Meet Syed Ashiqur Rahman, Founder of Dhaka Foodies
Photo Credit – Titu Zakaria
Everyone in Bangladesh, who is an avid Facebook user, is sure to have liked or at least visited Dhaka Foodies’ page. Dhaka Foodies is a page that was founded by Syed Ashiqur Rahman, in an effort to bring the closet food lovers under one roof. I call them closet because no other page had brought them together ever before – for posting reviews, sharing experiences, posting photos and more.
A multinational veteran, Ashiqur was spot-on to point out that Bangladeshis really do not have any particular pastime or meeting place. ‘If there ever was a source of entertainment for us, it has to be cafes or restaurants,’ he says, ‘even official and personal meetings take place in those settings. So the whole matter is undermined if we say that food is part of our culture, rather food is our culture. This is also a lucrative industry for small and medium sized entrepreneurs, as the setup costs for such ventures are lower than that of other industries. In Banani road 11, for example, there is always a new restaurant opening every week. The operation of over 1300 restaurants in Dhaka alone is testament to that opinion.’
‘I wanted to make something in Bangladesh that could have its own restaurant ratings, as well as food reviews, something like Trip Advisor. So in July 2012, I officially launched the Facebook page of Dhaka Foodies. The reviews were at first crowd-funded, as users could go in, taste the food at restaurants and then rate them. This started to become popular to the extent that by 2013, our page was overburdened with over a thousand reviews. That is when I realised that creating a website was the next plausible action.’
‘I thought that the Dhaka Foodies website had to be something like the local IMDB (movie ratings website) of food, where only the users’ opinion will matter. So I caught hold of an IT expert, Aftab bhai, who advised me to document my idea, which I did for quite some time, in the middle of which, he agreed to be part of the project and became my partner. Although we were passionate about startup, we also required financial support to bankroll the cost of making the website. A Dubai-based venture acted as our angel investor and funded us with $50,000.’
So far, their events have spoken about their operational abilities. From 2012, they have been holding annual food photography competitions, namely ‘Foodography contests.’ In 2013, the top 50 foodographers had their pictures exhibited at Dhaka Art Centre. This year their sponsor is Coca Cola. Alongside this, various food tasting sessions and food festivals are held by Dhaka Foodies. Their Cupcake Festival, Burger and Biryani Festival and the two Grand Foodies Festivals held so far, have all been received with adulations and with requests for more in future.
‘In our website we collect information from the restaurants, upload their menus and have their food tasted by our top critics. These ratings can be viewed by users, and they can also follow the latest updates from their favourite reviewers. Not only that, but we also work hand in hand with the restaurants and their owners. In our last Grand Foodies festival, we awarded 15 restaurant owners because of their consistent food quality and massive customer retention over time – stalwarts such as Shwarma House, Nanna Biryani, Big Bite, Kosturi, Saltz, North End Coffee Roasters, etc. It was a fulfilling experience for us, as the festival witnessed over 1200 entries, various eating and gaming contests and more. We hope to do this every year.’
‘As a platform for foodies, we want to expand into Chittagong and other viable options. Additionally, we are also planning on launching our very own Android app, which will be available this March. It would act as a location guide and prioritise the highest rated restaurants of different locations. We received great response from the crowd at our events, we want to hold on to this as well. We never compromise on quality and ideas. It would have been great if there were more spacious hangout joints, where we could hold weekend fests.’
True, if these plans are put into action, here is wishing Ashiqur and Dhaka Foodies all the best for their future endeavours.