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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

During the Eid Break, Only in Bangladesh

Stuff that happened

But bailout did not happen. What did happen is what experts had been predicting for the last 20 years, but it happened in the space of a couple of weeks. Now Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup own more than 30% of the bank deposits. This will presumably kill off more banks as there was an actual 'ban' since 1995 that prevented giants like Citigroup from making acquisitions. Now it seems the 'ban' has disappeared.

Citigroup recently bought out Wachovia. As you may realize, Wachovia opened a branch in Dhaka, Bangladesh just a couple months back. Now Citibank NA owns it. I guess Mamun Rashid can rightly strutt in and out of Wachovia now. Its his bounty after all.

Daat-majun did happen (see picture). Our favoriate politician wannabe/shud khor (I am not that fluent in Bangla, but does it translate to interest pimp? If it does Zindegi! Zindegi!)/banker to the poor, was at the Clinton Global Initiative. Yes I was there. But Yunus reiterated in front of a dreamy democrat crowd that US banks should lend more to the poor, considering that we are in this mess, because banks lent to the poor in the first place.

Our professor mentioned that Grameenbank has a 98% recovery rate only in Bangladesh. CEO's of Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and BoA listened attentively and the Wall Street recovered realizing the wisdom in Yunus's words. Poverty was eliminated precisely 2 minutes later. Yunus's next book is rumored to be called "Mr. 98 Percent: using NGO tactics for loan recovery". Fazle Abed is co-authoring the book.

Back to Bangladesh from your daydream. Banks now. Only in Bangladesh, banks don't seem to die or merge. Remember Al Baraka, Oriental and ICB Islamic Bank? It has 9 lives even though it should be dead long time ago. But just recently an organization that specializes in buying sick/under-par/"crap" banks decided to buy it out of the clutches of Bangladesh Bank. The ICB group, which bought the bank, is also known to operate a large string of third-world, hand-me-down banks across Africa and Eastern Europe. Although BASEL II (which I know nothing about other than it requires banks pin down a huge amount of money) might actually kill ICB fruition. Did I also mention ICB is an 'Islamic' bank? Because only in Bangladesh if your normal operations don't succeed, labelling it Islamic may do the trick.

Secondly for the first time ever, BTRC is charging for spectrum. This was a shock to our telecom sector as 'only in Bangladesh' did these companies get huge amounts for free. But Grameenphone, Banglalink and AKtel are the only ones that got a piece.

Anders Jensen just confirmed what we have been suspecting all along as the reason for his resignation. His family. Not VoIP, tumbling of profits, failure of the IPO or not adding a single customer in August. Rumors are that Anders Jensen is going to be replaced by a Bangladeshi sock puppet to satisfy Yunus. Expect more conversations on a per-minute basis (not with VoIP obviously) with Arse Norbor.

Also Happy Eid from everyone.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Clinical All Clear Operation

Its really good to see companies like Banglalink taking initiatives to keep the beaches of Coxsbazar clean and environment friendly. The company has surely identified the potential the largest unbroken sea beach in the world holds. Too bad that those who were supposed to promote it to foreign tourists and make it more tourist friendly, Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation, could do very little about it so far. So what makes Banglalink do what they are doing in the sandy beaches down south? They are supposed to be the 2nd largest mobile telecom operator in Bangladesh, does cleaning beaches fall under their business processes or is it some sort of CSR...or a way to keep the media interested about them? Never mind what the reasons are, that might require yet another post, but the spirit is worthy of praise. In the same way, I was thinking if companies like Unilever Bangladesh could do something innovative in terms of the roads and cleaning the minds of the city dwellers to some extent. Clinic All Clear shampoo is supposed to be the best (according to Unilever) to get rid off dandruffs, If their product is being used by us to keep our heads and hair clean of unwanted dandruffs...I wonder if Unilever could do something clinical to keep the roads in Dhaka clean and/or show the ordinary city dwellers some good practices of living in a city.

For example, a group of Unilever staff could hit the roads of Dhaka on a certain day, or say for a whole week, wearing fancy t-shirts and caps, and be busy picking up garbages from the streets, cigarette butts, kolar chilkas etc....whoever collects the most amount of garbage (in terms of weight), wins a special Clinic City All Clear award. How about that? If you notice, we in Dhaka are very used to doing ourselves and watching others doing the following. The list is not exhaustive, as there is an whole array of weird ways of making the city dirty.

