First, fast, furious...Bangladeshi business blog

We provide
--social media strategies for Bangladeshi businesses worldwide
--public speaking on Bangladeshi businesses and social media
--paid product/service/website reviews of Bangladeshi companies

Interested to place an advertisement for your business?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Strategic migration for Bangladeshi climate refugees

So we have got another great opportunity to get some more funds now! This time its under the guise of the hottest topic on earth--Climate Change. Bangladesh has sought 5 billion US dollars from the developed countries in compensation as an affected country due to climate change caused by global warming. Read here to know more.

I would rather not talk about foreign direct investments or development funds that have been arriving to the country since independence. We all are pretty much aware how much of that inbound foreign currency, grant, aid, fund (whatever you call it) have been channelled to build religious establishments, fill up personal pockets of corrupt politicians and bureaucreats and how much of that have exactly been applied to achieve mass development objectives. I am sure getting fresh funds from developed nations would help to a great extent in building dams for protection against rising sea level or for increased forestation etc. But is it not obvious that its a competition against nature at its worst case? How much fund do we need to stop the fury and whims of mother nature from being unleashed on our naturally vulnerable piece of land?

Certainly the big brothers around and away have contributed a lot to the overall deterioration in the climate change status, but lets not forget the mindless urban planning (or no planning) and lack of environmental laws and their implementation which are any ways so rampant all around Bangladesh. Unless we take care of our own backyard first and foremost, no amount of fund will be able to stop the ever increasing leak in our ship. Moreover, we are not very sure about our captains at helm, its very likely that with these funds to fight climate change, they will fight personal 'poverty' and safeguard their own sending their offsprings to 'safer' locations abroad for study and settlement. To wash off the lifelong accummulated sins, they might however establish a three star mosque or madrasa somewhere in their native village. As they make merry with the fresh funds yet again, the whole country would keep on waking up with unexpected earth-quakes, more frequent thunderstorms, colder and shorter winter and hotter and longer summers. Who cares?

I mentioned something called 'Strategic migration' in one of my earlier posts. A visitor jokingly also argued that what else to expect from a business graduate of strategic management (that is me). I think its time again that we revive this concept and find out how we can link the concept of climate refugees and Bangladeshi export-ready manpower to 'strategic migration'. The claim is simple. We do want free compensation..or fresh funds..whatever you call it. However, I am sick and tired of getting free alms which almost always go down the drain (or personal pockets and fortunes). Let the deal be fair.....we will train our manpower to serve your foreign labor markets, we will take care of all legal and social coverage return we demand preference in overseas recruitment selection and eventual settlement in foreign territories, provided the incumbent meets criteria set and agreed by host and source countries. The idea is to convert potential climate refugees from burden to skilled workforce and help them get (either local) job assignments in countries which are held culprit for the climate change fiasco. In other words, if a time arises that 5,000 people are displaced due to rising tidal waves in Satkhira district, they need to be labelled formally as 'climate refugees' first. These people are free to move to higher lands or even to capital to seek for security of life and food. They need to be trained and made export ready to countries which are primarily responsible for global warming.However I am aware of the fact that many of our creative countrymen would be up and running to label themselves in unthinkable ways as 'climate refugee's to get a passport out of the sinking delta. I am afraid of our own spoilsports.

However all this sounds a bit like fairytale and as if I am on drugs right? Well, atleast no more fairytales from politicians. Lets plan something which is sustainable and linked to local context. Instead of being wary of a half sunk Bangladesh and 150 million plus people crammed in the northern highlands of the country, lets think of ways how we can ride the right wave to strategically migrate some semi-skilled, skilled climate refugees outside Bangladesh.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Do an identity check for your brand online

There was a time in mid 90s that me and some of my techno-guru friends got excited about starting a domain name business. Plain and simple... you keep on buying domain names of prospective big companies of Bangladesh with the hope of selling it to them in future in higher prices, provided if they would ever wake up from sleep to get a website for their brand name, business etc.

Certainly unethical and a bit risky venture it was, but we did realise that not only company domains but also city domains were still up for grabs. For example, in 1995, domains like,,, etc. (major divisional headquarters) were available. We could sense money in the making and started all out efforts to start this 'business' at any cost. We started making lengthy lists of potential 'target' companies, establishments who had no clue then what even websites were and why would they need one. We were excited to experience the desktop based reach of this 'business' and the chance of getting rich overnight.

