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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Building up awareness against smoking in the public place

It is a very common scenario that many people smoke in the public place. But our Government has forbidden it. And people do such unlawful act in regular basis without respecting the law. What can we do to make them feel that they are doing such activity which is against the law? We could build up awareness. TVC, radio ad or newspaper ad could help us in doing so. But we know these mediums are expensive and these mediums may not always target such group. What else we can do to resolve this issue. Well, at this moment, Government placed a message on the pack of tobacco; that is: Smoking causes a stroke. Now if we can tie up another line with that message: It is unlawful act to smoke in the public place. Then it could work out. So our Government should think about this idea and go for its implementation.

Friday, July 27, 2007

What A Waste of Time, Money and Life

I don't know if it happens to you or not, but more often than not, I tend to overlook private universities and hospitals of Bangladesh--as corporates. The very nature of these two sectors appear elusive at first, as both the sectors are supposed to offer something basic and valuable to and medical aid...without which we cannot do. But interestingly enough, the players in these two sectors are supposedly keeping the cash cows with the sweetest milk in their stables. The first sector is doing good in selling more certificates rather than providing quality education while the second sector is buying our lives in exchange of our money... how is that?

I personally believe in the Bangla saying 'aagey dorshondari porey goon bichari', I do get confused from the outside when I pass by say Westin, LabAid or Radisson and United Hospital. Both appear to me to be very attractive, both allure me of the 'service' inside. Its just that one would be in the hospitality sector and the other would be But the flashy decors and outlook do sway my fancy once in a while. Impressed with the 'dorshondari' we wanted to focus more on the 'goon bichari' of the hospitals, as I think the 'goon' or quality of service I would get in a hospital is more vital to me than the one I would get to pamper myself with in any hotel.

For some known or unknown reason, I've heard people saying that they don't trust our doctors. No matter how flashy and modern infrastructure our hospitals have, no matter how modern and German-made our medical equipments are, we do not seem to get the 'mental satisfaction' that we so desperately seek in neighboring India, Thailand or Singapore. The Bangladeshi medical tourists also point out that for some reason or the other, 'our hospitals' always diagnose wrong, so the prescription that follows, is consequently wrong too. So you are wasting your money, time and unfortunately...your life too. So their piece of advice is not to waste any of those...and seek 'peace of mind' and 'value for money' in Kolkata, Delhi, Vellore, Bangkok etc. Most of the tests done in our local hospitals would usually say that either you are completely fine, nothing is wrong OR you need an immediate operation.

Why do we hear this ever since we became patients ourselves? Brand gurus might be able to enlighten us whether our hospitals and especially the doctors need to re-brand themselves or not. But service branding is more difficult and medical service we are talking about? Well I guess we need better answers than that. Say Apollo opened in Dhaka and supposedly have created a brand value among the affluent who think they are elites in the society and they should be treated in Apollo. But many of them have secretly sidelined their dissatisfaction with the treatment they received there. Same goes for Square Hospitals. Having a few white skinned doctors or Indian doctors (Apollo) certainly helps for marketing stunts, but in the long run, I need myself and my loved ones to be in safe hands...when they are unwell. So you get nearly full marks in your external attractions, equipment quality and ofcourse advertisements and Habib's jingles etc. But what about my diagnosis? what about the cost? what about your cold-shouldered doctors who think they know all? what about grumpy staff? I am still shy in giving any marks on these criteria.

It goes without saying how much money is channeled out with Bangladeshi medical tourists. We keep on building 'aalishaan' hospitals and promotional campaigns. But how do you change the perception? How do you cure...the service...and the disease? How do you make our corporate hospitals more hospitable to patients? More patient with patients? I patiently wait....while time and life tick away.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Growing Perversion Worries All But them....

This is to second the topic raised by Corporate Blogger Adnan regarding the introduction of service by our mobile operators to enable incoming, unsolicited call/SMS blocking. Being seriously disturbed by never-ending obscene texts and nasty calls, I have heard lot of women being compelled to change their phone numbers frequently. This issue of harassment has also been raised by Narmeen Ali in The Star Magazine here. Her description narrates better the woes and trouble, we as consumers, especially women, have to go through because of this techno-savvy group of pervert, starved men.

Upon seeking help in the call centers of a renowned telecom company of the country, the 'near-machine-like' agents kindly advised those women to 'please register a GD with the local police', as 'they don't have any provision to block calls to certain numbers from certain numbers'. When asked if he is aware of mig33, he said 'his operator' is not providing 'that service' yet! I regret to say but I have found many a call center agent of not only telecoms but also that of banks to be extremely artificial, lacking knowledge of their product/service range and a complete waste of airtime (hotline charges more). Why will our telecom operators not bother about introducing a service to block unsolicited calls?

Thanks to new entrants, lowered tariffs, intense competition, the operators are willing to advise to sacrifice 'a few' customers' privacy, comfort. The more texts the happy perverts send to 'anything as long as there is a female voice on the other side of the phone', our operators are making money, so they are happy, making the perverts happier. Everytime they make sick calls and the other party unknowingly picks up, who makes money? Our telcos do. And when your sister or mother or wife or friend decides to get a new SIM to get relief from this 'operator sponsored' harassment, who gains again? I am sure you are clever enough to guess.

So two pronged better introduce this user-initiated call barring for specific numbers, if you can provide hundred FnFs to hundred specific numbers, if you can track my call record, you better help me keep my peace of mind. Otherwise, who knows any female acquaintance dear to you might be the next victim of this evils of mobile technology. Thanks for the recent ads in the newspapers regarding documents/procedures to be followed while procuring new SIMs. But prevention is better than cure, so act fast.

Lastly, please install some emotion/life in your call center agents. I, in my daily life, don't say 'Shubho oporanno', 'Shubho Shondha' etc and don't read from scripts when talking to people. And I don't like to waste my money asking for help and being guided to square one by airy advice from your agents. So humanize them, let them know what you are about and make them help us.

Growing Perversion Worries All But them....Grameen Phone, Warid, Aktel, Banglalink....get worried before you and your loved ones get worried for the wrong reasons.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

National Career Fair 2007.....joto gorjey toto borshe na!

I have been seeing this poster advertising the National Career Fair 2007 of Grameenphone.The poster has some young professionals smiling which gave the sign of bright future for the job seekers and people who are ambitious to have a bright career.I consider myself in the latter category and therefore,landed up there at BCFC on Friday 20th July. One local radio station said there were 70 companies from all over the country as well as overseas companies.Another leading English newspaper published that about 100 companies took part in it.I am a prothokhkhodorshi of this Fair and i saw nothing but about 20 companies(maximum) and most of the big-shots didn't even bother to be there.Infact Grammenphone who took the responsibility to promote it didn't even put up their Company name or Logo any where in the stall but later it was noticed that they wrote the name of the company in hand in a piece of paper and put it infront of the stall.Do we expect this from the company who was promoting the event and that too Grameenphone?

Coming to the organizer of this super flop-show event....which is the leading Private Business School in the country who promoted it as more of a Job Fair rather than a Career Fair.If they would have shown a little bit prudency, their own existing as well as ex-students would have been benefitted.

Some of the companies were there about whom people don't even know.I would not like to give all the blame to the organizer and promoting partner but also to the visitor.You would be surprised to know that i saw one gentleman standing infront of Nestle stall and asking one employee of Nestle that'what business you do Sir?'

So,the so called Career Fair had everything....all rotten ingredients to spoil the cooking!

Follow-Up: Location Based Services (LBS)

Nokia starts global positioning service
from bdnews24

HELSINKI, July 20 ( - Nokia launched a service on Thursday which it said would cut the time a GPS-enabled cellphone takes to pinpoint its whereabouts, opening new opportunities for location-based online services.

