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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Banks target students as cash calves

Eastern Bank Ltd. has inaugurated its first student service centre at Dhanmondi branch premises in the city recently, says FE. Students can open their student file here, which is mandatory if anyone wants to go abroad for higher study.Students can get information to open their bank account named campus account. They can also get information to take debit and prepaid cards here. BRAC bank is the other one which is directly competing with EBL in this student market. Both the banks have been generous in giving away credit/debit cards to students in easy terms. They realize that this is a market where number of students is huge and these students are in the pipleline to become regular user of the banks when they graduate and become executives/businesspersons. Very well laid plan to allure the 'dJuice Generation'. Lets keep an eye on how EBL and BRAC keeps the students happy. No wonder these student 'cash calves' might just become the 'cash cows' for the banks when they grow in near future.

Khulna joins share market

The Chittagong Stock Exchange (CSE) opened its online trading in Khulna through its broker branch office ICB Securities Trading Company Limited recently as part of its nationwide expansion programme as well as to help the investors of the area. Speaking on the occasion, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the CSE AB Siddique said, "We have set our target for facilitating online trading service at every door in the country. Khulna has been connected to our network through digital data network under wide area network facility." CSE has already online trading facilities in Dhaka, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Barisal and Cox's Bazar, he added. He also assured the people of ensuring every effort in safeguarding investors' awareness and confidence.Speaking on the occasion, CEO of ICB Securities Trading Company Kamrul Islam Asad expressed the hope that the CSE's initiative would benefit the investors residing in Khulna as they would be able to diversify their investment in stock market."
All happening in the right direction as far as stock markets of Bangladesh are concerned. CSE has been quick in expanding its network, the way things are going, internet based trading does seem possible in near future I hope. NRBs would love the idea to be able to trade shares in the stock markets of their home country even from their cosy homes in Carolina or Sydney or Tokyo. Way to go Bangladesh!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fly Your Own Airways

Bangladesh's second private passenger airline will begin domestic operations next month in a fast growing market boosted by the scrapping of flights by the state-run airline (Biman).
United Airways will start flying to southeastern Chittagong and northeastern Sylhet from the capital Dhaka in the third week of June, company director Ferdous Alam said.
The company, owned by expatriate Bangladeshis living in Britain, had bought a Dash-8 aircraft and would add another Dash-8 in late June followed by two more Fokker 100 by August, he added. "We will initailly fly to domestic destinations. But our main target is to fly to southern cities of China and the Gulf. Bangladeshi air traffic to these destinations has increased tremendously recently," he added. China pipped India as Bangladesh's main import destination in 2005 while nearly three million Bangladeshis now work and live in the Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. United Airways will be the second Bangladeshi private passenger airline. Presently GMG is the sole private operator, which flies to domestic and regional destinations in south Asia. In March, a Kuwait-based Aqeeq Aviation Holding bought a 70 per cent stake in the leading air-cargo operator Best Aviation to launch a passenger airline by July this year. Alam said the market was attractive to private operators since the scrapping of a number of flights by the state-run Biman Bangladesh Airlines. State airline, Bangladesh Biman Airlines, dominates domestic routes with a 54 percent market shares followed by GMG, with the remaining 46 percent share. All set for a happening aviation sector it seems. With more money in middle class's pocket, they will be willing to fly, throwing heads on competition to GMG and bus operators. All we need is service with a smile, punctuality and safety, areas where Biman has done a great 'Beimani'.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Desh desh desh BanglaLink er desh

I don't know if it would be fair to say or not, but I think GrameenPhone lost the brand affiliation it had created with the national flag of Bangladesh, when it used to use the red and green logo resembling the red and green flag of the country. The brand of GP was instilled in consumer minds in such a way that anything with the color red and green, anything related with Bangladesh reminded of GrameenPhone. However now it seems that we are served more by a 'blue-colored-fan-looking' Norwegian telegiant rather than someone of our very own. This brand vacuum created by GP has been perfectly spotted and utilized by maverick BanglaLink. Their use of the 'tiger stripes', their brand name itself etc. been successful to some extent in associating their brand with the core values of Bangladesh. Anything related with Royal Bengal Tigers, anything orange, anything 'dorakata' recalls BanglaLink, not GrameenPhone. BanglaLink is also intelligently promoting itself by means of beautification projects of the ZIA and the Cox's Bazar beach. When a foreigner lands in Bangladesh, she is greeted by BanglaLink first, if she tours down south to the beaches, she rests under a 'tiger stripe' umbrella, so that when she returns back home, she becomes a 'brand ambassador' of BanglaLink. Their good use of 'rickshaw plastics', 'push-pull' door stickers, local area direction boards etc. are evidence of their 'use-based visibility' strategy which is working pretty well.

MPDD in Banks and Telecom

More and more MPDD (Market Place Decision Difficulty) is set to occur as telecom companies are throwing newer offers with slashed prices, discounts almost every week. Newspapers are also filled up almost every day with news of branch openings across the country of various commercial banks. Southeast Bank opens 34th branch at Kakrail today, Bank Asia opens 27th branch at Mohakhali today and I am sure more to follow in coming days. The website of Bangladesh Bank provides the list of weblinks to commercial banks of the country but I still have not come across any website which gives a comparative view of our banks. Could we have a website which would show and compare banks in terms of their number of branches, ATMs, interest rates for deposits and on top of it all, there could be a comparison chart of various loan products offered by different banks. This way, consumers could easily compare different products in the market and could take more informed decisions regarding their banking needs. Same goes for telecoms as well. Frankly speaking, I have no clue about the minute details about all the prepaid and postpaid packages, their pulse rates, FnF, free talk times and all that jazz. I get confused and I wish I could see some sort of tabular comparison of the offers made by telecom companies. Just a thought from a regular user who uses mobile phones and goes to bank.

'SAP Overdrive' to drive tech innovation and agility into businesses in Bangladesh

FE reports
SAP India, a leading provider of business software solutions, along with its implementation partner in Bangladesh, Soltius Infotech Bangladesh Ltd. jointly organised a seminar Monday in the city.The seminar titled 'SAP Overdrive' at the Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre is SAP's premier business technology event in Bangladesh. The theme at 'SAP Overdrive' was "Business at the Speed of Thought" and the discussions deliberated on how SAP as an industry leader in business software solutions, can play a critical role in helping customers transform their business technology into a strategic lever for competitive differentiation and turn accelerated global change into opportunity for growth.MA Matin, director of IT, IFIC Bank Ltd, delivered the main speech and shared his observations on how the enterprises are leveraging on technology for their growth and advancement. He also expressed the opinion that with the help of right kind of technology, enterprises could accelerate innovation, become more agile and be able to effectively execute strategy and help their workforce embrace change. "Bangladesh's strategic location offers a high growth potential and has seen tremendous developments across segments like logistics, manufacturing, telecom, garments & textiles, pharmaceuticals, constructions, infrastructure, insurance, banking and so on" said Moushumee Basu Roy, regional director, East, SAP India."Today, to tap the global opportunities and to streamline operations, enterprises in Bangladesh are adopting enterprise software solutions. SAP, with its broad range of solutions for enterprises of all sizes and over 26 vertical specific solutions, is well poised to be the preferred enterprise software solutions vender for enterprises in Bangladesh". SAP has significant growth plans for the fast growing enterprise software solutions market in Bangladesh and showcased its select range of solutions to help businesses adapt to every new demand and the ability to stay prepared for every business challenge. Bruno Burbach, CEO, Soltius Infotech, and Madhukar Joshi, chairman, Soltius Infotech Bangladesh Ltd, elucidated on the capabilities, strength and experience of Soltius in the enterprise solution implementation arena in Bangladesh.Aktel, a leading telecom service provider in Bangladesh, has been successfully running on SAP's enterprise solution since 2006. Sufi Faruq Ibne Abubakar, head of IT of Aktel, shared his experience of implementing SAP ERP and provided insights on how SAP had helped in streamlining operations and promoting control over the entire business process of his organisation.Aktel has implemented SAP across the most critical business functions and Soltius Infotech Bangladesh Ltd. has helped Aktel in their successful implementation of SAP solutions.Some of SAP's leading customers in the related verticals include names like Aktel, British American Tobacco, Aventis Pharma, Novartis, BOC Bangladesh Limited, Young One and MGH. The length and breadth of its customer base is a reassurance of SAP's expertise and success in catering to the verticals that will derive growth in the region in years to come.
It has always been the case that foreigners spot our potential first and they move fast to tap that potential. Be it telecom, IT, energy, power, banking, pharma, they arrive first to milk our resources and money. Well, beggars can't be choosers, so I am not complaining, what I am wishing for is self-sustainability as early as possible. So that we can reverse the game in near future.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Migrant workers gain mobile banks

Taken from BBC
In the ever-shrinking global village workers are increasingly crossing borders and even continents in the search for work.

