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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Close up tomakei khujche Bangladesh!

The world is on the lookout for a 'famous' Bangladeshi female business official. The number of daily searches in Google and other blogs who mention her name that led users to Bangladesh Corporate Blogs never seem to decline. Some of the keywords even asked for her 'gallery', 'album', 'pics' and other keywords not worthy of mention here. Some are also discussing raunchy speculations on how her employers, sensing trouble ahead, conducted a successful 'hoodiny act' and moved her 'behind the curtains', some even guessed that she might be out of the country too.

All this curiosity about this particular person, her whereabouts, links to other corporates in recent headlines etc. make me wonder, 'why do we bother?'. One thing is for certain that as more and more women would be inducted in our corporates, male counterparts will have to readjust how they perceive their female colleagues, their capacities, their expertise etc. It seems as if if a female colleague, executive happens to be externally attractive too, it fuels, to some extent, typical male fantasies. I don't intend to embark on a debate over women's rights and gender disputes. Office spouses, office fantasies and 'all other non-official' male-female activities etc. are normal and are bound to happen everywhere in the world, in any workplace. I just think that we should be prepared for this upcoming trend in Bangladeshi companies. As there might be many more good looking female colleagues, bosses and sub-ordinates. We might need to work with them, order them and on top of all, might have to 'follow orders from them'. So two proposals in the end, for those who want to embrace happily female workforce into their midst---lets put their expertise primary, their external beauty, personal lives secondary. For those who still can't get over the sex appeal, make a website like Dhaka hotties, propose a few more names, so that we can have a competition at hand and give that 'person in question' some rest from repetitive woman-hunt done in Google.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Student brains ad money

The 3rd Dhaka Advertising Festival will begin at Sonargaon Hotel on September 7 aiming at cementing the ties between the participants and visitors. A competition on the print, outdoor and other creative advertisings by the young and ambitious people will be held during the two-day festival, the Advertising Club Dhaka, the festival organiser, disclosed this at a press conference at the Dhaka Reporters Unity on Saturday. The festival organising committee said the festival would provide opportunities for advertising and marketing people to work together for the industry, where outstanding advertising ideas would be encouraged and rewarded. The festival will feature exhibition on outstanding print and outdoor advertisements, television commercial screening, cultural programme and discussion on advertising theory and practice by local and international scholars. The theme of the festival is ‘Advertising-Redefined’, the organisers said adding that everyday the concept of marketing communication was changing with the changes of consumer needs. Organizers said without catering to the consumers’ demand and bringing required changes in the products and ideas one cannot sustain in the present-day competition. They also said the advertising industry in Bangladesh was growing in confidence and international competitive standard and they believe that festival will be an ideal forum for advert firms and visitors.

No wonder our ad firms have matured over time in terms of conceptualization, use of technology and creativity. Asiatic MCL, Adcomm, Mattra, Bitopi, Windmill, Unitrend etc. have timed their 'coming of age' with the growth of various sectors in the country. Nevertheless, the word is in the air that the mushrooming of ad agencies is facilitating the exploitation of creative students. Many ad agencies are using these students to work for them so they 'gain experience', the companies are selling those creative designs, concepts to high prices to corporates and worst of all, many such student workers are complaining of not getting paid and being harassed by the management! Many such vibrant brains from IBA, NSU, IUB, Charukala Institute, etc. are alleged to have been exploited by a few ad agencies in this way. Lets hope the ad agencies will continue maturing and coming up with world class advertisements for their clients, but at the same time, lets give due credit to those young student brains who are helping you get that big ad deal.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

GP ISP WIMAX and all that jazz!

bdnews24 reports
Grameenphone plans to roll out an ambitious WiMax project to conquer a new front—fixed wireless broadband access to Internet. But the planned move has caused ire among internet service providers (ISP) who dubbed the latest GP adventure as disruptive and against fair competition. Its management is tight-lipped about the high-speed wireless network strategy to comprehensively to hold sway over the broadband market. The dominant cellphone provider that commands 62 percent market share is also the largest ISP thanks to its 2.3 million GPRS and EDGE mobile internet users, though these services are hamstrung by bandwidth constraints.
Actually GrameenPhone has become so big that even if they make the most subtle move, it is bound to disturb a few here and there. This VoIP thingie had been going on very well and some mobile phone companies and ISPs had been hands in gloves in the trade. No wonder most of them will still be out of the reach of law, because they are 'big'. Enough of mud-throwing had been going on as well between the ISPs and the mobile operators. Now this latest tussle over WiMAX is set to take their cold wars to a new level. We, as users, have to wait and see who wins, we consumers just do not want to lose out any more, that is the last request.

BATB strengthens its smoking channels

FE Reports
British American Tobacco Bangladesh (BATB) recently organised the first-ever Key Account Training for Excellence (KTX) session in the country. The training was conducted for enhancing the professional and management skills of the employees of a superstore in the context of Bangladesh. The first session of the programme was held with the employees of Meena Bazaar at Meena House in the city.BATB inaugurated the training by highlighting the company's philosophy to work with special channels as a partner to enhance the profitability of the outlets, and facilitate resource development. The training was highly appreciated by the participants. BATB has plans to roll out similar programmes in the country's other superstores as an ongoing support to the emerging industry.
Pretty interesting move by the tobacco king to set its sight on the infant retail sector of Bangladesh. While big names like TESCO stepping into the retail foray in neighboring countries, no wonder Bangladeshi retail industry is also gearing up with Meena Bazar, Agora, Nandan etc. leading the rally. These retail stores are very important points of sales for selling BATB's products, so its obvious that they will come forward in their capacity building. While keeping an eye on how BATB tackles anti-smoking campaigns and activities, its worth having a close notice of the tiny retail sector of the country too, where there is room for new entrants and for expansion.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Micro-credit mising it's mark? Wait, is there a clearly established mark?

Since micro-credit is such a major part of our economy (the implications of which I will not go into here), some interesting blog posts and links courtesy of, below.


Article by Aneel Karnani (author of "Mirage at The Bottom of the Pyramid") in Stanford Social Innovation Review, “Microfinance Misses It’s Mark

“Despite the hoopla over microfinance, it doesn’t cure poverty. But stable jobs do. If societies are serious about helping the poorest of the poor, they should stop investing in microfinance and start supporting large, labor-intensive industries. At the same time, governments must hold up their end of the deal, for market-based solutions will never be enough.”


Is the Microfinace Model Broken?

"It seems timely to revisit the need for scrutiny in the microfinance industry as it enters the mainstream and to hopefully broaden the debate beyond academic circles and development institutions. CGAP this month published a focus note analyzing the Compartamos IPO, essentially seeking to answer the question of whether the exceptionally high profits Compartamos has earned for its private shareholders can be justified for an organization that is supposed to have the social interests of its clients in mind. CGAP's answer, while not completely damning, is not a vindication for Compartamos either - they conclude that the NGO could have reasonably charged lower interest rates that would have decreased profits but allowed poor clients to keep more of their earnings."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What is a Bangladeshi Manager?

