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Friday, December 31, 2010

Know the BTCL number ? Wannna know the Home Address too ?

This can only happen in Bangladesh ! Yes my friend only in Bangladesh !

I don’t know whether you know about the E-Bill service from the state owned BTCL or not, but today I’ll show you how anyone can see the address or even bill of last month using the E-Bill service from this so riotous service !

Take a BTCL number and log on here http://203.112.222.42/

Your Customer ID(Area Code+Phone) : is your BTCL number (For Dhaka its 02XXXXXXX)

And here comes the interesting part

Your Password is Same as your Customer ID (!!!!!)

Rest can be done easily by any layman who know a small bit of Internet !


Click on the Print/View customer Bill from where you can easily get the address !

Not mention, the very Pungta’s can easily change the password so that the actual user would never(!) be able to access their Bill !

Thanks BTCL for keeping our information so safe !


NB: Please change your own password not others !

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Robi gets a Bangla website for itself

Secret cables from @Robileaks confirm the fact that senior management of Robi (erstwhile Aktel) have secretly taken into heed the request from Bangladesh Corporate Blog to have a Bangla version of its website. Irated with the akika from Aktel to Robi, we did give them quite an earful in this post here, which also included a tip to have a Bangla website. Although we haven’t received any note of thanks from senior Robiuls as we Bangalees usually prefer not to acknowledge our sources of inspirations and ideas and generally claim all to be our very own. So never mind.

Hats off to Robi for taking the lead to have a Bangla version of its website, not only as the first Bangladeshi telecom operator to have done that but also the very first Bangladeshi leading brand to have done that I believe. Please let me know if you are aware of any other Bangladeshi companies who have a website in both English and Bangla. Although just having a website in Bangla may not have any direct impact on increasing its popularity and profitability, it goes without saying that those 1. in rural or urban Bangladesh 2. who are more comfortable consuming information in Bangla than in English 3. who want to know through internet more about Robi - would find this initiative to be very timely, locally sensitive and culturally adaptive.

Robi sets an example for companies in other industries too. Say for example if you are an IT company and if you are trying to woo new clients, partner companies in Denmark primarily – then try having a Danish version of your website too. Just having a target market language version of your website will not be a clear cut guarantee for winning new business but somewhere there is this social element regarding languages in business that it creates a first impression if you attempt to communicate or represent your credentials and expertise in the language of your customers. In the end of the day, you will not win any IT outsourcing business if you have a great Danish version of your website, but your programmers and management included are incompetent and unnprofessional.

Its going to be even more important to have business content in local languages available online. Not only will this increase the outreach of that content to an audience who are more comfortable with local languages, it will also push up local language search engine optimisation, which I guess is still in its infancy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Daily Star Means Business

Its extremely encouraging to learn that the leading English daily of the country - The Daily Star - is going to revamp its business section in an 'exciting 8-page format, from personal finance to heavy industry, from green business to small business, from management styles to real estate, from luxury goods to logistics -- we will be giving you something new to read every day.'

Undoubtedly a very timely initiative by the English daily to highlight Bangladesh corporate, businesses-small and big. Some quick observations regarding their intention when they said we will be giving you something new to read every day. I don't want to sound cynical here but it would help in near future if we allow, enable and encourage followers of the Daily Star to do more than merely 'reading'. In no way the new initiative should be a reinforcement of a passive participation by mere reading the business news. The Daily Star is in an extremely advantageous position to facilitate more interaction, collaborative production from its business readerbase who can contribute to the formation of the business journalism that they are trying to focus on. I would be biased to advocate for more blogging aided with consumer journalism with videos, audio, images, text etc. from its readers who are first hand consumers of products and services of Bangladeshi companies. Please keep in mind that there is a difference between business journalism and business blogging and DS can't expect to do both. Also, it would be interesting to see how the DS takes advantage of digital platforms i.e. websites and social media to propagate its renewed focus on Corporate Bangladesh to make the Brand Bangladesh more visible and much talked about beyond the borders.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Best Air's destiny is, now, in the hands of Destiny! (R U Serious!!?)

Yeah dawg! I'm serious.

When Best Air (BA) was grounded, I never though it'd catch up again, but here it is, making the news once more! Guess who's at the controls now? ummmm..... Biman? GMG?... United Airways?? ... nnnope!!! It's Destiny, yeah bro, that's right. I don't know how many of you do get excited hearing a marketing (low-level) company taking over an aviation company, but I do (a lot)!!

