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Monday, October 26, 2009

Bangladeshi owned Indian Restaurants in the UK : a brand crying for renaming

I think its high time we stop hiring bigger country labels from the neighbourhood to promote our businesses, which has been built up over the last few decades by our very own sweat, tears and hardwork…all in the shape of the £4 billion curry industry in Britain. Read here to find out how Bangladeshi businessmen brought the British curry industry to where it is today. Also, please read the latest news article here to find out about potential ‘revenue avenues’ we could reap from this industry.
However amidst all this merrymaking, my thoughts lie elsewhere. I ask myself,

1. Would this industry be in its present place if it were without the bold and brazen ‘brand India’ label sitting proudly on the signboards outside those 12000+ restaurants?
2. Now that the contribution of British-Bangladeshis to the UK economy is getting noticed and acknowledged day by day, can we risk stripping off the hired country brand from those signboards? Will this have any negative impact on the brand loyalty, brand perception etc. for those resturants?

Some scattered incidents, trying to relate them somehow.

You will get to see only a few restaurants in the UK which proudly claims in its exterior that it serves ‘Bangladeshi cuisine’, notably Kolapata in Whitechapel is one of the very few and some others in Bricklane. Ofcourse they don’t serve any Indian (North Indian to be more precise) food there and what they serve is much closer to what we actually eat in Bangladesh. Now its also true that we eat a lot of North Indian food too in our day to day occasions, but when it comes to doing food business overseas, are we letting go an opportunity to uphold the country’s brand (Bangladesh that is) or we are rightly giving the due credit to the actual originator of the food (India), even though the lion’s share of the business are held by Bangladeshis? I don’t know. Please also note that the report in successfully and tactfully avoids the term ‘India’ or ‘Indian restaurants’.

My colleague once shared a ‘bitter’ experience he once had during his trip to Delhi a few years ago. In a bustling South Delhi restaurant, he once asked the waiter to bring in a ‘balti cuisine’, much to the confusion and uncertainty of the young Indian waiter who had no freaking clue what the white (nearly pink), fat, grey-haired British man was willing to eat. He explained meticulously that it’s that special type of pot in which he used to get served Chicken Tikka Masala in the Indian restaurant in Finchley Road in North London! He was also rather embarrassed thinking of any potential cultural gaffe he could have committed. The waiter remained indifferent to ‘balti’, thinking of how the shower tool ended up on the bewakoof gorey’s table in London. He could however receive well the Chicken Tikka Masala bit and moved on to serve him that, ofcourse not in any ‘balti’ or ‘bodna’ (no Wikipedia entry for ‘bodna’ yet) but on a simple brass made plate.

Moral of the story is, what they eat in North India is not actually what is served generally in the Bangladeshi owned Indian restaurants. Its somehow a mix of whatever that is, a best effort perhaps. It could be because of the fact that none of the chefs or their ancestors were born in or hail from North India, rather they are from the Golden Bengal, from the coast of the mighty Meghna, Surma, Kushiara..United Kingdom of Sylhet that is. Now whether they claim themselves to be Silotis first and foremost and are different from Bangalees/Bangladeshis would require a different blog post from this end. Its very likely they, like you and me, have been fed and bred on a lot of rice, fish, bhorta, dal, shatkora etc. and not on chapati, roti, and the curry-vaganza every day. Nevertheless, these businessmen have certainly brought about a revolution to the curry industry in the UK with their hardwork. Its good that the British government appreciates this fact, but I am sure that the British-Bangladeshi chefs don’t recceive any formal ‘thank you’ from the Indian High Commission in the UK or the diaspora, as other than ensuring a livelihood for themselves, they have ended up pumping up a different country’s brand muscle in the end of the day. I have come across a few Indian restaurants trying to woo European customers claiming that they ‘are not fake Indian restaurants (restaurants owned by Bangladeshis claiming to be serving Indian food) and they serve true Indian food…the taste of India!’. Now what do you say to that?

Amidst all this mud-throwing…balti-throwing etc. between country brand names, I think we should not spoil the food, or let it go cold and stale. In my opinion, the time is here to call a spade a spade. What would possibly go wrong if 12000+ Bangladeshi owned ‘Indian’ restaurants in the UK would decide to put the name of the red and green on the face of their businesses? Food fanatics can go fasting unto death that that food is not actually ‘Bangladeshi then’, but aren’t we in a good position to override those facts and establish the brand Bangladesh on 12000+ physical establishments in the UK? You call it a brand hijack or whatever, I am still all up for it. If the Bangladeshi businessmen were the first ones to have taught the British how to taste curry (Indian curry that is), then I am sure they can be frontiers to treat the British tastebuds to something more authentic, genuine, unique and truly ours….a dose not of dosa…but that of bhorta, dal, bhaat and the likes. Gelam. Khida lege gese.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

New TV Channels for Bangladeshi media...what about businesses?