Every (one) Bengali is a poet/singer, two Bengalis become good friends and love to speak in Bangla and three or more Bengalis immediately form a political party. So the current notion is such that we Bengalis are emotional, we are usually friendly and we are very politicized. Anthropologists know better perhaps why we don’t possess the ‘kshatriya’ traits of a warrior, we are not aggressive, rude, risktaking, proactive. We are rather laid back, reactive, let others take the initiative first, we prefer to wait, watch and take a long time to decide whether to move or not. Most of the time we are moved or led by non-Bengalis. The British came, the British went, the Pakistanis came, the Pakistanis went, all of them followed the ‘divide and rule’ philosophy very successfully, leaving us divided, reeling from lack of ambition, identity, leadership. I guess the time is right to wake up and take ownership of our management. Let four or more Bengalis now form a business startup (not a pol party anymore) that would generate profit, be global and will become a brand ambassador of the greatest brand we all possess-Bangladesh.

Management driven by patriotism can work wonders. Many of our telecom, cement, banks, etc. are led by non-Bangladeshi managers. We welcome foreign mentors who would lead us and establish the foundation on which we can built upon. But in my personal humble opinion, I would prefer the eventual surrender of market opponents to the hands of a ‘Made in Bangladesh’ General Osmanis rather than to ‘Foreign Generals’ every time or for a long time, originating from India, Pakistan, Egypt, Norway, France, UK, USA etc. So how do we build the Bangladeshi manager waiting to take over the global boardroom? This war can be built on a few broad strategies.

There is no alternative to knowledge, the more we know than others the better we can take advantage of others ignorance.

Lets build networks, networks of Bangladeshi business professionals across the globes so that we can exchange business cards, ideas, technology, investments etc.

Learn English, one more European language (preferably French or Spanish) and ofcourse Chinese. Lets be proud of our Bengali heritage and uphold our expertise to foreigners in their language.

Lets be vocal and aggressive, when we do a sales pitch, when we give a presentation, when we argue with our foreign counterparts. Let us not be polite where it is fine to be rude.
Lets not get carried away or be upset with short term gains, wars won/lost, lets be long-sighted and plan to win battles, not just wars...boardroom wars.

Just some off the head principles that Bangladeshi managers might find useful, I am sure there are successful examples contradicting the ones above, hats off to them. The bottomline remains simple. They say that there are no guards in the hell cells where Bengalis are kept to be punished for their misdeeds. God asks his deputy ‘Why?’. Deputy says that in that particular cell, when one Bengali tries to escape, the others pull him down, so in the end, none can escape anyways, they themselves make sure they don’t get out of the mess, so we don’t need to put a guard there. Lets be managers in such a way that we get to see foreign guards in our doorsteps, afraid of our growth, energy, potential and ofcourse---unity.

Ericsson dance like an Egyptian

Ericsson has staged a comeback to Banglalink with its suite of base transceiver stations (BTS) and base station controller (BSC). The Swedish vendor was swapped by Siemens and Huawei when Egypt’s Orascom Telecom that owns Banglalink took over Sheba Telecom in September 2004. Three years later, Ericsson has taken partial revenge by displacing Huawei’s radio access equipment from Banglalink’s network in Dhaka and its environs that generate nearly 70 percent revenue. "Ericsson will replace Huawei’s 250 units of BTS and four units of BSC to increase our capacity and quality," Banglalink’s chief technical officer Marius Armeanca told Monday. He would not disclose the value of the deal, though. But it does not mean Huawei’s equipment are below par, nor have they been swapped, Armeanca stressed. Banglalink will use the displaced Chinese gears in other parts of its network.
Banglalink has been struggling with poor quality and capacity constraints to cope with exploding clientele. Siemens apparently have had the increased call traffic covered, Huawei did not. Siemens however could not tap this opportunity as its Dhaka office was busy with corporate fortification before merger with Nokia. Ericsson executives sitting on the fence promptly scrambled in Orascom’s Cairo headquarters. Its profile of being Grameenphone and Warid Telecom’s sole core network supplier as well as Aktel’s major vendor along with the largest contingent of local workforce probably impressed the Egyptians. It became more apparent when Orascom chief executive Naguib Sawiris expressed traditional Arabic gesture of friendship by embracing and kissing Ericsson CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg at a dinner in 3GSM World Congress at Barcelona last February. Banglalink’s Rashid Khan was the only chief executive not to be an Ericsson client to have met Svanberg during his brief daylong visit in Dhaka late April. It added fuel to speculations of a brewing deal although the parties were tight-lipped. Finally last Tuesday, Ericsson broke the news of striking its very first deal with Orascom through Banglalink. "This will ensure that the network gains the right technological building blocks as it moves in to the future," Rashid Khan said in a statement. Orascom took over Sheba and re-branded it as Banglalink in September 2004 with a mere 25,000 customers in seven years of business. Sheba put no effort to expand the network it bought from Ericsson as the operator’s shareholders were locked in a prolonged legal battle. Ericsson saw its hardware being taken off from incumbent customer by smaller and obscure rivals. Three years later it made a re-entry to the "Tiger’s Den" (Banglalink headquarters) with BTS and BSC. "We have the largest portfolio of products and services for Banglalink," Ericsson Bangladesh managing director Arun Bansal told "It is the customer’s prerogative to choose and time will answer what it picks." Those who know Bansal would not take his casual statement so casually.

Outsourcery: The emergence of B2C & P2P Offshoring?

Face value
The outsourcerer

Jun 21st 2007
From The Economist print edition

If you want to see where Indian outsourcing is going, keep an eye on Krishnan Ganesh

"WE ARE addressing the bottom of the pyramid," says Krishnan Ganesh, an Indian entrepreneur, of his latest venture, TutorVista . It is a phrase that cheekily calls to mind the mass poor in his native country—but TutorVista, an online tuition service, is aimed squarely at customers in the developed world. Mr Ganesh founded the company in late 2005 after spotting that personal tutoring for American schoolchildren was unaffordable for most parents. His solution is to use tutors in India to teach Western students over the internet. The teachers all work from home, which means that the company is better able to avoid India's high-wage employment hotspots. TutorVista further hammers home its labour-cost advantage through its pricing model. It offers unlimited tuition in a range of subjects for a subscription fee of $100 per month in America (and £50 a month in Britain, where the service launched earlier this year) rather than charging by the hour. Tutors are available around the clock; appointments can be made with only 12 hours' notice.

It is too early to gauge the impact of the service on educational outcomes, says Mr Ganesh, but take-up is brisk. TutorVista has 2,200 paying subscribers at the moment (most of them in America) and hopes to boost that figure to 10,000 by the end of the year. The company is expected to become profitable in 2008. Even cheaper pricing packages are on the way. Launches of the service are planned for Australia and Canada. Mr Ganesh is also investigating the potential of offering tuition in English as a second language to students in South Korea, where high rates of broadband penetration make the market attractive. Get that right, and China looms as an even bigger prize.

Mr Ganesh is gambling that the benefits of offshored services can be sold directly to consumers. Building trust for an unknown Indian brand is the biggest difficulty he faces. Having reassuring local managers fronting his operations in America and Britain certainly helps; so too does the fact that TutorVista's teachers are experienced hands, with an average age of 45 (many of them are retired). Quality control is vital: sessions are recorded and parents, student and teacher share a monthly call to discuss progress. As for the thorny problem of accents, Mr Ganesh points out that much of the communication is non-verbal—teachers and students write on a shared virtual whiteboard.

Mr Ganesh has a habit of spotting the next stage in the evolution of India's outsourcing industry, and his own career encapsulates its rapid development. He started in 1990, just as the Indian economy was being liberalised, by founding IT&T, a computer-maintenance business serving local firms. It was a brave decision. Capital was scarce and Mr Ganesh tackled cashflow problems by getting companies to pay their maintenance premiums upfront. Red tape proliferated and it took 26 clearance permits and nine months of battling to get IT&T up and running. Entrepreneurs were regarded with suspicion, even in their own homes. Mr Ganesh says the strongest opposition he encountered was from his mother-in-law, who had blessed his marriage to her daughter because of his stable job in corporate planning.

