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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Grameenphone: Success, Failure and Jealousy


Just 10 years ago. None heard the word Grameenphone or GP in Bangladesh or on earth. Now the word GP is almost familiar like the name Bangladesh. An illiterate woman at the remotest corner of Bangladesh instantly understands if someone spells out ‘Grameenphone’ before her. Urban people are much more ahead. They need only the acronym, GP. No company in any industry in Bangladesh achieved such familiarity even after working for long 100 years. Because GP sits between husband and wife, mother and child, father and daughter, friends, colleagues, fiancés, suppliers etc. Even GP follows us in restrooms, mosques, bedrooms, libraries, trains wherever we are. The company’s greatest achievement lies in changing the culture, behavior, lifestyle of society of Bangladesh positively mostly. I am neither an economist nor a respective bureaucrat at the finance ministry. But I am dauntless to speak as a citizen that GP also significantly changeed Bangladesh’s economy and employment market into an extreme extent that no private limited company can even imagine of.

5200 people (at least having bachelor degree or above) directly work in GP, another 5000 (appx) also works for GP recruited by third party, in forward chain nearly 200,000 people engaged in sales and distribution, almost 1,000,000 retail store (usually sells other goods) boost their income by selling refill, in backward chain Ericsson, Nokia-Siemens and their suppliers, civil workers, tower builder, advertising agency, television, newspaper, outdoor advertiser, printers, electrical suppliers, power, generator and fuel supplier and many more small, big, very big, global giants are working for GP to keep the network on. The company is paying highest Tax and VAT in public fund (more than tk.2500 crore in last FY). GP already developed more than 2500 km of fiber optic in addition to BRs leased one and more than 10000 BTS, are the major infrastructural progress of country. The monstrous company became almost parallel of Bangladesh economy and beat all reputed multinational in terms of their revenue and glace, breaks equilibrium of job market and marks many milestone. What Microsoft has given to the world, GP, in Bangladesh, have done almost alike.


GP have not been in parallel with quite a few rules and regulations mandated by the BTRC, specially in the issue of illegal activities in VoIP business. Some of its high-achievers who, once, made the company feel proud, are now being accused of being involved in the VoIP case.


I heard the murmuring of many people, in worse some from educated people, that GP is looting the country. All forex are siphoned off. It becomes a new east India company etc. There should be a remedial to check it on. It should be in public.

Sometime we have ridiculous thinking on FDI. Thinks it charity instead! GP was no problem while it spending millions to build network. Now it is problem as it is earning good! We like the nipple of cow not her mouth, or other company in same or other industries became jealousy on GP. Like none wants to allow their daughter to marry the poor boys but looking for many cracks, defects, allegations on his recently wed beautiful wife! People should understand that, falling GP immediately will collapse Bangladesh, millions of families and their earnings, at most disruption of communication. The rich white Telenor has 11 other ventures across the world, and their highly paid white manager have many options, but our brilliant EEE engineers will again rush for TOEFL and GRE followed by crawling to the US embassy. I find no suitable word for else’s woe. Grameenphone is a company of Bangladesh. We are Bangladeshi. We are proud of it, not green-eyed to it. Best of luck Grameenphone.

Azad A. Kalam emailed to

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

NSU; A Pioneer in Business Education

North South University (NSU) is the first private university in Bangladesh. Arguably, in recent years, it has established itself as a well reputable university and as a major supplier of fresh graduate in the job market. BBA is the most attractive subject in NSU as more than 65% of the total students get admitted themselves in the BBA department. However, the burning question is that whether this leading private university offers quality education to the students of BBA.

In university level, it is the duty of the students to enhance their knowledge and develop their skill for struggle of the life. It is the most important phase of the student life. ‘Think globally, act locally’ is the skill what business education tries to disseminate among students.

Hence, faculties of respective institutions have the responsibility to guide and monitor the students to conceptualize the specific course material and assess and evaluate them based on their performance. They have to be the best in the business. All faculty members of NSU have higher degrees from good foreign universities, with over 90% from the US and Canadian Universities. In my opinion, faculties of NSU deliver their level best. A few exceptions do exist. But overall, we the students of NSU are satisfied about the performance of our faculties. Especially, we have some exceptionally brilliant faculties from whom we can not only learn the course related materials but also we can find an appropriate path for our future. They are the visionary instructors and we are proud of them.

In terms of tuition fee, NSU is okay. Many people may disagree with that as many of them already have astonished at the high tuition fee that NSU charges. Brac University and IUB also charge the same tuition fee (4000/- per credit) as NSU do. However, heavy campus development fee and lab and club activity fee are burdensome for us. It would be lot better if we would not pay the development fee and then the overall fee would be reasonable.

What is the uniqueness of NSU? Why most of the students who have intended to study BBA prefer NSU over other university? Yes, the quality of faculties, efficiency of administration and standard of students make NSU a brand name in the corporate world. I have to admit that some infrastructural problems do hamper our studies but things will change a lot when NSU will shift to its permanent campus in Bashundhara.
This article is from an NSUer seeking anonymity.

