A lot of our Bangladeshi startups are focused on building apps for the Bangladeshi market - as they should. Bangladesh is still at an early technology curve, and there are huge opportunities both in bringing in proven business models in the country, as well as finding local solutions to local problems.
But one place where I feel that we often miss, is the huge upside of creating SaaS softwares locally, for the international market.
There are many who are trying to build consumer subscription businesses in Bangladesh. But none are yet to take off. And that is simply because of two simple reasons:
- Payments are not easy - No ApplePay, GooglePay, low credit/debit card penetration. Local cards cannot automatically pull money out of cards, restricting automated subscriptions.
- We have been spoilt by free software. Growing up - I never had to pay for software or media. BitTorrent and Pirated CDs > going through the arduous process of licensing an actual software
I have strong belief that these are industry trends that will be changing over time, but I don’t see these barriers simply going away in the next couple years.
India has had huge success in building international pure-play SaaS startups. FreshWorks and Zoho comes to mind. There is an unfair advantage that they will have compared to any of their Silicon Valley peers;-
Like India, Bangladesh has amazing and underpriced talent. Every line of code we have in Pathao, has been written in Bangladesh, by Bangladeshi engineers. Over the last 6 years, our technology has allowed us to continuously compete with multiple major international players and outperform them through execution. This gives me a lot of faith in the tech talent of this country.
The unfair advantage comes in play as soon as you are earning in dollars (revenue) and still pay for the talent in taka (salary). If we can even provide 80% of the quality of a keystone product, while charging 50% the price - I believe we will be surprised by the number of customers that it can attract.
In fact we are already doing the same when foreign companies set up a dev shop over here, or outsource their tech needs to Bangladesh. This proves the point that we have the talent. What we sometimes lack, however, is the vision and the courage. There are hundreds of dev teams scattered across the country doing outsourced work for foreign clients, but very few are building their own products. Either we are locked in a scarcity mindset, or are afraid of failure.
This needs to change. It has never been easier to build an MVP and get the first 100 customers. We do not need to artificially limit ourselves just by the geography of where we are born. Startups like Instant, Alice or Apploye are showing the path - and others will need to take their lessons to heart.
It’s time to look outwards.
Let’s build for the world.