-Spitting from a passing vehicle, or while walking (sometimes its remarkable to see the amount of Niagara falls people carry in their mouth and how far they can throw their load)
-throwing packets, polythene bags, cigarette butts left and right.
-Attending to nature's call in exposed and public locations.
-talking in mobile phone while driving
-Happy honking even if it might be visible that the traffic is not moving the next two miles...

and the list might continue, you might add a few more...and you might also argue that basic etiquettes are taught at home, or at school..what a corporate like Unilever got to do with this and why should they do this? an extent you are right...but what makes me fumble for an answer is that many of those above antics are performed by people who are supposed to be of good families, possessing good educational degrees and holding high salary jobs...then what explains their behaviour when they do it? might argue that like in many other countries, there should be heavy fines for those who throw garbage and litter on the street or if talk on mobile phone while driving...but in Bangladesh, laws have always been there, but there had been no enforcement of what do you do in such a case? I sometimes wonder we should have won many gold medals in Olympics beating Michael Phelphs, as Bangladesh is one of the countries where everything is done free style, when I am on the road, I am the road King, every tree is my toilet, every street is my spitbin and dustbin, as thats how things are here...and thats what everybody else why should I be what can be done in such a situation?

White collar employees of Unilever might be thinking that why the hell should they leave their cosy comfort of air conditioned office mansion in Gulshan and walk out in the sun to do the job of a clean sweeper. Well, its true that it might not be part of their job profile, but if they consider themselves more fortunate to be leading a global company like Unilever, its only natural that they will have some obligations to the people and city and the whom and in which they have been selling their soaps and shampoos. Agreed that you have been doing a lot in the name of CSR...
but also think beyond cleaning dandruff from the hair of Bangladeshi consumers, could you be a bit more innovative in cleaning up the city which you are doing business in and the minds of city dwellers whom you are selling your products to? After all, you taught us to brush our teeth with Close Up, you taught us to shampoo our hair with Clinic All Clear and you promised us that rubbing Lux will make my wife prettier, then why not teach us a few best practices of living in a city, how to keep the city clean and environment friendly, so on and so forth. Korben na?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

GrameenPhone এর Online Customer Service থেকে . . . দূরে থাকুন

Please note:
If you cannot read Bangla, and does not wish to make you PC Bangla compatible right now, you may read the post here.


দেশের এক নম্বর ফোন কম্পানীর অনলাইন কাস্টমার সার্ভিসের বেহাল অবস্থা। GrameenPhone এর অনলাইন কাস্টমার সার্ভিসের পেইজে ঢুকতে গেলে ব্রাউজার পেইজ ব্লক করে দেয়। বলে তাদের সিকিউরিটি সার্টিফিকেট বাতিল হয়ে গেছে ২০০৬ সালের ২৯শে নভেম্বর!!

অনলাইন সার্ভিস কাদের প্রয়োজন?
যারা GrameenPhone এর ১২১ ফোন করে টাকা খোয়াতে চান না এবং যাদের বাসায় ইন্টারনেটের লাইন আছে তাদের জন্য অনলাইন কাস্টমার সার্ভিস আদর্শ। এখন সাহায্য চাইতে গিয়ে শুরুতেই এমন বিপদজনক পেইজে যাওয়া অনেক সময় সমীচিন মনে হয় না।

আচ্ছা, তাও না হয় ঘোড়া ডিঙিয়ে ঘাস খেতে গেলাম। আমার মনে আছে ওদের সার্ভিসের জন্য চ্যাট রুমে ঢুকে অনেক হম্বিতম্বির পর এক লোক পাওয়া গেল। তাও মূল কথা বলতে বলতে কী যেন হওয়াতে আমি আর তাকে পেলাম না। আমি নেহায়েৎ ওয়েবে এক্সপার্ট না। না হলে আমি হয়ত ধরে ফেলতে পারতাম।

এখন কাহিনী হল যাদের এত কাষ্টমারদের কাছে রাখার ইচ্ছা তাদের এমন করা উচিৎ কি না।

Friday, September 26, 2008

Has Grameenphone's IPO failed?

