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Monday, March 30, 2009

Are you a boro guru or a buro goru?

Goru (produces shit and eats grass, attends Moha Guru-Goru seminars, MGG)--> 'buro goru--> guru (produces milky knowledge and meaty words, chairing MGG seminars, panelists)--> boro guru (produces shit and eats grass--> reincarnation as a goru.

So which phase of evolution are you in? Are you simply still a ‘goru’ or a ‘buro goru’ or you have successfully become a ‘guru’ or better still…you have grown to be a ‘boro guru’? Think about it…are you eating enough grass, producing lot of intellectual cow-dung or are you truly producing quality milk (fat free) in form of new and contextual wisdom, idea, knowledge? Wondering what all these ‘goru-guru’ dilly dally is all about?

Well, I am a strong supporter of the petition that the Bangla word ‘goru’ be included in the English language dictionary, pretty much as the Bangla word ‘guru’ (Yes I claim it to be a Bangla word and lets brand it) is widely used these days to describe someone full of knowledge and expertise in any particular field. A ‘goru’ is someone like me who is amused very easily and frequently by the ‘knowledge’ of prominent gurus of branding, entrepreneurship, management etc. A ‘goru’ initially does not have the required know-how, contacts, platform, money to become a ‘guru’ himself eventually. So he tries to get free tickets to Moha Guru-Goru (MGG) seminars on business, management, brands etc. to achieve enlightenment.

A ‘buro goru’ is a bigger version of a ‘goru’. Someone who keeps on circling in the same cycle over years, without much success to neither implement the knowledge received from ‘gurus’ and ‘boro gurus’ in seminars, workshops nor being able to become a ‘guru’ himself by hook or by crook. ‘buro gorus’ also find themselves in the audience seat of the same seminars, events held year after year in the same city in different locations and keep on repeating the same act of dressing up well and exchanging business cards and smile, hand-shakes during the programs, without much success.

The definition of a ‘guru’ is already given and we are seeing many of them heating up the conference hotel rooms in Dhaka recently, pretty much on a regular basis. A ‘boro guru’ is the ‘baap’ of all gurus, usually with ‘many years of experience and awards’ in the designated fields. Although ‘gurus’ are generally seen to generate bits and pieces of knowledge during those events, ‘boro gurus’ usually become stale and end up producing lot of old wine in new bottle. In other words, they produce same shit and keep on living on grasses until they realize that they have again become a ‘goru’, thus completing the cycle of ‘gurulogy’.

A popular proverb in Bangla says ‘deshi jogi bhik payna’. (Wonder if any exact English exists or not…but lets put it as….country beggar gets no alms). But another proverb is ready to enter into the Bangla linguistics which would go as ‘Bangladeshe bideshi bhikhario jogi-guru shomo’ (in Bangladesh, even a foreign beggar is guru-like’). We are seeing more and more ‘shada babas’ and ‘bideshi bystanders’ coming into Bangladesh and giving us knowledge on hot topics such as branding, business and management. No wonder during the global credit crunch, emerging economies like Bangladesh are the best place to sell some words and earn some living isn’t it? No wonder when the West started embracing Yoga, the elites in our part of the world were convinced that it must be a good thing. When Madonna started donning henna (mehendi), we also became aware and crazy about using it even in previously unusual occasions. Somehow we can’t still believe that our local boys, girls, uncles, aunties are good enough to be given the same platform, glamour, publicity when it comes to preaching about branding, business, management, entrepreneurship etc. We need a white magic stick or even an Indian one, to show us the way, which had been lying in front of us for a long time anyways, only gathering negligence, mistrust and dust from our part.

Some good thing about attending these hotel-bound conferences are the feel-good-factor, look-good-factor, talk-good-factor. You sit in a sound-proof room, with big shots, small and big fishes in the industry and listen to things which you think you are hearing for the first time. However a careful recalling might lead you to the fact that you must have studied the same concepts in your business school, if you were serious enough a student that is. Also, if you leverage the web 2.0 you could be very well abreast with the latest thoughts and directions in the fields of your interest. But oi arki, we love exclusivity, we would make sure we understand something new from a seminar we attend after paying a hefty price for the ticket. After all, what would others say if I admit that it was more glamour, good hotel food and mingling with the wanna-bees and wanna-babes in the local and global corporate sector, rather than any true value addition to knowledge?

A good thing however about foreign ‘gurus’ is that they have acquired the required body language and classy acts to transmit their thoughts or even hide their shallow knowledge in some occasions. However, they are more or less ‘feet on the ground’. Many of our ‘desi gurus’ unfortunately sometimes suffer from ‘bhaab’ syndromes (an attitude problem) and walk a feet above ground due to the helium-heavy-heads and airy talks. The genuine ones keep off from the gaudy display of knowledge and prefer alternative means to become a true ‘guru’. But they remain in low lights due to no branding, not many good friends in right places, money etc.