Monday, January 28, 2008

AB baby maybe worse...

What is your opinion about AB Bank's new logo? Well..though a good number of poll participants say it is 'better', here is a counterview.

"(AB Bank's new logo is) obviously not better, the previous one might be not interesting or eye catchy as a logo in terms of creative or graphical impression but that was 100% communicative to all classes of people in BD. since AB bank is a 1st generation bank, it has almost or more than 100 branches all over the country. but the new logo seems to what "sun" or nothing. if the name is omitted then individual logo has nothing, bcoz it's not a any consumer product to be popularized very quickly in a lot of mediums, without name ppl couldnt un'stand the logo immediately. whereas say 4 example as a logo of SCB, NBL, or any other bank which is may be rational or graphical type of logo, but ppl can un'stand the logo immediately coz from the 1st day of the bank they are looking a specific logo with a specific name. in this case if we omit the name, although ppl can un'stand what it is. a bank which is more than 20 years old, when it changes it's logo it should be more memorable, more communicative, more r! ationalrather than artistic. we should remember a bank is not like a telecommunication company, that in one road a telco might have 100 dealers, sub dealers, pop's, ad and many more. but in one or more than 2/3 areas covers one bank. so it's definitely worse."

Javed M. Khan Rumi replied to a Facebook message sent from the blog.

You sue because you see; what if you don’t?

Dear reader, before you read my article, I’d request you to roll your eyes on the article of one of our team members (To eat or not to eat the apple?).

First of all some captions with links. 10 GP high-ups sued for VoIP involvement,Local AccessTel, Malaysia's DiGi Tel also stand accused, THE DAILY STAR, GP accused of transfer of fund thru' illegal VoIP use, THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS, BTRC sues GP big guns for illegal VoIP links,

If you don't want to go through the above mentioned articles, here, I am putting a sum for you to know what I'm going to talk about. Bangladesh Tele-communication and Regulatory Commission (BTRC), the country's telecoms watchdog, has filed a case against 10 former and in service high officials including two former CEOs at the country's leading mobile phone operator Grameenphone, accusing their involvement in illegal international call termination or VoIP. In addition, AccessTel, a local internet service provider, and Malaysia-based international call carrier DiGi Telecommunications are also on the accused list. They are being accused of being involved in illegally transferring millions of dollars worth of foreign calls using VoIP technology.
Now there are some vital issues to be talked about, and discusses thoroughly. We know that just a few months back GP, and other mobile operators, being accused of such illegal involvement in VoIP business, has paid a large amount of money to the government. At that time the CEOs of those accused companies claimed to have not been informed about those activities in their office premises. A serious question can be raised here. How could you not know what's happening in your very house? The Daily Star writes, "On examining some phone email documents and phone tapping of GP high officials, we can clearly say that the high-ups of the company were involved in the malpractice,” said a BTRC high official. We should understand, the operation of VoIP business is not a child's game. It requires major plans, and implementations, specially if you are doing it illegally. I don't know how they could get away with those amateurish answers. Another important question may be asked, why Erik Aas, immediate past GP's chief executive officer, left GP in such a situation? Did he smell the rat before? If Mr. Erik Aas left smelling this, the question is what led him think so?Questions keep coming. Why GP? Why not any other telecoms? Are there any other motives? As of now, I don't have any information regarding these issues. Is BTRC going to sue every company who was/is involved in this illegal business? If yes, by when? It's really good to see BTRC taking initiatives to stop the illegal practices, but they should also not forget that suing different companies will only create havoc in the sound economy of the country, they must art out some plans to balance the problem on both sides. We know, GP is the country's telecom leader with over 16 million subscribers. More than some thousands people are directly or indirectly involved with GP. Any of their decision will, undoubtedly, affect millions of people of the country.

According to, "GP's Head of Revenue Assurance Espen Wiig Warendroph had verbally instructed his staff not to reveal the call records of a specific phone number to the elite crime buster. The number was found to have been used by AccessTel in VoIP call termination, BTRC said". Now, what could be the reason behind that? Here, who's saving who? What's so important about that number, and AccessTel? These things must be sorted out and revealed to the public after proper inquiry.

According to The Financial Express, "Foreign call transfer is a restricted service under the country's telecommunication laws 2001. Only the state-owned BTTB can transfer millions of foreign calls routed to the country. A telecom company gets a slice of the tariff, currently ranges between Tk1.40 taka and Tk6.00 per minute if it allows its network to transfer foreign call in Bangladesh. Bangladesh with over five million people living abroad receives over 25 million minutes of foreign calls a day, making call-transfer a huge cash cow for telecom companies. Telecom officials said the market for foreign call transfer is about Tk 20.00 billion a year, growing about 15 per cent. The GP and four other mobile operators were earlier fined Tk 6.15 billion for using VoIP technology illegally in the country. GP's fine at Tk 1.64 billion was the highest."
I wonder how GP will get itself on the track after these consequences. Again, it is preparing to offload its shares in the capital market by the third quarter of the current calendar year. Any thing can happen out there when you start playing the capital game. Once your image has been damaged you are in deep trouble. GP should have never played with fire to make more money while it was enjoying the cash cow's milk being the leader in the industry. They should have planned to uplift the country, not to loot it like the East India Co. did in the name of business. GP's aggressive plans made it suffer, no doubt. You know, it's good to be brave, but sometimes it's better to be wise.