Nokia hopes the service, available for users of its flagship N95 phones, will cut the startup time to one minute, from up to three minutes currently. The slowness has so far hampered takeup of cellphone navigation.

"It will be reliably under one minute in most countries," Ralph Eric Kunz, head of Nokia's navigation and mapping operations told Reuters in an interview.

Handset makers see GPS-based navigation as one of the next big value-adding offerings and even at this early stage.

Analysis firm Berg Insight has forecast annual shipments of handset-based personal navigation devices in Europe and the United States to reach 12 million units by 2009, compared with 1 million in 2005.

While most assisted-GPS technologies use mobile carriers cellsites to find locations faster, Nokia's new service bypasses operator networks, using data from SIM card and new software which helps the phone to catch satellite signals.

GPS chips use satellites orbiting the earth to determine the exact position of the user. They are found in car navigation systems, which have surged in popularity in recent years, and the technology is now making the jump to mobile phones.

Nokia's N95, with a 700-euro price tag, is not within reach of the wider market, but the Finnish firm aims to bring GPS chips to a wide array of its phones. All Nokia's GPS phones will have the new service, Kunz said.

Nokia hopes the service will boost prices of its phones in the longer term, and increase the appeal of mobile search services.

Nokia bought into the navigation industry last year through its acquisition of German firm Gate5 and started to offer free maps and routing data in February 2007, while charging extra fees for navigation.

While a few years ago personal navigation device makers like Dutch TomTom shrugged off possible rivalry from the handset industry, they have now acknowledged the potential risk to their business.


Do we have GPS data mapped to our city streets yet? I'm guessing no. But could this one day become a standard feature on most cell phones?


When there will no BHEJAL in our pockets, then we will fly in the Rocket

Bhejal people, bhejal foods, bhejal things - so many bhejals are all around us. We people really need to get rid of it. Our Government’s policies against bhejal cannot go far away. There are a lot of limitations behind the Government’s policies.

We know ISO, Superbrands, VeriSign (for digital security certificate) and so on which came from the international arena. Why don’t a local private company come and win the heart of the people with trust? That company will strictly maintain the quality of local products/services. Why do people go today for ISO, Superbrands and VeriSign’s certificates? Because they created such image inside the consumers and then the consumers feel free to select the certified product/service by those companies. If a Bangladeshi company aim to be such company, then people must welcome them. But they all will have to do is to win the heart of the consumers. If a local company can manage the quality, then why should we go to those foreign companies to buy their certificates with huge money? May be for exporting the product foreign company’s certificates are needed. It is true that we don’t export everything. So, what we don’t export, those can be certified by that local company. It could be certified product or service. For example, “X” restaurant is achieved “NO BHEJAL” certificate. Then people will go more to that restaurant. Of course, this certificate will add a brand value to that restaurant to get more customers. But in this case, honesty is really needed for the certificate issuer and the company should keep it in their mind, “Just don’t sell the certificates; instead, let them achieve”.

This way could help us to be a BHEJALBIHIN country. And then we can fly in the rocket as we have no BHEJAL in our pockets.

Go East....As China Comes To Town

FE Report

One-to-one business meetings between the local business entrepreneurs and visiting 50-member Chinese economic and trade delegation will be held today (Sunday) in the city's Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre. Assistant Minister of Chinese Ministry of Commerce Wang Chao, Chinese Ambassador in Bangladesh Zheng Qingdian, Ministry of Commerce Secretary Feroz Ahmed and DCCI President Hossain Khaled will also remain present on the occasion.Bangladesh-China business dialogue will be followed by purchase contacts signing ceremony between 11 Chinese importers and 11 Bangladeshi exporters for export of raw jute, leather, sea-food, herbal and pharmaceuticals medicines, textile, ready-made garments, chemicals etc from Bangladesh to China. Chinese conglomerates -- Sinochem Corporation, Chinatex Group, China National Light Industrial Products Import and Export Corporation, China Grains and Oils Group Corp, China Mecho Corporation, China Textile Resources Corporation (CTRC), China National Native Produce and By-Product I/E Corporation, COFCO Grains and Oils Imp and Exp Co, China National Service Corporation for Chinese Personal Working Abroad, China National Complete Plant Import and Export Corporation Limited, and China National Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corporation (CMEC) -- with interest in items like jute, leather, sea-food, herbal and pharmaceuticals medicines, textile, ready-made garments, chemicals, fuel oil and petroleum, gas, fertiliser, hotel, real estate, rubber etc will remain present in the one-to-one business meetings.
A friend of mine enrolled in Chinese language course in Confucius Institute at North South University was describing how her Chinese teacher was lamenting of the 'Bangla Peoples' lack of enthusiasm about learning Chinese. According to her, 20 years from now, the land of the 2 billion red dragons will be the center of world's trade and commerce. So it is high time that 'Bangla People' learn Chinese and make the most of their business opportunities. Some of the Bangladeshi students did argue that our base of basic English is very poor in the first place, let alone learning such a difficult langauge such as Chinese. However, some students also mentioned there are a few, who are learning French, mostly because French has got a different sort of appeal associated with it, its 'cool' if you are learning French....but learning Chinese? You must be a nutter! So the frustrated Chinese professor was advised by a few sympathised enthusiastic Bangladeshi students to better promote the Confucius Institute. One idea was if the Chinese embassy makes available the list of Chinese companies in Bangladesh, the Institute could forward its students to those companies for jobs, as those students will be well equipped with Bangla, English and ofcourse Chinese. Say big names like ZTE and Huawei are only a few to mention, there are many others. The professor also mentioned that 'so many Bangla People have business relations with China....I wonder why they don't want to learn the language, even if they get enrolled, they don't continue, I understand that everyone is busy, but you have to make time for achieving something worthwhile in the end'.
So as China comes to town, I think we need a rethinking of our USPs, the language itself is a good starting point, that is the proposition.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Hey, mobile phone operators - listen up!

Mobile phone is a very important tool of our daily life. It is either like a friend or like a partner. But sometimes this friend just cracks our bones. Most of us use mobile phones for some good reasons while a few use the phones to bug around. They either disturb people by sending offensive SMSs/calls or giving missed call. Even some maniacs intentionally do such activities together to a target. It is really a painful situation. In this case, we can complain to the operators or the authorities. Nevertheless this process will take sometime; moreover it may not work out sometimes.

Whilst time is money as well as we people lead busy life, therefore we cannot wait up for reviewing the complaints by the mobile phone operators/authorities and hang up until they take necessary action. Now the question is who else can set us free from this situation? Of course mobile phone operators can save us from this problem. However to do so, they need some modification between their servers and software to add such service: “create ignore list”. The thing is that, this service will let the people create a blacklist. And after that the blacklisted number(s) can never be able to disturb that person any longer. Hey, mobile phone operators - listen up! We people are waiting for this service to come up in our hands.

Harry Potter and the wizard that got away

At 12.00 am July 21, 2007, we will witness something extraordinary, the like of which may never be seen in our life time.