Well not entirely but things are looking rather ominous. It caught my attention when there was a heated discussion between 2 members on this blog in the comments section. But I can't help to think that things are getting worse for GP. The points below sure don't encourage investor confidence:

Yunus going public and on TV threatening a lawsuit
As far as I know, the conditions that Yunus put in the original agreement are non-binding. In paper they were more of recommendations rather than requirements. But the media slant is that Telenor is breaking the law. The media has led us to believe that Yunus has a fighting chance if he indeed decides to pursue legal action. In reality the 'recommendation' nature of the clauses don't have any merit. But bad news always spreads faster than good news

No International takers
As reported by Reuters, Grameenphone did indeed kick-off a world tour to get international investment in the IPO. But now, a local newspaper mentioned that it is in fact extending the IPO deadline for Private Placement. If you put the two facts together it concludes that there are no international investors. It could hint that even Telenor considers Grameenphone's IPO a bad investment. This is because Telenor has companies which they partially or fully own who are capable of participating in this IPO (and a lot of people suspected them to). Don't get me wrong GP is an excellent company but their IPO badly timed (world recession?) and not garnering the attention it once had.

Sizing down & SEC
The media reported that GP sized down the IPO to half in response to SEC's and NBR's condition on the 10% tax break. But before the IPO was filed, the laws for tax break was clearly available to everyone. GP sizing down had more to do with the lukewarm response.

Poor local response
For an IPO priced at Tk 18, the highest price GP got was Tk 12. The lowest was Tk 3. This means one institutional investor actually felt that the Tk 18 share is worth Tk 3. The rest felt Tk 12 was the highest the share was worth. Remember this bunch of institutional investors are not short of money and they have tons to waste if they know they will get a healthy return. But doing the math, it may not be such a wise investment. If the international community decided not to bite, why should local institutions? But GP none-the-less extended the deadline.

Rate cuts and bond issue
GP has been sitting on a decision to distribute bonds. Now why does a company doing so well need bonds all of a sudden? The bond is timed exactly with the IPO. Why does GP need cash so fast and so soon if its the biggest IPO in Bangladesh? Although VOiP fines have been eating up most of their profits, the rate cuts forced upon them by competitors is seriously hurting profitability. Investors had faith because GP's revenues were untouched, but all of a sudden with rate cuts and BTRC reporting that GP did not add a single customer in August has scared everyone. Message to Banglalink, Citycell et all: If rate cuts are temporary and intentional you are the new satan.

Anders Jensen resigning
Just before your company goes for the IPO, you announce to the entire world that you will be resigning. This leads to even more rumors (no not about why Jensen quit or the phone conversations). It makes everyone think that Yunus has a serious chance to remove Telenor and even declaring the IPO invalid (despite how impossible this scenario is). People are also murmuring that Anders Jensen has been having a guilt trip akin to serial killers. If the local and international investors did not slow down this IPO, Jensen definitely killed it like 007.

After all this why should local individual investors bite?

Update: It is now being officially reported that there are no international takers (good detective work huh?)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

An Excellent Opportunity for the Zealots of Branding

Many of you are probably aware of the fact that we are looking for ways to uplift our country image to the other nationals. Because when other nations think of Bangladesh they think of a poor, corrupted. racist country, which in fact we are not. Fortunately some people have understood the downside of having a bad image, and they stood up to depict a different side of Bangladesh to the world. Brandzeal, a leading brand consultancy firm of the country is quite vocal in this matter. I have personally worked for Brandzeal for the first Bangladesh Brand Forum as a student. And I attended the 2nd Bangladesh Brand Forum as a professional. And I have actually witnessed the zeal of branding this country and uphold the positive images of this country in those seminars. Besides Brandzeal is working a full-fledged brand consultancy firm which provides consultancy to several renowned firm in our country. The monthly publication of Brandzeal has become the HBR for the brand enthusiasts and professionals in Bangladesh. And recently Brandzeal ahs taken the commanding role by introducing Brand Award for the first time in Bangladesh, and so I can tell you strongly that in Bangladesh, Nokia is the best brand and Coca-cola is not even in top 20 list.

Now Brandzeal is offering a great opportunity to be part of its team and its endeavor to young, bright and energetic people like you, who have passion in branding and brand marketing. This is a good opportunity for those like to be the part of Bangladesh branding and numerous other projects Brandzeal is taking. I am sure many of you will be interested in this career, so I am posting it here. Click on the image on the right for details:

Blogs in contemporary Bangladesh

With the inception of Internet and the rocketing growth rate of Internet users in the country, Bangladesh is starting to see a new trend in sharing ones opinion to the mass called blogging. Although blogging is yet to be popularized like the traditional media, the growth rate shows that it has created a pool of Bangladeshis who love to express themselves online.

