As evidential as it may seem, the era of millennials is no longer limited to academics. While a part of this generation is busy procrastinating, others choose to innovate.
“Synergy”, a brainchild of three young minds caught the attention of the IBT Team while on the lookout earlier this year. Our team got in touch with Tasneem Omar Ava, a final year student of BRAC University and one of the masterminds behind Synergy, who shared her insight along with the details of their prosperous start-up.
What was your inspiration behind Synergy?
Synergy started as a pilot project during our participation in the Seventh Annual HULT Prize session in 2015. Our challenge was to double the income of 10 million people who live in the crowded urban spaces all around the world. We took inspiration from the networking of computers with internet. Since we were dealing with the crowded urban areas, the mobility of the people was a significant barrier. Therefore, to lubricate movement we decided to create a hub, which would connect with the other hubs all around the slums just like computers all over the world, which are connected through the internet. This setting brought the virtual system to reality. We started by joining a group of tailors in this system, who had an increase in their income as they were then sitting at home and selling to a wider marketplace than before. The demonstration of the idea was what made us beat 48 teams and win the Shanghai round. We were determined to go forward with Synergy, regardless of the competition. This motivated us to register the company and launch the pilot.
During the early stages of your startup, how well did you understand what you were doing? What kind of planning and retail strategy did you have?
During the early stages, we conferred upon the Boston round of HULT after Shanghai and got valuable insight from the accelerator program, which made us change the idea a little. Our initial idea of Synergy was for all sorts of workers in the crowded urban spaces. However, according to the insight we received, investors wanted something specific so, we narrowed it down to particular challenges faced by tailors. We figured out most of the tailors were being exploited by the sub-contractors who connected them to fashion brands. They were working for 16 hours or more at low wages of around $4. Our strategy, after this discovery, was to become an e-commerce platform, which successfully managed to eliminate third party interferences for a focus group we chose to work with. We brought our previous hub system into action, collected products from all the slums, and sent them to the fashion houses. This created a difference as these entrepreneurs’ experienced quadrupled incomes by working for fewer hours. We decided to go for ethical fashion to promote the idea of slow fashion cultures in favor of the workers and came back to Bangladesh with an improved idea to continue our operations. Many investors in the CGI (Clinton Global Initiative) approached us, but we decided to keep being our own investors as two of our core members were still undergraduates.
How would you describe your mission and company culture?
Our mission is to promote slow fashion in Bangladesh, as it is still one of a kind. We want to do this by mobilizing trade and increasing the income levels of the entrepreneurs working in the crowded urban spaces. In addition to this, doubling the revenue of the entrepreneurs is at the core of our mission. We follow a strong organizational culture, as our employees and management understand individual responsibilities and try to act under our core values.
SYNERGY STARTED AS A PILOT PROJECT DURING OUR PARTICIPATION IN THE SEVENTH ANNUAL HULT PRIZE SESSION IN 2015.
How well did you deal with any failures you faced during the initial phase?
The difficulty with any form of startup, at an early stage, is the determination of the founders, which is quite often unstable. People quickly lose the motivation and passion for going forward with what they have started after a number of defeats. I would not say our experience was different, except that we continued to remain a team of three passionate business enthusiasts from four.
How do you see your company growing in the next five years?
Since Synergy is a startup, we do not have any firm plans, considering our idea has been reiterated many times based on its demand. We expect to create a demand for slow fashion in Bangladesh that already exists in countries like USA, Australia and the European countries, in a span of three to four years. Therefore, if we can tap the potential of the slow fashion demand in Bangladesh, Synergy has a bright future ahead, and we are optimistic about it.
What is the biggest risk for your company at this point?
Since Bangladesh is still new to the slow fashion ethical theme, a continuation of our operations is still near the risk boundary. However, we are positive about a change in the demand, since much of our lifestyle is influenced by what happens overseas thanks to globalization.