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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I am thinking about Zahi, are you?

Some say I think too much, I should stop wondering, and the world will be better off. This unconventional write-up was to be about customer service as it should as the first blog entry of mine for Bangladesh Corp. Blog, but why did I turn on my tv to watch this wonderful ad of Kumar Biswajit, I don’t know. Yes, this another Disturbed Mind production about Warid is none other than Warid’s new TVC of Zahi postpaid package, where Warid quite successfully claims (with a truly reliable celebrity) its voice data to have crystal clear clarity, by which a professional artist can record his newly composed track remotely. Sounds very realistic, because it only takes 112-128 kbps voice data transfer speed in popular compression formats to achieve a near CD quality clarity, but GSM voice data transfer is usually 56 kbps max, and I cannot really believe with Warid’s latest network over than 56 kbps voice data transfer is possible. Maybe Warid will say - nah, we were really talking about EDGE, an evolution in GSM which can transfer 346 kbps data theoretically.

So this ad was thematic like many, one ad I really admire is from Garnier, where fructis shampoo nourished hair can be used to pull out a solid concrete block (oh! They were talking about rock-shaking confidence –that you cannot measure, duh!), or you can also take the famous Axe communication examples. So by this Warid actually wanted to mean that their network for Zahi customers offers a better voice/sound quality than the other mobile operators. First question, are the postpaid Zahi and prepaid zem customers handled by different networks and so has Warid set up two different networks for two different customers? I don't really think the claim is true for only the post-paid customers, in that case, warid messed up a bit.

And number two – the difficult one, will the loyal consumers like off-net postpaid users will switch to Zahi postpaid just because the voice is clear? (I thought postpaid customers might look for more value added service rather than basic telephony). If not, is Warid trying to convert it’s prepaid customers saying that – look zem’s voice is horrible, but Zahi is singing like an American idol. Isn’t it derogatory, even for the basic voice service, Warid is differentiating its prepaid and postpaid customers - whereas, the postpaid customers are usually differentiated by offering low rates and extra value added services. I have no clue where zahi is trying to go with the message in this tvc.

Finally, I really found the ad to be a superior addition in Warid’s recent campaigns –the starting was great, Mr. Bishwajit showed his mastery as model in ad once again. However the concept was not well-thought-out, the key message (voice clarity) is not very strong to buy a connection worth 750 taka (the message may be reliable but not worthy enough to make people switch to or pick up new connection). Voice clarity is one issue that will come in any insight generation for mobile users, its not unique to postpaid customers, guess Warid has to dig deeper to find the proper position of Zahi for current off-net postpaid and to-be-postpaid customers.

One last note, Zahi claims in website “Go Zahi today and get ready to experience a world of connectivity like you have never experienced before!” – I wonder why Warid didn’t work on that. Wondering!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

For the sake of alleviating poverty

I have come across very few businesses that strive to change people’s lives. In this post, I am going to let you know about one business that has been doing much for the sake of alleviating poverty; needless to say, from the world. KIVA helps deprived entrepreneurs from the developing countries get loans from developed countries to realise their dreams. What could be a better idea than that?

KIVA's mission is to tie people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty. Literally speaking, it’s the world’s first site of its kind that enables person-to-person micro-lending. It enables individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world.

The people KIVA features on their website are real people seeking sufficient funding to help them run their small businesses. Potential lenders can browse entrepreneurs' profiles on the site, choose someone to lend to, and then make a loan. In addition, throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), the lender can receive email journal updates and track repayments. Then, when s/he gets her/his loan money back, s/he can relend to someone else in need. Quite simple, but amazing, isn’t it?

KIVA partners with existing expert microfinance institutions. In doing so, it gains access to outstanding entrepreneurs from impoverished communities world-wide. Its partners finds original and competent entrepreneurs (usually who are short on funds). Through Kiva, its partners upload their entrepreneur profiles directly to the site so the prospective lenders can lend to them. To know more on how KIVA works, please click here.

I believe, Bangladeshi entrepreneurs can gain a lot from KIVA if an expert partner gets aligned with it. Right now, there’s a name of a Bangladeshi partner (Annesha Foundation) on the KIVA website, but its account is closed.
Should we not take a chance?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What's in a name?

Its still fine if we Bangladeshis keep on fighting with each other and keep on throwing salt at each other’s wounds for silly issues, but just imagine how you feel when a foreigner takes the opportunity to point out something really silly but which leaves you a bit unprepared and sans réponse too.

