App to fight hunger wins top prize in Bangladesh

App to fight hunger wins top prize in Bangladesh
Atiur Rahman, governor of Bangladesh Bank; Abdul Matlub Ahmad, president of FBCCI; and Md Sabur Khan, chairman of the board of Daffodil International University, pose with the developers of the Food for People app that won the Get in the Ring competition for start-ups, at Radisson hotel in Dhaka yesterday.
PHOTO: The Daily Star/ANN

A start-up that redistributes leftover food from functions, restaurants and the rich to slum dwellers and the hungry won the inaugural edition of the Get in the Ring competition in Bangladesh.

The Food for People app fended off competition from seven other start-ups in the national round of the global competition to clinch the top prize at the event held at Radisson Blu Water Garden Hotel in Dhaka yesterday.

The app's four developers will now get a chance to present their idea at the regional final of the competition in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

"Whenever people have excess food they will just inform us through the app," said Md Atikur Rahman, chief executive officer and co-founder of the start-up. They will then send personnel with logistics to collect the food and distribute them among the hungry.

The start-up took off last year after 23-year-old Rahman realised that a copious amount of food goes to waste every day in various functions and restaurants in Dhaka, which the city's needy people could do with.

Rahman, who is now studying entrepreneurship at Daffodil International University, said the slum-dwellers also make green furniture from used paper and sell them over the internet.

Daffodil International University is the national host of the international competition known as the Olympic for start-ups. Television station RTV is the organising partner and The Daily Star is the strategic partner.

The Get in the Ring Foundation is a global non-profit organisation that connects start-ups to opportunities related to capital, talent and expertise. Initially, eight start-up entrepreneurs were engaged in a one-to-one pitch battle inside a ring, where they presented their business ideas, potential, target customers and the viability of their businesses to the judges.

The judges' panel comprised Abdul Matlub Ahmad, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry; Sukomal Singh Chowdhury, a consultant of Bangladesh Bank; Naaz Farhana Ahmed, president of Dhaka Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry; and Ishtiaq Ahmed, CEO of Omera Petroleum.

Md Sabur Khan, chairman of the board of Daffodil International University, said 90 start-ups applied for the competition but 36 made the cut. Through two rounds of the competition the number was brought down to eight for the national final.

"These start-ups will create jobs and lay the foundation for the economy," he said.

This was the first time that the Get in the Ring competition was introduced in Bangladesh.

The competition kicked off in 2012 and is now organised in 80 countries, connecting 6,000 start-ups, said Syed Ashik Rahman, chief executive of RTV.

Ahmad said industrialists look for new ideas to make investment. "I think this platform will give us ideas, and we hope to partner with them to take them forward."

BB Governor Atiur Rahman said all the eight start-ups that made it to the national final deserve finances and investment, so the banks can look at them as profitable projects.

"It is heartening to see that the Get in the Ring puts the spotlight, giving them a podium for creating a global fan base and connecting investors."

The central bank governor said light-touch regulation is needed for encouraging start-ups and the government too has to come forward as a facilitator.

He said the nuts-and-bolts of doing business such as providing taxpayers identification number, trade licences, winding up of a business, entrepreneurial and equity funding, providing incubation facilities and tax breaks must be made easily available to start-ups. "We all have to handhold these small entrepreneurs and help them grow into a successful group of business leaders at a later stage."

Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, said: "We live in a world where we face new problems. So, we need new leaders to solve these problems."

Anam lauded the contestants as a new breed of men and women who are confident and have dreams and the courage to implement them.

"I am mesmerised by the ideas. They have not only talked about the ideas but also came up with solutions. It's heartening to see that these entrepreneurs are working to sort out the problems our country faces."

Anis A Khan, managing director of Mutual Trust Bank, said the start-ups show that there is a lot of hope for Bangladesh.

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