However, it was no question of ethics or legality that constrained us from launching our venture in the long run. We experienced 'entrepreneurial hiccups' due to three major setbacks. Firstly, none of us had any foreign credit cards with which to buy the domain names online. Secondly, there were not many among our network of relatives or 'boro bhais' who used to possess a prized international credit card. Lastly, some uncles and contacts who happened to possess credit cards did not have any idea what this 'domain business' was all about, so they were extremely reluctant to leak their sensitive credit card information to a bunch of part time neighbourhood troublemakers (us) and they were petrified to learn that the transaction would take place over the internet. So end of our business venture. We got back to discussing higher education, Bangladeshi politics, band music and girls.

Recently with the advent of Twitter, many similar ID or name hijackers seem to have 'booked' Twitter user names for some Bangladesh brands. Check out the Twitter accounts for Grameenphone, Banglalink, Grameen (with Yunus' photo), Aktel, Citycell, bdjobs etc. 'Ke ba kahara' seem to have very cleverly reserved the unique user names perhaps hoping that they can reach to a deal with those companies to bargain for those Twitter accounts. The use of Twitter among businesses is increasing in leaps and bounds in the west and its a matter of time when Bangladeshi brands, and celebrities will catch the Twitter fever. Its also possible that some of these 'reserved' but dead Twitter accounts might be owned by genuine employees from the company, they just haven't figured out what to do with it yet.

However, to spoil the party of the 'name kidnappers', Twitter has recently made some changes in its policies. Read them here. This means that the party is over for those who might want to reserve the brand names or operate them with fake tweets. On the other hand, I am not aware of many companies actively pursuing any social media strategy to engage the Bangladeshi consumers, both at home and abroad. So perhaps they are either not aware or don't bother if their brand identities are being hijacked online. Every one out of five internet users of Bangladesh has an account in Facebook for example, and I am not sure if any traditional market research, media research company have taken up any survey on the use of social media among various age groups in Bangladesh and how the businesses can make use of new media to connect their brand with the netsumers. The opportunities are vast how social media blended with mobile phones can change business dynamics in Bangladesh. Please don't wait for foreign think-tanks to come to Radisson and tell you that.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Many of us look down on stock market investment

Why middle class of our society, so called educated people, are reluctant to be part of Stock Market even with a little bit of investment interest and moreover, look down those who invest? If you are investor and want to discuss with your buddy or dear friends, unexpectedly you will be discouraged by them. Didn't happen to you? You bet, I have faced such a situation many times, even my own family members don't show any interest of investing in the stock market rather they discourage in a way that investing in stock market is not a decent earning source and considered as gambling or "Haram". How do you change their attitude toward stock market role in our society and get them to be part of investment in a stock market?

Selling shares through a stock exchange is way companies get funded because a starter company eventually ends up needing more money to take the business to the next phase. As a company enlists to the stock exchange which requires, actually mandatory, to unfold everything to the public, such as earning statement, purpose of raising money, types of products or services, company's news, company's activities in terms of community help. Basically, one has a full access all these evaluating a company whether their products or services are unethical or not. This is how a company goes public by issuing IPOs certification, once it happens, no individual person owns the company, but only individual and institutional investors collectively by owning shares. Stock Exchange reserves "rights" for investors those who own shares and earn a piece of a company to judge a company with their moral standard and evaluate the worth of a company openly in the fair market place. It is a process of supply and demand of the stock of a company, opposite of fixed price system, which determines the price of a specific company openly by investors. Also, investors are welcome to express opinions of a company in a general meeting or maybe through an electronic media to hold managers accountable for any wrong doing.

Having all these transparence information of a company, an investor can decide which company has a great prospect of growth by analyzing past earnings per share, revenues growth, pioneer of a business, new innovative ideas, performance base management group, new business deal and many others. Other day-traders like to use daily trade volumes of a company, and its chart to speculate a share price which is completely bas
ed on individual preferences. There is no "hard role of fix price practice" in stock market system, all the information is given as transparent to all investors, and any decision is perceived on buying or selling stocks is individual preferences. All the goods and services provided by companies are absolutely essential and productive to our society for advancement. Yours every taka buying a share goes to producing either products or services-they are great part of leading the society advancement.