Photo Credit: The Daily Star,, Internet

Saturday, January 26, 2008

One expo... One tool... A world of perplexity

Yo! Name the second person who conquered Mount Everest. Don’t know, OK, at least name the second person who tangoed on the land of the US after Christopher Columbus (1451 – 1506).

Yeah, I don’t have any idea about their names either. We people don’t remember the seconds, thirds or fourths. We only consider the firsts. Like the first kiss, first days and the like. I remember the first computer fairs during my school days. So much fantasy. A computer! What a thing! In those fairs seeing the Windows™ 98 SE logo fluttering, we’d get charmed. And in some pavilions you’d find internet facilities. We’d get happy browsing at a top speed of 3.1kbps! Aha, those were the days. I still keep in mind the day I bought my first desktop (February, 2000), AMD 450 MHz; I was too fascinated.

So is the first ever Laptop fair. A country where people hustle every now and then for continuous flow of electricity to roll on their day to day business activities, studies, and other operational works, laptops can come forward ensuring continued-unbroken work. The usage of laptops are better not to be stated, rather let me point out some usefulness of using laptop in Bangladesh. Now who to start with? Yep, the small and medium enterprises. In Bangladesh, the term SME has a vast outline. Why don’t I keep my article narrowed to some certain areas? Firstly, businesses that are being rolling around NILKHET, Dhaka University area can make more out of a laptop. Since 90% of those shops use at least a computer for their operations, they’ll certainly gain a lot using a laptop. A desktop in those tiny-little shops takes more room than a laptop is likely to take. A desktop doesn’t work when there is no electricity, but a laptop does. If it comes to the prices, I’d say if they can buy a desktop worth 30K-45K, they afford to purchase a laptop to get more productive. Any SME identical to the Nikhet Biz, can use this idea. Again for the other SMEs and businesses it’s always true that connectivity is productivity. Well, if you want to be connected to the world around you, you must switch to a laptop. Same thing goes for the students as well.

Now, what if we start to buy more laptops than desktops? This is for sure that the price of a standard laptop is very likely to decline. Another important issue would be our mobility. It’d increase at least by 50% or more if we start using laptops instead of desktops. You may raise some arguments regarding the versatility of using a desktop, i.e. working, gaming, entertainments etc. Well I don’t have any logic to refute your statements. Every coin has two parts, isn’t it? But when your concern is on the productivity of the country which side would you fall for?

I can’t think of the market for laptop during the next five years. What’s really going to happen? Bangladesh is undoubtedly an emerging market for the laptop producers, and big manufactures like hp, Toshiba, acer, Sony, ASUS, Lenovo are partnering with local companies to market their products. Here, they have a great opportunity to grab a voluminous amount of dollars. Which ever company is dropping the price of its laptops first is going to take a lead in the rat-race.
Perhaps this thought flamed the first ever laptop expo torch in Bangladesh. But things are not always as cool as you think. I believe, you have not overlooked that in these fairs companies sale most of their products at a reduced price. Have you ever known why? Because in these fairs they sale from their unsold stocks, in a way to getting rid of the goods which have not been sold due to unavoidable circumstances! Often goods come from abroad, just as the reconditioned cars we ride in. So be very careful when you purchase a machine from these fairs.

Photo Credit - Syed Zakir Hossain, The Daily Star

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Education to earn money, money to get education

Eastern Bank Ltd. (EBL) (couldn't find its website) has launched an “Education Finance Pack” yesterday, especially meant for the students going abroad for higher education, reports ever improving Daily Star. “The pack is mainly for the students intended to study abroad, but it is also available for the students and their parents studying in Bangladesh,” Ali Reza Iftekhar, managing director and CEO of EBL, told a press conference in Dhaka. “EBL targeted 5,000 new students' accounts to award the pack, of those at least five to seven hundred students are expected to get the loan a year,” he added. The bank has planned to disburse Tk 2.5 crore under the pack. Each student will be entitled to borrow at least Tk 5lakh. According to EBL officials, the employees, businessmen and self-employed individuals, who earn up to Tk 15 thousand a month, are eligible to get the loan at a 18 percent interest.

