Interview of Md. Sabur Khan on His Entrepreneurial Journey To Success
- Please tell me your full name and current role with the university.
My name is Md. Sabur Khan. I am the Chairman and Founder of the Daffodil International University and my role in the University is to look up the management and the strategic planning and other related policy.
- Please describe your previous industry experience or entrepreneurial experience.
My previous industry experience or entrepreneur experience I started my journey in 1990 after completing my University Masters and then I started my first startup, Daffodil computers. And definitely, I’m really proud that after so many years in 2002 I just made my first company as a public listed IT company in 2002 in Dhaka Stock Exchange and Chittagong Stock Exchange.
And definitely, the success of the Daffodil computers really drives me to expand or to diversify a lot of areas and in 1996, at the end of 1996, I started a training Institute called DIIT, Daffodil Institute of Information Technology which was really very good success. In my educational venture, that’s also driven me to establish Daffodil International University. So, I started to establish the Daffodil International University in 2001, and I’m lucky the 2002 24th January I got permission from the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the Ministry of Education and during this time I also established more than forty companies and some of the companies I also sold because which I understood because I’m not too much curious or focus in that organization as I engage in the retail sector, I engage in the travel business, I engage a lot of other business, later on, I thought that I should focus in the education, IT and health sector and financial sector. These four areas I’m now focusing on.
- (if yes) How your previous industry experience or entrepreneurial experiences help you in your current role?
Well, as everybody is always telling that industry-academia linkage and outcome-based education, so I’m sure that due to cause of my industry experience and entrepreneurial experience, it’s really helped me to design the course curriculum, to talk with our faculty, motivate them, guide them, and also change the course curriculum as for the fit for the market, and definitely, I’m really happy to share that in our University we are the first University we already implemented Department of Innovation and entrepreneurship. We also initiated the Real Estate Department, Multimedia and Creative Technology, Nutrition and Food Engineering, Information Technology and Management (ITM), Telecommunication Engineering and these were a lot of the new subjects we already implemented in our University, which is rare in comparison to the other University, especially the private University in our country.
So definitely, Due to the industry experience, it’s helped me to realize what exactly the market needed also this. And I must say that in our University we implemented a great course called The Art of Living (AOL). And definitely, I should say that Employability360 courses and computer fundamentals are very strong courses which we teach to all other subjects. And of course, English one and English Two are mandatory for all of the subjects. So these four areas are also what I insisted on implementing in University due to my industry experience.
- How many academics and employees are employed in the university?
Well, in the University overall, faculty is very close to 1000. The number of employees is 1500, so very close to the 2500 people working in our University.
- Have you come across the terms entrepreneurial university and/or academic entrepreneurship? What do you understand by these terms?
Well, entrepreneurial University or academic entrepreneurship, I should say that yes, this is true because if I’m not an entrepreneur, if I’m not coming from the industry. And definitely, if I’m not involved myself as an academic in entrepreneurship, then I may not be able to implement on University what exactly now stand considering the various aspect like you see in 2009, I took the decision to give the free laptop to each and every student, and I’m happy to share that 33,000 laptop until today we have distributed to our students, which is a miracle in respect of Bangladesh. So, I should say that this entrepreneurial University and my academia-entrepreneurial journey gives me the confidence to implement a lot of this idea in University which is unique in comparison to the Bangladesh aspect.
- What is your awareness regarding the level and nature of academic entrepreneurship in Bangladesh?
Well, regarding the level and nature of academic entrepreneurship in Bangladesh, definitely I should say that Bangladesh all of the private University is already initiated by a lot of successful businessmen. And again in respect of their efforts or attitude, I am sure that a lot of this University is trying to move forward. But again, academic entrepreneurship is still poor considering Bangladesh. So, I should say that definitely to see the success on the trend of the Daffodil International University and also the international aspect, the other University will follow and definitely the public University also will follow the trend because startup is a common pattern and you know there’s a student need to be entrepreneurial-minded, the creativity and innovation need to bring in the front line. And it is one of my intentions that the student is likely to become an entrepreneur in any case if they like to become a businessman or entrepreneur, they can become a good intrapreneur. So whatever company or whatever organization they get the opportunity to serve, they can contribute a lot and they get the recognition. So that is why I should say that academic entrepreneurship needs to expand in every University slowly, slowly.
