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Software, style and a successful start-up
Arif Mohammad Abdus Shakur Chowdhury and Rubaba Akhter fell in love and married at an early age, much to the disapproval of their families.
They rented a small one-room flat and would sleep on the floor, but their dreams were big. And their dreams came true.
Arif and Rubaba now have 72 employees. Almost all the staff of their clothing outlets are women.
Things were not easy for the couple to come so far. They talked to Prothom Alo about their struggles and success.
They worked tirelessly for 16 years and are now successful entrepreneurs. They work well together, dividing their duties and tasks.
Rubaba Akhter is the chief executive of ‘Shelai’.
The ‘shodagor.com’ online platform is a hub for 1400 local traders to sell their goods wholesale. And ‘Shelai’ has five outlets in Dhaka city.
The couple grew rather nostalgic as they recalled how they began with a small tailoring shop in Banani.
Arif said, “We saved money from our salaries and invested in that tailoring shop.
No one knew us and in the first six months we hardly received any orders.
We would sit anxiously in our empty shop. But now the two of us are doing well, along with their eight-year-old daughter.”
Arif is from Bogura and Rubaba from Madaripur. Arif said their families only accepted their marriage after eight years. By then they were on the verge of success.
Their dreams remained firmly in place. They adjusted and made all the necessary changes and got back on track. Their struggles have paid off and now they see success.
They had each other during their days of struggle. Rubaba earned a degree in fashion design.
Arif worked in a private firm and also began his own software business.
He was studied computer science at a private university.
Rubaba said, “We face all sorts of unbelievable challenges and had to struggle hard to reach where we are today.
Arif has to work round the clock, carrying fabric. He had to work to run the family while studying at the same time. But we never gave up hope.”
Arif joined in, “Yes, I would carry bags full of fabric late at night and cut lengths of cloth. But our labour hasn’t gone in vain.”
‘Shelai’ is now a big name. They mostly try to employ women in this enterprise.
They have customers at home and abroad. They have their own shoe shop too.
They endeavour to arrange employment for underprivileged women.
They have trained 46 women so far and have employed them. Only five of their staff members are male, the rest are all women.
As a software consultant, Arif deals with call centre management, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and so on.
He has worked as a systems analyst in various companies. However, as an independent consultant,
he realised the need for a platform to facilitate business. He carried out research and contacted wholesale traders.
He visited almost all the districts of the country and contacted the wholesalers.
He create the scope to sell non-traditional items of districts in other districts.
This initiative has gained popularity and is known as ‘Saudagar bhai’ among traders and eager young entrepreneurs.
As a partner, Zahidul Alam Shah helps him in this enterprise.
And so far ‘Shelai’ was known as an offline outlet, but then Rubaba decided to go online with Facebook live last year. She is now known as ‘Shelai apu’.
We face all sorts of unbelievable challenges and had to struggle hard to reach where we are today.
Rubaba said, “Arif has always stood by me like a guardian. He never let me feel alone. He gave me inspiration and courage.”
Arif continued, “Most of my friends have settled abroad but I never wanted to do so.
I felt it was more rewarding doing something for the country rather than simply staying well for ourselves. I wanted to help improve people’s lives.”
reach thousands of new customers, expand businesses, increase sales, cut down marketing costs and ensure fair prices.
‘Shelai’ is endeavouring to ensure women’s empowerment.
This couple feel that adapting to circumstances can lead to success.
This success can be achieved through hard work and a strong will. One cannot give up.
Once their child was born, running the business became tough and they had to close down their garment sales.
Then they adjusted and changed their style of business. Rather than making the clothes themselves, they procured these from other sources and sold these at their outlets.
Arif even once dropped his software business and took up a job again.
But their dreams remained firmly in place. They adjusted and made all the necessary changes and got back on track. Their struggles have paid off and now they see success.