Zahid recalled the time a few years ago while he was standing in a bus queue at Shahbag with some documents in hand and pondering what he has just done. He just paid around 25000 taka to a special ‘bhai’ who managed original bank statements from a leading bank in the country, the statements belonged to one Mr. Haroon living in Uttara and had a liquid healthy balance of around 33 lakhs taka. Zahid sighed over the fact that even though he had an ornamented academic career, it could never compensate the fact that his father never possessed the required amount of money in the bank, which is a vital requirement for getting student visas you see. So he had this friend, whose brother had another friend, who used to work in a bank, and who in return of a ‘small fee’, used to give away true statements to people like Zahid. Well so much so for ‘creative’ yet necessary means to produce financial statements in order to reach to the land of dreams and opportunities, out of this chaotic place. Yesterday I had a chat with the head of a foreign university’s agency here in Dhaka. He was lamenting over the fact that student export rate to foreign universities have gone down alarmingly. Mostly because of the fact that the high commissions and embassies have become stricter in terms of scrutinizing and cross-checking financial documents provided by aspiring students and their true and ‘virtual’ sponsors.

No wonder EBL has spotted a business opportunity in the largest consumer segment of the nation, its students, and have formulated a financial product in the form of student loans. I wish the campaign luck and I wish all those student good luck in their endeavors for a better academic future both at home and abroad. I hope students like Zahid will not have to buy original statements from renowned multinational banks of the country anymore, they can simply walk in to a branch of EBL and likes, apply and get the money to pursue further education. However as there is no free lunch in life and in Bangladesh, who knows how the aspiring students will fall under the axe of exorbitant interest rates for those loans.
(photo courtesy HSBC student loan)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My tank is full of thoughts only...and yours?

Once upon a time I was returning to Dhaka from Comilla….well…lets not give it a flare of an ancient fairytale…actually I think it was back in 1996 only when me and my friend just entered Dhaka while returning from Comilla, were passing by Banga Bhaban and were shocked to see a tank pass by our 'baby' taxi. Still not realizing what was going on, we went home amused only to discover that the pitch of the VIP road been badly distorted…thanks to the tanks that rolled out to the city streets…it was that coup attempt by Nasim Bhai….if you remember. That was not my first brushing aside a tank, infact the part of Dhaka city where I used to reside, had many tanks put up around especially at the entrances. So much so for tanks…and their distortion of otherwise allright city streets of Dhaka.

During my undergraduate days, we used to return to the dorm through the much famous Delhi School of Economics…or D’School as it is fondly called. Many a times we used to hang around in their campus…just to get the feel of the environment where Nobel laureates like Dr. Amartya Sen spent his valuable research and teaching days. The environment also used to make me especially feel proud because of the fact that most of the previous and then professors in the D’School were actually Indian Bengalis. It used to make me wonder how intelligent Bengalis actually have been, are perhaps… that they are even the majority in the elite faculty panel in the most prestigious school of economics in India. However I also used to wonder that if Bengalis are so good in economics then why West Bengal is one of the impoverished states of India, in comparison to states like Punjab or Kerala….I used to think it to myself and never used to discuss much with my non-Bengali Indian friends, lest some harsh truths got revealed. But I realized that we are good thinkers, sometimes we get awards and get featured in various lists for our thinking prowess. However we are not much of a doer, that is for others to implement.

So with my limited experience and exposure, I think I can think….and can think only. I still don’t have a tank…or know someone who has a few tanks…not the Gazi Water Tanks mind it….who can label me as a ‘think-tank’. Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) has become one of the largest ‘think-tanks’ of the world. Bangladesh is not only the land of mosques, the land of too many people, too many NGOs, it has also become a land of ‘think-tanks’ with 34 of them. The report said the boom in think tanks came mainly due to the information revolution, the end of government monopoly on information, the current complexity and technical nature of policy problems which has made decision making more difficult, expansion in the size of governments, globalisation, and the growth of state and non-state actors. The report also mentioned, there is however a declining trend in establishing new think tanks worldwide, the reasons for which are political and regulatory environment hostile to think tanks and NGOs, a change in funding priorities for think tanks by public and private donors, underdeveloped institutional capacities which decrease the survival rate, and increased competition from advocacy organisations and for-profit consulting firms and electronic media.

I really can’t think anymore…I feel I have been thinking too much about things…and nothing getting done infact. And as I think…the prices of the essentials keep soaring, the city becomes unlivable and we keep on arguing about leadership. Time passes by, while we keep on featuring in various ‘lists’ of the world…corruption list, poverty list, population list, this list, that list….etc. So what do you do? Do you think and do you have a tank too? Then lets become a ‘think-tank’ and ‘distort various pitches’ with our intellectual (only) crush-wheels.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Where labours are created

What’s the use of your MBA if you are sitting in the customer care unit of a Telco, pacing up and down the whole day providing your company’s valued-loyal-trustworthy-devoted customers with priceless information about how to activate GPRS service or may be answering how to send an MMS? Again, all those efforts of yours in FBS, DU – where are you using them now? Did you actually take any course relating to customer care service in your BBA? I bet, you didn’t take one even in your MBA. So, why do you sit as a customer care executive and say, “I am really proud to be a member of a winning team!” I find no words afterwards.