Stock exchange is a most vital role player for a country's economy and instrumental raising money directly from public which, of course, has a great purpose of assisting a company to expand businesses and grow its potential in a competitive free market system that will not only provide excellent services, innovative, durable products but also most competitive reasonable prices for the interest of the consumers, such a role in the growth of the industry or commerce of a country that eventually affects the economy of a
country to a great extent. Economists consider Stock Market as an economic indicator of how well a country's economy is doing. In many studies show, the rise of value of stocks and value of corporate equities in a stock market enhances growing Country's GDP. However, economy and value of capital market are not purely correlated in a same growth rate but they are much more parallel in same direction. The studies also show based on collected data on 47 countries from 1976 to 1993 that banking and stock market size, volatility and integration with world capital market accelerate the current and future rates of economic growth, productivity growth and they are robustly correlated to GDP.

Recent economic crisis is a good example of how much stock markets around the world affected going downward slide which simply explains that economic expansion affects the stock market to go upward and while economic contraction, so call
ed recession, causes the stock market to shrink. As a market going downward reduces wealth as well as stock market equities that cause further reducing GDP.

It is time to let go old ideas or beliefs and go beyond conventional wisdom for constructive thinking and finding opportunities in every a
spect of investment. Stock market investment is much controllable and easy access in terms of buying or selling shares instantly with a little amount of money and less hassle than investment in real-estate, gold and fixed deposit in the Bank.Here is a chart shows how GDP and the value of corporate equities relationship (Source: Congressional Budget Office. )

Kabir Ahmed

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Corporate Social Boogie Joogie

A telecom operator has recently announced to distribute 12,000 school bags to under-priveleged school goers under the auspicious banner of Corporate Social Responsibility. Our imaginary blogporter (blogging reporter) Apod Akkas smells a rat and intercepts a conversation between Puneer Koroki and the Arab master of Khabi group Al Bakri Al Sheikh Al Khabi from Abu Dhabi. Resemblance to the whole or part of this conversation or character to any living being is purely coincidental and accidental.

Al Khabi: Kaifa haaluka ya habibi! How are you Koroki my dear friend? I have a good news to share with you from the jewel of the desert.

Koroki: Ahlan wasahlan bhaijaan, I am good, change in BTRC, so adjusting to new games. What is the good news Al Khabi?

AK: We have around 12,000 pieces of school bags which never got exported to London due to defects, bloody Europeans, they have an eye of an eagle. So our shipment got rejected and now they are sitting on our laps for a while now. I had a great plan that if we send them over to you to the Miskeeniya, you can rewrap 'em, distribute 'em to street kids or somethin' and make it look like how is that for a plan?

PK: Kya idea hain sirji !! I don't understand how can you come up with such bright ideas by smoking mere sheesha....brilliant. But boss, is that CSR actually? I mean it sounds more like a charity, is it a CSR?

AK: Koroki...your problem is you think too much...have a look at the market you are doing business in...who would bother whether its CSR or the end of the day...its corporate stunts and you need to play your role in there sweet boy! If no one is asking too many questions...don't give too many answers.

PK: Shukran does it mean that when you will get excess garments, medicine, expired dates and ator...would you send them over to us to distribute under the great banner of CSR?

AK: Precisely...every other foreign company in that country is doing it....rejected medicines might get distributed for free as CSR, excess and defected garments might be distributed during winter by your competitors as CSR...who long there are 'blue fan' or 'tiger stripes'...they will feed to media as CSR.

PK: OK janaab...I will make sure that business gurus don't think too much about it and create a fuss...after all they have to make sure that their business students get jobs in our companies...also our ad budgets are enough to keep mouths silent for a while.... Moreover we have done true CSR when we got our licences anyways!