Moreover, in a dynamic informational era like ours, blogging can always be a fast complement to the traditional media for disseminating information, marketing products and services and even for different social activities.
In addition, its interactive nature gives way for people to connect to each other; share and understand different perceptions, and learn about the different con-current issues. For marketers, it can also be a touch point; a mode to inform consumers in details about product benefits especially for durable consumer goods. Blogs can, at the same time, be a great means for marketers to learn about and from consumers’ experience about their products and services. Moreover, for marketers who want to target into the niche market, blogging can be a very fine and effective communication means.

Although blogging has become a part of the mainstream western world; it is yet to create the same platform in Bangladesh. However, it has become a well-accepted notion within certain group of people and is slowly spreading its wing into the mainstream.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Hurdles of Credit and CEO

As the western countries try to grapple with consumer loans, Bangladesh is not immune especially our CEOs. As many are aware, the CEO of Standard Chartered, Osman Morad, (along with a StanChart exec) has an arrest warrant against them for hiring goons for loan recovery. Apart from the electronic media, no one reported it. How could they? This isn't considered news especially if it can endanger current and future patronage of many award shows, roundtables and exhibitions. But despite the self-censorship from the self-proclaimed stalwarts of freedom, the news spread like wildfire.

As for Osman Morad, he isn't going to lose his job anytime soon unlike Anders Jensen. Osman Morad is just too talented and experienced to step down or resign for 'family' reasons. But what inspired this daredevil attitude? He only had to look at Bangladesh's prosperous NGO sector (yes despite RMG, NGO is also a booming sector). NGOs are notorious for using goons and 'peer pressure' to force payments from clients and Morad went with the 'when in Rome' ideology. To his defense it was a Credit collection agency that did the actions but he was very much aware what tactics these agencies use. Worst is that he approved this use and no one knows the countless times they performed these atrocities before someone had the guts to sue them.

I am not an advocate of loan defaults, but there are proper and standardized ways of dealing with defaults instead of the widespread NGO tactics. Especially if it comes from a international banks. They wouldn't dare to harass anyone in the UK, so what makes Bangladesh different? In short it is the lack of clear and updated laws. The consumer credit laws leave both the creditor and client at risk from abuse. It does not define what is harassment and the process a client or creditor should take once a loan has been defaulted. There is no credit agency and the branch managers define credit-worthiness by looking at the way you dress.

A formalization of consumer credit procedures and rights should be passed as a new Act. This would ultimately get both NGOs and Standard Chartered to change their localized procedures. Then only can we get NGOs and Standard Chartered to treat us like humans.

Sue kar (part deux)...The Al Vida Chronicle

The situation is a bit messed up. Grameen Phone’s hot seat of the CEO is too hot to handle. No CEO can park his bottom on the seat for too long. Wickets keep on falling one after another. Now our good old friend Unders Pants Tansen also decides to quit the prestigious (?) job of heading Telenor’s most profitable venture in the world. Seeing this in the Doinik Norway, his friend and colleague Arse Norbor calls him up to investigate what happened.

Unders! God Morgen! What is this I am reading? Why the hell are you being a chicken damn it?
Arse, don’t be one please, I am not in a mood to play chicken with you….leave me alone
What leave me alone, Jeg savnet deg så mye! (I missed you so much) …do you realize what you are doing? This is Grameen my friend, this is where we have put all our focus on, this is from where we are channeling out most of the money, and this is where we might end up having a sovereign small state around Gulshan area you see…or start a TV channel by our name etc. So think before you throw…
I understand Arse, but I am too good looking to hang around in this city…I want to go to Hollywood…or atleast try Bollywood, many have tried, my Aussie cricketer friend Brett has also tried his luck there, so I want to follow suit.
Ahh…stop kidding Unders…I know for a fact that you are being a chicken….why are you giving such a knee jerk reaction to the fate of your StanChart friend Gasman Furad?
What do you mean…?
I mean what I mean…Gasman Furad is going to face an arrest…that stupid lady…Mafsana or something….sued StanChart and Gasman for that car loan thing…but what is this 'sue me sue you' culture building up there huh? That old noble bugger has set up a bad trend to follow for the people of Bangladesh…sue and become famous and put is in deep shit….so I think you are being afraid that someone will warrant an arrest for you too very soon…
Don’t talk non-sense, how many pints did you endure last night? Wake up….I am not afraid of anybody, I haven’t done any crime, why should I run away? Moreover, StanChart has a reputation any ways for eating up people’s money in the name of saving it up...poor Gasman…
But Unders, don’t you think you are planning to quit too early too soon, I mean keeping in view our special IPO cake that we are about to bake…its party time mate, time to blow up candles and make merry..don’t you realize?
I know..I know…but I can sense something like a big mess coming up in the guise of all this hoopla…so I think its better that I call it quits and join Bollywood…run around trees with Priyanka or Deepika and become a star..and sing Om Shanti Om.
You are…..any ways…but which means we will have to look for someone who will be put into that hot seat in your place…more work for us.
Doesn’t matter, give him some extra money before he comes so that he can pay some more fines for unforeseen activities we committed, you never know the mood of the Major General in BTRC.
Yeah…I know what you to you later
Chal chaley…apne ghar…ay mere…hamsafar… and now your Hindi prowess…
Al vida…al vida…ab kehna aur kya…jab maine keh diya…al vidaa…
Up your !@#$% (hang up)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