By the time he stepped down from a hands-on role at the company in 1998, IT&T had 400 people, 16 offices and a turnover of 200m rupees ($4.8m). His next role, a two-year stint as the boss of a telecoms joint venture between Britain's BT and Bharti Enterprises, was more conventional. But before his in-laws could start to relax, the entrepreneurial itch flared up again. Realising that the internet would enable India to become a provider of outsourced services to overseas firms, Mr Ganesh and his wife founded a firm to offer technical support via e-mail for customers of dotcom start-ups. That market never materialised but the new firm, CustomerAsset, survived by becoming a call-centre business serving "old-economy" Western firms. It was acquired by ICICI, a business-process outsourcing firm, in 2002 for $22m.

And for my next trick...
After a year-long lock-in period with ICICI Mr Ganesh was free to scour the horizon for his next venture. The call-centre market had by this time become far more competitive, so Mr Ganesh identified more complex, knowledge-intensive services as the next frontier in offshore outsourcing. This time an opportunity came directly to him when the founders of Marketics, a data-analysis and modelling start-up, asked him to invest in their business and to become their non-executive chairman. "They wanted some grey hair," says Mr Ganesh. The company thrived and was sold in March for $65m.

By then, intrigued by the potential for applying the offshoring model to a consumer environment, Mr Ganesh had already turned his energies to TutorVista. Once again, he appears to be ahead of the curve. A new report from Evalueserve, a research firm, estimates that annual revenues from "person-to-person offshoring" by individuals and small businesses will top $2 billion by 2015, up from some $250m now. In addition to tuition, other services that are suited to this model include tax planning, interior design and administrative support. Mr Ganesh says that TutorVista will not be his last venture in this area.

Whatever he does next, starting a new firm will be a lot easier than it was back in 1990. Financing is more widely available: TutorVista's backers include the Indian arm of Sequoia Capital, a stalwart of Silicon Valley. Employees are more willing to consider joining start-up firms. Regulation is lighter, too. The paperwork required to set up TutorVista was completed in two weeks. But the improved business climate also has drawbacks—rivals are better funded and there is more competition for talented people. Presumably Mr Ganesh's success has, by now, overcome family opposition? "We have a saying in India," he responds. "Behind every successful man is a devoted wife—and a very surprised mother-in-law."

[Emphasis and embedded links mine]

Some interesting talking points to take away from this article.

Can the offshoring variant of business process outsourcing (BPO) be applied to "knowledge-intensive" web-based consumer services (B2C) in a sustainable and profitable way? Time will tell, no doubt. Making money from online content (including services) is always challenging
(I will not use the dreaded word "monetize"). The only successful attempt I can think of right now is The Wall Street Journal Online. You're basically limited to 3 models: (a) subscriptions, (b) access fees (mostly for premium content like dynamic real-time data, e.g., stock quotes, although one should note recent moves like Google lobbying to provide free real-time, last-sale stock prices), and (c) advertising.

Over the years there have been some interesting attempts in making web-based services more "human powered" but results have been inconclusive or mixed (c.f., human guides on Search has tended to be a bellwether for the web, and recent examples of "human powered" search include Mahalo (still in Alpha release) and ChaCha (currently in beta release). But I still don't know about sustainable revenue models. Especially in the consumer space where I imagine these kinds of providers might face a degree of competition from online community and blogging sites that share so-called knowledge content for free (some of my favorites being AskMetafilter, 43Folders, and Lifehacker).

I wish I could discuss these issues in a more local context, but our negligible Internet connectivity as a nation (forget broadband, think fraudband) and volatile business climate will probably make us miss this boat as well (the first boat being B2B BPO like call centers). And not to mention the lack of support an entrepreneur can expect from his family, or am I just being unfair?
You tell me.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Business Etiquette, Protocol and Customs in Bangladesh

In a hypothetical situation that I am a foreign businessman and I am allured by Corporate Bangladesh and am willing to do business with Bangladesh. After a quick search of Google, the following is what I found. There was nothing called 'Bangladesh' in

Communication Styles

• Bangladeshis are quite implicit/indirect communicators. They tend to communicate in long, rich and contextualized sentences which only make sense when properly understood in relation to body language.
• It is important for people who come from implicit/direct cultures to understand that their communication styles may be seen as rude and the information provided inadequate. (I didn't know that!)
• Personal space is less of an issue in Bangladesh than many European cultures. Bengalis stand close when speaking to someone of the same gender and touch is common.
• However, when speaking with a woman the space is often increased. (We are very space conscious businessmen!)

Meeting & Greeting

• Business etiquette in Bangladesh is reasonably formal. Proper behaviour is expected.
• Men greet each other with a handshake upon arriving and leaving.
• Foreign men should nod to a Bangladeshi woman unless she extends her hand. Businessmen should be addressed by the term "Bahadur" ("Sir"), while women may be addressed as "Begum" ("Madam"). This may be used with or without the surname. (Are we doing business with Bangladesh in 1876 with some Mughal rule or something? Bahadur Fazle Abed or Begum Rubaba, I would like to set up a business deal with you.....sounds unbelievable doesn't it?)
• Wait until your counterpart moves to a first name basis before you do so.

Business Card Etiquette

• Business cards are exchanged after the initial introduction.
• Educational qualifications are valued so include any university degrees.
• Present your business card with the right hand.
• Treat business cards given to you with respect. Merely glancing at it then throwing it on the table would be rude. Study it, comment on it and ideally place it into a business card holder.

Business Meetings

• Meetings in Bangladesh are generally the place where decisions are disseminated rather than made.
• They will usually be led by the most senior present who sets the agenda, the content, and the pace of the activities.
• Meeting structures are not very linear in Bangladesh. There may be an agenda and a starting time, but they only serve as guidelines.
• Completing a meeting fully takes priority over time and may extend well past any scheduled end time.
• Meetings may commence with some small talk.
• Communication is formal and follows a hierarchical structure. Deference to the most senior person in the group is expected. This is especially true when dealing with government officials.
• One should never let their level of professionalism slip. Casual behaviour may be misinterpreted as a lack of respect.
• Never lose your temper or show emotion. This may lead to a loss of face which will mean a loss of dignity and respect.
• The need to avoid a loss of face is also reflected in communication styles. Rather than say no or disappoint people Bangladeshis will phrase sentiments in such as way that it is up to people to read between the lines to understand what is being implied. Phrases such as "we will try", "that may be difficult", or "we will have to give that some though" may really mean “this can’t be done”.
• Therefore, it is important to ask questions in several ways so you can be certain what was meant by a vague response. Silence is often used as a communication tool.
• Many people comment on the lack of smiles in Bangladesh. This has nothing to do with unfriendliness but rather related to the fact that a serious face is believed to demonstrate maturity.

I am a bit disoriented after reading this, may be some of it is true, some of it not, if you come across something which can give a better picture of Corporate Bangladesh, please do share. That article didn't mention anything about our punctuality, sense of time keeping (when we start a speech etc.), traffic jams, giving gifts etc. We did have two Begums (Beg-Alms) who along with their 'Bahadurs' had been the major invisible shareholders of many a business houses in Bangladesh. The article also didn't mention anything about their BBE (Best Bribe Estimate) to grab big deals. Due to unavoidable unforeseen circumstances, the Begums and Bahadurs are on the run now and the Harems are closed sine die, wind of change is blowing and I hope it will blow away the dirt from the image of Corporate Bangladesh. A lot of air cleaning needs to be done, regarding how Corporate Bangladesh is perceived by foreign investors, who will initiate the cleaning? Ofcourse you and I.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Somewhere to have fun in!