A large number of the estimated 200 million international migrant workers need to send money to relatives who remain at home, many of whom do not have bank accounts. A service which has just gone live in Kenya will allow city-based workers to use their mobiles to send money home to their families in remote rural areas. It could kick-start a new era in the way money is transferred between countries. This could mean that mobile firms go head to head with traditional money transfer services to offer a kind of back-pocket bank to migrant workers.

Mobile, operators claim the scheme will be considerably cheaper than existing methods. The International Monetary Fund estimated that to send $200 (£104) back to relatives in a migrant worker's home country cost between $15 (£8) and $26 (£13) on average in 2005. Mobile systems could drastically reduce this. Vodafone - the firm behind the Kenyan scheme - wouldn't confirm the cost of its service but a spokesman said it would be "significantly lower than current charges for money transfer,"

Global hub
Mutahi Kagwe, Kenyan minister for communicationThe Kenyan service has been launched by Safaricom, a joint venture between Kenya's state-owned landline company Telkom and the UK's Vodafone. The service will soon be extended to workers based in the UK.
Kenya's minister for communication, Mutahi Kagwe, believes the service offers a great opportunity. "This will help people in far-flung parts of the country who have no banking services, now anyone can have a bank in their pocket," he said. Vodafone's ambitions in the so-called global remittance market go much wider - with plans to launch services in Eastern Europe and India. While Vodafone's plans are restricted to countries in which it has a network presence, the GSM Association is piloting a scheme which it hopes will ultimately see mobile payment systems talk to each other on a network-neutral basis. It is working with a group of 19 mobile operators - including Vodafone - which have pilot schemes in different regions of the world.
For operators the process of dealing with local banks - and banks have to be involved in the payment chain for regulatory reasons - can be arduous and time-consuming. As well as working on standardising the systems so that networks and payment systems can talk to each other, the GSMA is also offering a global hub in conjunction with MasterCard, which it hopes will simplify the process of authorising and clearing the funds.

Text message
For those sending and receiving money, the system needs to be very easy to use. Various types of money transfer schemes will be available but ultimately they will provide virtual vouchers which people can redeem for cash. The person wishing to send money can do so via the internet or mobile phone. The mobile phone will be tied to a bank account, and software would be installed on the phone to allow the person to set the money transfer in motion.
For the recipient - who will need to be in possession of a mobile phone that can receive an SMS on any mobile network - the payment will arrive in the form of a text message, probably with a secure PIN. That can be taken to a variety of outlets, most usually retail outlets already utilised by network operators. Mobile networks now cover around 80% of the globe and, in the developing world, there is a similar footprint for retail outlets selling airtime.
The GSMA believes its scheme could double of number of people receiving money to more than 1.5bn, while quadrupling the size of the remittance market to more than $1trillion (£513bn) by 2012. The World Bank estimates that the current global remittance market has a total annual worldwide value of $268bn (£139bn). In some cases this is estimated to account for up to a third of a country's GDP.
India is both the world's fastest growing mobile services market and the biggest recipient of overseas remittances, accounting for around 10% of the world market.
Helping unbanked
India's largest bank, the State Bank of India, is one of the key partners in the GSMA project. "We piloted a project in a small Himalayan village of Pithoragarh in India with Airtel and have seen the tremendous results in this unbanked village," said bank chairman Mr O.P. Bhat. "This project has the potential of transforming the lives and economies across the globe," he added. For Chris Coffman, a senior analyst at research firm Informa, the move of mobile firms into the money transfer market is an interesting one. "I think this will give an important boost to mobile payments globally, because it addresses some of the problems inherent with international remittances today - the first being that many of the recipients are unbanked, and another being the high cost of money transfers," he said.
Bangladesh's remittance reserve crossed 4 billion USD mark recently and it is poised for further growth. Market leaders like GrameenPhone who has the largest coverage and penetration in rural Bangladesh and/or new entrants like Warid Telecom have an opportunity here it seems. The sooner they realize, the better it is for all I guess.

The growing importance of introducing CSR education in Bangladesh

Very good read from FE
CORPORATE social responsibility (CSR) is still in its early stages in Bangladesh. Whilst only a few (mostly multinational enterprises) practise CSR, the larger corporate houses and SMEs - essentially the critical mass of the economy - remain unaware about both tangible and intangible benefits of CSR. Businesses in Bangladesh are yet to realize how these practices could give them the competitive edge - both in the domestic and international markets - and make them more efficient in the long run by improving their reputation and image in the eyes of all stakeholders.Most businesses in Bangladesh, large, medium or small, currently perceive CSR as charity or philanthropy, or an investment that shows no return at least in the foreseeable future.
The social or community activities that companies undertake are driven by philanthropy and often involve "writing cheques" or "donating land" to help the local community to build mosques, schools or hospitals to address social needs. These charitable ventures, mistaken as CSR, are generally not linked with the core business processes, and play no strategic role in the businesses that undertake them.This misperception can be minimised, among other ways, by integrating courses in CSR in the business schools in Bangladesh. Although corporate social responsibility is currently one of the most frequently used buzzwords in the corporate world and among business students, the lack of a proper CSR module or course in the curricula of business schools in Bangladesh contributes towards this misperceptions about CSR.
This article attempts to shed light on the potential roles that leading public and private business schools can play in making CSR a reality in Bangladesh, and eventually, create a platform for a win-win situation for all stakeholders of a company and the company itself.Leading business schools, such as, the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), North South University (NSU), East West University (EWU), BRAC University (BU), American International University-Bangladesh (AIUB), Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB) have already contributed to our corporate world by producing some of the country's brilliant business graduates. In addition, the private universities have fostered a healthy competition among business institutions and students alike by providing them with the opportunity and access to alternative business institutions besides the public ones.It is essential that business school students of today, who will be leading the corporate world tomorrow are aware and knowledgeable about how CSR can ensure sustainable benefit for both business and consumers. As such, business schools can play a pivotal role in promoting CSR education in the country.
To prepare business students, who are envisioned to become the future corporate leaders, and to ensure greater CSR adoption in Bangladesh, five leading business schools in Bangladesh - NSU, IUB, EWU, AIUB and BU - have already undertaken an initiative to integrate CSR education in their curricula.These business schools will work together to advance the agenda of incorporating CSR modules in business curricula at the tertiary level through synergy and cooperation, and encourage other business schools to follow. As a proponent and champion of corporate social responsibility, the CSR Centre at the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) will facilitate the promotion of CSR through business schools. This would be done either by developing new CSR courses or by redesigning existing courses to ensure a better understanding of CSR concepts and practices among the students.The responsibilities of businesses towards society and environment generally occupy an important spot in business courses, such as, business ethics, but these issues are usually not included as mainstream business subjects, such as, finance, strategic management, marketing and accounting. As these concepts seldom appear in the core business courses, which a business student is required to take to receive the degree, most business graduates remain unaware about the growing importance of CSR in the strategic intent of a business.
Most European and North American business schools have already started revisiting their curriculum to assess how best they could accommodate the issues and concepts of corporate social responsibility. They are either incorporating these in the core courses to start with or redesigning them to highlight and emphasise the importance of CSR for businesses receives due attention. Globalization and the recent wave of public and private corporate scandals resulted in an increasing demand for improved and enhanced knowledge on CSR in order to comprehend the complexities of the current global economic environment, and the challenges businesses and executives face to integrate into it while maintaining a cutting and competitive edge.In the United Kingdom (UK), University of Birmingham offers a Masters programme on Corporate Governance and Corporate social Responsibility and University of London in Corporate Governance and Ethics. The University of Nottingham offers Masters, MBA and PhD in Corporate Social Responsibility through its International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility. Harvard Business School and other Ivy League schools, University of Notre Dame and the Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College are among those institutions that are spearheading CSR education in the United States of America (USA).While it is up to the business schools to incorporate CSR in the core business curricula, the corporate world should also come forward and create a demand for such skills in executives. Business graduates are not only an integral part of the workforce, but also constitute other stakeholders, including those in the company's supply chain, consumers and investors.
To prepare future managers and leaders for the realities of a more complex business environment, it is essential to combine CSR knowledge with core business skills through education. This knowledge could empower and equip them with a powerful understanding of the value addition of CSR, and social, environmental and economic perspectives required for operating in an interdependent world and in a competitive and evolving global economy. Farooq Sobhan is President, Bangladesh Enterprise Institute and Sherina Tabassum is Communications Coordinator, Bangladesh Enterprise Institute

Friday, May 25, 2007

Private Games People Play in Private Universities

A classic case of principal-agent clash is going on in private universities in Bangladesh. The founders/directors of universities are tightening their grip on teachers whom they hire with high salaries. Someone mentioned that IUB requires new teachers to sign bonds as long as 3 years, so that recruited teachers can't switch to better paid offers. Management in AIUB gives more importance to its Administration than to its teachers and they are also coming up with innovative ways to keep students second, teachers last. Word is in the air that North-South University is also a hotbed for teacher-admin bureaucracy. Its common knowledge now days that private universities are there to make more money for its owners and directors at the cost of students' money. So if you are planning to teach in private universities, plan beforehand when you want to jump and surprise your controllers.

