I had an opportunity to meet none other than Shahrukh Islam, the Managing Director and Co-founder of Singularity Limited and Bondstein Technologies Limited. Hear from him about his ambitions and experiences.
● After studying EEE why did you choose to be an entrepreneur instead of an engineer?
I and my school friend Zafir are the main founders of Singularity limited. We grew up together. In college, we decided to do something in the tech space. We went to different schools for our undergraduate degree. Zafir went to BUET and I went to IUT. Even after studying in different schools we started to work together from 1st year which was in 2012. Back then we didn’t plan to be a businessman; rather we just wanted to use technology to make an impact. Our main aspect was to help the people through our work and by those small works it became an agency.
We started off with small business services and when our reputation grew we decided to open Singularity and over time we expanded our agency. Our main target was to create an impact that changes the lives of other people and to this day we are following this motto.
Yes, we do believe that business is profit-driven but it needs to be sustainable as well. If we do something, it needs to be worth doing. I could have pursued an engineering career with the goal of getting a decent job, pursue a different lifestyle but I didn’t because I believed that with my skill set whatever I can do best, I’ll do that. This is the main reason why I’m now on the entrepreneur side instead of practicing as an engineer.
● Establishing a company at a young age is not an easy task. What were the challenges that you’ve faced?
There were a lot of challenges but the biggest one was setting up a structure and managing finance. Valuation of talent is a very new concept in our country. Our economy has always grown around trading businesses since long back. Look at the apparel industries, for example. Export-Import has been the core concept behind building any business based in our country. From the beginning of this decade, we have started to talk about innovation and technology. But in our early stages, it was difficult to even open a simple bank account for our tech company. We had to pay customers but none of them would pay us in cash. The bank couldn’t authenticate us since we didn’t have an office. Again a classic chicken and egg problem. Somehow, we managed. Later came in the challenges of valuation, funding and associated operational and scalability issues.
Challenges will make you stronger. You’ll learn when you fall. This is the fun side of entrepreneurship; you keep challenging the challenges.
● What type of services do you provide from Singularity and Bondstein?
Singularity limited is the first company that we’ve started back in 2013 officially. Our target is to provide the best in the class technological services to our clients. We have 3 major service verticles. The first one is the studio and video productions verticle from where we produce commercial video content for our clients. We even provide strategical support for our clients on how these content should be placed and promoted to get the maximum returns on investment. These types of services cover a major portion of today’s digital marketing industry. Our second verticle is software and mobile application development. We have provided numerous automation solutions for large companies in different capacities. We mostly work in the BOO (Build-Own-Operate) model. Our experience with top of the line technologies has unlocked immense opportunities for us. Our third verticle is providing immersive technology solutions that include augmented reality, virtual reality, game development, and mixed reality. We have a unique positioning for providing experiential marketing solutions for our clients where we blend in promotional activity with lifestyle experience. For the last seven years, we have worked with more than 200 clients including top brands like Unilever, British American Tobacco, Robi, Grameenphone, IDLC, Beximco, Fresh, Partex, and other local and multinational companies. We have also experienced working with global clients like Marks and Spencer, Google, VDOTours, Uber and others.
Bondstein is a company that focuses on IoT (Internet of Things). All our work is product-based. “Track My Vehicle” is one of our projects which is a vehicle tracking system licensed from BTRC. We are a business partner of Robi where we jointly offer Robi Vehicle Tracker product in the market. We also have a remote power monitoring solution that is used in nearly 900 portable generators in more than 12000 telecom sites all around the country. One of the finest projects that we did from Bondstein was to stop the question leak of medical admission questions. For the last four years, we have been providing high tech support to the government in securing question transportation during the admission. This project has been very instrumental in ensuring proper merit assessment while selecting future doctors.
The basic difference between these 2 companies is that Bondstein offers IoT related products and Singularity is a business service agency.
● Working on 2 places at the same time requires multi-tasking and time management skills. What are your thoughts about this?
Not just Bondstein or Singularity, I’m also involved in a few other social activity groups. If you love doing what you do, then multitasking is not difficult. The first thing you need to ask yourself is whether you love your job or not. If you love what you’re doing, then you’ll be able to manage time.
The thumb rule for doing multitasking is to be organized. So, organize yourself first. The same goes for time management. Make a routine, follow google calendar but don’t get carried away with your work. Sometimes you need to take a step back and reflect on self-assessment.
● Which skills, do you believe, are most needed in the current corporate arena?
Skills are driven by vision. What I think is that currently in the corporate sector the most needed skill is “Critical Thinking” and “Learning Skill”. People often forget to update themselves with the current trends and requirements. And also sometimes before following the latest trends, one must try to reason.
We need to learn to adapt and manage situations. Stakeholder engagement and having a clear vision of what one wants to achieve is a must to become successful in the workplace.
● Can someone be a change maker without generating new ideas?
This entirely depends on how one perceives the idea of being a changemaker. From the smallest capacity, anyone can contribute to make the world a better place. Think about a road filled with expired trash as a problem. You can go out on the road, pick up the trashes and dump them in a dustbin, that’s how you can contribute as a volunteer of a clean world. You need will power to do something for others. We sometimes wait for a big idea to pursue ourselves as a hero. But making a change is simpler than that.
● What does it take to be a creative person and work in the creative industry?
In our country, the value of creativity is often undermined. You need to be patient and resilient. May be out of a hundred ideas that you give, one might click. But if you are passionate enough that won’t stop you from generating the next hundred ideas.
Having said that, creativity has its own power to break the status quo. But before coming into this industry you need to ask yourself if you really want it. You have a stronghold; you have a critical thinking capacity that others don’t have. This is what makes you creative. Know the worth of your task before doing it.
● Any advice for the young entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship is rough. It mostly starts off as a high risk – high return passion initiative. Later on, pivots to a structured approach with set KPIs will do. There is no proven methodology that anyone can follow to make a business succeed. As a person who’s just starting off, one needs to prepare themselves for the worst. Someone wise once told, “The only thing that’s constant is the change” and so is your business model, stakeholders, partners, employees and whatnot. If you are an entrepreneur, you already have a drive. Make sure that you use the drive for the right vision. Don’t get carried away with short term success. True entrepreneurs don’t celebrate mediocrity.
● What are your future plans?
The future holds immense potential. The way we see the world now will have 180 makeshifts in the next 10 to 15 years. As a business, we want to ride this wave of makeshift. We are investing heavily in emerging technologies. As a company that promises to “unlock the future” we want to lead it from the frontline. Hence, we are progressing on multiple verticles keeping the focus on the implementation of innovations in our daily life.
● Any advice for the youth generation?
Youth is an in-dominatable force that challenges everything and breaks the status quo. We are in a generation where the youth can do greater things but before that, we need to educate ourselves properly. We need to promote more and more about the human traits to our future generations. In a world so competitive, we often forget to realize how beautiful our relationships are with our close ones. At the end of the day, we are human, not robots. We must not forget that.