Is it a wishful thinking to think of more multiplex cinema theatres in Dhaka? Star Cineplex in Bashundhara City shopping mall attempted to do something in that direction but in my personal opinion, I find the movies they show to be stale, old and unpopular. I don’t know the exact reason why latest English and Hindi movies are not shown in Bangladeshi theatres. I remember Modhumita Cinema started to show English movies but that too, fell apart.

Next comes the issue of amusement parks. Shishu park, Wonderland, Fantasy Kingdom and Nandan Water Park. Thanks to Concord Group that we have atleast a place where we can go with friends and family and have a splash and some joyrides. You know better if there is stable demand for your facilities or not but I keep on hearing from people around that there is an extreme scarcity of amusement/entertainment in the capital city of 10 million plus people. They say, ‘there is nothing to do in Dhaka, nowhere to go, you only have shopping malls and restaurants, no pubs, no discos, no theme parks, no cinemas etc.’ Well we all know we are having ‘everything’ behind doors for a long time but as the middle class is getting equipped with more buying power, they are demanding more to spend on entertainment I guess. Any plans to entertain us a bit more? So that we get rid of the habit of becoming couch potatoes, stop watching movies in our cosy living rooms, go out and watch movies that the world is watching too. So that we can reduce loitering around in shopping malls, reduce eating away in fast food chains, gossiping and gaining weight. Rather we would love to go out, out of the four-wall-bound-entertainments and see how we can have fun out in the sun. Just a food for thought for our developers.

Friday, June 22, 2007



It's a pleasure joining this blog community. I work for DHL Express BD and would be happy to contribute and be contribuated from here.

Plant saplings, smoke cigarettes and make money

British American Tobacco Bangladesh (BATB) will distribute .20 million saplings free of cost from today (Friday), reports FE. No wonder BATB has chosen a holy day in Bangladesh to start a noble activity--distributing small saplings, which would grow big one day, disburse valuable oxygen in the air, so that we, the Bangladeshis, can inhale it to live a few days longer. As we are already in the process of shortening our lifecycle thanks to what is produced by BATB in the end of the day. Countries like ours is always a prime location for tobacco companies to do business, as their profit margins in the West shrink day by day, facing opposition from health/environment activists and people's consciousness, tobacco kings opt for our territories where smoking related awareness of health hazards is still low. A funny argument by someone I know was that, since alcohol is not publicly available in Bangladesh, except in licensed bars and hotels, people need 'something' to 'be on a high', 'to get a kick', 'to feel important' etc. and thus the ONLY easily available, cheaper option they have is ofcourse--cigarettes. So we smoke since we don't get to drink that often since ours is a 'conservative society' where drinking alcohol is forbidden but smoking is welcome, BATB is welcome too. Nevertheless BATB had been a very obedient corporate citizen of the country, paying high taxes regularly, employing many graduates, planting trees here and there, arranging B&H sponsored youth concerts etc. Thanks for the eye-washing CSRs, but what is the future strategy for tobacco producers like BATB? Will they continue to do business until people actually reduce or quit smoking? Well in Bangladesh, it still seems a far cry, so until then, its money making time for BATB, and ofcourse time for planting saplings too!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

GP set to bring in life in Bangladeshi stock markets

Bloomberg reports GrameenPhone Ltd., the largest mobile-phone company in Bangladesh, said it plans to sell shares in an initial public offering in the country in 2008. The company expects the share sale to be Bangladesh's biggest ever, Chief Executive Officer Erik Aas said in an interview at the CommunicAsia telecommunications conference in Singapore today. GrameenPhone may also sell shares overseas, Aas said, without identifying countries. GrameenPhone, 62 percent owned by Norway's Telenor ASA, has 13 million subscribers now, more than half the country's total of between 23 million and 24 million, Aas said. GrameenPhone had 10 million customers at the end of November, he said.

Bole otho shob na bola kotha

The National Board of Revenue has sealed the warehouse of Warid Telecom in Tejgaon on charges of dodging value-added tax and supplementary duty. The NBR official, asking not to be named, told that the new mobile operator did not show correct figures of SIM card sales in its tax returns. The warehouse was closed Thursday night. The NBR official said Warid had sold or delivered about seven lakh SIM cards from the warehouse from May 9 to May 31, but paid VAT and supplementary duty on about two lakh. The warehouse will be open after the telecoms operator pays the full amount of VAT and supplementary duty on the SIM and scratch cards, delivered from the warehouse, the NBR official said. Speaking on behalf of Warid, M Shamsur Rahman, CEO of Impact PR, said: "The allegations are not entirely true." And Rahman added: "It’s also not true that it had been entirely shut down." "The tax collectors raised a question about VAT, which is expected to be resolved next working week," Rahman told.

Warid seem to have started their innings in Bangladesh with bouncers from new Bengal Tiger fast bowlers like ACC and NBR who are taking full advantage of the pace-friendly pitch, tailor-made to benefit the home team. Warid batsmen are trying hard to ward off the challenges and create partnerships. They are also hitting a few boundaries, over boundaries in the form of cheaper call rates, attractive offers, melodious jingles etc. much to the amusement of the crowd who always cheer equivocally for foreign teams, as long as they play good cricket…or do good business that truly serves the consumers. I also liked the Warid jingle sang by Habib, would love to know who directed it, composed it etc. We would also like to know, as the jingle also says ‘bole otho shob na bola kotha….geye otho shob praaner gaan’, about Warid’s match fixing allegations. One cricket team has defamed itself with links to betting mafia and match fixing, bringing shame to the game. I hope Warid don’t mimic the antics of that cricket team. Lets play fair, after all, cricket is a gentleman’s game.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

"Bank upon us", says Millennium to Arafah

FE says
Al-Arafah Islami Bank Limited went online with Ababil, an Islamic Shariah compliant and centralised banking solutions, developed by Millennium Information Solution Ltd recently.A total of 22 branches out of 46 have been brought under software by the implementation team. Some of the branches of the bank have already started online operation successfully. The bank expects to bring its all branches under online operation with Ababil within next few months.Through the system a number of real-time delivery channels including ATM, POS, SMS banking, phone banking and internet banking will be made available for clients of the bank.The Shariah-based centralised and online operation of a bank with any locally-developed software is the first of its kind in the country.
Although I do not understand what is meant by a banking software solution which is 'Shariah compliant', hats off to Al-Arafah to have shown trust on a local IT services provider. Al Arafah has shown by parterning with Millennium that local IT companies have the necessary grey matter to implement a full fledged banking system for a large banking organization.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Concrete Answer to Limestone Challenges

Total demand of cement in Bangladesh is 8 million tons per year, the country's GDP is growing at a rate between 6-7% per year. So demand for cement is set to grow constantly. Sensing the bright prospects in a overly populated developing country like ours, Lafarge Surma Cement has set its guns to right targets. It has the only integrated dry process cement plant which produces its own clinker of high international quality in Bangladesh. All other major cement producers in Bangladesh are grinding mills that depend entirely on import of clinker. Import of clinker is not only expensive due to high freight cost, duties, handling/rehandling, charges etc. sourcing of clinker for uniform quality and uninterrupted supply is also a big challenge. With an initial production capacity of 1.5 million tons Lafarge Surma is the only clinker producer using energy-efficient dry process in Bangladesh.

