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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.


Anonymous said...

Hi Red & Green!

Have you ever tried to work with partnership with Government of Bangladesh? If yes, then you will know that it's very easy to ask those questions you asked. But it's very difficult, if not impossible to make those done.

Why Dhaka city is beautified? It is because Prime Minister Office wanted it to be. That was the first. And that is the first requirement for any kind of development i.e. willingness from the primary stakeholder to develop and willingness to welcome sponsor. When DCC asked the corporate bodies about the beautification GP was the first to respond. Subsequently others came forward, too.

Now for the things like public toilet or flyover; do you think that BD has dearth of financial support or aid? No, they do not. They lack willingness, speed and transparency in their process.

Let's take an example of Khulna City beautification. The TelCos (Aktel, GP and BL) are beautifying some of the roads in Khulna. Do you have any idea how much portion of the total expenditure they had to pay as tax (tax for beautification!! --- it's like dowry for marriage -- it's like fine for being benevolent), and how much as direct bribe?

I know corporate bodies those are actually looking for places invest; but in most cases it is almost impossible without partnership of the government. And when you go to the government officials they ask: "Okay; you want to invest 1 crore in development of the country, but how much will you give me and my gang for our own development?"

I know GP has started its operation of independent CSR division at the end of last year. Already they are working with some renowned NGOs. You will see some signing and advertisement no the national dailies. Pretty soon we will see some better result, I am sure.

Red & Green said...

Thank you very much for your enlightening comments. I get to see the issues more clearly now and I am happy to realize that you and I are thinking in the same line.

It is...lets say 'was' assumed that corporates earmark a portion of their CSR and other activities for 'under table' activities. The same way Warid got into Bangladesh market, they must have had a separate budget set aside to feed a few hungry 'crookodiles', who are thankfully in the cages now and flashing out 'shob chanchollokor tottho' about 'ghush, lobh and chadabaji'. Sorry for mixing Bangla, but you don't get the flavour of the context unless you use local terms.

I aspire, like you, that the wind of change has started to blow in Bangladesh, and our corporates will not have to bribe Government anymore to do good for the Government. So that with the 'saved bribe amount' they can come up with innovative CSR activities, as you hinted, which will encourage other private sector players to join the bandwagon.

Anonymous said...

So BanglaLink decides to make Rajshahi look beautiful. How much do they have to pay to Government as bribe?

Is BanglaLink doing something other than beautifying cities? for example issues such as water logging, infrastructure etc.?

ZI said...

Dear Anonymous,
GP has done a lot of CSR activitites, which was very much visible in the newspapers or tv ads. Why such a 'CSR aware' compnay rented office buildings with insufficient parking space? I don't expect them to build a parking space BUT as a citizen I think I can expect all these companies (without parking spaces and operating in Gulshan areas) to act socially responsibly.

12321 said...

GP is building its own building on its own land in Basundhara. They are taking care of the parking spaces there I am sure.

Dear Zi, If you are given two crore of taka today and asked to do good of the society, can you do that? How are you planning to spend that money? You can’t just walk into a village and hand everyone there 50K? Can you? First, you may be killed while doing so. Second, giving away 50K may not change their lives. Next year they would come back and ask for more.

GP is not a non-profit social welfare organization. Those NGOs who are here to do good of the society are most often failed to do so. You know Bill Gates with his Foundation and huge fortune is biting his nails to fight epidemic of the world. Money is not the answer. As the saying goes: there are no poor countries, there are only poorly managed countries. And govt is the manager of the country; you can't change much with mere financial support. You have to work to change the outlook of the managers. It's completely a different ball game. MNCs neither have that expertise nor do they want to work with govt. to change its mindsets.

Be assured, in Bangladesh, if there is enough willingness from ppl and govt to develop, money is not a problem. MNCs will compete with each other to give away.

Regarding the parking space issue, there are more than 10+ buildings in Gulshan area rented by GP. The buildings are rented along with the parking, but some of the buildings do not have adequate parking space. Can you show some of the buildings in the vicinity with better space and open for rent?

Anyways, in 2008, I guess GP’s corporate head quarter is expected to open. I hope if the problem is still not solved, we have every right to blame them at that time. By the way that will be the first owned building of any of the TelCo in BD. Won’t you say that is a good gesture from GP, being an MNC?

ZI said...

Building own corporate office may qualify as a corporate gesture but not as a CSR. That does not even fall in the definition of CSR.

Dear 12321 I don't want any of these companies to solve all our problems instead I was referring to their lack of socially sensible behavior by just raising one simple example. By virtue of my career I had opportunity to visit some other telecom companies owned by the same operators in few neighboring countries around us. I have not seen these companies creating similar trafic congestion in their neighborhood in those countries. So why here? Because there is no rule???? I think that does not hold them 'not guilty' for their irresponsible behavior.

Anonymous said...

it is without a doubt that the govermental infrastructure needs to change, in order to minimize the under the table expenditure which is being held as the leading cause of our MNCs failing to meet their "duties" to the socity for the amount of profit they are reaping from it.

but im not sure what GP and Warid and such are trying to prove by limiting the CSR to just beautification of the city and afterwards putting a big advert on top it. not every kind of CSR activity requires Association with the government and an advertizing incentive.
unless you want it to be that way. I hope its not one of thoes i scratch your back you scrath mine type of a situation.

i know that money is not an issue for the bigshot MNCs to give away. but will to know how to put it to innovative use deffinetly is....