Blogporter Apod Akkas comments that many companies in Bangladesh have perfectly confused the audience with acts of charity, donation and corporate social responsibility. Whereas charity, donations, corporate gifts are supposed to be generous, one off actions by companies to contribute to a social cause, which might not have any relevance to the core business model of the company. On the other hand, CSR is supposed to have a direct relevance and link to the company's business objectives and model, it has to be sustainable over a period of time as well. For example, British American Tobacco knows very well that with their product, they are not only messing up your lungs but also messing up the environment with air pollution too. So when they decide to plant trees to 'save environment' it makes sense. Similarly when Grameen Phone opens up Community Information Centers all across Bangladesh, it relates very closely to their core business of selling air time. They are only using the same technology to create entrepreneurship in rural Bangladesh, allowing access to internet and digital services along with providing basic mobile telephony services. So this act of CSR has a profit motive in the long run but can be safely assumed as a CSR stunt.

Apod Akkas and his other two colleagues iPod Iblis and Bipod Bablu question how the act of distributing school bags are termed as CSR. Although the original news claims that the bags were recycled under a 'waste to asset' scheme, they believe that its pure and perfect corporate hogwash....bhaloi diya gelen! Unless the consumer are aware enough, some companies will still continue with these corporate social boogie-joogie.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Retail Love: Free Bus Service

As a shorts-donning young boy, I used to ask my lungi-donning abba, "If we ever go wearing this to Sonargaon hotel, will they let us in?". Abba used to casually and confidently reply, "If we go wearing a lungi, they might put us in a special cell and never let us in there. But with shorts, you might get in". Same with cars and baby-taxis (CNGs!) I guess. I always used to think that if I ever end up at Hotel Sonargaon by a baby-taxi, the gatekeepers of the then posh hotel would not give me as warm a welcome as I would get if I would have got off a car. One day our pilot Shafiq (our chauffeur) was asked to carry out the week's grocery shopping from Nandan. As a preparation, he then decided to shed his lungi and put on trousers instead, he also insisted that he be allowed to take the car along with him. Upon asking why this ornamental preparation for merely doing a grocery shopping at Nandan, he replied "Bhaiya oigula borolok er jayga, lungi poira ar haita gele dhukte dibo na" (Bro those are places where the well-off shop, they won't let me in if I walk in and that in a lungi'). Funny how even big retail malls such as Nandan might have a perception of being as posh and exclusive as five star hotels, barring entry to those who don't comply with unwritten dress codes or vehicle status quo (no car no entry...wearing lungi no entry).

I wish how nice it would be if Nandan or Agora could come up with their branded mini-buses to ferry customers from different locations of the city (or even from outskirts) straight at the doorstep of their respective retail fortresses. If they are wary of the fact that there are too many free-ride lovers in Dhaka city who might take them for a ride by travelling in the vehicle to go to other destinations or disappearing from the entrances, then they can atleast provide free transport (as free love from the brand) to those customers who have just finished shopping and are waiting frustratingly on the streets to convince a CNG or a stubborn yellow cabbie to take them back to their destinations loaded with a whole range of shopping bags. So say for example a bus could run from the Rifle's Square branch of Agora every 30 minutes to cover areas such as Dhanmondi and Mirpur and selected points en route. Similarly another bus can cover the Gulshan branch and areas such as Uttara or even Gazipur. Shoppers who have made a purchase of a minimum amount (say 100 Taka) míght qualify to get on the buses by showing their proof of purchase.

I think the feeling that the brand cares for the customer even after they are done with the shopping is of great importance. Customers without any private vehicles can shop happily and heavily without the anxiety of how to get back home through the horrifying traffic jams of Dhaka city, worse even if the weather is bad too. As their favorite retail shop has air-conditioned mini-buses stand by every half an hour to ferry them for free.

Ikea, the giant world famous retailer of house-hold products provides similar service all around the world to its customers for free and this act of free love from the brand is well appreciated by its customers. As we see branded mini-buses from leading telcos in the city ferrying their employees, we stare and try to see the faces through the tinted glasses of the priveleged employees and wonder how nice it must be to work in those companies. Similarly we will stare at Nandan or Agora branded mini-buses filled with happy customers and keep wondering how nice it must be to shop at those places. Even if the retail shops take you for a ride in terms of product prices, atleast they would offer you a free ride back home with all the shopping. Also, from outside, no one can figure out if the customers had a private car or not, or wearing a lungi or trouser. Provided they let us in in the first place in a lungi, rest can be a happy experience till the end.