And the award goes to...?

Guess what…Bangladesh Corporate
Blog is proud to announce the annual Bangladesh Corporate Blog Award starting from December 2008. There will be a lavish program arranged at either Radisson Water Garden Hotel or BCFCC, there will be a host of business heavy-weights, celebrities and the award ceremony will be followed by electrifying cultural program, mouth-watering dinner and fashion show. We are already looking for sponsors for different items of the ceremony. Ki bujlen?

Whatever you might be thinking, let me apologize for this non-sense joke. I just wrote it to feel how it feels, it doesn’t feel bad though. But there are a few issues. I don’t know if you have recently noticed or not this latest trend in the corporate arena of Bangladesh, the culture of arranging award ceremonies.

This trend was perhaps set in by DHL and The Daily Star, whereby something called DHL-Daily Star Business Awards are given to various businesses and business personalities under different categories. More details are found here. Although the question always remained as to what makes DHL the best company to give such an award, it was also not clear who the panelists were and what were the selection criteria they were using to select the awardees. However DHL took heed of our previous post and changed their website accordingly (although they never said than k you). Nevertheless, I must wholeheartedly recognize the fact that the initiative is well appreciated and the intention is good. It just lacked some transparency in terms of processes. I also have another query trying to find out how many years of publication made the entertainment magazine Filmfare India worthy and eligible to be able to arrange Filmfare awards in India? One week, one month, one year, ten years…after how many years they thought that it’s a good time to start giving awards to people related to Bollywood? I don’t know.

But we notice that a few new entrants in the business literature industry of Bangladesh have already started arranging award ceremonies to honor the best brands, businesses, etc. even though it has not yet been even a year that the business magazine had hit the newsstands. So we wonder, as we do it best and ponder, what makes a company or a business magazine buckle up and start giving awards and why do they do so? Is it a marketing trick or stunt? Trying to appear as a think-tank and boddha in that field? A first mover advantage to silence other lips who might argue about the elite judge panel and their knowledge depth? There must be a reason…and as of now, the reason seems pretty unclear. Again a lot can be said about the super objective and the broad mission, but what else....when will the cat be out of the bag?

Following this suit, DCCI also decided to arrange another award ceremony. But still, it makes a bit more sense that a BMO like DCCI is arranging something like this, they are the apex body, they have been there for a good number of time (50 years as they claim) and the people they have on board know the rule of the game pretty well, no matter how they have actually played it.

So some joke time again, you know what, we are sad (sigh and yawn) that we are never invited to all these award ceremonies et al, incase we burp while eating...or make sounds with our cutleries..or don't dress well...or ogle at women around...or cheer loudly the band on stage or crack jokes at elderly successful businessmen....hehehe....or lest we corporate bloggers spot something bloggable and since unlike business journos, we don’t report news, we blog…and that makes certain people really unhappy and uncomfortable. Nevertheless, we set a vision to be able to arrange our own gala extravagant award ceremony in 2011 and honor our business stars and villains for their performances. And aboveall, we will make the process transparent, collaborative where consumers will be able to vote through SMS, call their preferred business-personalities and brands. The choice will be left to ordinary consumers like you and me, bidding au revoir to blue-blooded panelists and think-tanks. We don't need no education, we don't need no thought about that?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Are you a supporter of Dhaka Warriors?

