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Sunday, January 6, 2008

When luck is in your pocket

Where there is a will, there is a way. Where there is a rich father’s will, there is even a better way. Where there is your will, your rich father’s will and Will is your bosom buddy in the US, that is the best way….what is your opinion?

How entrepreneurial are you? Can you recall the interesting and innovative business ideas that you have been nurturing since high school? How many of them have been realized? Do you know exactly why they succeeded and why they failed as a matter of fact? Did you invent something unique which at best could make it to the science and ICT pages of a few daily newspapers in Bangladesh and then withered into oblivion due to lack of follow up, lack of infrastructural support, lack of venture capitalists perhaps, lack of patronizing, lack of coverage? So is it always the case that entrepreneurship needs a fine balance between talent, money and contacts at home and abroad? Is it the case only in Bangladesh or is it same everywhere in the world? May be you know better.

But take the case of Cellbazaar. The business idea which was born in the media lab of MIT is bearing fruit now in Bangladesh with massive campaigns at the back of CNG autorickshaws, taxis, billboards, TVCs, print adverts etc. So useful their advertising strategy had been that Nader Rahman in Daily Star Magazine quotes, “Aside from their slick advertising strategy which involves the medium of peripheral vision they are pioneers in another area entirely, far more exciting than advertising, they are on their way to revolutionizing the marketplaces of Bangladesh by making them smaller in size and larger in every other sense of the word, this is where the future starts, now.” My knowledge is too limited to critically evaluate the business model of CellBazaar, they have their challenges and they have their opportunities as well. Experts argue that they have a number of competitive advantages over rivals like ClickBD and Bracnet where the latter parties face major problem of phoney posts with fake phone numbers. Some critics also argue that the CellBazaar concept has very low user retention rates, meaning they have very high number of first time users who eventually don’t stay with them in future.

Nevertheless, I believe it is a worthwhile effort, which has been awarded by international bodies like Tech Museum Awards etc. The point I am trying to make has three dimensions. If the founder of CellBazaar had the brains but not the money to study at MIT, what would have happened? If the found of CellBazaar had the money to study at MIT but not the brains, what would have happened? Lastly, if the founder of CellBazaar had the brain and the money but not the contacts in Bangladesh and abroad, how far would have his brainchild CellBazaar come comparing to where it is now? How easy or difficult is it to tie up with the biggest telecom operator in a country and undertake massive marketing campaigns all over the country? How do you get the endorsement of the leading newspapers of the country who print classified ads of your business venture and feel proud to be a part of it? Are all these ‘hows’ taught in business schools in the Entrepreneurship courses? Or there is a certain or full amount of luck involved in the success or failure of a business venture in Bangladesh? We keep pondering.

The good news is that CellBazaar is associated with a foundation called AQF, a family-run association which is involved in atleast recognizing and help promoting Bangladesh entrepreneurs and their innovations, ideas, if not being able to patronize it. So they seem to have identified the core problems faced by innovators and entrepreneurs in Bangladesh and they are doing their bit to help them. Good effort although I haven’t noticed any news in the newspapers or in TV, may be it slipped off my eyes…or did it?

So in conclusion, I congratulate CellBazaar and wish them well with their business venture. I also wish good luck to innumerous budding Bangladeshi entrepreneurs; I hope they can manage to get atleast some solid national and international contacts to endorse their business ideas. They really can’t undo the fact of not belonging to ‘homra chomra’ families, at best they can hone their skills and increase their professional networks. But oi arki…if you belong to the ‘right’ family, if you have brains and money, not only the ‘market will be in your pocket’ as CellBazaar says in its punchline, you will also find more luck and more money sitting pretty inside your pocket. For the time being, my pocket is torn.


Anonymous said...

I have developed a similar mobile platform called where users can post adverts of things that they want to sell. The site is geared for sylheties as it also has a directory service that has listings of companies in Sylhet.

Red & Green said...

Grameenphone CellBazaar has been nominated for the 3GSMA Global Mobile Awards 2008 in the category of 'Best Use of Mobile for Social & Economic Development'. The other four nominees in the same category with CellBazaar are Grameen Foundation for Village Phone Direct, Motorola for Solar & wind powered GSM macro cellsite, Nokia Siemens Networks for Village Connection, and Safaricom for M-PESA.

The 3GSMA Global Mobile Awards 2008 will be presented at the Mobile World Congress (formerly the 3GSM World Congress) to be held at Barcelona in Spain from February 11-15.

Grameenphone was presented with the 3GSMA Global Mobile Award 2007 for its HealthLine service in the category of 'Best Use of Mobile for Social & Economic Development', and was awarded the 'GSM in the Community Award' for its Village Phone program in 2000.