In our Chinese class being held at North South University, we learnt that we are xuesheng (students) of Chinese Language at the Nan-Bei Daxue (North South University). She also recalled that she came across another university in Mohakhali called dong-xi daxue (East West University). By the way, we were learning how to say directions in Chinese language. Our laoshi (Teacher) asked naively why the universities were names as such and which other ‘direction-led’ universities were in town. The answers came as Northern, South-east, Eastern etc. We realize that ‘direction-name-slots’ still up for grabs include north-east, south-west, up-down, left-right university etc. Also, ‘ishan-kone’ is one of my personal favorites as the ‘direction-led’ naming of any new born private university. In the same tune, my teacher, who had the eyes of a tourist and paid greater attention to detail in and around the streets of Dhaka pointed out the geographic variety while naming universities. She claimed that many big universities are in place as they have big names of continents and countries such as World University, American University, Asian University and the recent discovery of British American University (not tobacco) Dhanmondi, Dhaka! So no wonder our naming gurus of those private universities cum companies are visionary people who have set their ambitions high and across boundaries, surely they can see the sky much closer from their 10 storey building, which also happens to be their only campus most of the times.

So much so for the Chinese teacher, who cares what she thinks. But I think when I will set up my university I will again write a post asking for your help to propose some innovative names based on directions, geographic locations etc. Your children might get enrolled in Upre-Nichey University, Daaney-Baamey University of which I will be the VC. Education is a hot-cake business in Bangladesh isn’t it? Lets bake it nasty!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Smile for what?

I walked in to the Gulshan branch of Prime Bank the other day around noon to sell some prize-bonds in my possession. Small, cosy little branch was busy and vibrant with seated and queued up customers. The staff behind the counter seemed weary and serious while trying to concentrate hard and deliver the service to the people standing in front who from time to time were giving ‘cold stares’ with an air of dissatisfaction and urgency. Perhaps the circumstances are usually so hostile and dry that the personnel who are supposed to provide service to the customers with a smile…don’t smile.

I did try, when in good mood, to smile at the person serving me food, or at the POS or at the bank counter…just to see how they react. They don’t. They either lose eye contact or give you a look of suspicion and disbelief. This is even serious when you are trying to throw a decent ‘customer-like’ smile at any female staff, in the context of Bangladesh. So I decided not to smile anymore at the customer service staff. Whatever my monthly income is, I carry an attitude as if the ACC is after me while I don’t care and I can be extremely harsh and rude if needed. I also stopped saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Ever since, I think I am a happier customer roaming around Bangladesh. I also realized that the staff also don’t expect a strange, unknown customer to ‘smile for nothing’, it is not in our culture, we are not used to such soft expressions of customer handling, we prefer to do it the rough way. So be it.

However, this shield of insensitivity which I have adopted to tackle insensitive customer service agents is sometimes challenged….by a smile again! The same day after the Prime Bank fact finding mission, when I went to the Banani branch of StanChart to get the job done, I approached the help desk and was greeted with a friendly smile by the lady behind the counter. I realized that I forgot to smile back and I became suspicious for a while thinking if I know that lady or not, or what could be her ‘hidden’ motives. Too bad, my values have become so rusty that ‘dhakka khaite khaite ekhon ar bhalo jinisho ar bhalo lage na’. Nevertheless I tried to relate the nice behaviour of the staff of StanChart with its being a multinational entity, with greater exposure and outlook to global best practices of customer service. Whereas, Prime Bank perhaps does not look at the world in the same way. I also remember one of the staff at StanChart calling me as ‘Sir’ while giving me advice and instruction….whereas those at Prime Bank hardly made any eye contact and appeared really pissed off with my presence. Life goes on.

Some argue that given the socio-economic condition of an ordinary Bangladeshi in the city of Dhaka, when there is bargaining involved at every stage, while fixing a rickshaw, renting a house, buying rice and potato, added with traffic woes, power cuts, mugging, unemployment, pollution etc, you are never actually in any mood to wear even an artificial smile and greet erratic customers, just because your job profile says so. Perhaps the reality bites too hard than the customer service trainings arranged at lavish halls of Lake Shore and other hotels. What a mess.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Recent Polls & Results

Please note that, this post is regularly updated with new polls and results.

How to get the best out of the results?

When you are analyzing the results of a poll, refer to the time (month/year) in which it was conducted. It helps you determine what people were thinking about a certain product or service or a business on that given month of that year. What people think about a product or service today may vary considerably sometime in future.

40. What is your reaction to Rubaba and Arif's resignation from Grameen Phone?
[September 2009]
Total 40, I think its on official grounds, 27 (67%)

39. What is your opinion about the fire in Bashundhara City?
[March 2009]
Total 15, Corporate sabotage, 9 (60%)

38.Will the global financial crisis affect Bangladeshi businesses?
[October 2008]
Total 12, Not now, but in near future, 7 (58%)

37. What is your reaction to the arrest warrant against StanChart CEO?
[September 2008]
Total 36, It is justified, I support it, 21 (58%)

36. Given an option, where would you like to have a job in?
[September 2008]
Total 22, Abroad, 9 (40%), Bangladesh, 8 (36%)