- To what extent does your university adopt the entrepreneurship mission?
Our University has already adopted the entrepreneurship mission and definitely a lot of the ecosystem we are developing. We already developed the Entrepreneurship Development Fund, which we call the EDF which is completely interest-free. We also established the business incubator. We organize the startup market. A lot of entrepreneurship boot camps we organized and we have this student exchange program and summer program also jointly organized with the university from Malaysia, Korea, and some other Universities. So, I should say that the entrepreneurial Mission of our University is already established in a lot of the area and even we always encourage our students to supply their products in the University. We also encourage our alumni who are successful entrepreneurs and we already give them the opportunity to share their experience with their friends, juniors, and also alumni.
- Why do you think adopting an entrepreneurship mission is important?
Entrepreneurial Mission is definitely important as I already mentioned because in the Bangladesh aspect, in the academic area it is completely new so still there is not much expert academician in this area.
So my mission is that to develop a few academicians so that they can also help the student and at the same time they can also reach the industry because without involving the industry and without knowing the right people or right market or the right efforts, sometimes it is very important for our faculty to adopt the entrepreneurship mission in University, that’s why I should say that my mission is that to develop our faculty and also the student as much as possible. Some of the students from our entrepreneurship Department can also come on and enhance this network. They can start their journey also as faculty. So, I love to say one term that ‘Technopreneurship’. Teachpreneurship should be one of my missions to promote.
- Which individuals or groups do you think are important in relation to this university’s entrepreneurial mission adoption? Why are they important?
In relation to the University entrepreneurship mission, I should say that the people, and especially the faculty, those who are coming from the industry background because we have few faculties those who are coming from the industry background are really playing a good role. I’m sure that this should be my key mission so that these sorts of faculty can be coming forward and show that they should contribute to it. Also, one of the important areas always I love to say that because it is new so we love to learn from our student because between this time around three or four batch student is already completed their education, so we’re talking with them, we’re trying to understand what they really learn, what problem they face and what they’re thinking when they started their business. So slowly, slowly we always develop our course curriculum and that is very important for me to cope up with the entrepreneurship journey.
- Do you think your previous experience has influenced this adoption of the entrepreneurial mission? How?
Yeah, my previous experiences really influenced the adoption of the entrepreneurial mission because I should say that in my 30 years or 31 years’ experience of the business I developed a lot of company and I just sold a few companies and Alhumdullilah successfully I’m running all of the company and it is really surprising because almost 90% company, they are in a sustainable position. A lot of the leaders I already created in our organization whom I love say they’re really very good intrapreneurs. And this leader has already promoted our organization because it is impossible for me to run all of the organization by myself. So, I should say that my previous experiences really influenced me to create a lot of good leaders inside the organization, those who are running and leading the organization.
- To what extent does the university engage in entrepreneurial activities?
Well, University is also engaged because in all of our supply activities all of our people or admin and management. Many people they’re also helping our students and promoting them. Invite them to participate in various kinds of supply, even if I’m giving you an example. Whatever we need like a student bag, various souvenirs and even the foundation day t-shirt and convocation food, a lot of this event we organize. We always encourage our students, those who are entrepreneurial-minded, to do the sorts of activities we always nurture them in our University.
- Why these specific forms of entrepreneurial activities?
Well, this specific form of entrepreneurial activities we are running because as I already mentioned that we should develop one ecosystem so that the students who are coming to University by virtue of their activities or compliance can become good entrepreneurs. That is why we are very specific about these sorts of entrepreneur activities.
- How does the university give recognition (in terms of promotion and pay) to the academics who are engaged in these entrepreneurial activities?
