Pioneering Social Entrepreneur Championing Meaningful Impact

In the heart of Bangladesh, a nation known for its industrious spirit, Saif Rashid stands as a beacon of hope and a true pioneer as one of the social entrepreneurship. As the Founder and Managing Director of Apon Bazaar and AponTech, Saif Rashid has not only made a remarkable mark on the industry but has also been recognized on the prestigious 2023 Meaningful Business 100 (MB100) list, a testament to his unwavering dedication to uniting profit and purpose in the pursuit of the United Nations Global Goals.

A Beacon of Change in Bangladesh

Saif Rashid’s journey into the world of social entrepreneurship began with his role as an Ashoka Fellow, a prestigious title he has held since August 2015. Over eight years, Saif has honed his skills in community engagement, impactful presentations, effective team building, leadership development, communication, and the art of social entrepreneurship. These skills have become the bedrock of his mission to transform the lives of Bangladesh’s industrial workforce.

Adding to his illustrious career, Saif Rashid received the esteemed title of Social Entrepreneur of the Year from the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, a recognition he has held for an impressive nine years. This accolade underscores his remarkable ability to engage communities, deliver compelling presentations, foster strong teams, and provide visionary leadership that generates lasting social impact.

Apon Bazaar: Bridging Financial Gaps

At the heart of Saif Rashid’s mission is his role as the Founder & Managing Director of Apon Bazaar. Apon Bazaar is a groundbreaking financial aggregator designed specifically for Bangladesh’s low-income industrial workforce. In a country where accessing affordable credit remains a formidable challenge, Apon Bazaar has emerged as a game-changer.

The conventional avenues for credit in Bangladesh are often expensive and out of reach for these workers. In response, Apon Bazaar has introduced an ingenious solution, allowing workers to access up to 30% of their salary as virtually zero-interest credit. Strategically placed grocery stores facilitate this innovative approach, enabling workers to use their credit for essential purchases without incurring extra costs. Furthermore, they enjoy discounts and access to free health insurance. The physical stores, aided by Apon Agents and a dedicated app, streamline transactions and repayments, offering a one-stop solution. Already, Apon Bazaar has positively impacted the lives of over 100,000 workers, generating savings of more than $600,000. The vision is set on empowering one million industrial workers in the future.

Recognition and Global Impact

The profound impact of Saif Rashid’s work has gained recognition on both national and international platforms. BBC World Service featured Apon Bazaar as part of its “People Fixing the World” series, highlighting how a grocery store is bringing healthcare to those who typically cannot afford it. 

Apon Bazaar’s innovative approach has earned recognition on the global stage as well. Inclusion Plus Bangladesh celebrated it as the winner, cementing its status as a pioneering solution. The documentary showcasing Apon Tech Ltd.’s journey towards providing healthier lives for Bangladeshi garment workers also highlighted Saif Rashid’s commitment to improving their lives. Articles in Dhaka Tribune and IBTBD further spotlight the inclusive model that enhances the real income of RMG (Ready-Made Garment) workers.

A Life Devoted to Social Impact

Saif Rashid’s journey into the realm of social entrepreneurship was propelled by his role as the Chief Executive of JITA Social Business Bangladesh Ltd. From January 2012 to March 2016, he managed a rural sales network of underprivileged women in Bangladesh. His leadership led to a remarkable 35% annual growth rate, benefiting countless families and communities.

Before this, Saif served as a Program Manager for Corporate Engagement at CARE Bangladesh. During his tenure from July 2009 to December 2011, he spearheaded initiatives that engaged the private sector in development, resulting in innovative employment creation models and the strengthening of input markets. His efforts garnered significant support from the private sector, leading to the successful transition of projects into sustainable enterprises.

Education and Expertise

Saif Rashid’s journey is not only a testament to his passion but also his dedication to learning and acquiring expertise. He holds a Master of Engineering degree from Carleton University in Computer/Information Technology Administration and Management. Furthermore, he completed the Hans Wahl Impact Entrepreneurship Programme at INSEAD in May 2023, showcasing his commitment to ongoing learning.

He was also a recipient of a scholarship from The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship and Harvard Kennedy School, where he took part in the executive education course on Social Entrepreneurship titled “The Art and Science of System Change.” This unique opportunity allowed him to connect with like-minded social entrepreneurs from around the world, expanding his knowledge and network.

Saif Rashid’s educational journey includes Global Social Benefits Institute training at Santa Clara University, specialized programs at the University of Glasgow, and a Bachelor of Business Administration at Khulna University, all of which equipped him with the skills needed to drive impactful change.

A Vision for a Brighter Future

Saif Rashid’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of combining business acumen with a deep commitment to social impact. His unwavering dedication to improving the lives of Bangladesh’s industrial workers and empowering communities is inspiring. As he continues to break new ground with Apon Bazaar and AponTech, Saif envisions a brighter future for millions of Bangladeshis, where financial inclusion and access to essential services are no longer distant dreams.

In Saif Rashid, Bangladesh has found a visionary leader who embodies the values of social entrepreneurship and the unwavering belief that profit and purpose can work hand in hand to create a better world. His journey serves as an inspiring example of what can be achieved when individuals dedicate their lives to meaningful change.