Short Takes: Trailblazing the Internet of Things in Bangladesh

Taking risks, receiving feedback, and recharging when depleted are how this Bangladeshi entrepreneur overcomes doubt and stays motivated.

April 03, 2024

Meet Mir Shahrukh Islam, cofounder and CEO of Bondstein Technologies Ltd. in Bangladesh. He created his IoT, or Internet of Things, company at a time when very few in Bangladesh even knew the term. Today, that future-focused, risk-taking spirit still defines and inspires his entrepreneurial journey.

Taking bold risks is part of almost every entrepreneur’s DNA. Shahrukh demonstrated that trait from the get-go when he chose his company name, Bondstein, a mashup of James Bond and Einstein. “Daring and smart” is how he strives to approach business challenges. The company he created generates actionable intelligence by connecting assets to the internet for SMBs and enterprises, including tracking vehicles, solving customers’ operational efficiencies, and reducing costs.

While risk-taking conveys confidence to many, Shahrukh admits that doubts always remain. “Whenever I am taking a big decision, doubts always come. Will it work? Will it not work? Will I be able to convince my partners? Will I be able to convince my customers? Will I be able to convince my suppliers? But you never know until you take that decision until you take that leap of faith. So it’s always important to just trust the process, take that leap of faith,” he advises.

Getting feedback — positive and negative — is essential for Shahrukh’s growth as a leader. “I constantly challenge myself with people who are more capable than me to deliver. I always meet with individuals who have achieved something that I aspire to achieve someday,” he says.

According to Shahrukh, taking a break to recharge is how he stays motivated through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. He says, “Whenever I am very much cluttered or very much tired, I always take a break, go on a drive, talk with random people on the roadside, and try to understand different philosophies.”

Hear how Shahrukh is navigating the entrepreneurial journey and finding success and happiness along the way.

Grit & Growth is a podcast produced by Stanford Seed, an institute at Stanford Graduate School of Business which partners with entrepreneurs in emerging markets to build thriving enterprises that transform lives.

Hear these entrepreneurs’ stories of trial and triumph, and gain insights and guidance from Stanford University faculty and global business experts on how to transform today’s challenges into tomorrow’s opportunities.

Full Transcript

Mir Shahrukh Islam: One thing that always pushed me was to innovate. I wanted to explore new things. I wanted to build new stuff, and I think that that was the biggest motivation for me to start my entrepreneurial journey.

Darius Teter: It’s well understood that starting a business is not easy. It’s an uphill climb, especially across new territory. But for those who accept that challenge, it’s the exploration that actually ignites them.

Mir Shahrukh Islam: I don’t want to play safe. I want to see what’s out there. I want to be an explorer.

Darius Teter: Welcome to Grit & Growth from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the podcast where Africa and South Asia’s intrepid entrepreneurs share their trials and triumphs with insights from Stanford faculty and global experts on how to tackle challenges and grow your business. I’m your host, Darius Teter, the executive director of Stanford Seed, and today we bring you another installment of our series of short takes, bite-size stories of amazing entrepreneurs like Mir Shahrukh Islam.

Mir Shahrukh Islam: I am Shahrukh. I’m the co-founder and CEO of Bondstein Technologies Limited. I’m from Bangladesh.

Darius Teter: Imagine you have a business with all your capital tied up in vehicles and you need to track each vehicle. Do you know where they’re going? Do you know when they’re sitting idle? And how much of your profitability depends on having that information in real time?

Mir Shahrukh Islam: Bondstein is an IOT company. We generate actionable intelligence by connecting assets to the internet for SMBs and enterprises.

Darius Teter: And from the very beginning, Shahrukh and team challenged themselves to focus on solving problems that really mattered to the Bangladeshi customer while at the same time setting themselves apart.

