In an interview with The Business Standard, JCI Chattogram Cosmopolitan President Tipu Sultan Sikder discusses the problems and potential of young entrepreneurs
Junior Chamber International (JCI) is a global non-governmental organisation headquartered in Missouri, United States. Its members are young entrepreneurs from different countries and it serves as a bridge of communication among young entrepreneurs around the world.
The JCI Chattogram Cosmopolitan chapter started its journey in 2013. At present, it has 80 members. Apart from Chattogram, JCI has 13 chapters in Bangladesh, and anyone aged between 18 and 40 can become a member.
Tipu Sultan Sikder, a young entrepreneur, is currently the president of JCI Chattogram Cosmopolitan. He has been involved with the organisation since 2015.
In 2005, he graduated from North South University with a degree in finance and economics. After graduating, he started working at Standard Chartered Bank. He then obtained a postgraduate degree in bank management.
He started working as a management trainee officer at the Commercial Bank of Ceylon in 2006. At the age of 28, he was promoted, becoming the bank's manager.
He left his job in 2015 and became an entrepreneur. Instead of working in the family business, he built Universal Agro Corporation, an agriculture company that now employs 100 people directly and indirectly.
Why did you quit your job at a multinational company and become an entrepreneur?
I wanted to be an entrepreneur even before I started my job. But I did not have much capital. My father was a businessman. When I decided to become an entrepreneur, I took no money or other support from my family.
Being an entrepreneur does not mean you just make money. Since I studied economics, I wanted to play a role in the economic development of the country. Basically, adding value to the economy means doing something for the overall development of the country. That is why I left my job at a multinational company and became an entrepreneur.
How logical is it for young people to leave their jobs and go into business?
Business is a challenging task. While some people encourage entrepreneurship, many think it is not a profession. Many people are confused if you say before getting married that you are an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is not widely accepted in our society yet and this is a vital issue.
However, not everyone can be an entrepreneur. It involves risks, and that is why there is no substitute for hard work. Even then, there are various uncertainties involved. But in the midst of all this, we have to move forward to achieve success through creativity and effort.
New entrepreneurs start ventures but they do not last long. Why is that?
It is very important for an entrepreneur to know the type of risks that can be taken. Taking initiative without a vision and investing in the wrong sector can ruin it. That is why all the capital should not be invested at the beginning of the venture. Moreover, it is not true that investing in a business will earn you money.
Young entrepreneurs in Bangladesh do quite well at the outset, but they also expect big profits when they are starting out. They do not have a plan to deal with business risks. As a result, their initiatives do not last.
What do you need to do your homework on before becoming an entrepreneur?
An entrepreneur must do a feasibility study on his product or service. Its market value needs to be assessed as well, and this is very important. If you undertake an initiative without doing your homework on these two aspects, it will not be successful.
Therefore, a feasibility study must be carried out and the market value of the product or service must be evaluated. Otherwise, you will be plunged into a state of frustration later.
What are the barriers for lower-middle class youths to become entrepreneurs?
An entrepreneur needs to have the mentality to embrace hardship for two to three years. At the same time, he needs to take care of his family. In this case, not having family backup is a big obstacle.
If you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to start working from your student life. Money cannot be earned with money alone. Creative thinking leads to ways to make money. So, young people need to apply innovative thinking to work so that they can meet their entrepreneurship goals.
What are the barriers for new entrepreneurs to get loans easily? How can JCI play a role in this?
The whole issue of credit depends on banks and financial institutions. They do not want to lend to experimental businesses. Financial institutions are interested in lending to businesses where the risk is low.
Besides, the delay in loan processing is also one of the obstacles to getting loans. This discourages young entrepreneurs. But if an entrepreneur comes up with a good idea, JCI will work with him. In that case, we will recommend banks to give loans to those entrepreneurs.
How important is it for entrepreneurs to be enthusiastic and innovative?
I invested money and became an entrepreneur – there is no credit in it. Rather, it is worthless. What you earn through your own efforts and creative energy will be the most valuable thing. An entrepreneur must always make an impression of creativity, which will make him distinct from others.
What are the barriers for entrepreneurs in Bangladesh to expanding their businesses?
There are problems in bureaucratic procedures in our government organisations. Even if a young entrepreneur starts a good initiative, he has to face trouble at every step while preparing his business' documentation.
I myself faced this. There is no coordination among different departments. As a result, young entrepreneurs face setbacks. In this regard, the government should bring the departments concerned under one roof through a one-stop service initiative.
Government policies should be the same for everyone. Young entrepreneurs will do business according to the rules while there will be opportunities for big businessmen not to comply with the rules – this will discourage young entrepreneurs.
What is JCI's plan to develop young entrepreneurs?
JCI has plans to work in coordination with various departments of the government for the development of entrepreneurs. We will continue to work on entrepreneurship motivation, financing issues and formulating business-friendly policies.
At the same time, we will work to create links among banks and financial institutions to invest in potential start-ups of young entrepreneurs.
In addition, since I will be in charge for a year, I have a desire to work to alleviate poverty at the marginal level so that Bangladesh makes further progress on the Human Development Index.