Residing in Barguna, Barishal, Meraz Ahmed is a freelance event organiser. He was actively looking for a second job until he stumbled upon Inkam on Facebook.
Inkam is a distribution company exclusively for digital products and services which has onboarded promising digital products (learning videos, skill development courses, health services, etc) in the market. The platform allows its users to distribute those products for sales commissions.
"The terms and policies of Inkam are quite easy to understand and accommodating. So I got myself registered the very same day and became an agent of Inkam," said Meraz.
At Inkam, every agent/affiliate who earns a commission for marketing another person's or company's products is known as a 'Digital Uddokta' (Digital Entrepreneur).
"All we have to do is get new customers for the services [of different companies] they sell on this platform. For example, if I am assigned to sell digital course material, I keep looking for potential customers around me. When they agree to buy the course, I send them my customised link through which they can purchase," explained Meraz, adding, "With every purchase made, I get 10%-15% commission in my account."
Meraz now earns Tk2,000 to Tk2,500 in any given week. He leads the Digital Uddokta team of Barishal as well.
Since the world is moving towards digitalisation and the informal economy of Bangladesh is growing phenomenally. Inkam saw an opportunity to merge the two to create a service that benefits everyone in the ecosystem.
Inkam is open for business to any individual (who can work as an agent) or platform (who can work as a collaborator or partner). For instance, Go Global is an international admission and visa processing platform. They also provide career counselling to students going abroad for higher education.
Imtiaz Bin Habib, Assistant Manager, Business Development of Go Global, explained how their sales have increased after affiliating with Inkam.
"Career counselling is our popular service. Previously, we only did its marketing through Facebook and Google ads. These ads definitely gave us a sizable amount of reach, but not even 1% of those reaches made it to the real customer's list. On the other hand, the reach we get through Inkam's agents is almost 100% efficient, giving us good business," Imtiaz told The Business Standard.
If Inkam remains consistent with its growth, Imtiaz plans to invest the lion's share of his company's marketing expenditure in Inkam in the upcoming years.
The void in the digital infrastructure
A research by Statistica.com reveals that ad spending in the Digital Advertising market of Bangladesh is projected to reach $305 million this year. Companies are spending more than Tk1,000 crore every year on digital marketing just on Facebook and Google to reach their target audience.
"All this money is our money, our people's money. It is sad how we have to give it away to global tech giant companies for the sake of marketing. Acknowledging that, we wanted to build a platform that will enable efficient digital advertisements and will circulate the money within the country," said Firoz Uddin Ahmed, COO, Inkam.
Besides, with the increased demand for digital products and the population shifting online, there is an absence of a digital distribution infrastructure for digital products.
"We have a plethora of reselling platforms for physical products (Daraz, Amazon, eBay etc.), but the digital distribution market is still untapped," explained Firoz.
"Through Inkam, we are not only accelerating the access to digital products amongst the masses but also creating income opportunities for the people who have limited or no earnings," said Khalid Hossain, Co-founder, Inkam.
Sowing the Inkam seed
Inkam is the brainchild of Firoz Uddin Ahmed and Khalid Hossain, who have been friends for more than a decade now.
Firoz is a business graduate who worked for Unilever Bangladesh as a territory officer for three years. But his entrepreneurial urge made him eventually quit his high-end job. In 2019, he started his first startup named 'Shopway' which is a distribution platform for grocery items. However, with the onset of the global pandemic, the business petered out in 2020.
"That business might have dwindled, but the experiences and the learnings never did. Inkam is also a distribution-based startup, just for the digital products," said Firoz.
In 2021, when Firoz was working for a digital learning platform Shikho, he envisioned a platform through which he could sell Shikho's content efficiently.
He then consulted with Khalid, who had been working in the design and digital industry for some time. After graduating from Jahangirnagar University with a major in pharmacy, Khalid also followed his passion to mould his career. He started his career working in the social business industry and founded Jamroll - a boutique design studio. This is when he also found his interest in design and portfolio branding.
After intensive research and development for more than a year, this duo launched their much-passionate venture Inkam - the Malaysian word for income - in early 2022.
"While choosing the name for our startup, we were very sceptical. We wanted a word as a name that is globally known and easy to resonate with. We wanted to name it 'Income,' but a domain with this spelling was not available," added Firoz.
"Inkam envisions making income very easy for everyone [to have] and creating digital entrepreneurs beyond the borders," said Khalid.
Anyone who has a smartphone with a stable internet connection can be a digital entrepreneur through Inkam. As of now, Inkam has more than 750 digital entrepreneurs all around the country. Around 500 of them have already made money through this platform.
Currently, Inkam has onboarded six partners including Shikho, Bohubrihi, AmarLab, Bambinos Bangladesh, Shombhob App.
Sunday is Inkam day
Unlike traditional companies that disburse payments at the end of the month, Inkam disburses paychecks on a weekly basis. Every Sunday is called 'Inkam Day.'
"The weekly payday system is very tempting for the youth, and this is why we are getting more and more people interested in this platform every day," shared Miraz. "The payment is directly disbursed from our end to the agents, through bKash and Nagad. We aim to establish the utmost transparency between the agents by having no mediator," added Khalid.