35. Will Dr. Yunus be right to sue Telenor?
[September 2008]
Total 29, Yes, 20 (68%), No, 8 (27%)

34. BTRC is an effective and efficient regulator for our telecom sector
[August 2008]
Total 7, I don't think so, 4 (57%)

33. Which area/sector should start first to brand Bangladesh?
[July 2008]
Total 18, Tourism sector, 11 (61%)

32. Do we have any Bangladeshi brand which is truly global?
[July 2008]
Total 18, Yes, 14 (77%)

31. Although women tend to be better bargainers, men are superior as sales persons
[June 2008]
Total 9, Agree, 9 (100%)

30. Which is the most important quailty of a great salesperson?
[June 2008]
Total 11, Presentation & communication skills, 10 (90%)

29. Sales persons, like leaders, cannot be made...they are born
[June 2008]
Total 17, Agree, 11 (64%)

28. Do you fancy a sales related job in a Bangladeshi company?
[June 2008]
Total 17, Yes, only If I get good money, 11 (64%)

27. Which telco provides the best customer service?
[May 2008]
Total 38, Grameenphone, 13 (34%)

26. Do you think CellBazaar will be a success in Bangladesh
[May 2008]
Total 16, Yes, 3 (18%), No 12 (75%), Not Sure 1 (6%)

25. What needs to be done to improve customer service of Bangladeshi companies?
[May 2008]
Total 18, More trainings for staff, 7 (38%), Change of attitude, mindset, 7 (38%)

24. How reliable is Bangladeshi market research?
[Apr 2008]
Total 11, Depends from company to company 8 (72%)

23.What is your opinion about AB Bank's new logo?
[Mar 2008]
Total 25, Better 17 (68%), Worse 8 (32%)

22. What is the main reason a number of students consider to pursue a business degree from abroad?
[Jan 2008]
Total 29, Investing similar amounts in foreign universities than private universities at home promise good jobs and better future, 26 (89%)

21. What is the most important factor lacking in business education in Bangladesh?
[Jan 2008]
Total 46, Realistic Curricula, 34 (73%), Quality Teachers, 6 (13%)

20. What is your overall impression about the standard of business education in Bangladesh? [Jan 2008]
Total 51 , Bad, 30 (58%), Average, 15 (29%)

[Following are the polls that were conducted in 2007]

19. News and news caster of which local TV channel is the best?
Total 19 , NTV, 6 (31%), Channel i and ATN Bangla, 5 (26%)

18. Nokia and Siemens merged their phone network business. Do you think Bangladeshi telecom industry will be substantially affected by this?
Total 32 , Yes, 19 (59%), No, 13 (40%)

17. If GP buys another telecom operator, which one it might be?
Total 80, Aktel, 43 (53%), Banglalink, 11 (13%), Warid, 11 (13%)

16. Which is a better radio channel in terms of content and quality?
Total 34, Radio Foorti, 23 (67%), Radio Today, 11 (32%)

15. On which skill Bangladeshi managers should focus the most?
Total 22, Communication, 11 (50%), Organizing, 7 (31%)

14. What is needed the most to get a job in Bangladesh Corporate?
Total 58, Reference, 38 (66%), Work experience, 8 (14%)

13. Which weekly holiday is better for Bangladeshi businesses?
Total 29, Sunday, 23 (79%), Friday, 3 (10%)

12. Who do you see operating in Bangladesh in near future?
Total 23, McDonalds, 19 (82%), Starbucks Coffee, 3 (13%)

11. Which one is the best cola drink in Bangladesh?
Total 22, Coke, 12 (54%), Mojo, 4 (18%)

10. Akij (Dhaka Tobacco) is bringing Marlboro in Bangladesh. Do you think it would be a threat for BATB?
Total 22, Yes, 10 (43%), No, 11 (47%)

9. What is the standard of business journalism in Bangladesh?
Total 12, Bad, 8 (66%), Very Bad, 4 (33%)

8. Floods are the time when corporates make more money and publicity.
Total 11, Yes, 9 (81%), No, 2 (18%)

7. Should Bangladesh Corporate consider shifting more offices to Chittagong?
Total 15, Yes, 10 (66%), No, 5 (33%)

6. Why do most Bangladesh based MNCs have foreign CEOs?
Total 17, Foreign manager are genuinely better, 7 (41%), We love to suffer from colonial hangover, 5 (29%)

5. Foreign banks like HSBC, StanChart provide better service than local ones.
Total 31, Yes 21 (67%), No 10 (32%)

4. Should our stock exchanges introduce internet-based trading?
Total 37, Yes, we are ready 36 (97%), No, not yet 1 (3%)

3. Which is the best cement manufacturer?
Total 17, Lafarge Surma 6 (35%), Emirates 6 (35%), Holcim 4 (24%), Shah 1 (6%)

2. Who is the biggest threat for GrameenPhone in a year's time?
Total 23, Banglalink 10 (43%), Warid 9 (39%), Aktel 4 (17%)

1. Do you like GrameenPhone's new logo?
Total 18, YES 5 (28%), NO 13 (72%)