It's hard enough for entrepreneurs to build a successful start-up in Bangladesh, let alone in a place away from the industrial and financial centres of the country such as Dhaka, Chattogram or the Special Economic Zones. Yet, that is exactly what the founders of 7InfoTech have achieved by creating a successful start-up based in Jashore.
Their dream of building a successful business venture in the IT sector and the urge to contribute in the making of an emerging "Digital Bangladesh" has led some young entrepreneurs to found '7InfoTech' in Jashore back in 2017.
"As you can deduce from the name, seven of us founded the start-up. Hence 7InfoTech," reminisced Quamarul Islam Manna, the start-up's co-founder and director.
Initially funded by the founders themselves, 7InfoTech made a name for itself in the field of web development, graphic design and app development. As demand for creating websites and apps for businesses, private individuals and non-profit organisations grew in all parts of the country, including the southern districts, 7InfoTech was there to meet them.
Eventually, it started to get contracts from national and international clients, which gave the firm a chance to truly contribute to the making of a digital Bangladesh.
7InfoTech has worked with BRAC, the biggest non-government organisation in the world, to register the Rohingya refugees in 2019 through a modified app which greatly helped BRAC to distribute foreign aid among the persecuted refugees from Myanmar.
Another similar project the director of 7InfoTech is proud of is something in which the young IT firm has worked closely with UKAid to register and distribute funds among the Rohingyas.
"We created a system through which UKAid would give the Rohingyas money for some work. The registered workers would come in the morning and they'd be identified by the app through their fingerprint and receive their salary at the end of the day accordingly," Manna said.
Apart from serving clients from all over the world, 7InfoTech does have another mission.
The director remembers a lesson from his early days as a freelance worker. An international client who was about to hand him a contract after a two-hour-long meeting refused him the job after learning he was from Bangladesh.
Manna was disappointed but realised one important thing. There are many inexperienced freelancers in Bangladesh who, for monetary gain, take on more demanding tasks than they can handle and eventually fail to deliver, creating a bad impression among many foreign clients about Bangladeshi freelancers in the process.
"There are many good and experienced Bangladeshi freelancers, too. But they are getting a bad name for those so-called freelancers who can't deliver on their promises. Also, there are many institutions in Jashore and around the country that train people on freelancing, which just aren't any good," Manna opined.
Though online freelancing marketplaces such as Fiverr, Upwork and other sites are brimming with Bangladeshis, it seems many of them are not leaving a good impression on the foreigners, who are disappointed at the lack of work ethic and poor skills of many novice freelancers.
This is creating a problem for many Bangladeshi freelancers, who are actually skilled and ethical, as they are having a hard time convincing potential clients.
This led the young entrepreneurs of 7InfoTech to go on a mission to create skilled freelancers through training. 7InfoTech has been training young aspirants on web development, app development and graphic designing.
The tech firm has trained more than 150 young aspirants in a few months since the program was first introduced and these trainees are reportedly working as freelancers quite brilliantly.
According to the director, very few institutions in Jashore have as strong a program in app development as 7InfoTech.
The tech firm has also withstood the countrywide Covid-19 shutdown, which made many businesses go bankrupt.
Although local customers have been scarce these days, 7InfoTech is working on contracts from distant places through the internet and Manna is confident that 7InfoTech's best days are not behind them.
"We have been diligently working with clients from all over the country as well as from Australia, the US, etc. Though we have seen a dip in the physical presence of clients in the firm, increasing online orders from various places have helped us out. I am hopeful that, by the grace of Allah, we will go a long way," Manna said optimistically.
With the economy struggling due to the pandemic and a not so entrepreneur-friendly environment in Bangladesh, especially in areas away from industrial centres or specialized economic zones, 7InfoTech's success story is heartwarming.