So much so for Lafarge Surma, but how is it going to deal with the Indian decision to stop sourcing limestone from Meghalayan mountains? The company has a 17km long conveyor belt which carries limestone generated in Meghalaya to its plants in Bangladeshi territory. This recent move is no wonder a challenge for Lafarge Surma to keep its competitive position strong in the market. We are witnessing how it deals the blow, gives a 'concrete' answer to challenges, keeps shareholders happy and continue developing...both buildings, infrastructure and economy.

Lets make it BBIG

So they want to make it BBIG in Bangladesh. They have the pound power and they want to pound the local economy in motion. British Bangladesh Investment Group (BBIG) has recently launched the five star Hotel Regency in Dhaka, terming it as a milestone ideally located on Airport road in the commercial area of Nikunjo. The hotel is within easy access of the airport, the city's diplomatic zones and a host of other Dhaka attractions.

With its spectacular fifteen-storey tower, the Dhaka Regency has a total of 225,000 square feet of space. Each floor of the hotel will span 20,000 square feet in addition to which, there is a 25,000 square feet basement parking facility. The Regency will have approximately 400 luxury rooms, more than any other hotel in the country, including 5 Regency suites, 10 Royal suites and 20 Presidential suites. All the exclusive suites will be based at the top of the hotel on the Regency floor and receive extensive facilities and extra privileges, including personal butler service and a private lounge for VIP guests. Amongst the 18,000 square feet of space devoted to fine dining, the Dhaka Regency will have its own 10,000 square foot revolving restaurant with a birds eye view of Zia International Airport and the Dhaka city on the 14th floor, making it the largest restaurant in the country. The selection of international cuisine will consist of Italian, Arabian, Thai/Chinese and Bangladeshi/Indian food of the finest quality. The beautifully designed non-alcoholic cocktail bar and shisha lounge, with a middle-eastern theme will provide diners with the most exquisite setting to relax and unwind. Other facilities within the hotel will include state-of-the-art conference and exhibition halls on the 6th floor, and a roof top swimming pool and health centre offering unrivalled panoramic views of the city. At the Dhaka Regency, both business and leisure travellers will enjoy all that an international four-star hotel can offer, from first-class surroundings to world-class hospitality, all in the Regency style. By focusing on combining unparalleled levels of service with class-leading facilities, the Regency aims to provide customers with a unique and truly memorable experience.
In addition, the Dhaka Regency will also bring extraordinary value to the fast growing hospitality sector. The hotel's room rates will be unrivalled by any other similar standard hotel in the country without compromising on quality. The hotel will create over 350 jobs for local people, provide transferable skills and bring much needed investment to a vibrant city waiting to be discovered.

The steps taken by BBIG to invest in the hospitality sector is worthy of praise. We are ready for competition at hand among Sheraton, Sonargaon, Radisson, Westin and Regency. However most of the clients of these hotels remain corporate guests and not tourists. I wonder if NRBs like BBIG have any plans to invest in infrastructure development (roads, accommodation, promotion, entertainment) in tourist locations in Bangladesh like Cox's Bazar, Teknaf, St. Martin, Kuakata etc. That way they can tap into the tourist segment of the market as well. Not only foreign tourists will be benefited but also local tourists would be more encouraged to frequent our tourist locations, stay in hotels made by you, have a good time, make the local economy vibrant and return home with happy memories.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Delisting of Telenor from Nasdaq, Any lesson for Grameenphone?

By M Imtiaz Mazumder from The Daily Star
The Norway-based telecommunications operator Telenor (parent company of local mobile phone giant Grameenphone) announced withdrawal and delisting of its American Depository Shares (ADS) from the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (Nasdaq).

Telenor believes that the regulation and reporting obligations under the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Act of 1934 were too expensive, onerous and outweigh the benefits of listing. However, Telenor reiterates that it will not reduce focus on its international markets or shareholders; instead it intends to continue strong focus on corporate governance, transparency and internal controls etc. Whatever the focus of Telenor be after the delisting, the big question remains unanswered did Telenor fail to comply with the SEC rules and regulations?
Nasdaq is considered as the third largest security markets (after New York and Tokyo Stock Exchanges) in terms of listed firms, dollar volume, market capitalisation etc. Introduced in 1971, Nasdaq is also the world's largest electronic communication network (ECN) in terms of shares traded. One of the important features of Nasdaq is Small Order Execution System (also known as SuperSoes or SOES introduced after the market crash of 1987) that mitigates any liquidity problem. Big technology stocks like Microsoft, Intel, Dell, and Cisco among others are typically listed and traded on Nasdaq.

Under the reporting obligations of SEC's electronic data gathering, analysis, and retrieval (EDGAR) system, companies listed on Nasdaq are required to file reports on registration; corporate restructuring and changes; transaction and transition; statement of beneficial ownership of securities; sale of securities; and quarterly and annual reports indicating risks, employee stock purchase, savings, security holders and financial statements among others.
According to rules 12(g) and 12h-6(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, a foreign firm may deregister and terminate the registration of a class of securities from Nasdaq. Telenor will have to file form 15F (notice of termination of registration) as required under section 13(a) and 15(d) of the Exchange Act indicating when it ceases reporting obligations of its ADS to the SEC. Telenor's delisting from Nasdaq was supposed to be effective from June 11, 2007.

However, Telenor will continue its listing on the Oslo Stock Exchange. Telenor will also maintain its American Depository Receipts (ADR) facilities with the JPMorgan Chase Bank and its ADS will be traded on over-the-counter (OTC) markets after June 11, 2007. It is to be noted here that an organised exchange is an auction market whereas an OTC market is a broker-dealer network for non-listed securities and derivatives where brokers and dealers negotiate through wire networks such as computer, facsimile, phone etc. An OTC market is neither scrutinised nor regulated like an organised exchange. As such, small and risky companies mostly with poor credit records and unable to meet the reporting obligations and other listing requirements with the SEC are traded on OTC markets. Thus, OTC stocks suffer from non-synchronous trading and higher bid-ask spreads.

The introduction of Sarbanes-Oxley Act especially after the collapse of Enron and WorldCom made the corporate governance laws extremely tight in the USA. The Sarbanes-Oxley law outlines the functions of auditors, independence of board members, disclosures and internal audit procedures, disclosures of off-balance sheet transactions, corporate responsibilities and executive accountabilities, strong code of ethics, high monitoring and scrutiny by outside bodies such as the SEC etc. Delisting of US public companies tripled in 2003 after the introduction of the law in July 2002 because small and mid-cap companies found it costlier to comply with the reporting requirement under the law.

Both the academics and practitioners investigated the effects of Sarbanes-Oxley law on non-US companies (like Telenor) cross-listed in the US markets. Some argued that the law eventually displaced many foreign companies from Nasdaq. In a recent article published in the Journal of Corporate Finance Kate Litvak (2007) reported that stock prices of non-US companies under Sarbanes-Oxley law declined significantly as opposed to those of the non-US companies that are not regulated under the law. In particular, Litvak (2007) concludes that " investors expected the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to have a net negative effect on cross-listed foreign companies, with high-disclosing companies and low-growth suffering larger net costs, and faster-growing companies from poorly-governed countries suffering smaller costs." It is well documented that both the domestic and foreign firms voluntarily delisted from Nasdaq especially after the introduction of Sarbanes-Oxley law had poor corporate governance systems. Arguably, it is hard to believe that Telenor should be an exception. It has been alleged that Telenor was also involved with the corruption, corporate fraud and poor governance system of VimpleCom (a joint-venture of Telenor in Russia) during 2004-05.