Harry Potter is officially the new $15 billiion man. Publishers, movie studios, theme park owners, children, young at hearts, toy marketers, packaged foods marketers - the enthusiasm and money altogether has reached an alltime high.
So how much is Harry Potter really worth?
A calculation done has provided startling results. According to the AC Nielsen research
1. Author J.K. Rowling herself is worth $1 billion
2. Harry Potter himself is now the 30th most wealthy individual in USA, even wealthier than the likes of Micheal Dell (CEO Dell) and Eric Schmidt (CEO Google)
3. Some of his grand revenue sources are - Advertising ($380 million), DVD sales ($1 billion +), packaged good licensing ($11.8 million), music ($13 million+), books ($9 billion), movies ($4.4 billion) etc.
With so much hoopla around the boy wonder, what are we doing in our country to capitalise?
While an extravaganza like this is a marketers dream, its sad to say that we have completely missed the Potter bus here in Bangladesh. Sure, Etc. and some book stores are doing in house Potter fair, competitions and book promotions, but that is definitely not enough. Here are some of the missed opportunities
1. Harry Potter has replaced "Dalim Kumar" in childrens heart, but english illiteracy is a challenge. Any book publisher could have acquired the license of Harry Potter latest installment, and go for Bengali translation (not pirated). This could have increased the appeal to those children who would love to read Potter books but cant do so because of english illiteracy. (Criminal company - Sheba Prokashoni!! Where are you?)
2. There is this big hype about what happened to Harry Potter at the end and who are the two person who died in the book. Marketers could have capitalized by running contests for people who can correctly guess what happens in the book and reward them accordingly.
3. TV channels or Star Cineplex could have bought the right of old Potter movies and shown them during this time. As all children are in the mood of revising old stories before diving into the new book, this could have been an wonderful opportunity
4. Bangladeshi bags and other merchandise owners could have also tagged along, by selling Harry Potter licensed goods.
5. Some event management company could have organized a big Potter Event in Wonderland by transforming it into a Harry Potter theme park for 1 day, inviting children from all over Bangladesh to join and celebrate

6. Some newspaper or magazine could have published a special Potter supplement and sell it separately in news-stands from the day of the launch.
These are just random thoughts. But i am sure with some conscious group efforts, something much more grand could have been done here. What remains to be seen is if we learn from such missed opportunities. Our neighbours have made big strides in aligning themselves with global events like this. How long will it take for us?
Shahriar Amin is a full time brand enthusiast who is the creator of the first brand blog in Bangladesh ( where he disburses brand related knowledge for Bangladeshi students and businesses

Thursday, July 19, 2007

My Brother Switched to Warid

My younger brother bid farewell yesterday to the GrameenPhone SIM which he inherited from me 4 years ago. He was not worried at all for opting for Warid. He was neither worried about informing all his buddies and acquaintances of his change of mobile number. He argued that Warid is offering the 'best deal' in the market, 20 FnFs....can you believe it? And amazingly low prices...on top of it all, amazing network quality...even in areas where recently other operators had been compelled to shut down their towers due to orders from 'higher authorities'. So he seems pretty happy to be Warided....Waried...Warid....but he is not Worried. Good for him. Warid is backed by petro-dollars, they can afford to play the penetration pricing card, and they have supposedly wooed 70 lakh users already, don't know if its possible or true, who cares.

I wonder, why don't I bother to switch to Warid too? I realize that its not that I am a blind fan of GrameenPhan....I mean GrameenPhone...which would make me religious about their services and I would consider switching to other operators as betrayal to my beloved 'neel pankha'. I don't even bother to go through the flashy advertisements by any operator as a matter of fact. Why is this so? The reason is plain and simple. I am suffering from the inertia to take the cumbersome pain to inform ALL my friends, foes, families, colleagues, strangers that 'Hi, from now on, my number is not 0171....anymore...its 016....please update your address book'. Also I have formed some sort of attachment to the number that I own. These are the prime two reasons I don't want to quit GP's mobile services. I believe that I have become professionally and personally too networked with other people to request them to bother about my number change. My brother could take the pain, as he has less acquaintances, he bothers about money, I bother about being bothered and bothering people I know.

In the UK, you can't distinguish if a number starting with 079...o78..etc. belongs to which operator. The operators there have been pushed to that extent by the demanding customers that they can keep their existing number and still switch operators. T-Mobile, Virgin, 3, O2, you cannot know which is which, the number is yours and you know that for sure. If I was given that opportunity here in Bangladesh, I would have loved to experiment more with what Warid has to offer, what Aktel says, and what does BanglaLink promise. But as a mobile user, my hands are tied and the terms are dictated by the operators, so I am locked in to the number and to the operator too. Ask me if I am happy with my current operator? Do I have a choice?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Dohatec Brands Bangladesh Big Time

FE Report
Now put your hands together and give a big clap as Dohatec has been the first Bangladeshi software company, highlighted by Microsoft Corporate Vice President Allison Watson in the opening of Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) 2007, held recently at Dever in the US. This is the largest conference of software companies with 12,000 professional participants from across the world. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and COO Kevin Turner made important addresses on technology trends at the inauguration ceremony of the programme.

A short video on Dohatec and its chairman Luna Shamsuddoha was screened on the occasion, stressing the company's competence, excellence, quality and value it delivers to the clients. Dohatec was the only company outside North America to be presented. While recognising Luna and Dohatec, Microsoft placed the map of Bangladesh on a massive screen, highlighting the country as a source of quality software. "We all thought it was a fantastic video interview with Luna, introduced by Allison Watson at WPC. The use of the images from the original Dhaka video was superb, and the narrative by Luna was absolutely world-class," said Microsoft officials. Featuring Dohatec at the inauguration of WPC was a great honour, and the exposure would benefit the company immensely, said a press release. Dohatec, a Gold Certified Partner, receives support through the Microsoft Partner Programme that has vast technical and sales resources with worldwide presence.

Hats off to Dohatec. I don't want to know how they did it, all I know is that they did it, what the endless series of seminars in home and abroad couldn't do, what the expensive participations in foreign IT fairs couldn't do.....the much needed branding of Bangladesh as source of quality software. Critics are welcome to discuss about the quality of software and the methodologies, industry jealous peers can point fingers at any direction, but the end justifies the means. Dohatec has taken not only their brand name but the brand of the country in the homeground of Microsoft....excellent achievement Dohatec, keep it a trade secret, we don't want to know how you impress Microsoft, we are impressed because you made us proud and encouraged too. Anybody reading this from BASIS please learn a few tricks of the trade from Dohatec, who has shown that WE can do IT too.

Job will job will rock you

Buddy you’re a boy make a big noise
Playin’ in the street gonna be a big man some day
You got mud on yo’ face
You big disgrace
Kickin’ your can all over the place

Job will job will rock you
Job will job will rock you

Buddy you’re a young man hard man
Shoutin’ in the street gonna take on the world some day
You got blood on yo’ face
You big disgrace
Wavin’ your banner all over the place

Job will job will rock you
Job will job will rock you

Buddy you’re an old man poor man
Pleadin’ with your eyes gonna make you some peace some day

You got mud on your face
You big disgrace
Somebody better put you back in your place

Job will job will rock you
Job will job will rock you

Queen’s “We Will Rock You” has changed these days. Only job can rock someone. Nowadays, in our country, it is real hard to get a simple job. If there is a vacancy in an organization then we can see that thousand of CVs out there for that one post. Many educated but jobless people are here and there in search of a simple job. Even education can’t give them a job. Day by day those educated jobless people are being paled. Even they have forgotten how to smile. Every responsible person should think about this problem. We should solve this problem; otherwise it would be a hard challenge to prove that education can do everything!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bangladesh Cricket and Bangladesh Corporate

Today we would like to discuss about the Bangladesh Cricket Team and its similarities, differences with Bangladesh Corporate. My initial hypothesis is that the 'men eleven' from our Shonar Bangla are the samples of the universe of 150 million. We will talk about how the Bengal Tigers perform in the cricket field, how it has got implications in our boardroom performances, their fair chances of being a formidable cricket team in near future and how far/close is Bangladesh Corporate from being a powerhouse.

Our unreliable, inconsistent and shaky. Our services, products are to some extent, more or less, unreliable, inconsistent and shaky. Starting from GrameenPhone's frequent call drops to 'bhejal' in Beximco Pharma's medicines to grumpy, gloomy faced counter staffs at airports, hospitals, banks etc. reinforce the similarity that what we are offering to our consumers is not pure, not sincere, kothao na kothao golod thekei jay.