GP Speaks in Local Dialect for Customer Service

GrameenPhone has introduced customer service in local dialects for its valued customers. You need to dial 121 (and start paying for asking for help) and press the specific language code for selecting your preferred language. Press 1 for Bangla, 2 for English and 3 for regional dialect. Once you press 3 you have the following options. Press 1 for Chittagong, 2 for Sylhet, 3 for Khulna, 4 for Rajshahi, 5 for Barisal and 6 for Noakhali district.

I tried the service myself and found it as a frail attempt to mimic the dialects. I assume GP must have trained its in-house staff, who they thought have a knack of picking up dialects well, but I am afraid the exercise still appears premature and artificial. And what intrigues me more is, what if I am a Sylheti speaking customer, opted to listen to Sylheti dialogues in the helpline and choose to talk to a Customer Service Manager? Will he/she be able to talk to me in Sylheti? If GP has dedicated call center staff ready to speak in dialects to customers willing to speak in dialects...excellent work GrameenPhone! That is called end-to-end customized service offering. However, if someone starts talking in plain Bangla (without dialects ofcourse) from the other side while looking at the script on the screen in a robotic voice, then what is the point in introducing 6 dialect-led welcome messages in the hotline? I will try to talk to a Customer Service Manager next time in Sylheti and if I don't get a Sylheti speaking voice from the other end....well...have to teach him/her a few Sylheti 'jharis'.

GrameenPhone has the luxury to experiment with service package, whether it actually serves the purpose or not. Users are still perhaps too small to dictate the terms. How about introducing one more FnF (Friends and Family) option for your prepaid customer segment GP? Is it a big ask? I would prefer having services that makes more sense rather than listening to artificial 'chatgaiyya noakhailla siloti' dialects.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Westin finally opens in Dhaka

Financial Express reports

The Westin Dhaka, a new five-star luxury hotel in Bangladesh, will announce its grand opening on June 20, 2007. This is the first Westin branded hotel and second Starwood-managed property in the country, according to a press release. "Uniquely designed The Westin Dhaka is an example of modern architecture. The design reflects not only the comfort but also the aspiration that it should surpass current establishments in Dhaka in terms of opulence and luxury. Each and every part of the hotel has its own decorative style though all are homogeneously comfortable and luxurious," said General Manager of the hotel San Amalan. He also said, "every aspect of guests' experience is tailored to make a distinct stay on every level: physically, spiritually and aesthetically. This is more than a hotel. It is a destination where guests are understood and feel that this is a place where they can be at their best."All 241 luxurious and specious rooms including 23 suites and a presidential suite feature an intimate connection and an emotional impact of Westin. They are outfitted with high-speed broadband Internet facilities, LCD flat screen television with satellite and cable channels, direct dialling system, an oversized desk and an ergonomic desk chair, four-fixture bathroom and the Westin signature products and services that include heavenly bed, heavenly bath and heavenly crib, according to the press release. Guests will enjoy the unique culinary experiences from the finest of ingredients to preparation and live cooking stations, the release pointed out. The six restaurants and lounges will offer distinctive concept and services. The Westin Dhaka will be an ideal venue for meetings, conferences, conventions, exhibitions and any social event with a capacity of approximately 2000 sqm available functional spaces. The five contemporary meeting venues are well equipped with state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment, LED lighting effects and projections. From a small meeting of 12 people to a large function of 450 people can be accommodated, the release added. The hotel also offers a state-of-the-art recreation centre/health club, fully equipped business centre, ground level car parking and limousine services.
Tourism sector looking bleak in future, Westin must be targeting corporate guests as its main target audience. Radisson already creating a niche in the hospitality/hotel industry, it is to be seen how Westin positions itself in short and long term. Also, the report does not mention anything about its room rates or how many jobs it has created for local Bangladeshis.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

SEC fines 16 company directors for breaching accounting principles

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Monday fined 16 directors of three companies Tk 0.1 million (1.0 lakh) each for giving misleading details about financial health, reports directors were from Dynamic Textile Industries, Lexco Limited and Sajib Knitwear and Garments.The capital market regulator said the companies had violated rules as they did not make their annual reports on the basis of international accounting standards (IAS)-a set of globally accepted principles for financial statements. It has resulted in giving misleading picture about the financial health of these companies. Investors could have got a fair impression about the situation of the companies if they followed international norms.
This fabrication practice of financial statements only discourages investors about stock market activities. Technical fundamentals to assess value of an issue prove useless when the numbers are all fictitious. But I hope as watchdogs like SEC tighten their grip on ill-practicing companies, investors will gain confidence about Bangladeshi stock markets.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Guarding mother brands with product extensions

Taken from ET

Pepsi and Coca Cola are two very old beverage brands. Although these two giants continue to dominate worldwide beverage markets, in Bangladesh consumers today have a large number of new soft drinks to choose from. Not surprisingly, competition in the carbonated soft drink (CSD) market has increased. Bracing themselves for this competition the two giants have added new flavors and extensions of old brands into their product-lines to cater for the needs of different niche markets that have emerged over the years.These global brands have different marketing strategies for different countries. This is primarily because consumer preference for a particular brand may considerably differ from country to country. For example in Bangladesh today the growth of lemon CSD market is greater than that of cola CSD market. But in India, it is the opposite. This is why Transcom Beverage Ltd., the exclusive franchise of Pepsico USA, has launched 7Up Ice as a permanent brand with a proposition to provide a different taste for lemon CSD consumers who may be bored with the traditional flavors such as 7Up or Sprite. The product was originally launched in India as an "in-and-out" strategy for a few months. Such an in-and-out strategy is often implemented to create extra-excitement around the mother brand. It allows consumers to relish a new flavor for some time and then revert to the mother brand. Another example is 'Pepsi Aha', which was launched for a selected period of time in India.Under the lemon flavor, Transcom Beverage has also launched Teem, which is cloudy in colour, unlike 7Up, which is clear. At the same time, the company has strengthened its position in the "no sugar" CSD market.

Khurshid Irfan Chowdhury, General Manager of Sales and Marketing for Transcom Beverage, informs ET that Pepsi is currently the only company that is providing the "diet" version of two flavors-cola and lemon. 'Pepsi diet' and '7Up light' are sugar free CSD. Since 7Up light was launched four months back, Khurshid claims, many consumers have switched from cola to 7Up light. 7Up is somewhat fizzy in taste in comparison to 7Up Ice, which gives the consumer a cooling feel after taste. In the CSD market, there are good reasons behind launching product extensions. Product extensions offer consumers different tastes of flavors under the label of the mother brand. If the consumer is bored with the mother brand she now has opportunities to consume different flavors under the trusted mother brand. This becomes an important strategy to fend off competition, as the consumer now may not be willing to switch to other brands. At the same time, the switch from the mother brand to one of its extensions is not likely to reduce the value of the mother brand.Transcom Beverage is conscious about having brands with clear market demarcations. "In this industry every company is offering cola flavor and sometimes too many cola products might create confusion among the potential consumers. Our products are differentiated through taste, level of presentation, and functional and emotional benefit. For example the clear difference between 7up and 7up Ice is not only in terms of taste but also of pack-presentation." Transcom, Khurshid claims, is the first company that has introduced beverage product of different colors basically to target young groups between the ages of 15 and 25. "For example Mountain Dew with different colors is for those who are adventurous-minded and love to take up challenges. Mountain Dew is mainly sold in all metropolitan areas or divisional towns." Distribution cost of beverage product is much high compared to other FMCG products due to larger size and weight of CSD products. On the other hand, consumers in Bangladesh are price-sensitive. So packaging of CSD is done based on consumer's purchasing capacity.