Mir Shahrukh Islam: Back in 2014, we were thinking of: What can we do to make this company more interesting? So we figured out that if we can provide a solution which will enable the customer to get more reliable data through which they can take decisions that will be better for their business, that can make a good business for us. So we looked into particular use cases, particular problems out there. We looked at taxi services who were having problems of not getting enough trips in the taxis when the government was planning to launch these taxi services to improve lifestyle of people who are coming to Dhaka. What they faced is that the drivers who were driving those taxis were not eager to take passengers on a right fare. They were trying to charge them more than what the government has declared, and, as a result, the overall ecosystem was not coherent, and that’s where actually the main business of Bondstein began. So we came in, we provided a solution where the passengers would know exactly where the driver is, drivers would know where the passengers can be found based on the predictive data, and the companies who were operating these taxis would know exactly how many trips these drivers were giving, how many kilometers, [when] these drivers were sitting idle.

Darius Teter: What started as a focus on taxis grew to a broader set of businesses.

Mir Shahrukh Islam: We not only connected taxis, but we also went for fleets. We went to the two-wheeler owners who operate on bikes. We went to the fleet owners who operate more than hundreds of trucks. We went into companies who have their own vehicles. We connected all these vehicles through our models to the internet. And when these vehicles were on the internet, the owners or the operators of these vehicles could clearly identify the usability, the movement of these vehicles, and could take operational decisions in terms of planning their supply chain, planning their logistics, optimizing cost in terms of understanding which vehicle requires maintenance and stuff. They could understand how their vehicles were being operated, where these drivers are taking their vehicle, whether there are any unauthorized users of this vehicle. We even worked with one of the largest companies to reduce road accidents based on the data that has been generated from these vehicles. Reportedly, we have had 60 percent less accidents on the vehicles. We could tell them predictive analysis. Our proprietary IOT cloud processes more than 300 million data per day.

Darius Teter: As Bondstein grows, Shahrukh’s strategy and decisions become more consequential, and that can be scary. As we discussed in a previous episode on strategy, it’s the big bets that matter, and you won’t necessarily know when those bets are going to pay off.

Mir Shahrukh Islam: Doubting myself is a constant thing. Whenever I am taking a big decision, doubts always kick in. In any negotiation, I am taking a [risk]. Will it work? Will it not work? Am I taking the right decision to do what I’m about to do? But you never know until you take that decision, until you take that leap of faith. The amount of energy that I put in day in, day out, the amount of passion that I have inside me for doing what I am doing, it’s unparalleled. And for that, I can be 100 percent sure that I will have doubts, I will have my downfalls, but I’m happy with whatever I am.

Darius Teter: It’s been almost a decade since Shahrukh stood up in a meeting to introduce Bondstein as an IOT company, and another person at the table said, “What’s an IOT company? You mean you’re an IT company?” And Shahrukh patiently responded, no, we’re an IOT company. You see, the concept of the internet of things in Bangladesh was basically nonexistent. Shahrukh changed that.

Mir Shahrukh Islam: The future inspires me a lot. If I can play even a 1 percent role in shaping that future, I would feel lucky. Like building products, building solutions that the people of our next generation are going to use and improve their lifestyle. That genuinely inspires me.

Darius Teter: I’d like to thank Shahrukh for sharing his story, and we’ll be back next time with another short take as we prepare for the Season 4 launch. This has been Grit & Growth from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and I’m your host, Darius Teter. Thank you for listening to this episode. For all the CEOs and founders who are listening, Stanford Seed is now accepting applications for the 2025 class of the Seed Transformation Program. Founders and CEOs of companies based in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Indonesia with annual revenue of at least $300,000 are eligible to apply. To learn more, please visit stanfordseed.co/apply. If you like this episode, follow us and leave a review on your favorite podcast app. Erika Amoako-Agyei and VeAnne Virgin researched and developed content for this episode. Kendra Gladych is our production coordinator, and our executive producer is Tiffany Steeves, with writing and production from Nathan Tower and sound design and mixing by Ben Crannell at Lower Street Media. Thanks for joining us. We’ll be back soon with another episode.

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