I went to a leading Telco’s customer care office, where I found that guy who seems very happy working in an MNC. I can’t think, what’s the use of my BBA from here? Am I heading forward to be in those chairs I have never wanted? I can’t see where the tunnel, I am passing through, ends; I don’t even have any knowledge what’s waiting for me at the end of it? I am in a total despair. If I tell how much blood I shed to get admitted here you won’t possibly believe. But am I striving to be someone like him? Why am I thinking so much? Why my friend from IBA smirk whenever he sees me and say, “. . . too close, still so far . . .” [I apprehend, he is may be saying, your building is too close to us, but your career is still so far from ours.]

However, I have also encountered people from our faculty with some dynamic designations. But one thing is very common in them. They either have a 3.80/4.00 CGPA in BBA/MBA or they had some unusual ways to ticket through the HR depts. of the companies. I admit, I have none of these two. I find it almost evident that I won’t be bossing around in future. I don’t really understand those debits and credits, so my profit & loss account after the exams get serious health hazards!

Being obsessed, I talked to some friends from private universities to find if they are getting benefited or not. But before I move on let me state that, when I took the admission test at the NSU, I passed getting the opportunity to select any subject I’d prefer to study. At the time I went to start my course, I was advised to do some preliminary courses before starting my regular studies just to brush up recently lost memories of English and maths at a cost of around Tk. 36K! With due respect I told my advisor that, ”Sir, since I’ve passed the admission test, and I passed it well, I’d better like to start my regular studies. Besides, I’m really good, very very good at English and maths, so I would like to take an exemption from them.” But I was not exempted. By chance I managed to escape the loss of my valuable money getting admitted at the FBS, DU.

As I was saying. My friends, in NSU, are very much satisfied with the environment they stay in. World class faculties, state-of-the-art features, alluring study mates, tones of exams, and so on. But when applying for a job, “either find a jack-ass or get lost, baby”, says some of the NSUers. Those who are in BracUni are doing well either with similar problems when placements are being made. Some of the AIUB-dudes told me of very unfamiliar circumstances they’ve confronted. One of my mates studying business at Stamford, not the Stanford of the US, told me of unsatisfactory business education system. You won’t believe, just a few days ago I’ve met a guy passed MBA from the AsianUni, and working at a MNC, was trying to get admitted into a Diploma course (!) at an Australian University. Pathetic, isn’t it?

I wish I were the Boss

If I were the boss controlling the educational system in Bangladesh, I would bring all reputed business personnel, business educators, employers in a table to develop a unique business course that’d certainly mean business. May be then, an IBA would not grin at a Bishwa Bishwa-Biddalaya of BD [World-Uni-of-BD, I meant] anymore. What do you say? Hmm?

Please note that all names appearing in this article are completely imaginary. If, by any means, a name match up with a real one, that’d be a co-incident only. This article is only for general use. Please do not make any decision based on this work. The author is not liable for any loss occurred by making decisions based on this work.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Don't like Dulabhai, don't like Dholabhai

Insatiable. Never happy with any given situation. Not sure exactly which situation we want and even when we get close to determining what we want, we never bother to implement it in real life. Take for example a macro level scenario. There had been times when we had been unhappy under begum alpha. There had been times when we had been unhappy under begum beta. Even after the transition in Bangladesh from 1/11 onwards in 2007, there are unhappy voices with the present situation. The fact remains that there will always be problems, more or less, but we keep on complaining that the glass is still empty, without realizing that it has been gradually filled up from the top.

Take a further micro level case. A growing number of voices have been heard particularly from our telco friends, foes and family that the amount of money the expatriates in those companies draw as salary is simply outrageous and without any logic. What is the salary drawn by our mentors and masters from Malaysia, Norway, Pakistan and Egypt? Some argue that there are no guidelines for foreigners working in Bangladesh in terms of the amount of money they can earn per month. To be more specific, the telco industry does not have any regulations in fixing the maximum number of expats allowed to work in a particular company. Whereas Bangladesh Bank had regulated that a certain number of foreigners are allowed to consist in the bank’s core management team/board etc. All these, are words of the budding telecom professionals who did experience ‘some raise’ in their salaries, however they believe, they deserve more…or conversely, they think the expats should get less.

So if we think we are of equal caliber if not better than our ‘dholabhais’, how do we define the behaviour we show when we express our reservations against foreign consultants ‘who are actually of Bangladeshi origin holding foreign passports’ and who are invited to implement or advise different development projects in the country? People unwillingly utter their dissatisfaction over a ‘corridor-smoke-break’ that ‘khamokha bangali ek beta re niye ashche ar dollar e poisha ditese…ki jaane oi beta!’..(For nothing they have brought a Bangali chap and feeding him with Dollars, what does he know!).

