How Think Company empowers students on their entrepreneurial paths

“I’ve always wanted to change the world, but I know I cannot do it alone – that’s why I’ve decided to build a business.” –Tania Afrin

There is something about Tania Afrin’s presence that makes anyone around her feel comfortable. She has that world-changing attitude which makes you know she is up to something that will make a difference. She's got a business plan unlike any other!

But let’s let Tania tell it herself!

Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?

Absolutely! I’m a 34-year-old girl and originally moved to Finland from Dhaka, Bangladesh, back in 2008. I first moved to Varkaus where I studied a Bachelor’s degree in Administration and International Marketing Management.

From Varkaus, I moved to Brussels for a work placement in the European Union, which to me was a game-changer, and where I initially found my passion towards environmental work. In Brussels, I had the opportunity to attend a 3-day forest fare during my internship.  And as I returned back to Finland, I started my Master’s degree in Forest Science & Business. Forest Science is a vast topic, but to state it briefly, it’s everything to do with the forest product, for example, tourism & ecosystem services, or biofuel & energy.

I’ve always been a world-changer at heart. When I lived in Bangladesh, I did a lot of volunteer work with the local environmental issues – and now the University of Helsinki and Think Company has given me the opportunity to pursue my dedication even further.

Before you tell us more about the business you are building, let’s take a minute to talk about Finland!

Actually, at first I heard about the study opportunities in Finland through a friend. The only image I back then had of the country then was its thousands of lakes, which I had learned about as a little girl. How could a country have that many lakes?

As I researched Finland and its study opportunities a bit further, I found out that there is a lot more to offer than just the great variety of places to swim in. Its universities have been ranked as one of the best in the world. And I heard that the country has no corruption and that it was peaceful. As someone living in the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka, it sounded like a dream to me.

And to be honest, the first winter here was not easy. To prepare for Finland, I bought the warmest clothes Bangladesh had to offer. But as I got to Helsinki, I understood what cold is truly like. And it’s not what I expected. Now I’ve learned to love winter. The first snow is so beautiful. I remember my first Finnish winter well, the first walk on a frozen lake with my friends, making snow angels. It felt so surreal.

Then to the most exciting part, you are building your own business! What is it all about?

Never expected it either, but here I am! What I most want is to change the world, and building my own business is the way I’ve decided to go about it. We are a team of four people, developing a platform where we are going to find different waste-related projects in developing countries. The aim is to turn waste into biogas, fertiliser, biofuel or even electricity. In Bangladesh, only 60% of people have access to electricity, so by turning waste into more affordable electricity, we could give access to such basic human-needs for more people in the country. And having grown up in Bangladesh, I’m well accustomed to the reality of how bad a waste problem can be in a developing country. It is a frightening threat to our environment, and I know I can be the change to fight for a better planet.

What this could potentially mean is to change the lives of millions of people living in developing countries. By cleaning up the waste to a better use, we would also clean the waters. And we all know how important access to clean water is – it’s the essence of all life.

Thanks to Think Company, we now have a great mentor supporting our path to entrepreneurship. With my connections back in Bangladesh, we would already have a project in the country. Now we only need someone with an interest to invest in developing countries, after which we could start importing Finnish technology to clean up the waters from waste, and to truly start making a difference. And by using Finnish technology, we would be able to keep 85% of the revenue inside of Finland, which would eventually generate jobs in the area.

So the only thing we are missing is the investor, and after that, we would be ready for our first project within 2 months time! We already have our first client waiting in Bangladesh!

Your world-changing attitude. Was it always in your plans?

Yes. In one way or another, I always knew I wanted to make a difference – that is an ability we are all born with. As a teenager living in Dhaka, I joined an organisation called Youth Against Hunger. At YAH then one of the most critical matters was tree plantation, which was probably my first look into the world of environmental forest work. And I was always there to volunteer when we had a flood or a fire somewhere in the city.

That’s when I realised that even if I cannot do much to change the world, I can do something.