Empowering Investors

A conversation with the brains behind Investar BD, Farihan F. Rahman and Dipro K. Chowdhury about how they plan to transform Bangladesh’s financial landscape

What was the inspiration behind InveStar BD? How did you decide to embark on this entrepreneurial journey?

Farihan F. Rahman: It all started in 2020; I was in London when the pandemic began and witnessed firsthand the devastating impact on businesses. I have always had an interest in investing, I had previous experience with mutual funds in Bangladesh, but I seldom traded directly due to the process being very cumbersome. London introduced me to investing apps, enabling easy stock purchases in major companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Tesla. The concept fascinated me, and reading investment books like The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffet’s mentor, and One Up On Wall Street by Peter Lynch, inspired me further. I began attending tech seminars on investment in the UK and USA to learn more.

Realising the absence of such opportunities in Bangladesh, I approached my friend Dipro and suggested that we start exploring the possibility of such a venture, where we can digitise and democratise our investment market. Despite cautionary feedback from our friends in the finance world about the state of the Bangladesh stock market and the lack of financial literacy, we remained undeterred. In fact, it only fueled our ambition to work harder and create something remarkable given the challenging circumstances.

Co-Founder, InveStar BD
Founder, InveStar BD
Photograph: Najmul Haque Sagor

Investment is a daunting and complicated subject to many. How does InveStar BD simplify investing?

Dipro K. Chowdhury: Our primary goal is to democratise the investment market in Bangladesh by addressing key challenges such as limited access to investments outside Dhaka and low financial literacy among potential investors. Contrary to the common belief that investment is highly risky, we aim to educate people about the diverse investment options available, according to their risk appetites. Through our digital platform, individuals even in remote areas will have equal access to investment opportunities.

Moreover, we are determined to bridge the gender gap in investing. By providing a digital platform, we aim to empower young tech-savvy investors with financial knowledge and easy access to the market. We believe that a healthy economy requires a strong and inclusive capital market, aligning with our overarching development goals. By providing educational resources and digital accessibility, we hope to empower a new generation of investors, including more women, thus contributing to the growth and prosperity of our nation.

Farihan F. Rahman: Currently, investing in Bangladesh involves cumbersome physical processes, causing inefficiencies and discouraging tech-savvy investors, particularly women. To address this, InveStar BD aims to offer a comprehensive digital platform, enabling users to open accounts, invest, and access free basic education online. We also plan to provide advanced paid courses for in-depth learning, promoting a new generation of informed investors. Our vision is to enable ‘micro-investments’ and foster long-term investment strategies in Bangladesh.

InveStar BD was selected by Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub. Please elaborate on this partnership and its possibilities for InveStar BD to impact Bangladesh’s capital market.

Farihan F. Rahman: Being selected by Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub was a significant milestone for InveStar BD. This partnership opens up exciting possibilities for impacting Bangladesh’s capital market through cutting-edge technology. Our learning platform will feature one of the country’s first AI-driven tutors, backed by Microsoft’s expertise and resources. By introducing this, we aim to stay at the forefront of technological innovation, paralleling the progress of developed countries. Microsoft’s support grants us access to essential tools such as cloud infrastructure, encryption, security and Azure OpenAi credits, ensuring our platform’s reliability and safeguarding investors’ money. Being associated with a renowned company like Microsoft boosts customer trust and confidence in our endeavour to offer a meaningful and valuable investment platform.

Where do you see the market heading in the future? What role do you see InveStar BD playing in it?

Farihan F. Rahman: Despite the current bear market, I remain optimistic that it will eventually bounce back in the coming years, just as it has in the past. It’s like a roller coaster with its ups and downs. Building financial literacy is crucial so that when the market recovers, people can make informed decisions and avoid investing in risky stocks. In this regard, our partnership with the Dhaka Stock Exchange, Beximco and other local reputable companies will play a pivotal role in educating and guiding investors towards sound investments. Our app will offer diverse investment options, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and even investments in startups. We are actively working on onboarding non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) and making foreign investment easier through policy changes.

Dipro K. Chowdhury: The Dhaka Stock Exchange shares our optimism and anticipates a substantial capital influx into the market. With a growing population having expendable income, promoting investment becomes crucial for improving net worth and securing a comfortable retirement. Our digital platform aims to facilitate direct investments from abroad, tapping into the country’s growth opportunities. Opening up the economy historically leads to faster growth, and Bangladesh’s high growth potential makes it an attractive market. Despite challenges, we believe Bangladesh’s market will continue to experience significant growth for years to come.