Nurturing Multiple Brands : Unilever's Strategy

Today, Lux, Close Up and Wheel are all household names. Nowshad Karim Chowdhury, Brand Director of Unilever, explains his company takes a disciplined approach that combines market intelligence, number crunching, and yes, creativity, in managing as many as 14 brands and many more extensions.

The Executive Times (ET): You have a number of products or brands. What factors do you consider before launching a new product?

Nowshad Karim Chowdhury (NC): At Unilever, any new product innovation is a consumer driven process whereby creative marketing and relevant technology leads to new and different products. We consider a number of factors, namely: consumer need for the product; our capability to offer a product to meet those needs; development of the particular category in Bangladesh; other country experiences in the same category etc.

ET: How do you identify the need for a new product?

NC: Our marketers are always vigilant about new product innovation opportunities, be it extension in a category we already operate in or entry into a completely new category. We carry out a number of quantitative and qualitative consumer immersion programs on a regular basis. This helps us enhance our understanding of Bangladeshi consumers and their needs leading to new product ideas. As an operating company of a global Unilever, we can also choose and evaluate new product ideas from the product portfolio that Unilever offers across the globe.

Unilever has an Innovation Management Process where every new idea goes through four different phases:

1. Idea: This is the stage where new product ideas and concepts are tested/evaluated

2. Feasibility: At this stage the product mix (formulation, packaging etc.) is locked

3. Capability: Communication campaign is developed and tested

4. Launch: The product is launched and monitored

During the launch of a product, the focus is on 'bringing the product alive in the consumer's mind'. The execution varies from category to category. Typical launch activities include: communication campaign on various media, experiential marketing activities, awareness drive at retail end etc.

ET: What factors are taken into consideration while deciding to make product extension?

NC: For all of our brands, there are global Unilever guidelines that outline the scope of each brand. We strictly adhere to these guidelines when deciding on product or brand extensions. However, this is heavily dependent on equity of mother-brand. When deciding on any brand extensions, we make sure that it should take something from the core and give something back to the mother-brand equity.

For example, Wheel Bar played an important role in developing the detergent category in Bangladesh. Leveraging the strong wheel mother-brand equity, wheel washing powder was launched in Bangladesh during the late 90's. This was one of the major successes of Unilever Bangladesh.
ET: What are the analyses that you do to ensure that the launching of a new product will not reduce the band value of other products or cannibalize the profits of an existing product?

NC: We carry out a special type of research called Simulated Test Market (STM) that helps us project volume and estimate cannibalization rates for a new product. If the test results are positive- i.e. the incremental impact is greater than the cannibalization impact-we go ahead with the launch.
For example, before launching Vim bar, we carried out STM putting it against Vim powder. The results were positive and we launched the product.

ET: Having too many products of similar kinds can be confusing to customers. How do you make sure that these products have clear differentiations?

NC: Consumers and their needs are of topmost priority in every decision that we take. Each brand is positioned to address a specific consumer need. When we have more than one Brand in a particular category, we ensure clear differentiation in proposition based on consumer needs. For example, in Toothpaste, the two most sought after benefits are germ-free mouth and fresh breath. We have two distinct brands addressing these two needs: Pepsodent with germi-check proposition and Close Up with fresh-breath confidence promise.
Thanks to ET for informative, useful and relevant articles.

United We Fly

The Bangladeshi aviation sector is all abuzz with the arrival of the new entrant United Airways, who published their vacancy announcements today. The private sector aviation domain has been long led and well maintained by GMG Airlines who have extended their network up to Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata and Kathmandu. Personally speaking, I found GMG's service just fine and the staff friendly. Given that the country is pretty small in size, railway service at its worst ever, the airliners need to compete with landroute operators only i.e. buses. Still I believe there is a sizeable number of 'middle-upper middle-upper' class flyers who prefer to fly to their destinations rather than going by road, thanks to increasing buying powers. Now lets see how United Airways perform in the market.

Allowing real time online trading at DSE and CSE

For those interested in the 'poised for growth' stock markets in Bangladesh, check out the websites of Dhaka Stock Exchange and Chittagong Stock Exchange. Both the websites are full of information, as they are supposed to be, and offer updated price information of issues every 30 minutes. The quality of the websites are below standard and the information could be better organized and better presented.
Trading insturctions are still executed mostly by being physically at the broker premises or over telephone. The broker systems are online, connected to the central trading software, but the request still is generated by brokers, NOT by investors themselves. There is still no mechanism where the websites of the stock exchanges could be ready to take online instructions as well. NRBs would be really benefitted had there been such mechanisms in place. Media, Military and Expats--are the major drivers for change these days. So bringing in more NRB investments in our stock exchanges would increase its liquidity. Already people are gearing up to embrace shares from telecom companies, foreign banks should follow suit. Just for your information, get ready to grab a piece of the IPO cakes from BFIC (10th June), Phoenix Finance and Investment Ltd. (24th June), International Leasing and Financial Services Ltd. (1st July), Trust Bank (15th July) and Paramount Insurance Company Ltd. (29th July).

Monday, May 21, 2007

Square Pharma sends its medicine to the UK

Square Pharmaceuticals Ltd has obtained the certification by the United Kingdom Medicine Registration Authority (UK MHRA).With this approval, SQUARE Pharma has become the first Bangladeshi company to start exporting its finished pharmaceutical products to the UK. Mentioning this achievement as a new milestone for the country's pharmaceutical industry. This approval would help SQUARE Pharma to enter into the highly regulated pharmaceutical markets like other European countries, Australia, South Africa and the GCC countries in the near future. It takes a lot of rigorous processes to comply with the registration requirements for getting the approval from the UK MHRA (United Kingdom Medicines And Healthcare products Regulatory Agency), starting from raw material sourcing to all production processes, quality control processes and quality assurance processes, finally leading to the total quality-checks of the finished products.This approval process also involved thorough inspection and auditing of the designing of the manufacturing plant, selection of the machinery and equipment, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) system and purified water system of the plant to ensure that the entire manufacturing plant was strictly maintaining the world-class pharmaceutical manufacturing environment as per the MHRA GMP requirements.This feat of SQUARE Pharma has again proved its commitment to the total quality compliance and has shown it to the whole world that Bangladesh can also produce world-class pharmaceutical products for serving -'the people of developed countries like the UK'.
Just a subtle concern from a regular user of square pharma's medicine, please don't feed us (the local market) with low quality medicines and export the best ones to the UK. We understand that exporting best quality medicine to the UK will fetch you more money and earn name for your company, but think about our lives too. I hope it will not become like garments market in Bangladesh, where best ones get exported to H&M, Marks & Spencers and we get to buy the ' invisibly defected' ones from Bongobazar or from opposite Dhaka College. Our 'Anti-bhejal superhero' RokonMan-3 has already discovered lots of 'bhejal oshud toirir karkhana' here and there. This is life we are concerned with Square, not mere fashion.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Warid's Marketing Team

I find opinion posted by "Red & Green" about 'Warid and 786' has strong appeal.

In addition to Warid's market segmentation based on spirituality and Islam....I want to say two things:

1. First of all: Warid's latest campaigns display: "Now 24 Hours - 25 Paisa". The font size of "25 Paisa" is too big to be misguided to overlook "Per 15 seconds". This is a kind of unethical marketing practice. Because most people would read this as "25 paisa / min". Moreover, this is an used method. Citycell used this type of communication 2 years (approx) ago.

2. Another thing has come to my observation. Warid is spreading too many slogans at a time. like: "be ...." Probably I myself found more than 05 slogans. If a brand is positioned with multiple slogans within same segment with same products, you know, marketing people outside Warid would naturally be doubtful about marketing people inside. Either they are not competent, or they are not allowed freedom to work!