Our bowling....does not have pace and it hardly does our corporate strategy and marketing....for our kind but sad information, we are yet to market 'Brand Bangladesh' overseas due to numerous reasons. As our bowlers cannot offer variety in their bowling and wait eagerly for the opponent batsmen to make mistakes and get out, similarly we wait for 'that deal' to happen, rather than going out in the sun ourselves and grabbing it.

Our full of energy and we have shown that we can dive sometimes to save a few boundaries. We also have seen that we are very bad at direct hits. Our young managers are full of energy and are willing to take risks too, if given enough support from the crowd, captain and team mates. However for some unknown reason, they are not very good at hitting at the stumps from a distance when it is needed the run out a batsman, to outsmart a competitor in the market.

Our Captains....are mere gentlemen and very nice human beings in nature (not sure about their cricketing skills). They are modest, timid, humble and it shows in the field from their body language. They prefer to pray, not play, so that either rain saves our face or the opponents gift us their wickets, but we hardly push them to the point where they are bound to give up. Our managers are, in general, more risk-averse than they are risk-takers. They prefer to be coached by 'foreign' mentors and follow by the book, they don't come up with something innovative and improvised when the match is on and we are already in the field.

Our full of down to earth young lads, who are friendly and polite. Remember in Pakistan, when Rafique decided not to run out Umar Gul even when he was out of his crease. Our veteran bowler showed a gesture of good sportsmanship....and we finally lost that match too. I would love to be arrogant with foreign opponents when it is justified to be, rather than hanging around them with the 'ji hujur ji hujur' attitude! But unfortunately what we do is, show our arrogance to our own teammates, our own colleagues, which does not help us in the long run does it?

Our improving....thanks to English lessons in British Council, Bashar does it pretty well, Ashraful is struggling but I am sure he would manage a 6 in IELTS in any case...but who long as he bats well...and does not continue his inconsistent talent. Bangladeshi executives better hone their English armours to face the media during the prize distribution ceremonies. We are not rich enough like the Japs or the Chinese so that our money would speak for us, so English...more English..and perhaps Chinese is the way out. Also I really admire Mashrafe and Shahadat's fiery glares to opponent batsmen, I hope someone would teach them some Bangla gaalis too to apply on the batsmen. Lets be aggressive and rude when and where it is fine to be, and lets not repeat a 'Rafique temper tantrum drama' during practice.

Our Test under serious doubts....we did win a few challenging games against the big boys and we got carried away in jubilations and complacent hiccups. Our fairlytales are always short lived when we test our patience and temperament in test cricket. Some fireworks in one dayers might do the job for that day, but test cricket....infact cricket as a whole, is more a mind game rather than a body game. So fireworks don't even take us to the 4th days in test matches and we lose by an innings and 123 runs. Our management tactics better not be like our one day cricket. Management, is after all, an attitude...its a state of mind. We are playing test cricket when we want to manage. And when we are fighting for market share in our home ground, we have the home advantage, but do we realize that we are merely playing national division cricket there, we better gear up with our helmets (and groin guards) to play on foreign soils.

So the summary is that our Bengal Tigers are mere Tiger cubs now. But we can do it. We need to sharpen more our claws and jaws to grab a bigger piece of meat and market share, of our competitors, not of our team mates please. We want to be proud of you...Bangladesh Cricket...and Bangladesh Corporate.

Humor Me

Once upon a time, some brilliant marketer came out with the concept that with catchy songs and out of this world dance routines, the Bengali imagination can be captured. That began the never ending era of “Song and Dance” TV advertisements - one whose glorious journey still exists even when we run deep at the heart of 2007.
Tracking the history of advertisements in this country, it is common knowledge that we simply love our jingles - starting from Joni print saree ads to Goalini condensed milk. But with too much indulgence in one dish, comes that sour taste in the mouth. And some assumptions - aren’t all ads looking too similar? Are’nt we really getting predictable and boring? In the name of advertising, are we really selling or creating awareness among people or are we just in entertainment business?

Which leads to the biggest question of all - is there life after the “song and dance, jingle based” advertisements in Bangladesh?
The answer of all those questions, by all means, is yes.
But how can we replace jingle-based ads, since its so popular? The simple strategy will be to find something totally different and make it likeable. In the midst of 10 jingle based ads, even one direct, boring public announcement sounds appealing and stands out. In India, in the midst of 10 ads endorsed by movie stars and cinema icons, one ad that does the exact opposite stands out. The trick therefore again - is to find something different and appealing.
Which brings another very important question - what do we like as much as songs and catchy tunes?
There is a number of possibilities. But nothing stands out more than humor - the best medicine that doctors recommend and advertisers follow the world over. If we believe in the power of globalization and taking stock of whats happening around the world, in Bangladesh humor is the new jingle.
It will be shocking to compare what percentage of ads globally are based on some form of humor and what percentage of ours have a humorous touch in it. The gap will be so big that in itself is funny enough to create an advertisement. The reasons that are frequently cited and the misconceptions are varied.
1. Bangladeshi people do not appreciate the delicate humor. They have to be tickled to laugh and enjoy
2. It is difficult to find good comedians with strong writing skills or visual styles
3. People find humor to be offensive and not suitable for mass
4. The illetarate people in the villages might not “Get the humor”
Its fair to say none of the above mentioned reasons hold ground.
Humor itself has the power of recall, like none. It will be an easy experiment to validate this statement - simply think of some ads you recall from last month form satellite TVs or the last advertisements you forwarded to your colleagues. Like i said, nothing quite generates the recall and involvement like humorous advertisements.
Yes, we do have some memorable humorous advertisements - but ours is based on physical humor, the slapstick comedy as it is known. We are ardent believers that to make Bengali laugh we need to fire the big guns, not the feather touch. The delicate, corny side of humor is still mostly an unchartered market. With the ever rising Generation X, this is the kind of humor that can do wonders for our advertising industry.
Shahriar Amin is a full time brand enthusiast who is the creator of the first brand blog in Bangladesh ( where he disburses brand related knowledge for Bangladeshi students and businesses

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cementing the leading position

FE Report
HeidelbergCement Bangladesh Ltd., sold more than one million tonnes of cement in calendar 2006, maintaining the company's market leadership.The leading cement company's sales volume rose to 1,010,478 tonnes in the year ended December 31, 2006 from 816,470 tonnes of the corresponding period of the previous year."Our two brands -- ScanCement and RubyCement -- maintained a leading position in cement market due to high quality and uninterrupted supply that helped achieve a new milestone in sales volume in the year," director of the company Md Ziaul Haque Khondker told the FE Sunday.The company held the 18th annual general meeting (AGM) June 7 and approved a cash dividend at the rate of 16 per cent and stock dividend at the rate of 5.0 per cent against each share for 2006.The cash dividend was 8.0 per cent and stock dividend 10 per cent for 2005.The company's net profit whopped to Tk 521.57 million in 2006 from Tk 148.69 million in the previous year. Earlier, the company incurred losses for two consecutive years in 2004 and 2003."The previous years were somewhat challenging for our shareholders, but 2006 was an exceptional year in the company's history in every way," Daniel Lavalle, (French?)chairman of HeidelbergCement Bangladesh said in the latest annual report.The company's net sales turnover rose to Tk 5.0 billion in 2006 from Tk 3.65 billion in 2005.According to the company's post balance sheet events, sales from January 2007 to March 2007 were 250,090 tonnes against 292,139 tonnes of the previous year.The earning per share soared to Tk 97 in 2006 from Tk 31 in 2005.Commenting on the cement sector's overall situation, managing director of the company, Jean-Claude Jamar said the sector attained a growth of 10.8 per cent in 2006 against an estimate of 8.0 per cent because of delayed monsoon and prompt fund release for the construction projects of the government. Shortage of clinker, frequent power outages and higher freight cost affected the sector in 2006, the annual report pointed out.The company, A-category share, was traded at Tk 1232 against the face value of Tk 100 each Sunday on the DSE. The company, previously known as Chittagong Cement Clinker Grinding Co Ltd., got listed on the DSE in 1989.Later in early 2003, the scheme of amalgamation of Scancement International Ltd., and Scancem Bangladesh Ltd., with Chittagong Cement was approved by the high court.The other listed companies in cement sub-sector on the DSE are Lafarge Surma, Meghna Cement, Niloy Cement, Padma Cement, Confidence Cement, Aramit Cement and Modern Cement.
Good going by Heidelberg, I wonder how Lafarge Surma is playing the catch-up game. Any headway in their legal tussle with Indian authorities?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

We need a "Top Chart" to facilitate customer choice

Who can deny the power of NY Times best seller list?