As a simple ‘goru’ myself, I would love to see these desi, humble, down to earth and resourceful ‘guru’s teach and preach us about how to do branding and business in Bangladesh. Its our problem we don’t brand our local voices more and give more weight to what ‘others’ say. How many of our so called local think-tanks on branding have actually been invited to deliver speeches on the same topics outside of Bangladesh?

End of a goru-post. Hamba.
Disclaimer: The Cow (goru) is a lovely animal, the author has composed long essays on this gentle animal while in high school and achieved high grades. This post does not intend to harm personally any innocent 'goru' or a 'guru'. Whatever you are, be happy, eat grass, produce milk, shit and happy hambaa-ing in the seminars.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ad some local on me, or dub some ad on me?

One of the everlasting debates in multinational companies is to decide between local ads vs. dubbed versions of global ads. Although both school of thoughts enjoy a loyal fan base, the answer to this lies with specific situation based on which, the client can determine the way forward. Following are few of the issues to ponder while selecting any of the solutions.

- Creativity ideologically is beyond the language barriers. Which in turn allows it to convey its messages to anyone and everyone irrespective of their knowledge base and language preferences. Visual communication should carry the ease of understanding across any region without verbal aids. Foreign ads are favorable in this respect. Case in reference, Coke/ DHL has long enjoyed running foreign ads successfully due to their strong visual communications.

- Literacy plays a major role in the communication development phase citing reasons as “level of understanding”, “language preferences” or even “choice of wording”. In a country like Bangladesh, where literacy rate stands at 46-50% on an average, any English copy is sure to bomb in the effectiveness market. Many brands have switched to dubbed pay-off lines to convey their message (e.g. Tang) while other keeping the original (e.g. Warid Telecom and “be heard”) have drastically failed to make a connect with the consumers. Notable in this regard, a mix of Bengali and English words (commonly referred as Banglish) has worked wonders lately, i.e. Frutika “ektu beshii pure”.

- When a global communication is usually developed it keeps in mind a broader set of issues that helps in wide acceptability and usage across various languages. However, a fundamental issue is found to be lacking in most global commercials. While we all strive for providing a more personal, a more customized solution to all out customers, enticing them to buy our products looking at a global ad is a risky business. Communications that involve human interfaces and emotions are less likely to be taken positively since every nation/region has their very own style of expression.

- Many a country lacks the creative powerhouse or local know-how to develop a local ad for a global company that will be true to the original brand message. This lack of credibility also drives the clients to depend on foreign aids for their communication purposes, too. However, a country like Bangladesh, which has grown leaps and bounds in terms of creative ideas and executions, is unlikely to be such a destination. Over the past few years, the unprecedented growth and success the local advertising fraternity has enjoyed makes the choice of going ahead with a global communication in a bigger limbo.
I have tried to put in place, a few of the reasons, I find it obligatory to go ahead with a locally developed communication, but all said and done, it’s a value-driven decision and numbers, I would rather leave it to experts to comment on.
Sabih Ahmed, is a free-lance business blogger

Sunday, March 22, 2009

BD Companies on Dow Jones SAFE 100 Index

The Dow Jones SAFE 100 Index measures the performance of 100 blue-chip companies in five of the eight member states of the South Asian Federation of Exchanges (SAFE). The five member states included in the index are: India, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The 17 companies that are being added to the Dow Jones SAFE 100 Index are: Uttara Bank Ltd. (Bangladesh, Banks, UTTARABAN.DH), Pubali Bank Ltd. (Bangladesh, Banks, PUBALIBAN.DH), AB Bank Ltd. (Bangladesh, Banks, ABBANK.DH), Hero Honda Motors Ltd. (India, Automobiles & Parts, 500182.BY), National Bank Ltd. (Bangladesh, Banks, NBL.DH), Unilever Pakistan Ltd. (Pakistan, Food & Beverages, ULEVER.KY), Habib Bank Ltd. (Pakistan, Banks, HBL.KA), Tata Power Co. Ltd. (India, Utilities, 500400.BY), Power Grid Co. of Bangladesh Ltd. (Bangladesh, Utilities, POWERGRID.DH), Prime Bank Ltd. (Bangladesh, Banks, PRIMEBANK.DH), Mundra Port & Special Economic Zone Ltd. (India, Industrial Goods & Services, 532921.BY), Nestle India Ltd. (India, Food & Beverages, 500790.BY), Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd. (India, Oil & Gas, 500547.BY), Bank of India (India, Banks, 532149.BY), Power Finance Corp. Ltd. (India, Utilities, 532810.BY), NMDC Ltd. (India, Basic Resources, 526371.BY) and Neyveli Lignite Corp. Ltd. (India, Utilities, 513683.BY).