So it goes without saying that we are neither happy with the fact that our bideshi bosses are getting an unbelievable amount of salary given the Bangladeshi context nor we are happy when we see a Bangladeshi expat getting paid in US currency which is also high in the Bangladeshi context (actually in both cases its us who are actually getting paid less…isn’t it?). So the floor is open for debate. If we are unhappy that friends from the east, middle east and West are drawing more than they deserve, we should formulate our arguments. Also, if we remain unhappy with the fact that foreign passport holding Bangladeshis are also not up to the mark to carry out local projects, we should be having clear understanding of our judgments. Being unhappy with any situation we are put into will not us lead anywhere, for the time being.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Branding one district with one product

Organic tea of Panchagarh, crab of Khulna, nakshikantha of Faridpur, handloom products of Tangail, clay tiles of Shatkhira, pineapple of Khagrachhari, betal leaf of Chuadanga and hilsa fish of Bhola. I was born and brought up in Dhaka while my parents hail from Meherpur and Sylhet. I am left pondering how to brand these two districts with a flagship product. I know Meherpur is famous for Mujibnagar and Sylhet is famous for many more things, but how to brand these districts with key products or trade representative of the districts? Which district you belong to? May be if you are a brand 'gewrew' yourself, you can propose some unique branding strategy for your district and mine and with our collective effort, we can join our bits and pieces to establish a competitive advantage for our own districts.

Daily Star reports that inspired by the Japanese 'one village one product' movement, the government has started implementing a 'one district one product' (ODOP) scheme to decentralise and diversify export production. Officials hope the move will lower costs and ease environmental and social problems such as uncontrolled migration from rural areas to the country's main cities. Japan launched such a movement at Oita Prefecture in 1979. It has now become a global movement as countries like China, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and the United States have adopted this strategy to promote their products. As per the EPB plan, a common logo for all the selected products under ODOP will be introduced to make them familiar worldwide.The state-run export promotional agency also has a plan to set up some common centres all over the country, which will provide technical and logistic supports for the products under the ODOP project.The EPB wants optimum use of organic raw materials as well as indigenous technology to promote products in the international market.An expert in such movement from Japan, Tadashi Uchida, will soon be invited to Bangladesh to share his experience with local people.The EPB will also propose to the government that it seek support from donors like Japan's External Trade Organization in order to carry out the project.
So time to get back to roots I guess, think how you can give something back to the district you affiliate yourself with. Perhaps a good time to apply the branding strategies we learnt and our 'desher baris' first.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Email Interview 1 : Business Education in Bangladesh

Mahenoor Hassan Khan
Head of Sales
Standard Chartered Bank

1. What is your overall impression about the present standard of business education in Bangladesh?
Specifically business education is still in primitive stage in Bangladesh compared to other developing nations in Asia. However, standard is improving but in a very slow pace. Our business schools need to focus more on practical learning rather than theoretical education in order to help the students get accustomed to the real world.

2. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following comment, “There is relation between what is taught in business schools in Bangladesh and what is actually practiced in work place” .
Students must be able to learn about the real world scenario at the business schools. Unfortunately a very few schools have been able to offer business education with respect to the reality.

3. What is the most important factor lacking in business education in Bangladesh?

A business student must have a strong communication skill in order to face the challenge in the competition prevailing in today’s world. Unfortunately, this is one area, where our business education failed to improve so far considerably. The second most important factor is inability to think innovatively. This quality, again, can be achieved through practical education. Books only offer cases and various events in the past, but to survive in today’s world one needs to learn about real business scenario.

4. What is the main reason a number of students consider pursuing a business degree from abroad?
Lack of faith in our education system and intention of building career abroad are the two main reasons for a good number of students pursuing a business degree from abroad.

5. What is your educational background? (Degree, university)
MBA, Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka

6. In your opinion, which is by far the best business school in the country?
Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka

7. Does your company provide any campus placements while recruiting?

8. Which one thing would you recommend to the business teachers of Bangladesh?

Help the students improve communication skills and assist them gaining knowledge on real world activities

9. Which one thing would you recommend to the business students of Bangladesh?
Decide on your career plan first and pursue education accordingly with sincerity and diligently. Changing subjects or fields in the middle of a degree or course leads to confusion and apparently to failure to achieve proper education, which is not good for our business community.

10. Do you have any general comment regarding business education in Bangladesh?
We are in the right path in terms of business education. We have a great resource in terms of faculty members and very effective secondary and higher secondary medium of education system. All we need is to ensure is synchronization between teachers, students, education system and the real world needs. This will help develop our human resources, which will, in return, be able to enhance the reputation of Bangladesh while representing our country abroad in future.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

This shouldn’t have happened

I was overwhelmed knowing Brac Bank was looted. I could not believe how people, in these days, would take this account in minds? Those who have lost their valuables, have lost almost everything. Question is those who haven’t lost a thing, will they still prefer going with BRAC? Even if I stop talking about Brac Bank, what about the other institutions in this industry? Won’t their future be shaping in unusual ways after this episode? Will their business of renting lockers sustain as it always was?

