BornoIT was not born in the most entrepreneur-friendly environment. It had limited funds and was placed away from the commercial hubs - Dhaka, Chattogram, and other major cities - isolated from IT-related business opportunities one may cherish.
Yet, BornoIT has survived and flourished unlike many. Ever since Ujjal Biswas, the founder and CEO of BornoIT, started working in Chhationtala Digital Post Office, he wanted to become an entrepreneur and start his own IT firm.
"No aspiring entrepreneur who wishes to start an IT firm can get a loan in Bangladesh. Banks want to see collaterals, they want to see go-downs, and they want to see products before issuing a loan. Since my business was supposed to be internet-based, I was not 'qualified' enough in their eyes to get a loan. So, I had to fund my own start-up, and had to borrow from well-wishers to start BornoIT," said the Ujjal.
With a modest fund of Tk500,000, he rented a 690 square feet office space at Jashore's newly founded Sheikh Hasina IT Park, in 2018. The picturesque IT Park offered him a suitable place, yet the CEO was concerned as IT business was scarce outside Dhaka and he had to bear Tk8,000 office rent along with salaries of seven staff members.
Surviving the odds
BornoIT did not falter. The team managed to work through every problem.
Since the local market had a shortage of demand, BornoIT created some. The young IT firm sent representatives to local businesses and offices - informing them of the advantages modern technologies offer. They did not succeed in convincing everyone, nonetheless, they got five out of every 50 people they contacted to go digital.
BornoIT creates e-commerce sites, software, and helps clients build as well as maintain their online presence. In some cases, BornoIT has stretched so far as to train many shopkeepers out of cost to help them adapt to using online business platforms.
Apart from these, this emerging IT firm has served customers from all across the country, often at surprisingly low prices (sometimes completing orders at 25% of the usual prices charged by Dhaka-based IT firms). This business model and market approach has helped BornoIT stand on its feet.
BornoIT has joined the LICT project - leveraging ICT for growth, employment, and governance projects organised by the Government of Bangladesh and monitored by Bangladesh Computer Council, BCC - which trained 200 entrepreneur-aspirants. The IT company has worked to train dozens of trainees and appointed 11 of them after the courses. This firm has also been involved with a World Bank project that trained dozens of people in web development and other areas.
Now, after two years, BornoIT has expanded its operations to four more districts outside Jashore - Narail, Satkhira, Magura, and Jhenaidah. Devotion and hard work has allowed it to flourish even when the Covid-19 pandemic struck the IT sector hard. So much so that even after the pandemic, the firm still has 16 people on its payroll.
"We had to halt our entire operation for over four months. Though we began working again in August last year, I had to bear enormous losses - I lost months of opportunities and business. But, my staff members are trained people without whom the business would falter, so, I decided to keep them on the payroll amid the pandemic. The rent, maintenance costs, and salaries cost me over TK600,000 during the crisis," the distraught CEO lamented.
Even though pre-corona market demands have not been restored, BornoIT has turned around its challenges into opportunities. Ujjal is now looking for chances to expand the business.
Expanding the horizon
He has recently founded "Deshi Feriwala" as a subsidiary of BornoIT. It is an e-commerce site that sells authentic southern food items such as honey from the Sundarbans, Jashore's famous molasses, ghee (clarified butter), and others.
Ujjal also launched "BornoIT Institute" in Chhationtala, Jashore to equip and train young aspirants in e-commerce, web developing, and other areas which would, in turn, aid them to build their own start-ups in the future.
"My goal is not to help people make a lot of money right away, it is to help them become entrepreneurs who would build start-ups and that is how 50 entrepreneurs can go on and provide jobs for 5,000 more in future," said Ujjal.
When asked what he saw in the company's future, Ujjal smiled saying, "I will recruit 200 more people and expand BornoIT further, in Sheikh Hasina IT Park here, in Jashore, and beyond".
BornoIT is currently looking forward to expanding its office space. With its teaching endeavors, hundreds of satisfied clients, 29 awards for its many accomplishments, and plans to engage more people by sharing the advantages technology has to offer, BornoIT has been opening new doors of opportunities in and around Jashore.
For all these reasons, one might refer to BornoIT's journey - from earlier struggles to recent successes - as an encouraging experiment that would kindle youngsters' imagination to go for their own startups with refreshing new ideas in the future.