Congratulations! We have 10 more new TV channels vying for some space in our television sets and living rooms. Check out the list here to find out what these new channels are called and who the 'visionaries' are behind setting up these.
Personally I have got over those days when we used to follow McGyver or Ayomoy or any other Humayun Ahmed drama serials in the Bangladesh Tele Vision (BTV), as we as viewers did not have any other choice. Until the day when satellite TV made its entry and till now when we have a plethora of TV channels springing up, imagine how fragmented our attention has become and how shorter our attention span is becoming day by day. How many programs you actually follow in one or more Bangladeshi channels these days which is sticky enough to make you come back and follow it week after week? Ofcourse I am not against allowing newer TV channels to come up, its just that the trend shows the genre of people who are setting these up, what their agenda might be in future and the audience they are going to target soon with their broadcasting prowess.

Its all either ruling party or opposition politicians, controversial businessmen who have cases of corruption and political affiliations against them or religious opinion leaders who have the required money and the contacts to come up with new TV channels. It reflects the general interest of viewership of our audience perhaps, or the intention of those who are in power and who hold the money to influence that viewership. So we get to watch a lot of political talk shows, religious shows and a whole range of drama serials pretty much based on same plots and banalities.

What is still missing from this rising trend of TV channels is undoubtedly any dedicated source of information, edutainment and infotainment based on business topics of Bangladesh. Wonder if its too early to dream of a TV channel promoting Bangladeshi business issues, entrepreneurship, innovation, achievements, skills development shows, company profiles, business debates, corporate culture shows, interviews of business champions, entrepreneurs etc. Is it too early to ask for a special focus on Bangladeshi corporates and brands in the form of a full fledged TV channel? With half of the population full of young and would be business leaders and entrepreneurs, do you think there is no market for such a channel?

Its common knowledge that the media of a country plays a pivotal role in shaping up the national psyche of a nation. First and foremost emphasis on politics, religion and entertainment only are required ofcourse to fill up the whole gamut of services, however, I wonder why Bangladesh corporate would be deemed so negligible so as not to deserve any attention in terms of a specialised media channel? Its imperative that we make use of the media (traditional and new) to raise awareness of our business topics, brands, culture, challenges and opportunities and make it cross the border please.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Would David Rowe get a job in Bangladesh?

Some claimed that economic recession was the best time for innovation, to have a fresh look at things, new ways of doing old stuff. Now that included the way you used to hunt for jobs too. With so many people losing jobs everyday across the western world, many still thought to be innovative in the way they go about looking for a suitable career in these times of uncertainty. David Rowe, a graduate of University of Kent, pulled out a publicity stunt for himself by posing as a mobile billboard seeking a job in the busy streets of London. He was even offering would be employers free employment for the first month so that they could ‘try’ him before paying or firing him. Times are hard and so are getting jobs.

However, his stunt seemed to have paid off finally as he has recently been landed a job at JCDecaux, one of the largest outdoor ad companies of the world, after the Managing Director of the company spotted him in the street ‘self-advertising’ for a job. The angelic MD thought that the way David had promoted and branded himself against all odds, taking advantage of the right context and right times (recession) was unique and innovative. He believes that David could be a good asset for his company as he has innovative advertising skills. So far so good for David.

Remember warning signs in some stunt related TV serials which says ‘Don’t try this at home!!’? I wonder if any desperate souls ever try this at Mohakhali flyover or in the busy streets of Motijheel, what the reaction would be? We are a curious nation by birth…we gather around any gathering even if all might be gazing at vaccum, or a Sony TV showroom or anything unusual in the streets of Dhaka. So if someone ever attempts similar stunts in the quest to look for a job, rest assured there would be a good number of curious onlookers, passersby, sympathisers around him (or her?). Who knows such an act might incite the likes of Munni Saha and gang to show up for a spot interview or some media frenzy. So if a suit wearing job hunter ever does this in Dhaka, what are the chances that he actually might end up getting a dream job (forget about dreams, any job would do under those circumstances)? I don’t know really, it can go either way, given the Hujug Nation as we are, he might become the next best thing in Bangladeshi media for a while. However, for a female jobhunter, I don’t think this stunt might be useful in the context of Bangladesh. Since we are also a nation of Google Memory when it comes to tracing back the ins and outs of every women in limelight, such a stunt by a jobhuntress would have detrimental effects for her in society (for future marriage proposals etc.). Pun intended.

In the end of the day, I hope we don’t even have to think about going to such extremes. So much of time, money from parents have been dedicated to get ourselves education, all for the sake of earning a decent bread and butter and for living with dignity. However, the take away from David Rowe’s stunt remains…that even during crisis, don’t let go your sense of creativity, innovation, uniqueness, determination and self-branding. Good luck always with your job hunts. Hope we don't have to do a David Rowe in the streets of Dhaka.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Role of Stock Recommendation

I wonder how we can get together and work for common purpose to improve many things that we do for living, obliviously we would come up with millions of things are not going right comparing to developed countries. Many dreams are never formed but thrown away to the air as soon as hopes are never seen lightened in our lives. Developments, progress and achievements are rarely seen here compare to many other countries where every five years you will not recognize the place due to economic growth, developments and implementing new systems. It's all about changing, and work together for continuous improvements. Before changing anything to outer-world we need to change our minds and attitudes toward progress, changes have to come within ourselves and apply inside to outside environment, and also firm believer in order to see greater affect and progress in what we do for living.