The rise and fall of so many authors can be contributed to that short list. If books sounds obvious how about Billboard top chart? This music chart has been the overarching authority of defining the kings and paupers of music for decades. In short, if the song is in the Billboard chart then it must be good, hence downloadable.

It doesnt stop there. We consult IMDB for renting and buying movies. We check the box office numbers before deciding on which movie to check out in theaters. Our obsession with “Top Lists” stems from one simple premise that benefits both supply side and demand side - it helps us simplify our choices and gives us some much needed PR push.

With that established, i present a criminal situation of not having single, reliable top chart for any categories here in Bangladesh. Movies? No. Music? No. There are some so-called top charts here and there, found in magazines and papers. But they lack the prpoer sampling scope or the validity in technique and can never work like a proper “Top Chart”. And if asked, the cause of this absence will be attributed to difficulat mechanism.

The mechanism of creating such a chart is not that complicated. We just have to have a very transparent sales receipt reporting and acumulating system. With presence of such value adding softwares, its an “up for grab” opportunity for any media house. In recent times we have seen plenty of newspapers and TV channels popping out here and there. In such a hyper-competitive scenario, introducing such “Top Charts” can be a fantastic differentiating point for media houses as well as increase its readership and TRP.

But more importantly, we as customers will be greatly benefitted from this. With the number of categories, products and options increasing in geometric progression everyday - presence of such a filtering process that can tell us what is good and what is not good - is the just the thing required.
Shahriar Amin is a full time brand enthusiast who is the creator of the first brand blog in Bangladesh ( where he disburses brand related knowledge for Bangladeshi students and businesses

Aktel....A K? Aktel who?

Retaining old customers are better and easier than getting new ones—is this the mantra Aktel is trying to follow? Keeping in view their activities regarding their 10 year anniversary, they have come up with some ‘golden call’ promos and offers alike which seem to aim existing customers of the operator. What is wrong with Aktel? Even though the operator has the 2nd largest customer base after GP and network quality ‘as good as GP’ (claimed by an Aktel employee), they have gone into near oblivion. New kids on the block such as Banglalink and Warid have clearly overshadowed the very existence of Aktel. Even CityCell and Teletalk are trying their bit of the marketing gimmicks. Billboards, banners, airport trolleys, taxi-rooftops etc. you see every name but Aktel’s. Even Aktel’s TV ads appear stupid and childish comparing to the ones by other operators. The worst is their website which I found extremely sloppy and unprofessional.
No wonder even if you have better product/service and nobody knows about it, you are nevertheless a failure. Probably Aktel needs to import some aggressive hungry activists from Malaysia to give fangs to its marketing arm. I personally would love to see killer ideas coming out of desi-heads rather than of bideshi-heads, nevertheless, in business, war and love, everything you do is fair, just to get a larger share of the market, territory and heart. So wake up Aktel, before we forget who you are, and ask Aktel…..A K? chinlam na!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Hottest Financial Asset - You

How many times have you had that sinking feeling that you are selling yourself short to someone else – your girlfriend, wife, boss at office, devil! Well, this time, you would really be selling yourself, but for money.

To aptly comprehend this notion, let us digress a bit to understand how companies raise capital from the stock market. Looking at it by and large, one economic agent (the company) borrows money from another agent (shareholders) to meet its current demands for liquidity. The investors extend the credit line as they expect to benefit from the company’s future cash flows.

Now let us envisage a young, promising professional , with a sound educational background and a bright, prosperous future ahead of him. He starts (or rather shoots off) off his career with a salary of TK 40,000 and expects his income to rise at an average rate of 10 % per annum over his 30-year career. A little bit of napkin calculation tells us that his expected life-time income stands at Tk 3.2 crores. Now he can aggregate a portion of this life-time income, chop it off into shares and sell it in the stock-market. Let’s assume that this individual agrees to pay out 10 % of his annual income (Tk 32 lacs) as dividend. Due to the higher volatility of this investment, the share price would adjust to make it a high return investment. In this manner, he can raise around Tk 1.5 crore from the stock-market to produce a yield of 20 %. The investors are happy because they earn a higher rate of interest (the higher rate of interest covers adequately for the ultimately defunct value of the shares). The young man is happy for obvious reasons (he is now young, well-educated, promising & rich-an irresistible combination).

Surely in practice, development of such financial instruments would involve more careful deliberations. However, what I have tried to prove here is that, in principle, the idea is tenable.
Shahriar Amin is a full time brand enthusiast who is the creator of the first brand blog in Bangladesh ( where he disburses brand related knowledge for Bangladeshi students and businesses

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Visualisation: Go with the flow

Visualisation: Data from mobile-phone networks can create maps that show how people are moving around


PDF of article here (courtesy of MIT SENSEable City Labs)

WHERE is everybody? Being able to monitor the flow of people around a city in real time would provide invaluable information to urban planners, transport authorities, traffic engineers and even some businesses. Bus timetables could take account of hourly or daily variations; advertisers would be able to tell which billboards were most valuable. Such information can be collected via traffic helicopters, roadside cameras, police patrols, sensors embedded in roads, tracking units in vehicles, data from public-transport turnstiles and surveys. But the resulting picture is often inadequate, expensive—or both.

A new scheme devised by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) takes a different approach. Given that almost everyone in the developed world now carries a mobile phone, why not use the data from mobile-phone networks? Such networks have to keep track of where subscribers are, as they roam from cell to cell, in order to route calls and text messages. The MIT researchers have been testing the idea using anonymised data from two European operators, Telecom Italia and Mobilkom Austria, to analyse where mobile phones (and therefore people) are at any given moment.

The results take the form of luminous maps adorned with moving and colour-coded arrows, dots and patches of light that indicate the speed and population density of people in the city in question, with an accuracy down to a dozen or so metres. “You see how the city is pulsating,” says Carlo Ratti, who is leading the research as head of the SENSEable City Laboratory at MIT.

The new approach has a number of advantages over other methods. Sensors embedded in streets can accurately count vehicles, for example, but cannot count passengers or detect pedestrians and cyclists. Sensors and cameras also fail to provide “origin-destination” (OD) statistics—jargon for information about where people are travelling to and from, and how long their journeys take. Such information is usually collated using surveys, which are very expensive to carry out. Using data from phone networks promises to be much cheaper. “It's pretty simple: you just need a digital map and you show the data,” says Hannes Ametsreiter, head of marketing at Mobilkom Austria, which is working with MIT to map the city of Graz. “This could be an opportunity for us.”

With markets becoming saturated and mobile operators' revenue-growth slowing—there are already 112 mobile devices for every 100 Austrians, for example—providing information about travel patterns could be a lucrative opportunity for telecoms firms. One potential customer is Seat, a firm based in Milan that provides real-time traffic maps that drivers keen to avoid traffic jams can call up on the internet before setting out. The company gathers information from roadside cameras, Italy's national toll-road operator, the police, and satellite-tracking systems installed in more than 220,000 vehicles across Italy. All this costs a lot of money and provides only a partial picture of the state of Italy's roads.

