Only founded as an independent state in 1971 but now with a per capita GDP on par with India’s, Bangladesh has been widely tipped as the next Asian tiger. The bedrock of its success lies in a booming start-up sector, a hotbed of tech-focused activity with multiple unicorns in the making. And, for Mohsena Munna, the opportunity to contribute as financial controller of Startup Bangladesh – a government-owned venture capital company tasked with nurturing the sector – seemed a perfect fit.
‘The organisation’s focus on promoting and supporting start-ups in Bangladesh aligns perfectly with my career aspirations,’ she explains. ‘I was particularly drawn to the potential impact that Startup Bangladesh could have on fostering innovation, supporting entrepreneurship and creating employment opportunities in the country.’
‘Managing financial resources effectively requires creativity and adaptability’
Domestically, Bangladesh’s proportionally young population, having grown up with digital literacy, has produced the talent driving the country’s vibrant start-up ecosystem. Various government support measures – including the establishment of incubation centres, funding programmes and policy reforms – have also been successful in attracting foreign investment.
More than 1,200 active start-ups are focused primarily on areas such as technology, e-commerce, fintech and social entrepreneurship. One of the goals of Startup Bangladesh is to help produce at least five unicorns (a start-up worth US$1bn) by 2025.
Financial controller, Startup Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Head of internal audit, BDCOM Online, Dhaka
Business analyst, BDCOM Online
Co-founder, De Tempête Limited, Dhaka
Assistant manager, finance, JITA Social Business Bangladesh, Dhaka
Executive, finance and accounts, Tech Valley Networks, Dhaka
‘By fostering a culture of financial literacy, we can contribute to the success of the start-up ecosystem’
In addition to overseeing the organisation’s fiscal health – working remotely as a ‘virtual CFO’ – Mohsena contributes to its strategic direction by providing financial insights that inform the decision-making in other departments. She also provides expertise to the Bangladesh Association of Contact Center and Outsourcing and the Skills for Employment Investment Program, a government initiative, helping to develop a finance accounting outsourcing competency standard and competency-based learning materials.
The finance function within a start-up environment can, Mohsena says, be particularly dynamic and fast-paced. ‘Managing financial resources effectively, especially in the face of limited budgets and the need for scalability, requires creativity and adaptability,’ she explains. ‘Additionally, staying abreast of changing regulations and compliance requirements is crucial in order to ensure the organisation’s financial activities align with legal frameworks.’
However, these challenges also present opportunities for innovation. ‘By leveraging technology and automation, we can streamline financial processes and improve efficiency,’ she notes. ‘Furthermore, by fostering a culture of financial literacy and promoting data-driven decision-making, we can drive sustainable growth and contribute to the success of the start-up ecosystem.’
Coming from an entrepreneurial background has equipped Mohsena well for her role. In 2017 she co-founded De Tempête Limited, a provider of finance and accounting outsourcing services to SMEs and start-ups. An ACCA Platinum Approved Employer, De Tempête won Bangladesh organisation Women & E-commerce’s award for Business Innovation in 2019 and was named a ‘top 10 digital-ready company’ by the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services in 2020.
Before joining Startup Bangladesh, Mohsena was head of internal audit at BDCOM Online, a leading internet service provider (ISP). The role ‘equipped me with a deep understanding of the ICT industry and the regulatory environment it operates in,’ she says. ‘Exposure to the complex financial structures and diverse operational challenges of an ISP enhanced my ability to analyse financial data and identify risks, while honing my skills in implementing internal controls and ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.
‘It allowed me to develop a comprehensive understanding of the challenges faced by businesses and how to address them effectively. Working closely with clients from various industries enhanced my ability to provide tailored solutions and offer valuable insights into their financial operations.’
Beyond the technical expertise gained through ACCA, Mohsena credits her qualification with developing her critical thinking, problem-solving and leadership skills. ‘ACCA’s emphasis on ethical and professional standards resonated with my values and aspirations as an accounting professional,’ adds the winner of an ACCA Bangladesh Advocacy Award two years in a row, in 2019 and 2020. Since 2021 she has also been a member of ACCA Bangladesh’s advisory committee.
‘Finance professionals can now leverage real-time data to gain valuable insights’
Startup Bangladesh is established as the flagship venture capital company of the government’s ICT division.
BDT 500 crores (US$46m)
Approximate amount disbursed among 26 start-ups
Mohsena also believes that embracing emerging technology is crucial for finance professionals to stay competitive, improve efficiency and deliver greater value to their organisations.
‘As a virtual CFO, I have witnessed first hand how technology has revolutionised financial management and decision-making processes,’ she explains. ‘The availability of advanced software, automation tools and data analytics platforms has streamlined financial operations, enhanced accuracy and accelerated the availability of critical financial information. Finance professionals can now leverage real-time data to gain valuable insights and make informed strategic decisions.
‘Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning enable predictive analysis, risk assessment and the identification of trends that were previously difficult to detect. These technologies also facilitate the development of sophisticated financial models, enabling finance professionals to evaluate scenarios and provide accurate forecasts.’
The drive to constantly seek new experiences and challenges extends to Mohsena’s hobbies, too. She especially enjoys travelling, visiting and photographing heritage sites around the world.
‘These interests serve as a source of inspiration and rejuvenation for me, allowing me to strike a balance between my professional pursuits and personal growth,’ she says. ‘They remind me of the beauty that exists beyond the realms of finance and technology, offering a fresh perspective and fuelling my creativity.’