Individual Credit Score Reporting in Bangladesh

Veru much like Equifax and Experian in the UK, could we have Bangladeshi companies providing individual credit score reporting in exchange of a fee? We already have two companies in Bangladesh called CRISL (Credit Rating Information Services Ltd.) and CRAB (Credit Rating Agency of Bangladesh) who have been providing credit scoring services to institutional clients like banks, NBFIs, companies willing to float IPOs etc. Do they have the capacity or any sort of plan to provide credit scores of credit worthy individuals? I know that when retail consumers apply for different types of loans, every bank has a mechanism to grade the risk level of that particular client. But could there be anything uniform? Something which could take into account an individuals past records, bank details, frequency of address change, ownership of fixed assets etc. Individual credit reporting is very important in western economies and lies in the core of consumer credit and the whole credit market. Can we think in that line too? Is it possible or not? May be experts would be able to answer well.

Holcim enters Indian market

Bangladesh is finally going to export cement in bulk to the northeastern Indian states from early next month. Holcim Bangladesh (Pvt) Ltd recently got thumbs up from the Indian government to export cement to Assam, Meghalaya and other northeastern states. The multinational cement manufacturer is already exporting cement to Tripura. Holcim also entered an agreement in April to supply cement for a big government-financed project--construction of highways in Assam, he said. India generally does not allow Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institute (BSTI) certification for import of cement from Bangladesh (why?).The local cement manufacturers need to get the standard certificate from the Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS), which takes time. Local manufacturers have long been saying that such a certification is a major barrier other than tariff to exporting cement to the Indian market, especially to the northeastern states. The BIS finally accepted the BSTI certificate for import of Holcim cement.
Commerce ministry officials said a team of experts from India would come to Dhaka soon to assess capabilities of Bangladeshi testing labs for certification of cement. Bangladesh would take measures to strengthen the BSTI after the assessment, the officials said. Holcim began its journey in September 2000 through acquisition of Hyundai Cement Bangladesh. Later, Holcim bought out United Cement Industries at Meghnaghat and Saiham Cement Industries at Mongla to strengthen its position in Bangladesh. Holcim's combined capacity now stands at 1.3 million tonnes a year. Bangladesh has 21 cement factories with an annual production capacity of around 80 lakh tonnes. The local annual demand is about 60 lakh tonnes. Good going Holcim, I wonder what Lafarge Surma Cement, Heidelberg, Shah Cement etc. are doing on the export front? Do they export? What are their capacities?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Govt firm to bring cell-phone cos to capital mkt by yr-end

The government is determined to bring the cell phone companies to the capital market by the end of this year. To compel the cell phone companies to come to the capital market, the government is contemplating some changes in the terms and conditions of the licences granted by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).

"We are determined to bring the cell phone companies to the capital market. To bring the mobile phone companies to the capital market by the end of 2007, we are working to make IPO (initial public offering) floating mandatory," BTRC Chairman Manzurul Alam told the UNB.
About the progress in the matter, he said, the BTRC has already contacted the cell phone companies and all of them agreed in principle with the IPO floating." Warid Telecom told us they need some time as they just entered the cell phone market while GrameenPhone (GP) sought another three years to comply with IPO floating. But I think GP's request for three years is too much," the BTRC chairman said. Asked, if the cell phone companies would make benefit after being listed with the capital market, he said the government is not thinking of giving any incentive for the purpose as they are already enjoying some incentives as corporate houses. He also mentioned the need for adequate workforce, training programmes for engineers and reforming the salary structure. "Many of our engineers left the BTRC for the cell phone companies as they were offered higher salary,"

So our stock exchanges are ready for some action ahead. Good to know that BTRC has finally waken up in the telecom companies' stock enlisting issue, the sooner the better.

ACC reacts as Crowley pulls for Sobhan of Bashundhara

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has strongly reacted to a letter by US Congressman Joseph Crowley, also founder co-chairman of Congressional Bangladeshi Caucus, who advocated for special treatment of a controversial businessman Ahmed Akhtar Sobhan of Bashundhara Group. Crowley in a surprising letter to ACC Chief Lt Gen (retd) Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury in March said he has been informed by 'concerned stakeholders' that harassment and intimidation of Sobhan has taken place during search of his home.

Crowley is known to be a lobbyist in the US for important individuals and business groups. Sobhan, an alleged close associate of the Hawa Bhaban and Tarique Rahman, is a controversial figure for his group's land development deals. The anti-graft body is now scrutinising his sources of money.The congressman said he is concerned that 'any disruption of this large employer has the potential to create economic instability within a nation' and added that he 'plans on closely following the developments of this case as it progresses."He also sought flexible dealing with Sobhan who is recovering from a recent heart surgery in London.

In his reply, the ACC chief said Crowley's contention of people being harassed or intimidated is absolutely unfounded and misleading."Your protégé, Mr Ahmed Akbar Sobhan, was required to submit a statement of his assets and satisfy the authorities as regards the means through which he has accumulated wealth worth millions of dollars," Hasan Mashhud wrote to the congressman. "Till now he has failed to do so which reinforces the allegation against him. As such further legal actions are being contemplated to proceed with the case." He disagreed that 'concern for potential disruption in business should override the moral obligation of the government to deal ruthlessly with any corrupt practices indulged in by the nouveau riche in a country like Bangladesh'.

As Crowley insisted that 'intimidation of anyone whether they are head of a company or a rickshaw driver does not benefit anyone during this time of difficulty for Bangladesh', Mashhud said Sobhan or his associates will be provided with the opportunity to clear themselves of any wrongdoing and the 'due process' will be adhered to at all times. "I would expect you to measure things up in their correct perspective and base your judgment on facts. I can assure you there will be no farce, no charade and no kangaroo courts," the ACC boss asserted.

So Bashundhara group has 'mama chachas' in America, they are pulling strings for them. No wonder without 'American Blessings', it would have been impossible to grab land and make a tiny city named 'Bashundhara Residential Area' in Dhaka. It would have been impossible to build sub-continent's largest shopping mall called 'Bashundhara City', it would have really been impossible to do business in Bangladesh actually. So Bashundhara should say, 'Thank you Markin Mama".

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bangladeshi TV Channels in West Bengal

In my personal opinion, the quality of the Bangladeshi private TV channels are far better than the ones broadcasted by our Bengali-speaking friends across the border. I have heard that there is demand in West Bengal for music and literature practiced in 'opar bangla'. Inspite of all this, it is anticipated that Indian satellite operators are united on the issue of restricting access to Bangladeshi TV channels. For reasons known to more or less every Bangladeshi, they do not want to encourage viewing of 'our' channels like Ekushey TV, Channel i, RTV, Channel 1, Bangla Vision etc. I want to know what our media policy-makers are doing on this front. Resistance is out there, so is apprehension and competition. But we need to think beyond our borders to broadcast 'our' culture, 'our' style of living life. This penetration into the fortress of the Indian West Bengali viewers' minds would go a long way in cleaning up some of their misconceptions about Bangladesh, which is largely fed very diligently and regularly by Indian media in general. Common misconceptions include, we read and write in Urdu, we marry four times, we keep beards, all women wear burqa and the numbers are increasing, we love Pakistan and hate India etc. etc. So a call to our TV channels, you are doing good, you have good quality, just act local and be global. Time to payback the cultural invasions.

Dial 786 and say Bismillah for Warid

Warid Telecom's helpline number from landphone is 016 78600786 and from mobile is 786. Does it ring any bell? 786 is the numeric equivalent (I don't know why and how) of 'bismillah' in Arabic. They have a banner on their homepage depicting Javed Omar batting for Bangladesh, a mosque and a small boy wearing a white cap. What does this mean? After being hugely successfully in a country like Pakistan, I hope Warid is not trying to play the 'religious sentiment' card to grab the lion's share of the Bangladesh mobile market. What goes well in Pakistan (cricket, mullahs and mosques) might not go as planned in Bangladesh. But who knows, given the religious sensitivity of Bangladeshi mass uers, Warid might just win the heart of fellow Muslim brethern, thus gaining market share in spiritual means! What a thought!

Nestle provides drinking water in village schools

Nestle Bangladesh Limited (NBL) has taken initiatives to ensure good life by providing clean drinking water in a few village schools.Under the programme, NBL has invested in drilling tube well and constructing water tanks in Bhawal Mirzapur Haji Jamir Uddin High School (MHS) at Gazipur Sadar to store clean drinking water, and ensure its students' regular access to water.The project also includes education programmes to teach the students about the importance of clean water, the need for water conservation, and how clean water links hygiene, health and well-being. NBL Managing Director Carlo Cifiello, in his speech on the occasion, stressed on the association of Nestle with hygiene and good health. He emphasised NBL's commitment towards continuing such corporate social activities, and said, the organisation hopes to provide a number of such projects within this year in Gazipur district.MHS managing committee, teachers and local elite appreciated the NBL's initiative. Good move by Nestle, but many a times all these acts of CSR work as an eye-wash to cover up misdeeds done in the backscene. Drink clean water and adulterated baby milk, doesn't go very well together does it?