About Dow Jones Indexes

A full-service index provider, Dow Jones Indexes develops, maintains and licenses indexes for use as benchmarks and as the basis of investment products. Best known for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Dow Jones Indexes also is co-owner of the Dow Jones STOXX indexes, the world's leading pan-European indexes, and together with Wilshire Associates, provides the Dow Jones Wilshire Global Index family, which is anchored by the Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 and covers more than 12,000 securities in 65 markets. Beyond equity indexes, Dow Jones Indexes maintains a number of alternative indexes, including measures of the hedge fund and commodity markets. Dow Jones indexes are maintained according to clear, unbiased and systematic methodologies that are fully integrated within index families.

Dow Jones & Company ( is a News Corporation company (Nasdaq: NWS) (Nasdaq: NWSA) (ASX: NWS) (ASX:NWSLV) ( Dow Jones is a leading provider of global business news and information services. Its Consumer Media Group publishes The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, MarketWatch and the Far Eastern Economic Review. Its Enterprise Media Group includes Dow Jones Newswires, Dow Jones Factiva, Dow Jones Client Solutions, Dow Jones Indexes and Dow Jones Financial Information Services. Its Local Media Group operates community-based information franchises. Dow Jones owns 50% of SmartMoney and 33% of STOXX Ltd. and provides news content to radio stations in the U.S.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bailing out Bangladeshi businesses

Abdullah A. Dewan writes

THE Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), the country's prime foreign currency earner, has made the following bailout proposals at a press conference on March 16.
• Rescheduling of 3 and 5yrs term loans to 7 and 10yrs term loans;
• Lowering interest rate from 15% to 7%;
• Withdrawing VAT from readymade garment (RMG) sector;
• Subsidizing diesel for RMG, like the farm sector;
• Cash pay-off to stay competitive.

Last Sunday, the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) proposed a Tk 6,000 crore rescue package for the export businesses. It included a Tk 3,300-3,500 crore bailout plan for the RMG exporters. The Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) demanded a 10% cash incentive for knitwear exporters.
The BGMEA chief Salam Murshedy asked for an additional Tk 10 against every dollar of 30% total export value. In addition, he urged the government to ask banks to reschedule BGMEA outstanding loans by at least 10 years and slash the bank interest rate to 7%.
Murshedy pleaded that these measures would help BGMEA members withstand the global recession-driven demand slack culminating in declining exports, which reached 17.58% in February. To justify the demand for bailout, Murshedy said that three major buyers of Bangladesh's RMG products, including UK-based Woolworth, went bankrupt recently. To promote exports in the present global downturn, BGMEA plans to promote RMG products in old markets and some potential export destinations. This seems to be the prudent approach to fight the recession-demand slack. FBCCI, BGMEA, and BKMEA's (the troika) plea for bailout money is no different from tax payers' subsidy to the RMG sector. The US and other governments have already started doing that through tax payers' part ownership of the businesses receiving bailout money until they stand on their own. (For example, 80% of AIG shares are owned by tax payers.) Asking banks to reschedule loan terms may endanger cash and income flow of the banking sector, putting healthy banks at risks of insolvency and requiring them to ask for bailout money later. That's a dangerous route to take. Besides, why should government persuade banks? It is the businesses' that need to make such a move.

Businesses should always discuss with their bank whether additional emergency funding is available. The medium and long-term plans should form part of any dialogue. Timely communication with the bank is important as bank managers and financiers who are aware of the problems are likely to come to their rescue. Following the US example, what the government can do is subsidize some portion of the interest if the banks are willing to lower the interest on existing loans for a limited time period. Since some of the foreign retail clients have gone bankrupt it won't be easy to achieve the previously targeted $14 billion goal of RMG exports. So, in the process, some of the weaker factories won't survive. Hence, proving them bailout money would be tantamount to knowingly buying the failing businesses with tax payers' money.

Reducing VAT is a possible option but that will be equivalent to subsidy because, to make up for the lost tax revenues, the government must resort to deficit financing. Subsidizing gas to the RMG sector is similar to reducing VAT. The worst proposal is "cash incentive," which literally means "print money and give it to us." However, the troika may ask the government to initiate guaranteed financial schemes to help viable businesses with provisional cash flow predicaments.
By any measure of economic rationality, the troika is asking for too much -- in essence, nothing is left out -- which can be interpreted as an attempt to run businesses with tax payers' financing. Just because these businesses earn foreign exchange do not make them any different from other businesses, which also generate domestic employment and income and contribute to GDP.
What about the expatriates who used to remit dollars and now are unemployed, and returned home empty handed and broken hearted? Why not some bailout money for them in the form of unemployment benefits?

