It’s week-end time, so let’s watch movies and instruct ourselves on the tech scenes from the emerging markets, with, for today’s edition, Startup Dhaka, a webdocumentary acting as an introduction to Bangladesh’s capital city startup scene. I was recommended this movie by a friend of mine, and took an hour a few days ago to watch it entirely.
In a nutshell, Startup Dhaka is a very well directed documentary touring the top spots of Dhaka, meeting with investors, media, startupers, people from the diaspora, and how they try to build a startup ecosystem to answer the country’s problems. Let’s dive first into some stats & insights about Bangladesh itself.
Bangladesh: welcome to the 7th largest country in the world
As you know if you follow us, we’re fond of unveiling how BIG and juicy the emerging markets can be, and sometimes, data is a first good point of entry to understand the scale of our topic:
- Bangladesh is the 7th largest country in the world, with 165m population
- 60% of the population is below 30, and 34% below 15
- 72% of the population lives in rural areas (India has 68%, for comparison)
- Internet users account for 18% of the population (94% of which through mobile). 20% has no access to any media.
Economically, statistics are average, as for most of the large developing countries, 6% is a “normal” rate, but 7.5 to 8% is actually needed to turn a significant share of the population into middle-class.
Bangladesh exports a lot of garments and clothes (second largest after China), but more complex safety rules will make it harder for the country to rely on this. Remittances account for 12% (and growing) of the GDP, as many young males are employed as workers in construction in the Emirates and South-East Asia.
Startup Dhaka: a guided tour of Bangladesh startup scene
With this backdrop in mind, and fast-growing urban population, there are lots to do as an entrepreneur in Dhaka, and as in many emerging markets, most of the founding fathers of the ecosystem are diasporans back from Canada, the US, or other countries they have been to, and where they got an exposure to startups.
One of the interviewees, Nash Islam, says he went to Silicon Valley in 2009, “and always wanted to come back”. He has now a startup monetising content on the web. Another one, Amar Makon (from Loosemonkies, find jobs intelligently) was in Canada, and he came back to Dhaka “every 6 to 8 weeks to assess the evolution of the community.”
We found the same interest of the diaspora in Iran, a country somehow similar in terms of opportunities (similar market size and similar state of the startup scene)
As a very young country in terms of startup advancement, all is to be done, with “no support mechanism, no incubator, no Techcrunch, no YC Combinators… entrepreneurs are the same everywhere, but the infrastructure in Bangladesh is definitely not the same”. Many interviewees stress the fact that a lot of what happens in Bangladesh is still offline, from networking to advertising.
We’ve noted a few startups with strong local anchor in Bangladesh during the movie, including:
Amardesh e-shop, a marketplace providing access to the huge rural population’s production, from spices to craft, veggies and clothes
Lifeline, an app to connect blood donors and givers, in a country ravaged by traffic accidents
Urban Launchpad, the first printed map of Dhaka’s Bus system, by a team of hackers from Bangladesh and the US working on open infostructures
So now you’re all set to watch the movie itself, enjoy!