Finally the Bengali Cricket players have done it, they have successfully managed to get foreign cricket league offer from ICL and rightfully, grabbed it. I am sure in any nation such movement will surely be cheered by all because it takes our small country name to global masses, but Bangladesh, always an exception. Instead of cheering, all have brought down all types of allegations against the players as to how irresponsible the players are resigning from BCB who took them to international level in the first place. My question is, are cricket players slave to BCB, or do they have a binding contract for life? If I am offered a better job elsewhere, it is solely my decision whether I want to avail it or not, similarly, ICL, a competing league to ICC offered these players better facilities and they opted for it, it is a very sensible decision on their part. In fact, I think the training and exposure they will get playing in ICL will be lot better than thelocal BCB training and playing village cricket back here. I am astonished to see the outrage of Bengali’s against the players, many have asked to strip them off their nationality because of leaving a job where they represent the country. Now I wonder, if a Government Service holder applies for DV Lottery, and gets it, do we declare him a traitor to the country and strip him off from nationality? Our Cricket players are representatives of our country, true, but how exactly do they represent some other country considering they are playing for a team named Dhaka Warriors? To add more, those who are not supporting the players movement, does that mean that these non supporters will keep their TV off and not watch Dhaka warriors, and also not Cheer any success stories of this Bangladeshi Team? When the game will be on, all will forget the outrage and will tune on to the game cheering, I wonder, why all the negativity now, but for me, go warriors go.
Its also interesting to see the recent move taken by the Sri Lankan cricket board regarding their players who had joined ICL. Keeping in view all these, better not forget that cricket remains a big business for the sponsor companies in the region. I wonder what the corporates associated with our cricket are thinking of this development in the landscape, are they planning to change their association with the team, or is it life as usual for them or they prefer to keep quiet for a while? Lets see.
Mahboob Hossain

Friday, September 19, 2008

What is the religion of your company?

I remember during the admission test at Notre Dame College way back in mid 90s, we were given a booklet along with the application form which we were supposed to go through as part of the preparation process for the test. The book contained the background of establishing the college, along with some fine description about the Christian faith, the ideologies etc. I came to know more in detail in Bangla language who 'probhu jishu' and 'mata Mary' were and how they are related to my admission into the best college in Bangladesh. I cleared the test well and I got enrolled there too. Other than having received quality education from the best teachers during that time, I also came to know about various charity works the college was undertaking, such as work for education program, where I found many students, mostly tribal people, who work for the college in exchange of free education. Gradually, I also came to know about the mission's religious objectives which underpinned the quality social service and top class education. So much so for Notre Dame College, missionary schools are much better performers not only in Bangladesh but also across other regions in South Asia too. Holy Cross, St. Joseph, St. Gregory school are only a few to name in Bangladesh.

I was remembering all this when I found a strange similarity with this in a few of the country's leading freight forwarding companies such as DHL and Homebound. There seems to be a great number of management staff and ordinary employees belonging to a particular minority religion of Bangladesh. Initially I thought this to be a sheer coincidence, but after some careful observation, I realized that its beyond coincidence. I am ofcourse not leading to any sensitive argument here, but just a curious onlookers query...are there any employment quota in these companies based on a person's religious faith? I guess pretty much everybody knows that in Notre Dame College, there were quotas (I am not sure if there still are any) but does DHL and Homebound follow anything like that? Also, the kind of expression of religious loyalty (posters, statues, paintings) seen in their office premises makes the issue more interesting. I have decided to visit the offices of Islami Bank to find out if they have hung big pictures of Kaaba , Mecca, Medina on their walls or not, perhaps after that, we can start terming this phenomenon as 'corporate religion' in Bangladesh. Say Islami Bank is a Muslim company, HSBC and Grameen Phone are secular companies, ZTE and Huawei are Chinese Buddhist companies and DHL, Homebound are Christian companies. Sounds weird though, very weird. What is your take on this?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Interview by the vampire of the blogpire

Mr. Vampire Hassan, a prominent Bangladeshi business journalist, takes interview of Mr. Blogpire (pronounced blog pyre), an active business blogger on the 14th day of September, 2008, at the latter’s den from undisclosed location in Dhaka.