Telenor provides high quality data, tele and media communications services such as fixed and mobile telephone, internet, internet protocol based services, VoIP, satellite services, cable television networks, etc. in Austria, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Malaysia, Montenegro, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Sweden, Thailand, Ukraine etc. with an equity capital that varies from more than 50% to 100%.
Grameenphone contributes to approximately 15% (12 out of 83 million) of Telenors' worldwide mobile phone subscribers. Currently, Telnor holds 62% of Grameenphone's equity capital even though it had 51% shares in 1996 when the Grameenphone was incepted. It has been alleged recently that Telenor violated its 1996 agreement with the Grameenphone. Telonor was supposed to relinquish its ownership over Grameenphone to 35% by 2002 but refused to do so even in 2007 on the ground that the agreement was a declaration of intent but not an obligation at all. It is a million dollar question whether Grameenphone has any intention to float Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) in Bangladesh. The introduction of Grameenphones' IPOs will bring more local ownership and add double digit market capitalisation to the stock exchanges of Bangladesh. But it seems implausible especially after its recent debacle in Nasdaq and continuous domination over Grameenphone in terms of ownership.

Telenor argues that Grameenphone is one of its numerous projects, which should be considered as Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) because it invests in a developing country like Bangladesh and contributes to her economy. Ethical investment or SRI is also becoming popular in the Wall Street with combined assets of more than 2 trillion dollars. The Wall Street accommodates firms that invest in SRI in compliance with the SEC rules and regulations that may be appropriate for their typical shareholders and ethical operations. Unfortunately Telenor is neither listed on any of the two bourses nor has any physical shareholders in Bangladesh. Thus, the broader definition of SRI should not be applicable to Telenor.

Like other foreign-based mobile companies in Bangladesh, Telenor is believed to expatriate majority of profit that it generates through Grameenphone. However, Telenor claims that it couldn't recoup $87 million that it initially invested in Bangladesh. Instead, it reinvests a significant portion of $1.08 billion profit that it earned over the last decade. It is obvious that the delisting of Telenor from Nasdaq transmits a strong negative message that Telenor lacks an appropriate corporate governance system, which is indispensable for a transparent reporting responsibility to the SEC. It would undeniably be very interesting to see whether Grameenphone can initiate the so-called 'social businesses' of its proponent and founder Professor Yunus especially under its current legal set-up with Telenor.
The author is a financial economist and currently teaches at Weber State University, USA.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ideas for Urban CSR

Bangladesh Corporate World is abuzz with the hot topic of the town--CSR. Good that companies are publishing fullpage, halfpage adverts in the dailies highlighting their good deeds for the society, as long as they compete on something like CSR, good for all of us. However I don't want to appear to be greedy or want to come up with too many abdars but I have a few ideas for our CSR pioneers to think about.
As GrameenPhone sits pretty occupying nearly half of Gulshan-2 with its buildings, buses and bus drivers clogging the locality, they have certainly made some efforts to beautify the Gulshan avenue junction. Thanks for doing something that pleases the eye, but can GP do something to ease the traffic congestion in Dhaka? For example, how about helping the Mayor's office to build multi-story car parking facilities in busy hubs like Gulshan, Mohakhali, Uttara, Motijheel and Dhanmondi? City dwellers would have to park their cars only at those facilities and NOT on the roads, they can pay hourly, can buy weekly, monthly or even yearly tickets, the revenue of which can be shared between the parties.
Which company is bold enough to help Dhaka City Corporation help establish mobile/fixed public toilets around the capital? Or they are shy not to associate their valuable brand image with loos? Fair enough, but I believe the situation in the exhausted tilottoma Dhaka has become such that we are shitting where we are eating. Warid has taken the initiative to clean up the Gulshan-2 lake more because they have to work beside that lake cum drain, not just because they are admirer of natural beauty and wants to help preserve nature.
The bottomline is that the sewerage, the traffic, the infrastructure in Dhaka never followed any system and that day is not far when our CSR leaders will be caught unprepared in this chaos. So lets do something to safeguard our city, in turn the city will safeguard your business. Lets make a deal.

Why bd dot coms bite the dust?

The favorite prefix and/or suffix for a Bangladeshi web start-up usually is 'bd'. Do you agree? Following the arrival of , we have seen a plethora of '' or '' or '' or ''. I wonder how many of these bddotcoms actually generate cashflow? If they cannot, why are they not able to make it big. With the immense outreach of internet, the audience is global, so is the market. Then why are these websites not very popular or well-known or heavily used? has certainly capitalized its first mover advantage by being the first online job portal of the country, it has created a brand image among the job-seekers and employers. Many 'me-too' websites followed like, etc. but I think every job-seeker usually does not forget to hit atelast once. We also have sites like, etc. which are meant to serve different market segments, both locally and internationally. But how many of us know and use them regularly?
Somehow these creative ideas seem to get lost in the internet information overflow. Probably due to lack of solid business model, strategic planning and perseverance, marketing strategy, they wither away. They might be having very well-designed websites with excellent service offers, but nobody knows about it, even if somebody knows about it, they don't always use it, or use it at all. is lucky to have carved that niche where it is visited by users who feel the need to visit that site. I am sure there are lots of other interesting business ideas floated by Bangladeshi entrepreneurs on and off the web, we probably just need to revisit the strategy how we want to promote, popularize and sustain those dotcom ideas.

Scholastic Wealth

The dearth of good educational institutions in Bangladesh is something we are all aware of. However, when entrepreneurs like Mrs.Yasmeen Murshed who I like to presume are well aware of thier social corporate responsiblity use this opporunity to amass wealth, we can't help but feel sad about the future of education in our country.

Scholastica School was established during the late 1970s and has been one of the pioneers of English medium education in Bangladesh following the GCE Syllabus under the University of London, preparing students to sit for their Ordinary Level/Advanced Level exams under the jurisdiction of the British Council. The school has come a long way since then but unfortunately we can not say the same about the standard of education that is being offered at the moment. Realizing that the school is a major cash cow, the management has been increasing the fees and yearly charge over the years causing the parents to resort to seeking legal help. There have been court cases against Scholastica on this issue, but the verdict went for the school managment forcing the parents to pay the increased fees and yearly charge. Rumour has it that Mrs. Murshed used her connections with the past BNP led government at the time to achieve this. Moreover, the students are made to buy their books, stationery and uniforms from the bookstore, ETC. owned by the Scholastica Group which is also a significant source of income for them.

All this was fine only if the standard of education was maintained in the school. Students from Scholastica I've spoken to give me horror stories about the rampant use of drugs, pornographic material and alcohol within the school premises. They just have to and I repeat, have to go for private tuition to the school teachers (in some cases, students opt for teachers who are not affiliated with Scholastica) if they want decent grades in their O/A level exams. But attending the classes and studying at home is not enough any more. Well .... I remember it used to be! Almost all the senior teachers who have made Scholastica what it is today left the organisation during the 90s realising that they were not being compensated reasonably for their services. That has however, not changed the way the management thinks and they have gone on to hire amateur, commercial and incompetent teachers to replace them. Not a single person who's studied in Scholastica during the 80s or 90s who I've spoken to, want to enroll their children there. Why? Fortunately, that is not the case with institutions like Sunbeams or South Breeze that have continued to offer a good level of education along with good moral views for young minds.

