thought process.’