Well, usually we always give the recognition to our faculty those who are doing the research in the entrepreneurial activities and also those who are very much focused to promote their research in the commercialization and we give them the financial benefit, to recognize them and we always try to bring them or encourage them to come as a leader because we believe that these entrepreneurial activities of the academicians should be one of the good efforts for promoting university’s entrepreneurial activities.
If we consider the research we always looked at, our teachers are very much focused on their intention to publish in the International Journal like Scopus publication. But it’s really very bad to see that the teachers are the researcher, they don’t want to make it commercialize. So of course, I should say that those who already focus to make it commercialize, we give them the highest rank, and we also encourage them to help to find funding, in respect to collecting the funding. So of course, we are giving the highest rank of importance. Those who are already bringing in commercialized aspects. Those teachers are actively involved in terms of promotion in terms of academic activities or we always give them the promotion or increment. Or sometimes we are paying them also for their proper contribution.
- Is it a requirement for academics to engage in entrepreneurial activities?
Well, it is not important for academicians to be involved in entrepreneurial activities. But this is good if they involve in entrepreneurial activity but of course, it should not be mandatory, it should not be the requirement because we should believe that academicians who are coming to become a faculty in the University usually their intention not to become an entrepreneur because entrepreneur always (works in a) challenging mode. They’re already giving more drive, 24 hours they keep alert, and they don’t bother about facing any failure so that is why I should say that it should not be the requirement of the academician to engage in entrepreneurial activities.
- What are the important resources required in order to commercialize the university research? How do you rank their importance?
Here these resources are available. I think our library is very much prominent and digitally-enabled, so any outsider whenever they like to get any of the resources from our University, they can easily visit our library or contact the library. And we have one powerful forum and I’m sure there’s a very unique if we consider the whole world university, and I’m quite sure that our university is one of the frontlines University if you go to the forum.daffodilvarsity.edu.bd you’ll find that there are a million resources in every level and every day I’m observing that few thousand people are collecting a lot of resources because it is our belief that if we are not distributing our resources and available to other people then it shouldn’t be Fair enough. The important resources, usually I think that for commercialization of the University research our teacher always need to talk with the industry, They should visit them. They should talk with them, they should know that before their research they should focus because it did not fit the target or the goal. Then it will be very tough.
- To what extent are these resources available in your university?
Of course, the academician those who are interested to engage in entrepreneurial activity, commercialization of the research we are always helping them, and we’re already giving them support and any source of support if they needed to get the funds from the donor, we always help them and if they need the seed fund, a lot of cases we already encourage them to get the seed fund or the startup fund?
- How do you support any academic who has an interest in engaging in these activities?
Well, I think we should encourage all of the University, especially in our University, to improve the commercialization activities of the student project student assignment and always we talk about teachers and always we talk to our admin people, even our top management is always getting the guidance continuously. We invite the successful leader of the industry and we already organize every year three to four times the industry-academia lecture. This is also one of the key reasons that our faculty, our management should know that how the industrialist or the successful leader or the business people can also help our researchers so they can easily influence to adopt the entrepreneurial mission.
- What suggestions do you have for the university to improve the commercialization activities?
So I think the University’s entrepreneurial activities I already give some examples because as our activities go if we go to our media, digital marketing, everything we’re trying to do by our students, do our management, we don’t like to go higher or any ad firm or anything. So if you look in Google, You will find a lot of this engagement is done by our people, our universities resources. So that’s why we’re trying to do A to Z jobs with our own resources.
The specific form of entrepreneurial activities we are doing. As I already mentioned earlier, because students and teachers both need to prove their efficiency, prove their challenging minds with innovation because we already set up the innovation lab and we also set up the robotics lab and always whatever the new technology is coming, we realize that without new technology. It will be very tough for our students to fight in the job market and that is why we always set up various specific entrepreneurial activities.
### The interview was taken by a student from Sheffield Hallam University, UK for his Ph.D. research purpose.