CityCell cheats state out of Tk 360 crore a year

Mobile phone operator CityCell is making about Tk 360 crore a year illegally, regulatory officials were quoted as saying Wednesday by

A 12-hour raid on the company headquarters in the capital Wednesday produced evidence for the BTRC officials to claim CityCell, majority-owned by former foreign minister M Morshed Khan, was making nearly Tk 1 crore a day from illegal VoIP connections.

RAB officer Major Shamsuzzoha showed to copies of bills against numbers 01190005010 and 01190005100 and said: "We have found 50 such dummy numbers. More one crore taka has been billed against these numbers every day. That brings the monthly figure to Tk 30 crore and annually Tk 360 crore."

"This means the government has been deprived of Tk 330 crore a year by CityCell," said Anamika Bhakta, a member of the six-strong BTRC committee to fight illegal VoIP business.
She said BTRC will sue CityCell under telecommunication laws.

The raid on the CityCell headquarters on the 13th floor of Pacific Tower began at 11am and ran well into midnight.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bangladesh Government Digitized Forms

Just for your information that 50 government forms are already available online here. Good step towards e-governance. Dohatec seems to have done a good job. Their own website is also pretty neat. Have a look at their case study on e-gov here. It goes without saying that Bangladeshi IT companies have the necessary grey matter to design robust, scalable, efficient e-governance systems. Its high time government acknowledges this and encourages more local IT firms to have more pies of the big cake called 'e-gov'.

Return of the Radio

Radio Today does not have any official website. Keeping in view the amount of search and interest it is generating around the world from Bangladeshis, the 'station of the nation at FM 89.6' should very well come up with an interactive, attractive and user-friendly website ASAP. By the meantime, those who want to listen to the radio online, visit this website. The radio industry is set to open up new business horizons for Bangladesh. Now that it is available even in the internet, imagine the outreach! Good news indeed for Radio Today, good news for companies that had been looking for new modes of communication, good news for listeners.

IPO of Union Capital oversubscribed by 35 times

The initial public offering (IPO) of the Union Capital Ltd (UCL) has been oversubscribed by 35 times.This is the record subscription. Previously the Prime Islami Life Insurance Limited (PILIL) was oversubscribed by 31 times, according to capital market sources. "The IPO issued by the Union Capital has attracted a large number of investors during its five-day subscription ended Thursday last," said one senior official of the company.The UCL, a non-banking financial institution in the country, opened subscription on May 6 and ended on May 10. The UCL issued IPOs having face value at Tk 10 for raising Tk 75 million but it had been subscribed at Tk 2.5 billion.The subscription for the non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) will be closed on May 19. It has reserved 10 per cent quota for the NRBs. The UCL, took over by the local entrepreneurs in late 1998 when Peregrine Capital, one of the leading investment banks in the world, went to worldwide liquidation. However, sources at the company said that the lottery for allocating shares of 7,500,000 might take place on June 12 next at the Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre (BIFCC) subject to the prior approval of the country's capital market watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Banglalink to observe UN Peacekeeping Day

Banglalink has taken an initiative to observe the United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping Day 2007 with the Bangladesh Army on May 29 remembering the supreme sacrifices of soldiers for upholding and maintaining peace in many parts of the world.In this connection, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Bangladesh Army Overseas Operations Directorate and Banglalink in the city recently, said a press release. Several programmes have been chalked out to observe the day. The day will start off with a peacekeepers' run comprising former and serving officers of the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, high military officials and delegates from the UNDP. An awarding and commemoration ceremony organised by the UNDP will also be held at the Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre in the city on the day. A foundation stone laying ceremony will also be held for the construction of a Peace Monument to remember the martyrs who have laid down their lives for this worthy and noble cause. Not a good time in the country to talk about the Army for sure, but what is Banglalink upto??

HSBC provides health education to parents

Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) Ltd in Bangladesh provided health education to parents of the school children at School of Hope in the city recently.The school recently organised a health day programme for the parents of the students on the school premises where health issues including eye disease, diarrhoea, heat-related diseases were discussed.School of Hope provides education to slum kids of Gulshan and Badda areas. HSBC, which is celebrating 10 years in Bangladesh, has been involved with the school since the beginning of the bank's operations. HSBC seems good after 10 years on the CSR side , any takers on its customer service or banking service? What about the scarcity of ATMs?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Nestlé Milking Bangladesh Big Time!

It was in 1977 that campaigners first called for a boycott of Nestlé because of its aggressive marketing of formula milk in the developing world. Thirty years on, have Nestlé and the other baby-milk firms cleaned up their act? Joanna Moorhead travels to Bangladesh to find out
Tuesday May 15, 2007

Eti Khuman's face lies cradled on her mother's shoulder, her cheek resting in against Mina's collarbone. Eti is beautiful, but she is poorly: her breathing is heavy, and Mina has the distracted look of a mother who is very worried indeed. Eti's illness - first vomiting, then diarrhoea - struck without warning. Like all mothers in Bangladesh, Mina knew to fear diarrhoea: in this country, diarrhoea can kill. So she wasted no time in bringing her eight-week-old daughter here, to the main diarrhoea hospital near her home in the capital, Dhaka.

Eti was admitted, and now she and Mina are in the main ward, a sweltering room so packed with beds that there is barely space to walk between them. It's a general ward, but most of the patients are babies. Some, like Eti, are being held by their mothers: others lie quietly on their beds attached to drips. Not one is crying: they are all much too weak for that.

Twenty-five years ago, when Dr Iqbal Kabir first came to work at this hospital, small babies were almost unknown as patients. Today, he says, infants make up as many as 70% of admissions. The reason? Kabir shakes his head, and points to a poster on the wall above Eti's bed. The same poster is displayed, many times, around the ward. It shows a baby's bottle, with a big cross drawn heavily through it. The message is clear. "Bottlefeeding is harmful," says Kabir. "Because bottlefed babies get diarrhoea, since their formula is mixed with dirty water and since their bottles are not sterile. Do you know how many breastfed babies are admitted here with diarrhoea? The number is almost zero."

Eti has been bottlefed almost since birth: Mina says she wanted to breastfeed, but when she had difficulties there was no one to give advice or support. Mina's story was typical of those of many of the mothers I met in Bangladesh: when she hit problems and went to a doctor, the suggestion was to try formula. In doctors' surgeries and pharmacies across the country, it seems, health professionals are quick - far too quick, say breastfeeding campaigners - to suggest bottlefeeding as the way forward.

Kabir is appalled by her tale, as he has been appalled many times before: in a perfect world, he'd like to see formula milk and bottles removed from general shops, and available only as a last resort, on prescription. "It sounds extreme - but then, it sounded extreme when people first talked about banning smoking. This is the same issue - only with bottlefeeding in my country it's not consenting adults who die, it's tiny babies."

For the moment, though, Kabir's anger is directed at the manufacturers of baby formula. Like many of his fellow health professionals, he believes these manufacturers push their products too aggressively, sometimes breaching the stipulations of an international code on the marketing of formula milk drawn up in 1981, ratified by member states of the World Health Organisation, and enshrined in law in Bangladesh since 1984.

That code, in turn, had been prompted by public support of an international boycott of the products of the company that seemed most culpable 30 years ago: Nestlé. The code could have ended the boycott, but campaigners continue to flag it up because, they claim, the company - and many other baby-milk manufacturers - fail to abide by its requirements. Despite the safeguards it affords, they say, mothers in developing countries - the most vulnerable of mothers anywhere, the ones least able to afford formula milk, the ones whose babies most need the breast milk they could and should be getting for free - were being, and continue to be, targeted by corporate giants bent on carving out their share of a valuable market (Save the Children, which today publishes a report on the baby-milk industry, reckons that the total value of baby-milk and baby-food imports is worth almost £16m a year in Bangladesh alone - but the potential, if more mothers were bottlefeeding, is a lot higher than that).

So, three decades on from the boycott's inception, I have come to Bangladesh to find out whether Nestlé has - as it claims - changed its behaviour, and is now a reformed organisation, or whether the campaigners have been right to keep up the pressure all these years, not just on Nestlé but on other formula manufacturers too.