The heist is not a new occurrence in the financial institutions, for which when they make a contract with a customer they agrees upon a common phrase, as per the terms and conditions signed between the clients and the bank, the bank is not liable for stolen goods. But when there is a question of a great many families, how the top-management of the bank treats the situation is a matter to be taken into serious considerations. As of now, the bank has issued a special notice, it has been discovered that some unknown persons unlawfully entered the safe deposit locker facilities of the Dhanmondi branch of BRAC Bank Ltd and stole the contents of a number of lockers during the weekend holidays … … … BRAC Bank will continue to make every endeavor to keep the concerned locker holders informed on all developments in this regard.

Whatever the bank’s top-management does, will never sooth the abruptly beating hearts of the people who have lost their precious items. Even if they pay a handsome sum to them, it won’t lessen their anguish. I strongly believe, a mere contract for not being liable for the theft should never be taken into deliberation. Government must play a vital role here. If not, the economics of the affected families are likely to see no future.

I B A manager, I B A survivor

Two things made IBA best- its intake and survival. Yes it is really difficult to enter here and more difficult to survive and passed out. As the premier business school IBA has a strong social brand value and as a public institution it is cheap. Therefore country¢s best and most informed high school graduate rush and fight here into BBA program and best engineering, applied science, science, economics, social science, arts, business, medicine and military school graduate are being attracted towards MBA program. The high level competition eventually sorts out the best talents. Another point is survival. Life at IBA is far apart from typical pro-canteen public university life and pro-fast food private university. There is no syllabus in detail at IBA, just only course title. Faculty is everything, next to the almighty. And their job is not definitely correlated with students comment as it is in private university. No two faculty at IBA are same, or not even closer in terms of academic delivery, assessment and style. Frankly speaking, you have to deal 5 different and peculiar bosses at a time during the term. Have you ever worked under 5 bosses at a time at your office. Moreover, you cannot expect that doing everything sincerely will ensure your CGPA 4.0 as in your office, promotions and increment are in somewhere else, might be asking more on your bosses childs school performance rather than your sales report! Becoz world is not enough!

In the circumstances above, IBA is a right orientation center towards business or newly termed corporate world of Bangladesh . May be IBAites have not enough hair gel over the skull but they have enough gel under the skull, to run/launch/turn around a business/not for profit organization, at least in Bangladesh. True, a comprehensive intake process, updated curricula, more qualified faculty, more academic rigour, exchange program with reputed business school like HBS, Sloan, Kellog, Tuck, INSEAD, LSE, IESE, Nanyang, CEIBS, MBS, Yale, IIM-Ahmedabad, HKUST, IUJ, Stern, Columbia, IMD and knowledge sharing from and to business leaders might produce better graduate. But economy of Bangladesh is still yet to tap full of their potentials! We should also remind that.

-Azad A. Kalam

Monday, January 7, 2008

DHL Bangladesh Business Awards 2008

Amidst our quest to find out the best looking women (not always the most intelligent and smart) through Lux Miss Photogenic Contests, to find out the best performing artistes through Channel i Performance Awards and arranging them in foreign locations (imitating the Indian film industry), another awarding program had been taking place for the last 8 years in Bangladesh…the DHL Daily Star Bangladesh Business Awards…recognizing and awarding the best business performers of the country who are shaping up the corporate look of an emerging Bangladesh. The award will be given for the 8th year in 2008 and the deadlines for nominations close on 15th January. The categories are ‘business person of the year’, ‘outstanding woman in business’, ‘enterprise of the year’ and ‘best financial institution of the year’. The details of the categories, nomination process are found here. (right click and 'save target as....' if the direct clicking does not open it).

Through this business award program, the global logistics giant has affiliated itself with something which it is claiming to be the highest and best award for the business actors in Bangladesh. Critics might argue the authenticity and credibility of the selections process, the jury and even the involvement of DHL in the exercise, nevertheless it goes without saying that DHL made the first move and took the initiative to recognize and award our, may be small but significant, initiatives taken by different business heroes and their organizations for the last 8 years. However, an online nomination system hosted in DHL’s website would have attracted more response from interested Bangladeshis both at home and abroad, rather than manual nomination process through post. Also, a brief background on past winners, their accomplishments, plans and success stories can be featured in DHL website so that interested readers could have an idea about how they became successful in their fields of expertise.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

When luck is in your pocket

Where there is a will, there is a way. Where there is a rich father’s will, there is even a better way. Where there is your will, your rich father’s will and Will is your bosom buddy in the US, that is the best way….what is your opinion?

How entrepreneurial are you? Can you recall the interesting and innovative business ideas that you have been nurturing since high school? How many of them have been realized? Do you know exactly why they succeeded and why they failed as a matter of fact? Did you invent something unique which at best could make it to the science and ICT pages of a few daily newspapers in Bangladesh and then withered into oblivion due to lack of follow up, lack of infrastructural support, lack of venture capitalists perhaps, lack of patronizing, lack of coverage? So is it always the case that entrepreneurship needs a fine balance between talent, money and contacts at home and abroad? Is it the case only in Bangladesh or is it same everywhere in the world? May be you know better.

