The Light That Went Out Too Soon


Miftahul Zannat


Fahim Saleh was a sixteen-year-old when he created his first website — TeenHangout.com. This was way back in 2003 when social media websites were still not as popular as now, and had only begun to gain some traction. However, young Fahim had a dream and was determined to bring it to fruition without the help of his father. So, he familiarised himself with online business forums, and asked for a company to host his website in exchange for ads. And, that was just the beginning of this brilliant entrepreneur’s foray into the world of business.


After graduating from Bentley University in 2009 with a Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) major, Saleh had to start looking for jobs. By then, his head was teeming with ideas. It was while waiting to hear back from potential employers, and so he decided to pay attention to his idea that had till then remained in the backburner. 

This was the inception of PrankDial.comthe website that would turn into Saleh’s first success story. When talking about PrankDial.com, Saleh described it as a “passion project”, into which he expended all his energy. And, his relentless drive to better and improve his website led to PrankDial.com generating 10 million dollars in its lifetime.

Though Saleh’s earlier entrepreneurial endeavours may have been obscure, he was well-known as the co-founder of Pathao, and the founder of Gokada and Adventure Capital.

After PrankDial.com, he began looking for business opportunities in Bangladesh, and it was while researching that he chanced upon the untapped potential of Bangladesh in the ride-sharing sector. Pathao was born; and though it initially offered delivery services, it soon gained fame as a competent ride sharing service in the country. The inceptions of his other ventures, such as Gokada and Jobike had similar origin stories. He was aware of the several untapped business sectors in developing countries, and so he relentlessly strategised to start businesses that would help these countries grow with the help of innovative services. 

That was how Saleh ended up founding Gokada — a motorcycle taxi service in Nigeria. He writes that one of his intentions behind starting Gokada was to ensure passenger safety and to create more job opportunities in Lagos, the commercial hub of the country. While Gokada quickly gained popularity and success in Lagos, it started facing setbacks in February this year due to the enforcement of its 2018 Transit Sector Law that put a ban on okadas (widely used motorcycle taxis in Nigeria). 

And, while Gokada’s motorcycles were safer with an accident rate of 0.07% as mentioned by Saleh himself in a heartfelt video, the ban led to the company facing a crisis and having to gradually transform its services to exclusively package and food delivery. 

What is, however, worth emphasising is Saleh’s resolution to continue Gokada even in the face of adversity. While the man behind the success stories may often be eclipsed by his companies, Saleh’s articles on Medium offer a glimpse into who he was as a person. His helpful insights and guides for fledgling entrepreneurs on the website allow one to see him as a helpful person who wants to motivate and encourage young entrepreneurs to become the best. He encouraged people to work hard and with commitment. He encouraged them to follow their passions, and to be determined in the process. This paints Saleh as a diligent thinker, resolute in his passions, and optimistic of their outcomes. Friends describe him as a “nice and friendly person, always smiling”. And though we will never get the opportunity to really get to know the diligent and charismatic Fahim Saleh, we will forever mourn the loss of a light that went out too soon.

 


The writer is a part of the TDA Editorial Team.  

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