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We’ve been touring emerging markets for more than a year now, and are quite excited to visit Bangladesh soon — a country better known for its garment industry, but one which has also more recently become home to a fast-growing startup scene that’s bubbling with anticipation and change.
To give you a bit of a context, you’re in a part of the world where the population is big. Bangladesh is home to 160-million people (a number that’s expected to rise to 218-million by 2050), and is usually classified as one of the three South Asian countries. The other two are India, with a billion-strong population, and Pakistan, which has almost 200-million citizens.
Those three countries have often been described as the “bottom of the pyramid”, a region where the majority of the people live with less than US$8 per hour, and an extremely low level of development. Access to water, sanitation, power and education are often mentioned as key priorities.
Without downsizing the huge challenges these populous nations face, their recent economic track record has been quite strong in helping the middle-class to grow. And almost inevitably, a bigger middle class leads to greater opportunities for technology companies.
To give you a rough idea of where Bangladesh’s growth fits in relative to its neighbours, the graph below shows a consistent growth forecast, with India of course leading the pack of the South Asian region:
As in many other emerging markets, it’s the diaspora who has been instrumental in kickstarting a tech scene in Bangladesh, in particular in its capital city, Dhaka.
A few months ago, a team led by Mustafiz Rahman managed to crowdfund about US$9 000 to shoot a web documentary on this local scene. Startup Dhaka, as it’s named, is a one-hour journey across what is a nascent tech ecosystem.
Take a look at the video below:
The artistic direction and overall high level of professionalism makes it an invaluable piece of startup ecosystem archaeology. Why? Because the future of Bangladesh is bright for entrepreneurs, as the upcoming tech festival Innovation Xtreme hopes to show the world.
In their vision, the conference organisers project that “in 2050 where every child is educated and enabled by a technology platform, every child is able to go to school and join the workforce in a meaningful manner to contribute to society”.
As a young tech ecosystem, the organisers’ first task is to increase the level of networking and education attendees can get from experts coming from other Asian countries.
In a conversation we had a few months ago in Dhaka, it was also understood that the local startups would first need to emigrate — learn from the top accelerators and mentors in Asia — before coming back to create a first generation of successful entrepreneurs-turned-mentors.
But let it be clear, while the boom is yet to hit its shores, there are quite amazing startups in Bangladesh already, such as LifeLine (an app connecting hospitals to blood donors) or content marketing platform Newscred, which has raised a total of about US$40-million in two rounds already.
Image by Adam Cohn via Flickr.