Sunday, July 12, 2009

Web Entrepreneurship in Bangladesh

Spent two weeks in Bangladesh, country of my birth, this summer. Held a seminar on “Web Entrepreneurship in Bangladesh: Lessons from Silicon Valley” on 4th of July. I was surprised by the turnout. Over 100 tech-savvy executives,managers, entrepreneurs and media representatives gathered in an auditorium in Dhaka on a Saturday to listen to what I had to say. (See coverage) More than Web technology, they were intrigued by the soft skills I listed as being critical to success in any Web venture.

After my hour-and-a-half presentation, animated discussions ensued. What impressed me most was how eager and excited my listeners were in starting their own Web businesses. Right at the beginning I was able to capture their attention by declaring that anyone with an intelligent cell phone could become a Web entrepreneur. 92% of Bangladesh is covered by mobile networks. You see advertisements for Grameen, Cell City and other mobile networks everywhere. With the head-start Bangladeshis have with mobile phones, eCommerce should see explosive growth. I am convinced of it.

What I am planning to offer as a starter is hands-on training on Web 2.0 technologies. An obstacle is difficulty with the English language. When I told the attendees that my training will help them improve their command of English as well, the response was heart-felt.

Rousing seminars are dime a dozen. “Ideas are easier to hatch than execute” was a point I made in one of my slides. Yearly week-long seminars by Non-Resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) in Dhaka have become a common occurrence, yet hardly anything has changed. What's needed is action. I am currently preparing a comprehensive hands-on Web 2.0 training manual and hope to travel to Dhaka and Chittagong in a few months to launch my Training of Trainers (TOT) program.
Bangladeshis are hungry for knowledge. If I can be a catalyst for at least some for them to harness the power of the Web to better their lot and help the country’s economy, it will be an exceptionally satisfying experience. Full steam ahead!

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