I know you are confused with changes and stock recommendation, but let me share partly one of letters with you that was sent out to brokerage/financial firms in Bangladesh in the month of Ramadan to engage them into stock recommendation process, and of course, the intention of this is to work together in the direction of setting Bangladesh Stock Market to systematic market system and attracting more professional analysts into analyzing companies in order to provide recommendations.such great works can be rewarded with performance-based approach. Market needs professional analysts' involvement in order to uphold the image of Bangladesh stock market. Here is a letter--

"So far, over 800 people registered with within last three months of period and most of them have showed great interest of receiving recommendation in the process of registration. They are eager to receiving some guidance in the selection of specific companies' share which perceive greater value based on out-perform/market-perform, great earnings, performance-based management, etc. or opposite of all these to sell stocks.

How much investors depend on analysts' report? Probably more than what you expect because either a person is a beginner or a pro as an investor. And people around the world always rely on a whole set of decision making processes to pick the best stocks. This decision making task is a part of a daily process for market analysts in order to select a list of good stocks. The analysts conduct extensive research on companies' annual reports, corporate governance, management behavior & expertise, company's competitive advantages, new contracts for selling products, new deals, company news, innovative new ideas and so many others. A good analyst report should serve the purpose of better understanding the status of a company's growth to justify if a company's outlook is positive to buy or negative to sell stocks. Analysts' reports remain a valuable tool and offer credible information about a company for investors as long as they are diligently and independently done. Reviewing analysts' recommendations gives investors a better idea of what professional analysts think about a stock. Thus, when an analyst initiates coverage of a stock, it opens the door to thousands of investors who may never have heard of the stock before. In this way adding a company to a recommendation list brings awareness of a stock which translates to increased demand. This kind of research can be extremely expensive and time consuming but the analysts' work can be rewarded by selling research reports to local as well as global investors and establish a reputation in the market through the accuracy of performance on the stocks recommendations.

As we know, recommendations are found everywhere in the U.S. Stock market. Thousands of recommendations appears on a daily basis through financial websites, TV news and other media ranging from a small brokerage firm to world class companies like Merrill Lynch or Goldman Sachs. In short, the analyst buys & sells ratings and earnings forecasts shown on many financial sites which contain important information that could help investors making better investing decisions at the same time brokerage firms can charge for providing valuable research information.

The Bangladesh stock market is still new in comparison to the size of the capital market with other stock markets in the world and also has new investors who are involved in stock market investing for the first time in their lives, what I mean saying is fathers of this generation or grand-fathers never heard of stock market although their children involve in stock market. It's a new generation of fresh-minded individuals who feel the stock market is a great investment place that is no less than in real estate, fixed deposit in a Bank or buying gold for investments. Just because a new face of stock market and its investors, it requires guidance and systematic process of involvement by all financial institutions and brokerage firms to upgrade the image of the Bangladesh stock market. Just as many brokerage firms involve in recommendations, market Analysts who publish all or part of valuable research would give more control and direction to the investors and boost professionalism, importantly overcoming rumors on stocks often created by individuals or groups of people shorting those stocks just to reach their own objectives. Recommendation should be advised from professional individual (maybe required license by completing specific course in the future) and institution as any other country we see in stock market.

As you are an analyst or security firm owner, we invite you to take a look at our stock recommendation page at to discover all the facilities available for recommending stocks either to buy, sell or hold. This will enable you to be part of the recommendation process and ensure involvement in other news activities, thereby getting your company spot lighted in the market. Most importantly, it will enable you to reach long term objectives in the market growth strategies and attract more investors in local as well as global long-term profit making that will show favorable in the professional environment with a proven systematic marketing system. The vast majority of investors who use a systematic process, usually have a better understanding and confidence in the market. That will only happen when we are able to create a professional environment collectively, being accountable with the emphasis on doing excellent work in analyzing (risk-based rewarded), predicting and maintaining a high-standard of accuracy in recommendations.

Please join with recommendation process by creating your account with at page, and then email us with your Email address and name of your firm to Then we will email you back with details information that your account is ready for recommendation. You have a list of choices like under-perform, neutral, hold, strong buy or sell, market perform and etc. Once specific account is assigned to individual firm you have access to your own recommendation for update, delete or create."

It is unfortunate that only a few firms have taken this letter seriously and emailed me for details information. However, I am still hopeful in way that some day there will be a systematic process in Bangladesh Stock Market, and some developments will be taken place that we may be able to say we complete the marathon, although we are in the last place in the competition of global financial market improvements.

by Kabir Ahmed (