The group today has several companies and their interests range from interior decoration, developing real estates, credit cards, transport services, food and beverages to God knows what else! Scholastica today is synonymous with 'the fast and the furious' -- rich kids with fast cars, oblivious of their roles and responsibilities as future citizens. The students there are being groomed up to attend Atif Aslam concerts at the Radisson/International Club from the age of 12 (tickets sold at ETC.), drink 150 taka worth coffee (from Coffeeworld), live in luxurious apartments (by OHS), start using credit cards billed to daddy (the flop credit card idea by the group) and indulge in pizza (the group's latest venture) ..... you're just not COOL otherwise.

There is absolutly nothing wrong with being enterprising and no doubt Mrs. Yasmeen Murshed has achieved a lot in a male dominated society like ours, but I think it's about time she starts taking an interest in the school which has made all this possible for her. She has a responsibility to the children, the parents and the nation.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Monkey See, Monkey Do: A Parable on Corporate Policy

Start with a cage containing five monkeys.

Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it.

Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana.

As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the monkeys with cold water.

After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result - all the monkeys are sprayed with cold water.

Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, turn off the cold water.

Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one.

The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs.

To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attack him.

After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one.

The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked.

The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm.

Again, replace a third original monkey with a new one.

The new one makes it to the stairs and is attacked as well.

Two of the four monkeys that beat him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs, or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

After replacing the fourth and fifth original monkeys, all the monkeys that have been sprayed with cold water have been replaced.

Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs.

Why not?

Because as far as they know that's the way it's always been around here.

And that's how company policy begins ...


Perhaps someone can contribute some salient examples of this kind of dynamic in our corporate environment, both internally and externally?

AKTEL injects SAP into corporate muscle reports
AKTEL has selected SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution to increase its operational efficiency. AKTEL’s finance, accounting, human resources, technical, sales, supply chain and other divisions are now manifolds efficient and productive with the ERP solutions of SAP. Supply chain manager Mizanur Rahman said AKTEL must withstand the customers’ growth and network resources are to be mobilized in advance to maintain the quality of service. Ordering equipment, preparing inventory, sending them to sites, activating them followed by routine maintenance is a chain of daunting tasks. "If there is a missing link in this extremely complex process, we are out of business in the fiercely competitive market." Mizanur Rahman said the ERP solution of SAP ensures the stability of the supply chain. "Earlier it took nearly thirty minutes to generate a purchase order but now it takes a few seconds." He said the entire process is flawless and tamperproof as a robust computer controls it centrally. AKTEL has deployed two such servers in different locations to ensure that one takes over in case the other computer fails.
The company’s assistant general manager of human resources, Shabbir Ali, is quite excited: "Now we can track every employee’s output and assess them accordingly." He said it perfects the evaluation process of the company’s human capital. AKTEL has paid $440,000 licence fee to SAP and procured ten ERP modules. They will be used by 400 executives of the country’s second largest mobile phone provider in terms of clientele. AKTEL’s costing and budget manager Sabbir Ahmed said his company is already getting tangible returns of this investment. Efficiency of his colleagues has already increased 99 percent. "ERP is a combination of workhorse and watchdog as it ensures that everybody delivers without making any mistake." But Ahmed said the top management of a company has to register the value of ERP and get equally committed. The AKTEL executives have recognised ERP an effective tool for transparency and good governance. The efficient private sector cannot deliver alone unless the public offices also become at par using modern technology, they said. Citing the Indian examples the AKTEL officials hope the finance ministry of Bangladesh will also adopt ERP solutions to streamline the revenue collection and strengthen fiscal management.
So far so good for AKTEL. Every company has a right to opt for the best software solution that would maximize profit and minimize costs for it, while providing superior service to its customers. However it also can be stated at this point that had corporates like AKTEL would have done some hand-holding for the local IT companies under the banner of CSR or whatever they call it, local software firms would have got the opportunity to demonstrate their IT expertise. Even if they are not at par with SAP or Oracle, even if they are not in a position quality-wise to serve companies as big as AKTEL, but some recognition and assistance from corporate houses like them would surely increase the brand image of Bangladeshi software solution providers. In an era of open competition we already have the low end of the spectrum flooded with invasions from software like Tally and in the high end, we have SAP India injecting ERPs into corporate muscles. No complains about the competition, just a request to patronize the local software industry as well.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Bangladeshi Stock Markets and Internet

AB Bank Ltd., Lanka Bangla Finance and IDLC Securities Ltd. That is how someone I know described the best brokerage houses in Bangladesh's bourses--DSE and CSE. FYI, its worth checking out websites of Securities & Exchanges Commission, CDBL, DSE and CSE to have a general idea how internet friendly our stock trading is. You would find it interesting to check out too. Interestingly enough, this clumsy little website has a banner of Chittagong Stock Exchange and was developed by one company called CMC, India. This was supposed to have enabled Internet Based Trading. But for some unknown reason this was never promoted, used, implemented or even improved. Given the increased internet penetration rate in the country, 10% quota for NRBs to participate in the IPO lotteries and keeping in view the immense amount of searches generated in Google seeking information about forthcoming IPOs, lottery results, particular stocks etc., it is high time I guess that the premier bourses of the country take solid measures to implement real time internet based share trading.

Some do argue that our share markets are not transparent enough and there is yet not a strong demand so as to warrant internet-based stock trading. However I believe allowing investors to take part in the trading without having to visit broker premises would greatly increase trade volume. This was echoed by fellow blogger bdanalyst as well. NRBs would love to trade online (through their broker's website) and place orders which could be used to replace current methods of signing 'order forms' or 'Power of Attorney' to execute a trade on their behalf. IT companies, policy makers and the SEC has a bright chance ahead to catch up with the competition around. FYI, our market capitalization is only 6% of our GDP, the lowest in South Asia. So there is plenty of room for growth.

The IT department of DSE is trying to do a modest job of relaying the latest stock prices to internet with 30 minutes delay. They are also trying to come up with some sort of market research , data mining facilities etc. for internet savvy investors. But it could be argued that what they are doing could be greatly improved if they get support from IT savvy brokerage houses who would want to give their clients chance to trade through websites, along with traditional phone calls, personal visits, faxes etc. IT companies of the country could come up to bridge this important gap. BASIS and SEC, please think about it.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Bangladesh Corporate Ambition

We used to have discussions cum addas with friends in Stratford, London regarding brain drains, careers, settlements etc. One group argued that after we (Bangladeshi students) get educated in foreign universities, we should return home to serve our country. The other group argued that after we get educated in foreign countries, we should stay back. Why? Because every Bangladeshi in a foreign land is an ambassador of the country. They should establish businesses, seek careers abroad so that their eventual accomplishments could be attributed to their being Bangladeshi as well. Moreover a ‘bridge’ can be created between those who return home and those who stay back abroad. Ideas, learnings, technology, finance can be transported and transformed over this ‘bridge’. So we agree on this point and concluded our ‘adda’.

Think about this, you are the branch head of a world famous Bangladeshi conglomerate, your office is in New York, London, Sydney or in Tokyo. You recruit natives to serve in your ‘Bangladeshi’ company. You earn a name for yourself, your company and above all, your country. Wishful thinking you think? Well may be for now, but we hope it becomes a reality in our lifetime.

