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      Volume 11 |Issue 19 | May 11, 2012 |


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Clicks away from a Career

Soraya Auer

Not everyone stumbles into a career in education without leaving the house. Bangladeshi-American Salman Khan, creator of Khan Academy, is possibly one of the most famous, if not the only, to have achieved this. His only tools were a computer, webcam and internet connection.

With the drive for a more digital Bangladesh and the increasing use of computers and the internet in Bangladeshi homes, many people are putting their minds to creating primary and secondary work opportunities from the comfort of their bedrooms.

“Who loves travelling to daily scheduled office each and every day?” asks Nabil Khan, a part-time director and video editor, sarcastically. “I always knew the demand and lack of quality videos in this country, so I knew videos were the way to go.” Nabil also says the internet was not only a platform to share his work but a useful learning tool. “It probably would have taken me another five years to learn the things that I have learned so far.”

“The best place to work is at home,” explains Atif Ahmed Akkhor, CEO of Ionsketch, a graphic design firm. “We recently acquired office space, but before that we were in cloud service, getting together at someone's house or in a cafe. We rarely use our office, just for meeting clients or working as a team. When we have to work on our own, I think being at home is the most creative place to be.

“There is this preconception that you have to study a certain subject but certificates and textbook knowledge are not important because of the internet and web-based freelancing,” believes Atif, who uses the internet for communicating with international clients. “Clients ask to see what work we've done, not if we've completed studies in graphic design. To be a graphic designer all you need is a computer and a creative mind.

“People don't understand this concept that people can earn from home and even kids like me can earn,” says the 16-year-old graphic designer. “There are millions of small and medium sized enterprises around the world that need work done at a low cost. They outsource to somewhere like Bangladesh and that's a real opportunity for people,” he adds.

Some people prefer working from the comfort of their home as they do not need to commute or
manage an office space. Photo: Courtesy

Through websites such as Odesk, Rentacoder and Freelancer, which connect workers and employers, many people are seizing the opportunity the internet provides and earning a second income in their spare time. Some jobs require experience such as graphic design and programming while others are unskilled such as data entry.

“I like [working as a freelancer] very much because there is no obligation,” explains Dr Abdur Rahman Khalid, who works in a hospital during the day and as a freelancer at night. “I can do my freelance jobs any time I want, whenever I like.” Dr Khalid says freelancing has allowed him to earn through doing data entry, writing articles, and designing websites.

Young Bangladeshis are also creating their own independent online ventures through e-stores on social network sites. Online clothing boutiques and catering companies are not only becoming popular but sometimes preferred over going to actual shops.

Finding freelance work online is made easy through websites that connect the worker to the employer. Photo: Courtesy  

“You don't have to fight your way across town in traffic or even fight your way across the store,” says Anika Mariam Ahmed, a Fine Arts student who recently set up an online store. “You just log into Facebook and see what is available.”

She says of her experience, “When I first started this, I wasn't thinking about anything other than that it would be fun and would add something to my life. I like to paint and wanted to paint some clothes for myself. I realised these are things I like to wear and would want to see in stores so why not put them online and see what people have to say about them?”

Anika launched her online store Orange Theory three weeks ago and has seen seven of her eight designs sold out (at the time this went to press). “The best part is that this is part of my studies so I don't see it separate from my regular life. When I come home and have free time, I just work on this.” For a budding designer such as Anika, renting a shop premise was not part of her plan as she has other ideas for her future. “I'm not earning right now and even when I was, I wasn't being paid enough to pay rent for a store or expenses. It's just so convenient that whenever I'm free I just go online and take orders from there rather than have the responsibility of a store.”

However, as liberating as the internet is to young entrepreneurs such as Anika, it also has some draw backs. “I wanted to do something fresh and new, but the problem is that you can't control who is watching or copying your stuff.”

Despite this, the fine arts student adds, “E-shopping is relatively new [in Bangladesh]. For other countries, it's been there for a long time but I think it's taking off here.”

Slowly but surely, Bangladeshis are entering the cyber space and making financial gains from their online ventures. In doing so, they are addressing the cultural preconceptions that the only desirable professions are in medicine or engineering. As Atif puts it, “The biggest barrier will be if the internet costs don't go down and internet speeds don't go up.” So in other words, make the internet just that bit more accessible and there's no stopping what people can do.


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