In order for the government to inject bailout money or stimulus spending in infrastructure building, it must first take money out of the economy through new taxation or borrowing. Infusion of bailout money has a negative effect on the economy, and the worse if the recipient businesses fail to survive. The inflation created from deficit spending will hurt the poor consumers and the public servants living on fixed incomes. Any bailout money must be distributed in a transparent manner with proper accountability. The criterion must be the viability of the specific RMG factory concerned -- not who owns the factory. The global recession may be used as gambit by many powerful and well connected factory owners, including some lawmakers, to cash in their ailing business with tax payers money.

In the US, businesses and banks that received bailout money have squandered hundreds of millions in paying bonuses and partying in luxury resort hotels in the name of promoting businesses. Why would the business people in Bangladesh be any different?

Dr. Abdullah A. Dewan is Professor of Economics at Eastern Michigan University.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

AirAsia: The Business Maestro

Anyone out there who doesn’t know about AirAsia? I will be surprised!! If you are a traveler continuously updating yourself with packages offered by various different travel agencies, than all such travel enthusiasts at least for once visited AirAsia website and checked out there offers. And once checked, the entire community started looking for international credit cards just to grab one ticket to Malaysia and why not, when a 370 USD air fare is discounted to 123 USD, even those who never thought of travelling to Malaysia will jump for a move.

Now the big Q, by offering such a low rate, how does AirAsia manage their business? Here are few strategies worth pondering.

1. AirAsia sold tickets for entire one year within 2 weeks.
2. They will earn interest. A ticket sold in February scheduled for November, earns them interest for 9 months. This is additional buck to the pockets.
3. Not only air tickets, they also had cheap hotels to offer. So not only a buyer bought the air tickets, also booked hotels through AirAsia.
4. To add more, you also had cheap offers to other regions. So now a buyer bought air tickets not only for Kuala Lumpur (KL), but from KL to Langkawi.
5. And guess what, who wants to travel alone. So a buyer influenced his/her friends to tag in along as well. So one interested person ended up influencing few more.
6. Did you notice that rates where higher especially on weekends. So AirAsia had a slot, different rates on different days as per demand. Maybe a buyer hoped he/she will be able to buy return tickets for 123 USD, but on his/her chosen day, the total price was 170 USD. Still, why miss the chance just for 3,500 Taka only, the offer still is very cheap. So many such buyers paid little more than the cheapest offer.
7. Other additional services also had a price, like choosing your seat, price for luggage, and bus tickets to the City Central. All these ads up another 20-30 USD.

So just one buyer seeing one discounted offer ended up providing the followings to AirAsia:-
1. Buying return Tickets to KL, either at the cheapest rate or higher.
2. Buying return tickets from KL to other regions (Langkawi).
3. Booking and paying for hotels.
4. Buying additional services
5. And most importantly, influenced others to buy and thus acting as a sales person.

Now the reality, exactly how many people who bought a ticket in February scheduled to travel in November will actually be able to make it? There is a very high chance that many will not make it, and sad but true, if you want to re-schedule your flight, than you almost end up paying a fee equal to your original ticket price. So a customer who misses his flight either ends up paying another 150+ USD to reschedule the flight, or misses the flight completely, no refund by the way. Many such buyers will actually not make it which in return reduces Air weight saving AirAsia’s fuel cost and leaving paid hotel rooms empty which can be resold.

So all in all, many sources of income for AirAsia which makes up for their reduced ticket price. If you are a Bangladeshi businessman having big dreams, why not learn the all round the year discount concept, you not only generate entire one year sales in a week time, you also make your buyers sale for you. In current recession period, discount stores are bound to hit big in the market. Just go grab it.

Mahboob Hossain

Mahboob Hossain is working in World’s number one Market research company and is actively involved in writing, teaching and business counseling.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Interest of Tk 8000 for Less than 1 Taka

A Mr. Mojammel Haque has sent his opinion in the Daily Ittefaq on March 09, 2009 stating that, he obtained a credit card from BRAC bank namely “Free for Life” card. He alleged that he had been using the card for several years while paying the monthly bills regularly. He further mentions that in his card there was an unpaid balance of Tk 0.96, which is less than Tk 1.00. As the amount was very small he did not care for paying any bills further. Lately in the month of March he has found that his credit card has a bill of Tk Tk 8069.77. Shocked with this balance he called the Call Center and got a reply that he has to pay the bill and he has no other option. …
The above is the extract taken from “Letters to Editor” page of The Daily Ittefaq. I personally think, the matter which has been published as above, does not provide sufficient information to justify the facts, because the Mr. Haque did not provide when he had an unpaid balance of Tk 0.69 and when he received the bill for unpaid amount. Yet, whatever time period passed in between, I think a bill of Tk 8069.77 is an impossible bill for an amount less than One taka. If the thing is true, we the consumers should go tough against this kind of fees and charges of credit card in our country. Dear readers, if you have any relevant or similar experience with your credit card bills, please share it here. Thanks.