But take the case of Cellbazaar. The business idea which was born in the media lab of MIT is bearing fruit now in Bangladesh with massive campaigns at the back of CNG autorickshaws, taxis, billboards, TVCs, print adverts etc. So useful their advertising strategy had been that Nader Rahman in Daily Star Magazine quotes, “Aside from their slick advertising strategy which involves the medium of peripheral vision they are pioneers in another area entirely, far more exciting than advertising, they are on their way to revolutionizing the marketplaces of Bangladesh by making them smaller in size and larger in every other sense of the word, this is where the future starts, now.” My knowledge is too limited to critically evaluate the business model of CellBazaar, they have their challenges and they have their opportunities as well. Experts argue that they have a number of competitive advantages over rivals like ClickBD and Bracnet where the latter parties face major problem of phoney posts with fake phone numbers. Some critics also argue that the CellBazaar concept has very low user retention rates, meaning they have very high number of first time users who eventually don’t stay with them in future.

Nevertheless, I believe it is a worthwhile effort, which has been awarded by international bodies like Tech Museum Awards etc. The point I am trying to make has three dimensions. If the founder of CellBazaar had the brains but not the money to study at MIT, what would have happened? If the found of CellBazaar had the money to study at MIT but not the brains, what would have happened? Lastly, if the founder of CellBazaar had the brain and the money but not the contacts in Bangladesh and abroad, how far would have his brainchild CellBazaar come comparing to where it is now? How easy or difficult is it to tie up with the biggest telecom operator in a country and undertake massive marketing campaigns all over the country? How do you get the endorsement of the leading newspapers of the country who print classified ads of your business venture and feel proud to be a part of it? Are all these ‘hows’ taught in business schools in the Entrepreneurship courses? Or there is a certain or full amount of luck involved in the success or failure of a business venture in Bangladesh? We keep pondering.

The good news is that CellBazaar is associated with a foundation called AQF, a family-run association which is involved in atleast recognizing and help promoting Bangladesh entrepreneurs and their innovations, ideas, if not being able to patronize it. So they seem to have identified the core problems faced by innovators and entrepreneurs in Bangladesh and they are doing their bit to help them. Good effort although I haven’t noticed any news in the newspapers or in TV, may be it slipped off my eyes…or did it?

So in conclusion, I congratulate CellBazaar and wish them well with their business venture. I also wish good luck to innumerous budding Bangladeshi entrepreneurs; I hope they can manage to get atleast some solid national and international contacts to endorse their business ideas. They really can’t undo the fact of not belonging to ‘homra chomra’ families, at best they can hone their skills and increase their professional networks. But oi arki…if you belong to the ‘right’ family, if you have brains and money, not only the ‘market will be in your pocket’ as CellBazaar says in its punchline, you will also find more luck and more money sitting pretty inside your pocket. For the time being, my pocket is torn.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

What is the secret of my energy?

What is the secret of my energy? Horlicks. What is the secret of Veronica? Ahh…sorry for derailing the conversation…I wanted to ask what is the secret of IBA’s success…as the premiere business education provider of Bangladesh? I, neither studied in IBA, nor am a teacher there, nor have ever employed IBAites…but yes, I have surely worked with them and many of my friends and relations are infact IBAites. Whenever I have tried to investigate the secret of their successful job placements and career progression by posing questions like ‘As a graduate of IBA, how and why do you think that you are better?’….answers mostly were confined in ‘We are better because we are better’, ‘We are not better, we are the best’, ‘We are better because the rest are idiots’ etc. So my probe didn’t see much headway with the Direct Interview method. Arranging FGDs was never possible as most of the IBA grads are busy with jobs or switching to better jobs, they don’t want to be bothered by external curious airheads….me that is. So being unable to get into the ‘sacred cult of IBAites’, I stood at a distance and tried to derive clues from here and there. May be you can help me put the missing puzzles in.

I think the teachers and management of the Institute tried to apply the business theories to the Institute itself first even before they started preaching it to the students. Infact it will not be wrong probably to argue that perhaps it was only one or two dynamic visionary teachers who saw merit in positioning the Institute as the best in the country from early on. They advocated on behalf of their students to the multinationals of Bangladesh. They nurtured the brand of IBA in such a way that other private players like NSU, IUB were caught napping. I am not sure whether there was or is any expectation of personal gain in terms of cash, kind, status, fame, affiliation or anything else, but the effort surely paid off. I don’t know how the business schools in private universities conceive the branding of their education. Perhaps they have left the job of job-hunting for their students only, while they are busy with their ‘own career prospects’. No wonder IBA teachers must be doing that as well, but the foundation laid down by them has certainly given rise to a snowball effect, by virtue of which, the next generation IBA students and their destiny in the job market is automatically taken care. Now the question will remain, how long will IBA will be able to maintain this monopoly as far as the quality of business education and business graduates is concerned.