Sheba Platform- One Step Ahead on Remodeling Bangladesh Economy
31 July 2021
Finally, we are here! 5 years of Sheba accomplished on Bangladesh’s 50th, Golden Jubilee. As a founder, I had anticipated the five-year milestone to be the first significant one in Sheba’s journey. Word is, if a startup thrives during this period, then it has already geared up for a momentous impact. We are more ready than ever to significantly contribute to the country’s digital development vision.
In my past life, I was part of the team responsible for building the country’s first wireless internet (2009 – 2015) far before the 3G launch. While traveling around for work and exploring countries, I had witnessed first-hand how the internet changed lives. I could visualize what Bangladesh could become with the power of technology in the next 40 years. It was like time travel that excited me about the future of our country and I made it my life’s mission to bring the digital revolution home.
Initially, I received no support, ridiculed for leaving my glorious corporate career, but I was determined to follow my dream path, my calling. I poured every drop of my energy, savings, and assets, risked my family’s comfort, and willingly morphed into a modern monk. Each of Sheba’s three co-founders has the same story. We took a giant leap in the unknown and believed in ourselves. We wanted to empower the people of Bangladesh with next-generation technologies.
And so, Sheba incepted in 2016 out of a small office, where we on-board people who believed in the vision and helped turn this dream into reality. We knew it wouldn’t be an easy journey as our ideas were way ahead of time and needed to build the industry ourselves. However, we knew we would not fail unless we gave up. It may take years, maybe decades, but we believe in sustainable growth, which will have a lasting social impact for centuries to come. That’s why, when I give an example to my team, I always talk about BRAC rather than a billion-dollar company or a super aggressive business model. However, I do provide an example of Google as a benchmark of innovation through revolutionary technology made by a remarkably talented bunch. And that’s our goal – to build an impactful global organization, using cutting-edge technology to change the lives of billions.
IMPACTFUL 5 YEARS
Over the last five years, we developed an ecosystem of 3 distinct yet interconnected digital platforms called Sheba Platform Limited. We stepped in with a service marketplace, known as Sheba.xyz which became the largest service marketplace in the country with 80+ services and a trusted name for more than 500,000 families. In 5 years, we have had ZERO complaints at the DNCRP (Directorate of National Consumers Right Protection) because of our strong dedicated 24X7 customer service. We have introduced training, authorized products, proper equipment, uniform, and financial services for 15000+ service professionals till today. On the other hand, sBusiness is connecting a pool of verified service providers to 780+ emerging corporations and digitizing the offices with user-friendly SAAS solutions from HR management to Procurement in just 1 year. While 2 of our business units were already changing lives, we learned about the struggles of micro and small businesses. That’s why we built sManager to provide full-stack accounting and financial solutions and digitize all flows of a small business. Astonishingly, we got our first million registrations, spread across 492 Upazilas within a year of launching. While we are still working on perfecting the product, the acceptance of a SAAS business tool amongst a vulnerable sector of SMEs proves that sManager is addressing pain points and easing the lives of micro-entrepreneurs not just in the urban areas but also in the very rural parts of our country. To make this aggregator platform more efficient, we partnered with eight banks to enable the financial inclusion of micro-entrepreneurs registered with us.
The last two years have been especially challenging due to the effects of the pandemic. At one point, almost the entire management team was bedridden from COVID; but the rest of you fought on with the Sheba spirit. We kept our heads focused on our growth phase – recording BDT 42 Billion in micro entrepreneurs’ transactions through our system to date. But our success is not limited to Sheba’s growth only. We believe in indicating success on the lives we impact and hence when the nationwide lockdown commenced – Sheba Platform Limited, along with partners initiated the social initiative to fight against the economic repercussions caused by COVID19 with Mission Save Bangladesh. We succeeded in bringing about 120 organizations and corporations under one umbrella to join the cause. The total donation was distributed among the underprivileged community and supported 50,000 families of the suffering micro-entrepreneurs. Our team members went the extra mile and made this happen. It is an absolute honor to give back, and to my heroes at Sheba – I commend you for the courage you had shown during a time of crisis.
IT’S ALL ABOUT PEOPLE
From a team of 3 co-founders, we are now 400 and growing strength to strength, launching features, testing with beta users, and expanding our operations. At Sheba, when we choose our people, we give priority to the purpose-oriented ones. Our first employee, Shah Newaz, who left everything behind to build this company, was often assumed as the founder and CEO because of his ownership. For other instances, Rezwan, a mechanical engineer who joined Sheba for a monthly remuneration of seven thousand taka only, is now the Data Science Team Leader, and Firoze, who joined in operations, is now our most successful product manager. We have hundreds of stories like these. Each of them has one thing in common – they own Sheba like the founders. And people who are not active employees now, continue to be owners in the same way, hence, the saying “Once a Sheba, always a Sheba!”
The urge to create, to take an idea from dream to reality, is timeless and enduring. We have constantly adapted and curved better paths to reach our goals. Today, as we look forward to the next 5 years, I would like to take the opportunity to apologize for every unintentional hurt and thank every stakeholder who has served and supported at any point in time and added value from their role. With this, I am also extending my heartfelt gratitude to the families who have generously supported our comrades. This day would not be here without your contribution.
GLIMPSE OF THE FUTURE
Amongst many of our achievements, we are one of the flagship startups, established and fully funded in Bangladesh and humbly recognized with many esteemed awards. And as many of you know, Startup Bangladesh (government-owned venture capital) recently chose us as their first startup for funding. This has been an excellent motivation for us to keep doing incredible things and it makes for the perfect time to share our exciting plans for the next 5 years.
Our existing products are, in essence, personal service and digital assistance for offices and small businesses. What we look forward to in these products is an interactive smart-talking AI assistance, which can be used by everyone, irrespective of education level or geographical location. Interfaces will be updated prioritizing inclusivity and user experience above all. As soon as we reach maturity, we will open our platform for upcoming startups and developers to enjoy the benefits of an aggregator and an instant reach to the masses across the country, gradually connecting dots around the globe. We took this decision as we are not here to build a monopolistic market structure. If I could put enough light on our intention to improve human life and ease the access to the digitalization of the underserved, then this vision to be the enabler syncs perfectly.
Sheba is here as an open platform for every business idea that revolves around altering life for the better. Moreover, with great joy, I would like to highlight that despite all inevitables, Sheba reached a BDT 1.2 Billion turnover rate. If we continue at this pace, the next five years will be significant in reaching our next milestone of becoming a BDT 70-80 Billion turnover rate company.
FOR MY WINNING TEAM
I want to end with the utmost gratitude for these memorable past years and warmly welcome the beginning of the next golden five years. It was a glorified chapter in all our lives, successfully having built a strong foundation. The past years were a mix of accomplishment and hardship and it’s been a pleasure to share this journey with all of you- ‘one winning team’. Always remember that the people, culture, and tech intensity at Sheba are our greatest strengths. Together we will impact the livelihoods of 10 million micro-entrepreneurs while building a billion-dollar business within the next 5 years. With passion and forbearance, let us march on to reach every milestone, break every record and be the first choice of every user. Here’s to a century of #ShebaMoyLife!