Slamalikum Blogpire Bhai, its good to have you with me in this interview.
--Walaikumslaam, Vampy, yes its nice to be on air…I mean on internet.
So tell me blogpire Bhai, why are you called so?
--As you are a vampire and suck blood of Bangladeshi companies on print media, I sometimes kick a** (beep beep) and kiss a** (beep beep) of the same people on internet, specifically on Bangladesh Corporate Blog.
Right….but why do you use such slangs? Your posts might be read by young innocent children and cultured people.
--Actually I write what I speak and what I think, it does not go under the editorial censorship, as in newspapers and business magazines, so you have the raw opinion right from the horse’s mouth. However, I try not to cross the line. We discourage taking names, talking about religion, politics etc.
So…how do you feel when you meet the companies you blog about?
--I feel good as I am undercover, I still haven’t appeared on the cover page of Time Magazine, people don’t know who I am, its fine that way…as I believe there are too many one-man shows and me-too gurus of this and that and the number is growing…I give more emphasis on the point of view rather than on the person….a few people know however who I am, my friends in Facebook, my wife, my dog, neighbors, landlord, etc.
How about your employer? I mean do you work at all?
--Ofcourse I work, for somebody else, but no, my employer does not know that I spit fire and stir up controversies and say what I see about Bangladeshi companies in the blog.
I see…so how do you differentiate Bangladesh Corporate Blog with established business journalism platforms such as business newspapers, magazines such as Brand Forum, Executive Times etc…
--Well, first of all, since we are still a not-for-profit entity, we are not liable to any sort of advertisement commitments from sponsors, we have a disclaimer put up in the blog to safeguard our own skin, the traditional media is liable and responsible for what they write. Moreover, those newspapers and magazines are run by so-called heavy-weights and think-tanks who know that they know and so they can’t help but let us know always. But here, it’s the other way round, since we don’t know much, we ask and the whole world lets us know, so its kind of collaborative learning we are doing about the Bangladeshi businesses, brands and companies here.
Well…you seem to be a rebel when it comes to one-man-preaching on business issues of Bangladesh…do you have a problem with that?
--Not a problem…but a discomfort, Bangladesh Corporate Blog is a teamwork…and I find it funny when the new-found gurus find it hard to move around due to the weight of their so called know-how about branding, sales, advertisements and other domains of businesses in Bangladesh, as if they have just advised Eric and Larry to change the name of Google to Hagoo-gle. ROTFL.
So who do you want to encourage to become business bloggers?
--Students ofcourse…as they so many times talk about these issues informally any ways. Business executives can also blog about their businesses, companies but that culture is yet to set in in Bangladesh. But we are working on it. We have already started consulting a few companies here about the benefits of business blogging and how it can boost a company’s internet marketing strategy. That would be our commercial services.
Great…well I guess that was quite a good first meet interview…however since its nearly midnight, I need to fly back to my desktop to spot my next victim to suck blood…
--O who will it be this time? BRAC Bank or Grameen Phone?
You will see in day after tomorrow’s newspaper then…
--Fine…happy vampiring.
Thanks..happy Bangladesh Corporate Blogging.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

How may I help you? vs. Ki bepare ashchen?

It might not be Customer Service month, but i had an interesting experience recently at a bank and thought i would share it with other fellow bloggers. Appreciate your feedback and comments.
Best Regards,
The other day I was headed to one of the Foreign Banks in Bangladesh where I maintain an account. Given my tight work schedule and the banks operating hours, it becomes quite a challenge for me to do any banking. The only time I manage to drop in is usually at about 9:00 AM in the morning. One particular morning I managed to get to the bank at about 8:45 AM. At the entrance I was greeted by a ill-mannered security guard who exclaimed "You cant enter the bank before 9:00 AM". I stood out for the next twenty minutes watching the banks employees arrive one after another. The security guard eventually opened the gate at about 9:05. I took a seat at the front desk where I waited unattended. A few minutes later, a lady arrived at the scene with this "I am having a bad day frown" and asked "Ki Bapare Ashchen?" I was astonished!

In an identical scenario a few months back at around the same time in a bank in Colombo, Sri Lanka, something different happened. A bank teller who spotted me waiting outside summoned the security guard to open the door, after which he welcomed me in. There were warm smiles from all corners of the room. I was delighted at this red carpet treatment. What followed was even more remarkable. Shortly, the same teller accompanied me to come to the counter where he processed my request, and this was done at 8:50 AM when the bank was still not open. I walked out with a smile. What a way to start the day. The bank had exceeded my expectations not once but twice.

"Ki Bapare Ashchen" seems to be a very common phrase wherever you go in Bangladesh be it private, public or even a foreign owned enterprise. We Bangladeshis claim to be such friendly, warm people. In fact even if there is one thing that foreign tourists are full of praise about us is our hospitability. However in the instances such as the scenario I described above we seem to tend to forget about who we really are.

Customer Service is a widely misunderstood and misused concept in Bangladesh. Service level is not just delivered at the transaction stage and after sales stage of a product or service- rather across all customer touch points. In today's era of commoditization and emergence of me-too culture, service quality can be a key differentiator. It's unfortunate that very few companies in Bangladesh see such potential in service. Theodore Levitt once said "There is no such thing as service industries. There are only industries whose service components are greater or less than those of other industries. Everybody is in Service."

