A Singaporean startup well anchored in Bangladesh

Misfits provides on-demand technology platforms and solutions. They have served clients in Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe. Over the past few years, Misfits Tech has provided solutions to major telecom operators, FMCGs, financial institutions, e-commerce and startups.

22 May 2022, 09:50

Last modification: May 22, 2022, 09:59

Photo: courtesy

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Photo: courtesy

It was mid-2017. Two Bangladeshis, Fahad Ifaz and Munimul Islam, lived and worked in Myanmar. Munimul managed Rocket Internet’s Carmudi business in Myanmar as well as in the Bangladeshi market. Fahad worked on some Care Australia and USAID projects. They were old acquaintances as they played football together during their university studies.

They had made some acquaintances in Myanmar and they came to ask him: “You have tech talents in Bangladesh, we need some developers or tech solutions, could you put me in touch with someone?” And that’s when the idea of ​​starting a tech solutions startup hit Fahad. They teamed up with another of their former football buddies Jamil Mohiuddin Akbar and Jamil’s colleague Shuvo Rahman.

Munimul had experience in telecoms and startups; Fahad had experience in the development sector; Jamil was working at Maya and Shuvo, just after graduating from BUET in Computer Engineering, had just joined Maya. This motley band of misfits founded a startup aptly called Misfit Technologies.

Misfit Tech defines itself as an innovation and design technology company providing solutions and platforms for multiple industries. From the early days of scrambling for funds to becoming a Singapore-based company aiming to become a global powerhouse, Misfits technology has come a long way.

The first days

The biggest challenge in the early days was that they had work but could not expand due to lack of capital and resources. “Initially, we were investing from our own pockets. I invested all my savings in the business,” Munimul said.

But after some angel investors showed their confidence and invested in Misfits, things started to change. They have received investments from people like Mahboob Rahman Ruhel, a renowned businessman who owns organizations like Star Cineplex, Peninsula Hotels, among others. And within months, their team grew to 40 and they haven’t looked back since.

What are they doing

Misfits provides on-demand technology platforms and solutions. They have served clients in Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe. Over the past few years, Misfits Tech has provided solutions to major telecom operators, FMCGs, financial institutions, e-commerce and startups.

The services they offer are on-demand solutions: tailor-made solutions according to the client’s requirements. They also provide offshore technical development, support and maintenance teams on a dedicated or project basis. They provide a wide range of other services such as website development service, mobile app development and gamification services, chat and chatbot app development, UI/UX design, wireframing and design for web and mobile, database management and data migration service, and quality assurance.

They work with many advanced technologies. Their team has worked with Blockchain, IBM Watson, Facial Recognition, IoT, Big Data, AI, and Machine Learning.

About 57 people work in their office located in Banani. They have a team of 30 people in India, around 30 in Myanmar and 15-16 in Thailand. They also have teams in Singapore and Indonesia. The once motley group of Misfits is now a family of 120 and growing.

A Singaporean company with a Bangladeshi soul

Misfits Tech is headquartered in Singapore.

When asked, even though its roots are in Bangladesh, why is Misfits a Singapore-based company, Munimul replied, “First of all, if you think of countries like Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, in terms of digital penetration and technological advancement, they are far ahead of Bangladesh, so you learn a lot while you’re doing tech for them.

Second, their payment structure is very good. We do all our invoicing from Singapore. When I registered Misfits with the authority, I made it a Singapore company. Although the technology originates from Bangladesh, the company acts as a Singaporean business entity.

And that makes things very transparent. It is much easier to do business in Singapore. Customers also prefer this. Singaporean laws and accounting are very transparent and much simpler.

Third, doing business abroad is much easier than doing business in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, when we respond to a request for proposal (RFP), we are always considered a local business and they would probably still treat us as a local business.”

When bidding outside of Bangladesh, they are treated as a foreign company or a Singaporean entity.

“We bid with companies like Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) or Tech Mahindra or Wipro or IMI or Freshchat; they are our overseas competitors. This is the type of competition we face when we go to bid outside, but we still win,” Munimul said with a touch of pride.