Paolo Cellini, the head of Seat's internet division, says using data from mobile-phone networks instead would dramatically improve the service. He estimates that within two years Seat will sell subscriptions to onboard navigation systems updated in real time with information on traffic levels and average speeds. After that, Seat will provide traffic forecasts produced by correlating past traffic patterns with variables including weather, the date and nearby events, says Mr Cellini. He expects to pay telecoms operators more than €30m ($40m) a year for access to their location data.

City-planning departments offer another important market, says Ricky Burdett, architecture adviser to the Mayor of London and the director of last year's Venice Architecture Biennale, at which MIT displayed a prototype real-time map of Rome (see picture). London is preparing for a projected additional 1m inhabitants in the next 15 years, and people-movement maps “will be invaluable” in planning housing and transport. Politicians will take to the technology because it can provide solid statistical backing for politically unpopular planning decisions.

Follow the people

It is not hard to think of other uses for the technology. Estate agents, for example, might be better able to appraise commercial property by determining how many pedestrians pass a given storefront. Advertisers would appreciate knowing how many eyeballs pass a hoarding and how those numbers vary between weekdays and weekends. And tourism authorities might change their promotional campaigns abroad after noting which nationalities (identified by their home networks) spend most time in town and which prefer to lie on the beach.

“People-movement maps could lead to improvements in transport planning, traffic-light placement, signage and road layout.”

Rome will probably be the first city with commercially available people-movement maps. When MIT presented its project, called Real Time Rome, to Telecom Italia last year, the top management at the Italian telecoms giant gave the scheme its backing. So did Rome's mayor, Walter Veltroni, and the city's transport authority, ATAC. Fulvio Vento, the director of ATAC, says the new system will allow him to scrap an expensive annual OD survey of 2,000 people, which costs more than €60 per respondent to carry out. Mr Vento says the maps will give his planners extraordinary and unprecedented power to shuffle the schedules of Rome's 2,100 buses as demand shifts throughout the day. It could also lead to improvements in traffic-light placement, signage and road layout. Roma Metropolitane, the city authority for Rome's expanding subway network, also says the maps will be a boon to planners.

Fans celebrate as Italy's victorious World Cup team arrives in Rome on July 10th, 2006. The areas with the highest population density are shown in green

Samarcanda, a taxi firm based in Rome, is providing free consulting services to the project in return for access to the data. The company's boss, Giovanni Coco, says his drivers still choose their routes based on habit and experience. “It's a disaster,” he says, “we need help.” Transport planning will provide a ready market, in short, but plenty of other potential uses for the technology are waiting to be discovered. People-movement maps would appear to have a colourful and pulsating future.


Dhaka gridlock and traffic is the bane of my existence. The fly in my ointment. The cockroach in my Coke. The finger in my eye. The kick in my pants. The perfect metaphor for us as a people and as a nation (?). The rage-induced ulcer that is burgeoning in my stomach lining. Wait, the last one might not be a metaphor. Could this in any way be part of a future solution for us? It's not short-term, that's for sure, but since flyovers aren't working (that is when one is actually completed--they just expedite your travel time from one traffic jam to another) and city planners (or those who claim to be) and traffic cops are clearly clueless in the art of traffic management, would this help?

Modeling traffic flow would be a prerequisite if we ever decide to act intelligently about city planning and traffic. This kind of data could influence everything from traffic light timing/sequencing, location-based approval of commercial property licenses for businesses, etc. It could also enable all kinds of cool location-based services (which are actually already possible given the number of mobile phone towers around the city). How about simply creating an interactive digital map of Dhaka streets and overlaying a service a la Mapquest or Google Maps?

On a side note and as a simple example, one of my personal favorite LBS utilities on my cell phone is Geominder which allows me to set alarm reminders based on location after I "teach" it some of my key locations. For example, I could set an alarm for "Don't forget to buy bread next time I pass by an Agora". For other examples, see Meetro (location aware instant messenger and social network for your cell), Smarter Agent (location sensitive real estate searches), Loc-Aid (track the location of friends, loved ones, colleagues, find a date, etc.), Loopt (location based social networking), and Socialight (discover great places/reviews as you walk around).

Anyway. Get back to work you lot.


Bangladeshi trio wins regional Young Entrepreneur Award

Dhaka, July 11 (—Three young business students from Bangladesh beat competing teams from five other countries to win the regional final of the HSBC Young Entrepreneur Awards held in Hong Kong.

The Bangladeshi trio's winning venture focused on industrial waste management to help export-earning industries to meet global compliance requirements.

"We fail to comply with global standards over and again because of lack of emphasis on waste management," said leader of the winning team Zeeshan Rahman at a press conference Wednesday.

"Most of our industrial units do not manage their waste properly. We aim to provide services in managing waste in an environment-friendly way," he said.

Zeeshan and friends, Joydeep Choudhury and Baizeeed Md Nur, are all second year BBA students in the Institute of Business Administration at Dhaka University.

They won the 'Best of the Best' award last month in the regional final of the six-month long competition, beating five other teams representing the best young entrepreneurs from Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Hong Kong.

It was the first time that Bangladesh had taken part in the awards, which have been held since 2000.

The Bangladesh team's business plan on industrial waste management for the export zone areas in Savar, Dhaka, won over the juries in the competition.

The achievement also helped the young students to overcome their fear of competitors from more advanced countries.

"We have been able to know ourselves. As a nation we have a tendency to underestimate ourselves. It's not good. We have a lot of talent in this country. We are definitely capable of building a positive image of our Bangladesh," said Zeeshan.

The young entrepreneurs, taking note of global consumer demands, are now aiming to establish a company providing services to manage industrial waste.

"At present some NGOs are working on domestic waste management. None is working for industrial waste management although the issue is gaining some prominence," said Baizeed.

Baizeed mentioned the country's tannery, textile, knitting & dyeing and ready made garments industries and said entrepreneurs in these sectors face difficulties in ensuring global compliance standards with respect to the environment.

"Almost 90 percent of tannery units are red-marked. Buyers will not place orders unless these units improve their standards," said Baizeed, adding that ISO requirements were also necessary for garment industries.

"We will start our work after completing our graduation. There is much preparation for to be done for the project before we start," he said.

Joydeep, the third member of the team, stressed the importance of government support in realising such ventures. He suggested initiatives be taken especially to nurture young talent.

"It's high time to groom up our generation as we represent the future," said Joydeep. hours


