It all started at a young age when Khairul Alam was trying to figure out how to make ends meet and pay for his educational needs after having lost his father.
Initially, he went for part-time tutoring to scrape a living, but what he would get was not enough to support himself and his study. Then, he ventured into IT freelancing.
But when that did not take off well, Khairul joined a private job in Dhaka on completion of his graduation. He did not let go of his online work, though. He continued it on the side. Still, his days of financial problems persisted.
One fine day of 2017, out of impulse to do something on his own, Khairul quit his job and set up an outsourcing company, Fleet Bangladesh, in his home district Rajshahi with all of his savings, Tk12 lakh.
In no time, fortune smiled on him and his company went from 20 employees to 550. With hard work, dedication and competence, he has risen from rags to riches in only four years.
"After establishing the company, my goal was to bring a change in the lifestyle of my employees so they can work longer hours," Khairul told The Business Standard.
He used to take his workers on outings – sometimes for even three to four days a week – which paid off, he said.
"Thus, my employees started giving more time to work and their earnings were going up too," he noted.
Khairul thinks workers are at the heart of his company's priorities and he rewards them for their good performance.
The entrepreneur, who could not afford to buy a computer, now spends Tk1-Tk1.5 crore for employee salaries.
Sitting in Rajshahi, a north-western district some 200km off Dhaka, Khairul now provides services to many world renowned companies, such as Amazon, Walmart and eBay.
Khairul has also set up real estate, e-commerce and other companies. The entrepreneur's roaring success headlined many global magazines, including Forbes.
The start from scratch
Khairul Alam is the youngest among five brothers and sisters. His father was a low-salaried government employee.
After passing the HSC exam in 2007, Khairul came to Dhaka and took admission into the Marketing Department at the Islamic International University. But three months later, he lost his father and he was forced to tutor students privately to support himself and pay for study costs.
"I used to teach privately since my school life as my father's earnings were not enough to support my education. But I was looking for something beyond it from where the earning would be more. I tried to receive training on freelancing, but I did not have enough money for that to continue," Khairul said.
One day, he stumbled upon a copy of the magazine "Computer Bichitra" and an article on freelancing caught his eye. He tried freelancing using the university's computer lab to look into how one could make money through online work "as I did not have any computer of my own."
Later, he managed to buy a second-hand computer to start freelancing. After trying hard, he finally got a work order of $200 from a man in the Philippines.
But Khairul's first experience ended bitterly. Once the job was done, the client blocked Khairul without paying. This frustrated the young man.
Later, on the advice of one of his friends, he started working on oDesk, now known as Upwork.com, a global freelancing platform where businesses and independent professionals connect and collaborate remotely.
And, he earned Tk14,000 from his first contract at Upwork in November 2008, the entrepreneur said.
In 2009, he along with two of his friends formed A Cube Solutions and got a work order from the antivirus software giant Kaspersky under a five-year agreement and earned Tk1 lakh.
But the contract ended prematurely in 2011. "Those days were very hard as we used to work only on contracts," Khairul said.
In the meantime, they completed their graduation and Khairul's two friends started other jobs. A Cube Solutions closed down.
With his freelancing work not going well, Khairul also joined the PHP Group, but he did not give up on his online work. He kept working after office hours.
Six months later, he joined Nitol Motors and continued working there for five years.
Khairul was then earning Tk25,000-Tk30,000 from Nitol Motors and an additional Tk8,000 to Tk10,000 from freelancing work, dropshipping, with Amazon.
His online work started growing slowly and by 2011, he had 20 employees. Later, he returned to Rajshahi and set up Fleet Bangladesh at Naodapara in the city.
Two or three days into the establishment of his new venture, he got a work order of $2,000 and has never looked back.
Hundreds of young men and women are working in Khairul's company in the north-western city with many of them setting up their own organisations.
"Rajshahi is now a hub of freelancers. But many people are getting engaged in freelancing without being properly skilled – ultimately damaging the country's image," Khairul noted.
Khairul suggested giving a CIP like status to freelancers who earn Tk10 crore a month or annually.
He also thinks bank loans on easy terms could help many freelancers.