Think of people like Omar Misho who belongs to Pageflakes, or Javed Karim of YouTubes who have their roots in Bangladesh and have perfectly associated the red and green flag with their business ventures abroad. We also feel part of their success and take pride in belonging to the same nation as they do. We heard that even Pran Group and Beximco Group have set up their offices mostly in Africa and they are doing pretty well there. We are sure many other Bangladeshi firms are around the globe trying to make a business out of their hard-earned savings, networks and experience. We wish them luck and hope to see Bangladesh Incorporated stand tall and high in foreign lands.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Dutch Bangla Bank's Corporate Social Responsibility

On its 11th Anniversary, Dutch Bangla Bank comes up with a page long display in leading dailies highlighting its CSR activities. It claims that it had donated Tk. 22 crore in 2006 for various social commitments. More can be found here. Some of its headings include Providing support for higher education & research, Medi-care services for rural people, Prothom-alo Ganit Utsab, Plant trees save environment, Anti drug addiction, save the nation from the curse of dowry, developing financial assistance to help develop medical infrastructurestop acid violence, caring patients living with AIDS, operation facilities for VVF and prolaps uterus etc.
It seems the bank only does not have the largest network of ATMs (139) in the country, it also has a large and long list of CSR activities too. With a share price soaring around 2000 tk. (100 tk. face value) and increasing by the day, the bank has surely gained investors' and consumers' confidence. I would love to learn what other banks are doing in this CSR front. Meanwhile...good going DBBL.

Remarkable initiative of Meena Bazar

FE reports
Meena Bazar has taken an initiative to send its 150 former employees for schooling.These employees became jobless after Meena Bazar's two outlets were closed recently. The management was faced with the challenge of laying these employees off. Instead they sent them back to school.The school is a full-fledged institution where the students are learning various topics of retailing and English. It will continue even after Meena Bazar starts its operation. The initiative to develop its own people is remarkable by its nature. This is just one of the ways that Meena Bazar, as a conscious corporate citizen company, is rewarding and empowering the people who have worked for it.The students were enthusiastic and dedicated to the school. After a month of schooling, the teachers also became satisfied at their performance, and believe they can uphold high standards in the retailing industry.Meena Bazar COO Pravin Robin David said, "It is unbelievable that with such resources in the country, Bangladesh is still one of the least developed countries. The strength of the country is its people, who are hard-working, have the ability to overcome any hurdle, and are very motivated. And we will continue to develop and provide jobs for the youths of the country."
Hats off to Meena Bazar for setting an example. Now we have retail chains joining the CSR bandwagon....Agora, Nandan are you listening?

Monday, June 4, 2007

Bangladeshi Corporate Idols

Just a passing thought in my mind that many of our big corporate brands had their roots stuck deep in massive endless mindless corruption. Companies like Partex, Bashundhara Group, Rangs etc. have started to appear in front of our eyes for the wrong doings of their founders. Somebody was arguing the other day that Bangladesh's internal industrial base has been set up by these people who are in the 'favorites list' of Anti Corruption Commission now. The gentleman was arguing that even though these people are being brought to justice for their limitless greed now, it goes without saying that they remain (atleast till the time they got arrested) to be the biggest investors, movers and shakers of the country's business domain. With them being befriended by interrogators from Joint Forces, it is to be seen now how the businesses in Bangladesh react to it. It is also to be seen how many more businessmen join the 'guest list' prepared by ACC. So I just wonder and ponder and wipe away my sweat using a Bashundhara tissue looking at the massive Bashundhara Shopping Mall, Rangs Bhaban etc. while sipping water from a Mum bottled by Partex Beverages...that all these that I, as a consumer, am seeing now and using now, are made by people who are, in simple words, criminals. True that they must have employed thousands of people, but their wrongdoings probably outweigh their 'eye wash' tactics of employment creation, CSR etc. But I ask, is it the way it is supposed to be? Is it elsewhere too or just in Bangladesh? Who do we have as our Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or as Azim Premji or Ratan Tata? I am sure we have corporate champions who keep low profile and we have those who made loud noises, got corrupted and are behind bars now. I only hope that we can find some role models in our business world who can set true examples of hardwork, honesty, leadership and all that we aspire in a true corporate idol.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Commercial Bank of Ceylon launches SME loan

Commercial Bank of Ceylon (CBC) launched its SME (small and medium enterprise) loan product under the brand name of 'Probriddhi' in the city Tuesday. 'Probriddhi' is a medium term loan, applicable to the SME customers to meet their capital need for starting or expansion of their business, in line with the criteria set for the facility.The loan is offered with many attractive features, with an assurance of fast and easy processing so that the customers can get maximum benefit from the capital provided.
SMEs are at the core of our economic development and many FIs and NBFIs are coming up with SME specific products. BRAC bank is very visible on the SME front, so is Eastern Bank I guess. Now CBC joins the party. However, there is a need to compare and contrast what the banks are offering. We need to know who they are terming as SMEs. Also, we need to be clear about the issue of collaterals. Many SMEs complain that even though there is an array of so called SME products available in the market, but they are too costly, or the legal procedures are too cumbersome and confusing. Do the banks have any answer to address these concerns?

Friday, June 1, 2007

Big Pie of the Remittance Cake

Thousands of Filipino workers in Malaysia can now remit money to their families back home under a new mobile phone money transfer service unveiled by Malaysia's top mobile phone operator Maxis.In a statement late Wednesday, Maxis said it has tied up with the Philippines' Globe Telecom to introduce what it said was the world's first mobile international money transfer service called M-money. Under the system, Maxis customers can wire up to 500 ringgit ($143) per transaction to Globe subscribers in the Philippines, who can retrieve the money at Globe's 6,000 outlets, the statement said. M-money will "revolutionize money transfer" and make it a convenient and cheaper alternative for foreign workers in Malaysia to send money back home, it said. Maxis customers must cash in the money with Maxis before making any overseas remittance and are charged only a five ringgit ($1.47) service fee per transaction, less than half the fee that bank charges, it added. Maxis subscribers can remit up to 500 ringgit a day and 10,000 ringgit ($2,940) a month. Maxis said it plans to extend the service to Indonesia next month, to allow Maxis customers to send money to Indonesian bank accounts.

Citibank has also launched an internet-based remittance solutions (Remit2home) in partnership with Times of Money Limited, through which a non-resident Bangladeshi (NRB) in the US can remit money to Bangladesh through internet access from anywhere in the US. This will bring enormous benefits to the NRBs living in the US providing 7 days a week round-the-clock remittance service, economical charges and competitive exchange rates. In Malaysia, the Philippines and the UK, we have introduced banking solutions based on mobile phone technology. A customer can transfer money to other beneficiaries through using his mobile phone. Introduction of the solution in Bangladesh is in an exploratory phase. The bank identified transparency and optimisation as the core requirements of clients in doing their banking transactions.

Thanks to The Dailystar for bringing up such interesting news, both focusing on one core issue--remittance. Citibank is showing the way to other banks to a very lucrative market. It is to be seen how the bank handles issues such as transparency, cost and reach. I wonder if they could come to any arrangements with mobile operators like GrameenPhone, BanglaLink, Warid etc. I am sure our telecom companies have the necessary infrastructure in place to facilitate this remittance transfer with banks like Citibank in between the process. I wonder if the telcos could also tie up with numerous branch offices of NGOs like ASA, BRAC etc. spread all over the country and use them as remittance collection outlets. Just a thought, I hope it realizes in near future.