Encouraging news.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

"All your bags are packed you're ready to go", says GP to ISPs

Another one from bdnews24
Grameenphone, having above 60 percent market share until the first quarter of 2007, wants to solidify its position by diversifying with mobile internet services. GP has 14 million "Total Active" customers including 2.5 million "mobile internet" users, said the company’s chief marketing officer (CMO) Stein Naevdal Monday. "We may have sold a lot more connections but 14 million subscribers have been using our network at least for the last three months," Naevdal said while explaining the methodology of measuring his latest clientele in a press briefing in Dhaka. GP has added 1.887 million customers from April to June—the second highest net quarterly addition—as it bagged 2.032 million customers a year ago in Q2 of 2006. "Continuously declining tariff coupled with mass availability of new and refurbished handsets has been fuelling the mobile phone’s overall growth in Bangladesh." He said the call charges have been reduced by 78 percent since 2004 and the intensifying competition is likely to shrink it further. "Currently the lowest call charge is Tk 0.25 per minute while the highest is Tk 1.90 per minute in Bangladesh." If compared in the taka, the highest charge is Tk 3.20 and the lowest is Tk 0.20 in India. In Pakistan, the highest per minute tariff is Tk 1.40 and the lowest is Tk 0.90, GP’s CMO said. Considering the current trend, he said, Bangladesh will have 50 million mobile phone users in 2009 where GP aspires to have at least 30 million customers. GP is also moving full speed ahead with a staggering 2.5 million mobile internet customers, which is much larger than the country’s entire fixed internet users. Naevdal said lack of power and telecoms infrastructure in rural Bangladesh has prompted his company to respond with EDGE "to meet the huge unmet demand for data connectivity". But he refused to disclose the volume of total internet bandwidth GP consumes to cater to its 2.5 million mobile internet users. Brushing aside the Internet Service Providers’ allegation of being predatory to the market, GP’s CMO said his company has been doing business "strictly abiding by the law". But Naevdal admitted to subsidising the mobile internet business from his company’s voice earnings. Referring to the national long distance business, he said GP has a licence from Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission to resell the optical fibre capacity it has been leasing from Bangladesh Railway. But the ISP Association of Bangladesh believes otherwise. "Grameenphone can use the Railway’s telecoms infrastructure for its own operations but it does not have the licence to resell it," said ISPAB’s president MA Salam quoting BTRC.
So alarms bells are ringing for our internet service providers. When GP decides to diversify and taste the waters in different territory, many fishes of that water are bound to be consumed by the telecom shark/whale/dolphin..whatever you say. They had all the time in their hand to make the best use of their resources, the bandwidth, customer services and above all..stay united. Now they will fall under the sharp teeth of GP. I wonder how would Agni, ISN, BOL and other ISPs would stay alive in this situation? What would be their strategy? As per GP, they sniff something big and tasty in this data connectivity domain....that holds the key to sustain competitive advantage over long term, they want to go there before others wake up and catch up. That is evident in their recent newspaper ads and so much uhh ahhs about their internet services. GrameenPhone---the largest internet service provider of Bangladesh. Sounds new? but sounds good huh?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

BusinessWeek: Asia's Most Admired Companies

BusinessWeek has posted the results of their online user survey on “Asia’s Most Admired Companies”. The results have skewed towards those businesses that have gone global, used technology, and innovated.

The list includes:

  • Toyota (Japan)
  • Lenovo (China)
  • Infosys (India)
  • Nintendo (Japan)
  • Acer (Taiwan)
  • NHN (South Korea)
  • (China)
  • Singapore Airlines (Singapore)
  • Singapore Telecom (Singapore)
  • Wipro (India)
  • Posco (Korea)

The more perceptive of you will surely have noticed a trend.

Full article here at BusinessWeek.

FT: Calls for ratings framework amid surge in microfinance

The Financial Times

By Joanna Chung in London

Published: June 27 2007 03:00 | Last updated: June 27 2007 03:00

Microfinance is quickly becoming a popular corner of the capital markets as more investment banks and investors see the business of providing small loans to low-income individuals in poor countries as potentially profitable as well as a powerful tool for development.

However, some experts say there are obstacles preventing the microfinance sector from reaching its full potential, including the absence of a global framework that mainstream investors can use to assess properly the risks associated with the sector.

A transparent and globally acceptable method for rating microfinance institutions would help to open up the asset class to a much wider universe of investors than would or could invest in unrated securities, industry observers say.

"The lack of consistent metrics for analysing micro-finance institutions has hindered investment at a time when microfinance is growing at a significant rate," says Cynthia Stone, chair of the Emerging Markets Council at Standard & Poor's.

"Despite the level of interest, mainstream investors need standard metrics before they can invest in this particular sector. By creating standard metrics the market understands, it will draw out institutional and other investors who were on the periphery or have stayed out of the market."

Ian Callaghan, head of the Microfinance Institutions Group at Morgan Stanley, says that access to a greater scale of capital is needed and that means tapping a pool of investors that do not necessarily have a social objective but are looking for diverse investments.

"Microfinance has so far been mostly funded by development banks and socially responsible investors but they do not have the access to the kind of capital that is needed to satisfy the growing industry's needs," he says.

Activity in the microfinance sector has been growing in the last few years and has involved increasingly complex deals. Last month, for instance, the first publicly rated microfinance collateralised debt obligation - which pools together packages of bonds - raised more than $100m. The deal was rated by S&P and completed by BlueOrchard, which specialises in the management of microfinance investment funds, and Morgan Stanley.

Mr Callaghan says: "It helps that investors can look at a piece of rated paper that they can compare with other rated paper that comes across their desks."

In a recent report providing recommendations for a rating methodology that can be used to rate microfinance institutions (MFIs), S&P predicted that greater transparency and globally acceptable standards could see volumes of microfinance-related securitisation deals surge.

S&P expects to rate an additional two to three microfinance CDO transactions and around 25 MFIs in the coming months, with CDO issuance levels potentially reaching $500m by the end of 2007. As the existing microfinance institutions become adept at handling new inflows of funding, and more MFIs enter the market, securitisation volumes could reach between $1bn and $3bn annually over the next decade, the agency says.


An interesting article on how greater transparency can translate into creating real strategic and tangible value for an industry or firm, and not just as a “nice to have”, lip service or PR ploy. The important factors here are: being upfront about and properly assessing risk factors, having a standard set of metrics to facilitate comparison, greater innovation in financial product development (e.g., structured finance vehicles like CLOs/CDOs),and to a certain extent divorcing, for lack of a better word, “passion” from capital investments decisions (i.e., admittedly simplistically put: create a business model that creates real value while supporting a social charter which can therefore stand up to the scrutiny of dispassionate investors and have a fighting chance of being sustainable). Of course, an adequate investor base and climate is a necessary prerequisite (so maybe the whole thing is moot when it comes to Bangladesh. Or not?)

While the MFI industry is clearly in need of the above, would it be a leap too far to say that other sectors in Bangladesh, including financial services, should take heed and reap similar rewards?

Monday, July 9, 2007

Fortune Magazine: India's Retail Revolution

Will India's mom-and-pop stores perish with the arrival of modern supermarkets? Fortune's John Elliott reports.

By John Elliott, Fortune

June 27 2007: 12:57 PM EDT

(Fortune Magazine) -- Suresh Prasad sells groceries from a 12-by eight-foot store opposite a new Reliance Fresh supermarket in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad. His specialties are 10-cent pastry puffs and cakes. With the supermarket drawing new customers to the area, his sales have doubled.

Venu Gopal owns a slightly larger store opposite another supermarket a few kilometers away. Sitting on a stool behind a glass counter topped with plastic bottles of sweets and surrounded by closely packed shelves of rice, lentils, fruit juices and other groceries, he sells two or three sweets to children, a single cigarette to another customer, and tiny tobacco sachets every few minutes. "Our customers," he says, "come for small quantities."

Those are hardly the dire scenarios of doom forecast by opponents of India's retailing revolution, who have taken to the streets to defend the livelihoods of more than 12 million mom-and-pop shop owners. In May and June hundreds of demonstrators armed with stones and bamboo sticks sacked Reliance stores in three cities, including Delhi. In Kolkata merchants marched to protest a Reliance contract to redevelop their market.

But in Hyderabad, the epicenter of the revolution, where Reliance Fresh has opened 50 brightly lit, Western-style stores in the past seven months as the front edge of a nationwide rollout, the reaction has been more muted. And the evidence seems to suggest there's room for everyone - street sellers and mom-and-pop shops, known as kiranas, as well as large chains.

"Definitely there is room for both," says Doma Trivedi, a franchisee of one of Reliance's most successful supermarkets in Hyderabad, whose wife and brothers continue to run the family's kirana a few kilometers away. "Everyone will have his own business. Smaller shops give credit and cater to people shopping on their way home from work, while Reliance Fresh gives correct measured weights and guaranteed prices."