Down the road from the diarrhoea hospital is the whitewashed Sajida hospital, a private hospital like the one in which Eti was born. Giving birth in a private hospital in Bangladesh isn't just for the wealthy - having a baby here costs only a few pounds - but it is staff in hospitals such as this, say campaigners such as Dr Munir Ahmed of Save the Children in Dhaka, who are targeted by reps from the formula companies. Dr Khaliq Zaman is the paediatrician at the Sajida hospital: yes, he tells us, he receives frequent visits from milk manufacturers, including Nestlé, makers of Lactogen, one of the leading brands in Bangladesh.

"The reps are very aggressive - there are three or four companies, and they come in every two weeks or so," he says. "Their main aim is to recommend their product. Sometimes they bring gifts - Nestlé brought me a big cake at new year. Some companies give things like pens and notebooks, with their brand name on them. They try very hard - even though they know I am not interested, that I always recommend breastfeeding, still they come."

As we talk Zaman holds a pen with the name of a well-known brand of formula milk clearly imprinted on it: the pen isn't expensive, but the giving of all presents to health workers is prohibited under the code. So, too, is the direct promotion of their products to mothers: and yet, the evidence from Zaman is that Nestlé and other manufacturers are getting their message through to mothers none the less.

Here's how: on Zaman's desk, lots of small pads lie scattered: each contains sheets with information about formula milk, plus pictures of the relevant tin. The idea, he says, is that when a mother comes to him to ask for help with feeding, he will tear a page out of the pad and give it to her. The mother - who may be illiterate - will then take the piece of paper (which seems to all intents and purposes a flyer for the product concerned) to her local shop or pharmacy, and ask for that particular product either by pointing the picture out to the pharmacist or shopkeeper, or by simply searching the shelves for a tin identical to the one in the picture on their piece of paper. "I'd never give these pieces of paper out - when I've got a big enough bundle, I take them home and burn them," says Zaman. But that does not mean every other health worker would do the same.

At least three types of Nestlé formula are among the brands whose tear-off pads are on Zaman's desk.
Nestlé spokesman Robin Tickle denies that tear-off pads equate to promoting Lactogen. In fact, he says, the device is "essentially a safety measure. The pads are distributed as information to healthcare workers which ... is allowed under the code. Individual sheets of these are then indeed handed over to mothers, but only after the infant formula has been prescribed by a doctor." He does not accept that the code fails to distinguish between tear-off pads and other sorts of promotion, or that any piece of paper that features a picture of a product a company wants to sell is, arguably, de facto advertising.

The point, he says, is that doctors need - for safety reasons - to make clear to women whether they need Lactogen 1 (for younger babies) or Lactogen 2 (for older ones). So it isn't, then, simply a case of Nestlé exploiting a loophole in the international code? Absolutely not, says Tickle: Nestlé is, he says, one of the largest private distributors of information about the benefits of breastfeeding. And yet, as I tell him, I saw no evidence whatsoever of any Nestlé-sponsored pro-breastfeeding literature, despite spending two days touring hospitals, maternity wards and paediatric clinics: doesn't it seem odd that Nestlé is highly efficient at getting its tear-off slips into mothers' hands in Bangladesh (there were prescription pads in abundance in many of the places we visited), and yet fails, as far as I could tell, in getting them what they could really use, which is information on how to breastfeed? And anyway, campaigners question how realistic it is to think that a company such as Nestlé - which has huge amounts of money tied up in formula milk sales - is going to be committed to spreading the "breast is best" gospel.

"The Nestle leaflets with the picture of Lactogen violates the Code if given to mothers," says Costanza de Toma, author of the Save the Children report. "The truth is that formula manufacturers are clever - they look for grey areas in the code, and they exploit them." Given that the code does not allow them direct access to mothers, she alleges, the companies have become adept at channelling their efforts into getting health workers on side. In any country, but particularly in a country such as Bangladesh where antenatal education is minimal, and where access to other sources of information is limited, the messages new mothers get from doctors, nurses and midwives are crucial. Many of the women I met said it was precisely these people who had suggested a move to not just formula in general, but a specific make - often Lactogen.

Samsun Shahida Akhter Rita, 19, mother of 12-week-old Mim, told me she had gone to a doctor because she was worried about how much Mim was crying. "The doctor said to try Lactogen ... he said give breast milk as well, but try Lactogen." (Breastfeeding experts warn that - aside from the dangers of dirty water being used - giving even some formula milk undermines the breastfeeding process.) Another young woman, 17-year-old Samsun Nahar Shenli, mother of 13-week-old Tanjila, told me she was advised to start bottlefeeding on the first day of her baby's life. "I talked to the doctor and he said to put her on a certain type of formula. He said the formula and breast milk were very similar, with the same vitamins." Since then, she says, four of her friends have had babies and when they've encountered problems with breastfeeding, she has passed on the word to them to try My Boy.

Even in the UK, formula companies exploit loopholes where they can. In 2006, when the government here launched a new scheme, Healthy Start, to replace the Welfare Food Scheme, two of the biggest producers of formula in Britain - Cow & Gate and Heinz - tried to use it as a marketing opportunity. "Cow & Gate produced adverts saying its baby milk was 'closest to breast milk', a claim which is disallowed under the code, until the Department of Health clamped down on them; and Heinz published a graph suggesting its formula was close to breast milk and better than competing brands. Both companies were not only violating the code, but also UK legislation," says De Toma.

One of the problems with the WHO code - apart from its many grey areas - is how it is policed. Many countries, Bangladesh and the UK included, have backed its requirements up with legislation. But, says Save the Children, WHO and Unicef could do more. "The WHO ... must be bolder in getting companies to comply," it says in today's report. "Unicef must ensure that compliance with the code becomes a measure of progress on countries' implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child."

Within Bangladesh, there is a feeling that if breastfeeding campaigners take their eye off the ball for even a moment, the formula companies will quickly gain ground. At the Institute of Public Health and Nutrition in Dhaka - the government body charged with implementing the curbs on formula manufacturers - director Professor Dr Fatima Parveen Chowdhury is looking askance at several tins of formula milk piled up on her desk. She frowns at the cartoon pictures on the cover - too attractive, she says; too tempting - and frets over the wording on the cans. "The code requires companies to put words on the can saying there is no substitute for breast milk, but on this can those words are too small, it's written in tiny letters that it's a breast-milk substitute, and it won't do," she says.

There are other problems, too: many companies that sell formula milk in Bangladesh have failed in their legal duty to register with her department, and that makes it difficult to keep track of what they're up to. "I talk to companies and in front of me they seem to be reasonable," Chowdhury says. "But I'm not convinced. We have to be watchful. They push their products in different ways. They are doing wrong things. They are very technical, very sly."
Or even, sometimes, outrageously flagrant. Public advertising by baby-milk manufacturers is explicitly banned in the WHO code and in Bangladeshi law, but Ahmed takes me to a doctor's waiting room in a Dhaka suburb whose walls are adorned with posters showing healthy-looking babies, and the names of baby-milk manufacturers (not Nestlé, in this case). Strangely, it seems to me, the babies in the posters are all Caucasian: but Ahmed has an explanation. "For many people here, what white people do is the right thing to do," he says. "So putting white people on posters like these sends out the message that it's the western way, the best way. It's one of the many subtle ways in which breastfeeding is undermined here."

So is breastfeeding declining in Bangladesh? It's difficult to tell, says Dr Swapn Roy, secretary general of the Bangladeshi Breastfeeding Foundation, because the statistics are not reliable. Around 95% of mothers are believed to start breastfeeding, but by one month the figure is down to maybe around 89%, and at six months (the age to which, under WHO recommendations, all babies should be wholly breastfed), the figure is maybe 25%, but could be as low as 16%. Anecdotally, many health professionals feel the tide is shifting against them, and if you cast around at hospital paediatric clinics, as I did last week, there is certainly no shortage of mothers who bottlefeed their babies.

