Principal at the Reverse School, Monsurul Aziz has been a part of the startup ecosystem of the country for almost a decade. He has been a part of Bangladesh Brand Forum, Mutual Trust Bank Limited, Prime Bank Limited, Robi, etc. Currently, he is the Head of Brand Marketing at Nagad. We got to talk to him, here’s what he had to say.
It’s ok to face failure in life, failure in what you wanted to do. The idea is to learn from it. So no matter what happens, keep sailing.
Firstly, How was your life during the pandemic?
Like everyone, at first, I too felt a bit of confusion at what was happening. Optimistically, I thought that things might go back to normal soon and we’ll lead our normal lives. But the biggest realization was that maybe life won’t be the same ever again, maybe Our it has entered a new phase. I myself contracted a COVID infection as well. So it was a hectic time indeed.
Ahh, it’s good to see you doing well now. Moving on, you’ve done a lot of different things, career-wise. Which gave you the most satisfaction?
I have always believed that when your work has a direct impact on the wellbeing of the society, it provides you with a greater sense of satisfaction. Especially when you get to see the results firsthand. I myself have done a lot of different work but the satisfaction always came from working towards the betterment of the society.
What was the inspiration behind Reverse School?
So, I’ve been a part of the startup ecosystem for a long time. Ever since I left Robi back in 2016, I started a startup incubation center named Toru. Working there, I had a direct channel with the entrepreneurs. We got the opportunity to incubate them, help, and guide them towards the best outcome.
While helping them, I realized that whenever we tell a story, be it startup related or an inspiring story in general, we display a one-sided glorified success tale. But normally, that’s never the full story. There is always a huge difference between the initial idea and the final product and a lot of changes and compromise in between.
No one talks about this, everyone only talks about the good parts of the journey. This makes it look that success is something very easy to achieve. So, to tell this story we decided to create a platform that will share the untold stories behind success. And thus Reverse School came to be.
Tell us a little bit about Undo Project?
The project was about the untold stories of life. The project brought forward influential and successful people of our country together to talk about the things they couldn’t do. They each told about the failures that they faced along their journey, what they learned from it, how the lessons from their failures helped them to overcome their future challenges.
There was another deeper reason for us to conduct the Undo Project. When we normally ask someone how they’re doing, the answer is always “I’m fine’, “I’m good” no matter if they are really doing good or not. There lies a narrative in society that we always have to be fine or good. Life isn’t a bed of roses, there are a lot of incidents that make us sad, but we don’t talk about it. For this, through Undo, I wanted to influence people to not sacrifice their comfort, to be able to face their challenges, and remember that it’s ok if you cant overcome them just yet, so you don’t need to pretend.
Reverse school talks about the failures and the unglorified moments of life, did your’s have any and can we know about it?
Yes, no one is without their failures. See, from a very young age, I was what was deemed to be a bright student. But I failed in my HSC board exams in one subject. Being a good student, no one expected this from me, everyone expected me to do good.
But the actual failure is when you don’t meet your own expectations. Our society doesn’t understand this. Whoever has failed in an aspect of their life has failed in front of himself before anyone else. During this time the support that is needed is not always there. The recovery from this becomes twice as hard. This was for me, the toughest challenge as of yet, but then again I achieved the Chancellors Gold Medal in BBA so I did recover from it. But one thing I am thankful about is that I had a wonderful support system in my parents, without whom overcoming that phase would have been impossible
Like yourself, did Reverse School face any challenges, and did it have a support system too?
Yes, we did have challenges but the support was far greater. I got great support from my friend with whom I started it. Another great support was the EMK Center. They supported us a lot during the project logistically, physically, and financially. Especially from the then Country Manager of EMK who deeply believed in me and my ideas.
Any future plans for Reverse School?
Well, this year, doing something would be tough and inconsiderate due to the current situation. But we do have plans to start a brick and mortar institution where preach and people about the insides of the field.
What do you think of the current situation of the startup sector in this country?
Bangladesh and its people obviously have a huge potential and a very appealing market for startups. But personally, I think we in Bangladesh have missed the mark by not nurturing the right people with the right idea. We normally follow models from Silicon Valley or the growing markets of India. But they have a maturity in their startup scene and their economy is very different, both in education and in culture. So from the context of the market, those models don’t work for us. So many have ideas, very unique ideas but it might not suit our market. So despite their efforts and dedication, it has a high possibility of not reaching its potential. I believe we need to start working on building that ecosystem for the future that will help in nurturing the entrepreneurs in the right direction.
What would you suggest to an enthusiast with an idea for a startup?
A venture capitalist once told me that while investing in an idea they see how much that entrepreneur believes in that idea. The stronger their belief, the harder they will work for it and have a greater chance of success, sooner or later. So as long as you believe in your idea, start preparing for possible outcomes and start working on it
Being the Head of Brand Marketing for Nagad, what do you think is the most important aspect of a brand?
For me, a brand is a meaning. When you listen to a name, the meaning it creates is the main purpose of that brand. So to create that meaning is the most important part of a brand. In Nagad, we try to create that meaning. As you can see, it’s very hard to walk in the streets of Bangladesh and not see the name of Nagad. This name creates an idea of financial and economical interdependency and inclusion among the minds of the people. That’s the main objective that we work towards.