Reliance Industries, the parent of Reliance Fresh, along with other retailers, including Wal-Mart (Charts, Fortune 500), which has teamed up with Bharti Enterprises, wants to change the way Indians have shopped for generations. So far 220 Reliance supermarkets have opened in 20 Indian cities since the rollout began last November. Plans call for 2,500 outlets in the next four years, including 500 hypermarkets.

The retailers' plans are generating opposition from wholesalers, other middlemen, and leftist political parties, which estimate that small-scale retailing provides livelihoods to about 20 million urban workers and 12 million rural vendors. To stem such opposition, Reliance has been opening bulk-buy stores called Ranger Farms in the early-morning hours that allow street vendors to buy at wholesale prices from the Reliance supply chain, thereby increasing their margins.

That hasn't stopped the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which initially focused on blocking foreign investment in the retail sector, from calling for restrictions on the number and size of large stores that can be opened in a single locality. They also want protection for farmers who sell to large retail chains and will, they fear, be bullied into accepting low prices. Reliance and Bharti argue that their supply chains will replace corrupt officials and middlemen who run the current purchasing and distribution system, and reduce waste of up to 40 percent of produce sent to urban areas.

A look at the potential impact shows many of the opposition's fears to be exaggerated. "India is at the beginning of a process of change, and customers are looking for something more modern, but there is no risk of serious unrest or job losses because only a limited number of small vendors will be affected," says Arvind Singhal, chairman of Technopak, a retail consultancy in New Delhi. He says that small players will be hit but that the impact will be limited to areas near supermarkets. By his estimate, 6,000 to 8,000 supermarkets will open across India in the next five to seven years, and each might draw customers from 20 to 25 kiranas and fruit and vegetable stands, affecting at most 150,000 vendors.

This, he points out, is a small fraction of the total, and many will switch to selling increasingly popular products such as mobile phones or toiletries, or rent out or sell their premises. Set that alongside Technopak growth forecasts - that $330 billion in sales will reach $900 billion by 2015, of which modern retailing will account for 27 percent, with numbers employed rising from 40 million to 62 million - and it is clear that market expansion should more than compensate for the impact of new stores.

But for vulnerable small traders operating on the margin, these forecasts are of little help today. In New Delhi, where supermarkets are opening fast, pavement and pushcart vendors are bitter. "I've lost half my business," says Rajiv Das, who has been selling fruit and vegetables for 18 years and now has to contend with a new Reliance store a three-minute walk away. "I'm not able to fight, but I would if I could."

Similarly, Selva Kumar, who runs a kirana 100 meters from a Reliance outlet in Chennai, says, "We have lost 40 percent of our business, and that's the future. We're not closing, but there'll be no growth."

There is less opposition in Hyderabad, India's most developed and sophisticated retail market, where the first supermarket opened ten years ago. The city of seven million is booming, with new shopping malls, luxury-car showrooms and construction sites.

At Reliance Fresh stores, wide choices of produce are neatly arranged on shelves and in big display baskets. There are ten varieties of mangoes and 14 kinds of apples, some on sale. Signs hang from the ceiling, and smartly uniformed staff in red T-shirts add to the mood of efficiency.

More residents of Hyderabad have traveled abroad than those from most other Indian cities, and they are "highly value-conscious," says Venugopal Komanduri, who runs Reliance Retail in Andhra Pradesh, where Hyderabad is the capital. That helps explain why modern stores - there are at least nine supermarket chains - already account for more than 20 percent of Hyderabad's retail sales, compared with only 3.6 percent nationally, according to a retail audit last year by Nielsen Co.

But it's not all smooth sailing. Reliance has found its "fresh" tag hard to justify as summer temperatures have risen above 40 degrees Celsius. On a recent tour of several Hyderabad stores, papayas were found to be rotting, and other produce, such as cauliflower and bananas, looked grubby and tired. Staff said it was a "bad day," partly because it was "Sunday produce being sold on a Monday" and the power supply had been a problem. Yet the same poor quality was evident during later spot checks in Delhi and Chennai. "Our weather is playing havoc with the produce," Komanduri says.

Not surprisingly, Komanduri calls this a "learning curve." India has few refrigerated warehouses, and no retailer has tried to develop countrywide supply chains for fresh produce, linking collection points in rural areas to processing depots near urban centers. Reliance Fresh has been trying - and failing - to cope with 175 varieties of fruit and vegetables at the height of summer (down from 243 in winter).

Customers have noticed. "It's good value here, better than other supermarkets, but there are difficulties with the quality, especially apples and papayas," says Rama Tibrewal, a middle-aged Reliance shopper in Hyderabad. Other customers agree. "The quality is not so good," says Ratana Shobha.

It would seem that Reliance will be able to eat into small retailers' business in big ways only when quality improves and its stock widens to include household items, which is now happening across all its stores.

The future rapid growth of the retail sector, together with shoppers' preferences in developed markets around the world for both big and small outlets, should mean that the impact on the mom-and-pops will be far less than feared. Top of page

India Inc.

From the July 9, 2007 issue


Clearly Bangladesh is on a much smaller scale when it comes to comparing national economies and geographic size (not just in terms of sheer physical distances, but also connectivity and mindset) , but does the burgeoning Indian experience have any relevance to our retail industry?

The areas where there seems to be some rhyme (not sure about reason): (a) is there room for both the Agoras and the "mom and pop" retail outlets (i.e., so called tong shops and modir dokaan), or will the former eat the latter’s lunch?; (b) the need to strengthen the urban-rural supply chain through better logistics and infrastructure (especially for food and produce); (c) eliminating waste, inefficiency, corruption and unjust competition in the purchasing and distribution system by profiteer officials/syndicates/middlemen; and (d) is it possible to find “win-win” situations where large corporates, including multinationals, can create mutually profitable market presence (like Reliance opening in the early morning so that even street vendors can get access to the efficient and modern supply chain).

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Tasteless juice...djuice

Its just a personal opinion that I don't find the new djuice logo attractive. Although authors argue that “djuice is now the world’s second largest mobile offering for young people…At the same time, djuice has…introduc[ed]…a new logo. The design profile has been developed in cooperation with Wolff Olins…“Our new image is playful, colourful and flexible, and the diversity reflects the many different aspects of djuice and the diversity of our customers’ interests…This is how we envisage djuice, as the centre, from where good things emerge, the only place young people need to visit to get the latest and best…experience.” So much so for for designing a logo like this, but I don't find anything appealing or aesthetic in it. It reminds me of a joke that the best painting in one exhibition was won by an elephant which threw tomatoes towards the canvas and made good use of its trunk to brush the brushes against the canvas up and down and left and right and voila...we had a winner there...its just that the judges and viewers never realized that it was an elephant artwork until it was revealed. Its understandable that Telenor's strategy is to align its positioning strategy across the markets it operates in. In the process, they are bound to let go some local values, taste and appetite.

But I hope this remote control alignment by Papa Telenor is not making the creative minds of our brand managers idle and they have enough on their plates to keep their minds active. I understand that what they are doing is strictly decided by Papa Telenor, they are merely following instructions regarding logos and branding. The best thing they have done on behalf of Telenor so far is change overnight the old 'good ' logo ' and put on new make up with their 'neel pankha' even in the remotest corners of Bangladesh...we had always been good in following foreign instructions hadn't we? Coming back to djuice logo, I feel sympathized with creative, innovative young minds of GP who must have had something more meaningful, more local and more attractive in mind. But what to do, you give some you get some, we got Nobel prize, they gave us 'their' logo.

So we have Shezan juice from Pakistan, Frooti juice from India, Pran juice from Bangladesh and now we also have djuice from Norway. Its just that the last one is not available in Agora, you have to look for it across the road.