No shortage of mothers, and no shortage of sad tales. Because bottlefeeding is more than a health tragedy in this country: it is an economic tragedy, too. Happi Akther, 35, talks to me as she waits to see a doctor about her nine-month-old son's flaky-skin problem: Nur has been bottlefed, she says, since he was about a month old. "I felt I didn't have enough milk," says Happi, whose two previous babies both died soon after birth. "What else could I do? No one had any other ideas." (In fact, breastfeeding experts believe at least 98% of women - even those on nutritionally deficient diets in developing countries such as Bangladesh - can make sufficient milk to feed their babies, given proper advice and support.) Nur has been fed on Lactogen from the outset, but his formula, she says, costs her and her husband Gias, who works in a mustard-dyeing factory, around 800 taka (£2) a week. And if that doesn't sound much, set it against the fact that Gias earns only £6 a week. "We can't afford it at all," says Happi, shaking her head. "The milk uses up all our money." All the mothers I spoke to - most of whom were non-working wives whose husbands worked in factories or did manual jobs - had similar stories. (Of the 10 women I interviewed in the clinics, only one said she had begun using formula because she needed to go back to work.) For some families, the burden of buying formula milk is simply too much. "They can't afford to mix it at the required proportion, so to make it go further they use too little powder," says Dr Roy. "Or they resort to using ordinary powdered milk, which is a lot cheaper to buy than branded baby formula. The result is babies whose milk is little more than what you might call white water."

According to Save the Children's report, infant mortality in Bangladesh alone could be cut by almost a third - saving the lives of 314 children every day - if breastfeeding rates were improved. Globally, the organisation believes, 3,800 lives could be saved each day. Given that world leaders are committed to cutting infant mortality by two thirds by 2015 as one of the Millennium Development Goals, protecting and promoting breastfeeding is almost certainly the biggest single thing that could be done to better child survival rates.
But the formula companies, despite the international code, continue to undermine campaigners' efforts. Throughout the west as well as in the developing world, the amounts spent on "breast is best" campaigns are dwarfed by the amounts food manufacturers spend on promoting their products: in the UK, for example, Save the Children reckons that for every £1 spent in 2006-7 on breastfeeding promotion, £10 was spent by manufacturers on advertising and promoting baby milk and foods. If companies such as Nestlé genuinely wanted to do what Tickle says they want to do, which is support breastfeeding, there is a simple way forward: convert its efficient, and effective, network of sales reps into an equally efficient and effective network of breastfeeding advisors. With the right support, there is no doubt that babies such as Eti Khuman and Nur Akther would be breastfed, along with all the other babies whose mothers I spoke to in Bangladesh, because all were very clear about one thing, which is that breastfeeding would be preferable to the expense of formula and the dangers of diarrhoea.

Back in Dhaka, at the diarrhoea hospital, Eti is on the mend. She and her mother Mina have spent time with a breastfeeding counsellor, and Mina has agreed to try to start breastfeeding again. Dr Kabir is delighted - he says as many as 70% of mothers who give up breastfeeding can get their milk going again, given proper support and advice. All the same, it would have been infinitely better if women such as Mina never stopped breastfeeding in the first place, and that would be easier to achieve if formula-milk companies such as Nestlé curbed their efforts to sell their products. Because the truth at the centre of this story is this: for babies such as Eti and Nur, in countries like Bangladesh, there is no healthy substitute for breastfeeding.
The history of the Nestlé boycott

Henri Nestlé, founder of the world's largest food and drink company, is credited with being the inventor of formula milk, back in 1867. By the late 20th century, the formula-milk market had grown into an industry worth billions of dollars worldwide, and Nestlé was a major player.
With such a huge market at stake, formula companies were accused of acting in ways calculated to undermine breastfeeding mothers, giving out free samples of their products and targeting women directly through advertising campaigns. The marketing message was that formula was as healthy as breast - even though in some countries the women had no access to clean water to mix up the formula with. In some instances, cans of formula were being sold with the instructions in the wrong language for the women being targeted.

These allegations first came to prominence in the late 1970s, in a notorious court case. The charity War on Want had published a pamphlet called The Baby Killer in 1974. When it was released (in amended form) in Switzerland with the title Nestlé Kills Babies, the food giant began a legal suit. It eventually won the case, but it was a Pyrrhic victory: the organisation responsible for publishing the booklet in Switzerland was ordered to pay only a token fine.

The following year, 1977, saw the start of calls for a boycott of all Nestlé products in the US; the boycott quickly spread to Europe. In 1981, as a result of the boycott, the World Health Assembly (the decision-making body for WHO) adopted the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes, calling it "a minimum requirement" to be adopted "in its entirety". In 1984, Nestlé agreed to implement the code, and the boycott was officially suspended by the groups who had done most to promote it. But in 1988 the International Baby Food Action Network (Ibfan) alleged that baby-milk companies were flooding health facilities in the developing world with free and low-cost supplies, and the Nestlé boycott was resumed the following year. In 2000, Nestlé's chief executive said the company would ensure labels always had instructions in the appropriate language - but campaigners claim many aspects of the code continue to be violated, and argue that consumers should still boycott the company.

No one argues that Nestlé is the only company to have been involved in less-than-perfect practices - Ibfan and, in the UK, the campaigning group Baby Milk Action, say they target the company because they claim it has violated the code more than any other single company worldwide, and also that - as a market leader - it should be setting an example.

Nestlé is tight-lipped about the effect of the boycott on its sales or public image. But, 30 years on, feelings continue to run high. This week, users of a UK parenting website, Netmums, took its founders to task after the site agreed a sponsorship deal with Nestlé, and on Saturday demonstrators will gather outside the company's HQ for a show of strength in favour of a cause that refuses to go away. Any asnwers from Nestlé Bangladesh? Why does all the MNCs become 'dui nombor' when they come to do business in Bangladesh?

About Bangladesh Corporate Blog

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What is a Corporate Blog?Corporate blogging has appeared as an alternative to established modes of media. It has the immense power to bring companies, job seekers, job holders and students all in the same platform to discuss various business issues. Each blog participant can benefit from this in unique ways.
When did you start?
Bangladesh Corporate Blog at started from 14th April, 2007 (1414 Bangla new year) to announce the arrival of something new in Bangladesh’s business management and corporate domain.
What are you about?
This blog welcomes articles about the multinational, national, public, private, small and big companies of Bangladesh. Bloggers are allowed to appreciate their good deeds, criticize their false promises, expose their internal malpractices or evaluate their accomplishments. Students, general public, job-seekers have an opportunity here to look at the companies differently. It will also give management of the companies the chance to tap into the conversation public is having regarding their actions. Thus working as an alternate source of marketing research as well. The blog’s target audience consists of three groups—students, job seekers/job holders and business organizations.
What are your commercial services?
We provide following services
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I am student, what's in it for me?
Bangladeshi students studying in various local and foreign universities are encouraged to discuss actions of Bangladeshi companies in the light of business administration and management theories. This will make their learning more meaningful, they are the future business leaders of Bangladesh. This blog will allow them to be a part of the mainstream discussion right from their student days.
I am a job-seeker, what's in it for me?
Job seekers visiting and writing in this blog are encouraged to cross check rumours, speculations about companies they are seeking jobs in. Job holders/executives already working in various companies in Bangladesh now have a platform to discuss and debate about management issues in various companies. All this is bound to make ‘management practices’ a much talked about issue among Bangladeshi executives.
I am manager/business executive in a Bangladeshi company, what's in it for me?
Bangladeshi companies use this blog to tap into the conversation people are having regarding them. They get clues about areas where they can improve in terms of marketing, advertising, customer service etc. directly recommended by users. They defend, clarify (even in anonymity), promote any issue raised anywhere in the blog regarding their company.
What are the rules of the game?
-No politics, no religion, no personal attacks, no pornography
-All the articles should have a relevant link with any Bangladeshi company
-Writers are allowed to use aliases to ensure anonymity so not to endanger professional/personal interest
-This blog does not have any legal entity, opinions expressed here are that of individuals only. If this blog's content benefits any student, individual, company--very good. However no offense is targeted to any company. The blog welcomes constructive criticism, debate and discussions.
-Unlike other blogs, this blog does not intend to popularize any individual. It is open to all and is owned by people who even don't know each other. So there is no 'about me' section.
-If you are not yet 'invited' by any 'admin', feel free to include your email address in the comment to this post. One of the many admins will invite you soon. Or you can email to mentioning your interest, you will be invited.
Do you offer jobs?
No we don't. But we welcome volunteers.
Who are you actually?
We are Bangladeshi nationals, a group of bloggers who haven't seen each other, blog from different countries, hold different professions and have a same vision, that is to see the Bangladeshi businesses become successful in local and global arena.
Do you get paid for blogging?
No, not yet.
Its easier to complain about the system, more difficult is to become a part of that system and then trying to change it for better. Start reading and writing at Bangladesh Corporate Blog. Lets see and write things differently, lets be part of the system we want to improve.