When responding to a tender outside of Bangladesh in countries like Singapore, Thailand or Indonesia, the Misfits are treated with the same respect as any giant corporation. But in Bangladesh, they are treated like petty vendors.

“There is also a tendency to prefer foreign companies just for fun. So when we go to bid, they don’t treat us the same as foreign companies. So doing business in Bangladesh is still quite difficult. That’s why my main focus has always been outside of Bangladesh and it has worked wonders for us. It’s not just the ease of getting and doing business, but also the respect you get,” said declared Munimul.

A look at their portfolio reveals that most Misfits customers are international. About 70% of their customers come from abroad.

Photo: courtesy

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Photo: courtesy

Photo: courtesy

“I work with Telenor. I offer solutions to them in several countries. By the time I go to present to their local counterpart, I am considered a local supplier. So getting the business for me becomes very difficult.

They won’t pay me in USD or SDG, but if they take the same solution from Wipro or Tech Mahindra, they are willing to bear a higher cost and pay in a foreign currency. But I am competing and winning against these same companies outside of Bangladesh,” laments Munimul.

According to the CEO of Misfits, it’s probably a mentality gap that we have in Bangladesh. He thinks it’s a challenge for local startups to overcome and hopes one day we will. But that doesn’t mean that Misfits doesn’t have customers in Bangladesh; On the contrary, they have big clients in Bangladesh like BAT, Unilever, etc.

The future of the Misfits

The nature of their business meant the Misfits weren’t that affected by Covid-19. The countries they primarily operate in had high digital demand and technology adaptation was much higher compared to most other countries, so the wheels kept turning. Their main problem was that they couldn’t expand to new markets.

Munimul explained, “Let’s say we’re building a product and it’s a KYC (know your customer) product. If we’re building this software for a company in a country for a particular industry, the back-end software is universal and you can take it and run it in any country and sell it there. But the idea was that we were going to enter more markets in South and Southeast Asia. But during the period Covid, we couldn’t open to as many markets as we wanted.

In the short term, Misfits hopes to establish a firm foothold in the Asia-Pacific region and play with new and upcoming technologies.

Munimul said: “The short-term plan for the next five years is that we want to be a major regional player in South and Southeast Asia. And also focus a bit on the MENA (Middle East and Africa) side. North). . If we can cover the Asia-Pacific region, we will have a foothold in 10-11 countries where we have our team, our customers and our base.”

Since 5G is launched in many countries, many new technologies will evolve thanks to 5G. Technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality and the meta-concept that Microsoft and Facebook are working on are also emerging. These are the technologies they want to work with. They still do a lot of R&D projects.

Misfits’ long-term goal would be to be a global company. “We want to compete with the big companies on the world stage,” their CEO said.

Munimul hasn’t lived in Bangladesh for a while now, but he still follows the local startup scene closely. He thinks it’s the right time to launch a startup. For him, a startup can be anything, it doesn’t have to be a tech company. According to him, any good business idea that can make money and grow very quickly, that can be scaled up quickly is a startup.

“If somebody wants to do it, let them do it. It doesn’t matter your background, your qualifications, who or what you know, whether you have the money or not.”

The reason for this is that a huge amount of investment has come to Bangladesh from angel investors and venture capitalists (VC), and the government is also funding companies through the Ministry of ICT. There are VCs like BD angels and Anchorless which only focus on the Bangladeshi market. Therefore, obtaining the necessary funds should not be too difficult if the concept is right.

Munimul remarked hopefully, “There is so much interest in the Bangladesh market now. Shopup, Chaldal, Pathao, Shohoz and many more have done very well. [in terms of raising capital]. Looking at the trend, there is also a lot of international attention on the Bangladesh market.

So now is the perfect time for anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit to start a business. Yes, there will be challenges, but I think they will be able to find a way to overcome those challenges.”

“If you want to be a good leader, my advice would be to stop thinking about challenges. Go ahead and try. You might fail at first, but if you keep trying, eventually you will succeed,” he said. concluded.

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