Shama-e Zaheer (who looks like Morpheus)
Updated: Dec 6, 2021
New York City:
My 8th train stop. My classmate Shama-e Zaheer (MBA 06) met up with me at NY Penn station. We walked to the Shake Shack restaurant in a park next to the Flatiron building to get some drinks.
Shama-e and I used to have the most interesting, deep conversations back in b-school. Not only does he look like Morpheus from "The Matrix", but I swear he even speaks like Morpheus at times.
After a glass of wine in the park, I was feeling pretty awesome. Sharma-e shared with me a very interesting insight of his. To paraphrase his words: "No one in New York knows what they are doing. The ones who become successful are the ones who are best at faking it."
I agree. It's not an absolute truth, but I do think his observation is generally correct and quite funny.
Additionally, Shama-e discussed how I can promote my new business Swarm Buddy. He said for start-ups to succeed, you need a "Hacker, Hustler, and Designer". If your business is missing any one of these 3 skill sets, you better start looking for a partner to fill in the gaps.
Shama-e is currently the CEO of Ergo Ventures, a software development and consultancy company with offices in New York, Toronto and Bangladesh (https://ergo-ventures.com) and co-founder of Rust & Fray, a limited-run, upscale fashion and handbag company crafted with environmentally, upcycled materials (https://rustandfray.com).
Rust & Fray was started by Shama-e and his wife Donna in New York. They create upcycle bags from factory excess material in Bangladesh, vegan leather and leather fabric denim. They cherry pick really nice factory excess material that would have ended up in a landfill and sort of "rescue" them: make bags out of them. Rust & Fray designs all their limited run bags in New York and manufactures them in Bangladesh, working with small entrepreneurs, family run, artisans who handcraft each bag.
I asked Shama-e who are their target customers.
Initially when they started, Rust & Fray thought their bags would appeal mostly to people who are environmentally conscious. But they have found that their customers love their handbags not just because they are upcycled, but because of their limited-runs (e.g., 6 to 20 pieces). Each set have handbags are custom tailored with a unique story (e.g., an upcycled bag made from the material of sarees worn at weddings and bridal showers).
When a customer buys one of their handbags, they are effectively buying only one of 20 that exists in the world. This appeals to a wide range of customers. Initially, Rust & Fray thought their target demographics would be 24 to 40 year old women. But they have found that people much older and younger students love their bags.
Shama-e loves New York. He and his wife have a son who is 8 years old now.
Previously, Shama-e returned to Bangladesh after b-school because he came to Emory University under a Fulbright scholarship which requires he return to his country for 2 years to contribute using the knowledge he has gained from his MBA education.
Shama-e was an Assistant Professsor and Lecturer in Bangladesh for a number of years and was planning to stay in academia, even starting a PhD program in Canada. But when his father passed away, he had to stop his PhD program and look after the family business. One thing led to another and when he, his uncle, mother and brothers felt the time was right to expand into other countries, they decided to open up an office in New York City. So that's what brought him to New York.
Shama-e says New York is the perfect place to do both tech and fashion. In his words: New York provides you with the opportunity. The onus is still on you to take that opportunity and run with it. He has lived in parts of Florida, Atlanta, and spent some time in the West Coast. He has found New York to be the place that offers a person the opportunity to take a business the fastest to market provided that you have the acumen, the preparedness, and the willingness to put in the hard work to seize that opportunity.
New York is a great equalizer and having an MBA really helps. Because in New York, there are certain things that are expected of you. You are expected to understand the lingo: In finance terms: the terms of the transaction or the lingo of logistics. So an MBA really helps.
Shama-e has also found the people in New York to be really friendly. But you need to make the first move. Even though everything moves very fast and efficiently in New York, people will give you a good 15 minutes of their time. But in 15 minutes, you better make your point and drive your value proposition if you want to hold their attention.
New York is also a lot of fun. The subway takes you everywhere. Nightlife is great. The food, the restaurants, are amazing. Restaurants are very kid friendly. It's easy to find good restaurants that cater to a wide range of dietary preferences and palates in New York.
New York is an awesome place to live or visit. Come check-out New York. You may end up spending a few months here or a lifetime.