In one of his books, Philip Kotler explained the importance of three F's of service marketing: fast, flexible and friendly. He states any company can use these three F's as a base to develop appropriate service levels. Meeting your customers expectations is good, exceeding it is will take you one step closer to greatness. It's a small world out there, satisfied customers can give your business an unexpected leverage, while you are busy spending heaps on other marcom channels. Still convinced about your customer service? Try giving a call to your customer service helpline asking about an unusual problem? Better get a tough friend to do some mystery shopping. You will be surprised. So the next time you meet a customer or a prospect, smile and say "How may I help you?" Remember Peter Drucker's famous line, your business is all about other people's money. Be nice!
Jeeshan Mirza

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sue kar (ke) mere man ko kiya tu ne kya ishaara...

Setting up the stage:

Meet Arse Norbor (A fictitious name of a official high-up representing a leading Norwegian telecom company having operations in Bangladesh, infact Bangladesh's operations are its most profitable venture). Arse has been very tensed lately, due to worldwide increasing media coverage regarding the tussle between his great company and the grey-haired old man from the third world country. Even today's news in the Bangladeshi newspaper The Daily Star made him spill his coffee over his neatly ironed shirt. He felt extremely pissed off and decided to call up his colleague Underspants Tansen, CEO of the Bangladesh operations, in Bangladesh to find out about this mess.

Arse: God morgen Underspants! Although I am sure its not as good a morning as you might expect it to be.
Underspants: God morgen Arse, you are such an Arse anyways, why are you bothering me so early in the morning?
Arse: Because you need to be bothered, as you don't seem to be doing much to make that old bugger happy and happily silent...
Underspants: What are you talking about? Jeg forstår ( I don't understand)
Arse: Min norskblå papegøye er dessverre død! (My Norwegian blue parrot is unfortunately dead!), or it is going to be...because of that silly old man! He says he is going to sue us, for allegations of violating deal, money-laundering, breach of laws...he speaks quite a mouthful doesn't he?
Underspants: Oh I see...oh I sue...he is going to suesue...haha..such a stupid Bangla word this 'susu' is.., anyways...that bugger again, I wonder why bad news don't stop chasing us, already neck-deep under the fine sea of fines for the VoIP shit, thanks to Dhola Bee and Terik this new 'apod' comes up...
Arse: Apod..what apod, what is apod? What makes you talk about your iPod? Wake up you stu...
Underspants: Not iPod you dumb fool...'apod' is a Bangla word, a slang, its not exactly 'bipod', which means danger in true sense, 'apod' is somewhat closer, but more of an irritating nature rather than an intimidating one...
Arse: Enough of your linguistic skills, why is the old man still not happy? Was the Nobel prize not enough for him? What else does he want? Not a single leaf moves without an intent, anything in the corporate world is done with a profit motive, Nobel was perhaps not an exception. We tried our best to convince the Swedes to consider this guy for the Nobel, otherwise why on earth we would give such a prize to someone who belongs to a country more known for floods, famine and fanatics! And look at him, he can't even stop smiling in front of the camera, I thought he was going to be a model for Telenor branded toothpastes around the world, or atleast in Bangladesh in near future.
Underspants: I have an idea...kaachey thakun..daat majun....Stay close and brush your teeth! lol
Arse: Shut and your local lingo...the old man is forgetting the deal we had earlier here, we have reasons for putting all our stakes on him, because we want to squeeze out the last drop of profit from that market, at any cost, what else is there better than this Nobel prize? He seems to have become greedier....but we can't afford to let go this juicy fleshy cash cow to the hands of the so called poor, women and all those development sector, micro-credit jazz out there in Bangladesh. So buckle up and tame this guy who seemed to have too much of a limelight and fame lately.
Underspants: eg har ikke gjort noe galt (I haven't done anything wrong)...OK lets see what I can do about this guy, he is even too old to go for a holiday in Mauritius, or even to get a property in please check if there are any more awards left to feed him. I remember I told him once..."Yunus, remember mate...that its not only Yunus...its Yu n and we are be nice ok?".
Arse: OK...but be quick, we don't want the whole world to read this...Hade! (Goodbye)
Underspants: Hade na beta...pura fandey...!
Arse: Stop your Bangla slangs on me...get up and get working. Bye
Underspants: Bye!

(To be continued)