As the novel coronavirus has led to the shutting down of many businesses, it still gives some hope to some individuals, especially aspiring young students to regenerate and implement their business ideas. To earn, most students in Bangladesh opt for tuition, few prefer part-time jobs. As the pandemic caused lockdown and everyone had to stay inside their homes, the income sources of students almost disappeared. However, in this era of online business and convenient social media marketing, many students took the initiative to start their own businesses. Such vibes spread throughout the country.
“We’ve been thinking for a very long time to have our own earning by entrepreneurship besides studying. When universities remain closed giving us this long break, we both took the initiative to execute our plan,” says HumairaAkter Ramiza, who, along with Mustafa Hossain Likhon, initiated Libaas. She adds, “We aimed to bring export quality clothing within budget and sell it online because we found a demand in the marketplace. Along with many good reviews, we found some loyal repeating customers.”
They are just students of 2nd year at Dhaka University. Already, they are planning to launch a physical store after this pandemic.
Syed Azmain, a 6th-semester student of Chittagong University’s HRM Department, co-owns Leftovers, a lifestyle-based online store in Chattogram. He says, “During the pandemic people were stuck at home and it spelled disaster for most offline retail stores. More people have tried online shopping this year than ever before. So online stores such as ourselves took this opportunity to grow.”
“We enjoy planning and executing various marketing campaigns for our venture. We also collaborated with amazing social media influencers such as Sunehra Tasnim (t.sunehra) and Saba Chowdhury (saboziee). The amount of love and support we received from our customers truly works as a driving force for us to work harder to provide better,” he details.
Rabiya Sultana, a student of Comilla University, says, “This pandemic has finally allowed me to plan for something bigger. I was good at cooking. So, informally I gave the catering business a try. All the efforts surely paid off.”
Many young aspiring entrepreneurs, countless students around Bangladesh have followed the same path during this pandemic, using the social media.
Though some of them gain huge success, the other side of the picture might not be pretty satisfactory. Often student entrepreneurs are demoralised by people, the fear of bad grades or bad academic performance. Hence, social and family barriers become their stumbling block. Bangladesh’s socio-cultural atmosphere often makes it harder for students to grow and succeed outside their educational institutions. Lack of entrepreneurship education at the tertiary level is also a huge factor.
Dr Md Aftab Uddin Jewel, Associate Professor of Department of HRM, Chittagong University, says, “The core part of our teaching is based on business so there’s no place to see student entrepreneurship negatively. Some students might fall behind in academic performance, but it’s upon them to choose between their own business and academics. We encourage our students to balance their academics and careers, try to understand and learn from the designated courses so they could apply that knowledge in their practical life.”
Umar Khosru Sourav, a 4th-semester BBA student of Chittagong University and also co-owner of Tomato Ketchup and Essentials BD, says, “As lockdown was declared, I chose small business to make some earning and do something productive. As a newcomer to the business world, I am facing a lot of difficulties. Investing in resources is a difficult task. Then comes the issue of risk management and efficiency in specific fields. Since having less knowledge, this has been a challenge."
Dwelling on such challenges, Syed Azmain says, “We, my two sisters who mainly run the business and myself, were not properly equipped both in terms of logistical support and skills to handle such sudden growth but somehow we made it through, thanks to some hard work, the sudden innovation, and expansion of various logistical support companies both here in Chattogram and Dhaka.”
A second-year student of Comilla University, who seeks anonymity, says, “I started selling seasonal fruits. People often mocked me by calling me “fruit vendor” or predicting failure. Despite making good profits, I had faced so much negative criticism that it became an extremely challenging job to continue.”
A research study by three Faculty members of Jahangirnagar University distinctly answered these matters as entrepreneurial activity is not widely accepted in Bangladesh. Students often find entrepreneurial activities to be too risky. The study report observed that social psyche and family background matter a lot in supporting or opposing entrepreneurship. However, it has found that students’ inclination towards entrepreneurship depends on relevant education.
Unfortunately, the study has found that universities help very little in developing entrepreneurial skills. Nowadays, the government, trade bodies and some other organisations are taking initiatives for developing an entrepreneurial-oriented economy. It’s high time that there had been academy-industry collaboration to promote and celebrate the success of entrepreneurs so that society is ready to support entrepreneurship.
Iftida Islam is currently pursuing BBA in Human Resource Management at the University of Chittagong.