Here's why: Say you are a teacher at a University, and on your recent holidays you want to go visit your cousins in Australia. On the way to Australia, over the Pacific, your jet starts falling due to engine failure, and the decompression has had its toll on the pilots' lives. At that point one of the surviving crews approaches you and asks, can you fly a plane? What would you say? (Lolzzzz)

All that was my thoughts on the taking over of the business. Anyway, if you'd like to read the news that I copied from two newspapers you might actually get some serious news. Hope you've a good week!

THE DAILY STAR

Destiny Group has bought off 80 percent stakes in the troubled Best Air for Tk 150 crore, said a top official of the local airline yesterday.

Best Aviation Ltd, the owning company of Best Air, and Destiny, a multilevel marketing company, signed a share-transfer deal on November 11, according to M Haider Uzzaman, who now acts as the managing director for the airline.

The deal was announced at the re-launch of the carrier last night.

“We were looking for partners to recover from the financial crunch that forced us to be grounded for months,” said Haider Uzzaman who had presided over Best Aviation as chairman before the takeover.

Mohammad Rafiqul Amin, chairman of Destiny Group, said his company wants to help Best Air come out of the crisis it has been facing for the last 21 months.

"Best Air has a ready infrastructure and permission to fly on 17 routes, and this has made us interested," said Amin, also the new chairman of Best Aviation.

"Now, we have plans to purchase three aircraft, including ATR-500 with the capacity of 72 seats, and Airbus-320 with 150 seats," he said, adding: "We hope these new initiatives will help the airline begin a new journey and regain its reputation."

The company started passenger service in January 2008 under brand Best Air.

But within 14 months of its operation, the airline was grounded amid financial crisis resulting from a surge in oil prices on the global market.

Haider Uzzaman said: "The fuel price soared so high that we were unable to bear the losses coming from the increased fuel bills."

"And eventually we were forced to suspend flights to avoid further losses," he said, claiming that the airline incurred a loss of Tk 72 crore at the time it was grounded in March 2009.

Since then Haider Uzzaman had been looking for partners to inject fresh funds to salvage the airline that spread wings to catch a portion of Bangladesh's air travel market of nearly 40 lakh passengers a year.

"We negotiated with many potential investors. Finally we formed ties with Destiny," he said.

The airliner had earlier formed a partnership with Kuwait-based Aqeeq Aviation Holding in March 2007. But Haider Uzzaman claimed that Aqeeq did not invest in the airline in line with the contract.

He said Destiny would pay Tk 56 crore initially. "The rest will be paid within the next three months."

The partnership will help Best Air use the huge marketing and distribution network of Destiny and resume flights soon.

"We are trying to give a new look to the airline by bringing in new aircraft and hiring skilled hands from home and abroad," said Haider Uzzaman, adding that the airline wants to resume domestic flights from March 26.

He said the airline is now in the process of getting a clearance from Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh to resume flights.

"We want to resume our passenger services on Dhaka-Chittagong route from the Independence Day. We also plan to operate two flights a day on Dhaka-Cox's Bazar route from the same day."

It will resume flights to Sylhet, Barisal, Jessore and Syedpur on March 26, Haider Uzzaman said.

The airline plans to open flights to regional destinations such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Colombo, Dubai, Singapore and Male from September next year.

DAILY SUN

Best Air will appear in a new shape in March next year aiming to provide better services by world class professionals.

The announcement of re-launching came at a function held at a city hotel on Monday afternoon.

Information Minister Abul Kalam Azad attended the occasion as chief guest.

Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Civil Aviation and Tourism Moin Uddin Khan Badal MP, Secretary Shafiq Alam Mehedi and Destiny Group Chairman Mohammad Rafiqul Amin also attended the programme.

Destiny Group recently acquired 80 percent of shares of Best Air. Best Air would operate flight in domestic and international routes by Airbus-320 and ATR-500. The Airbus-320 has 150 revenue seats with 15 business classes while the ATR-500 has 72 passenger seats.

In international routes, it would operate flights to Bangkok, Canton, Jeddah, Kualalampur, Maldives, Manila, Myanmar, Singapore, Ryad, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong through digital fly-by-wear flight control system.

Expert cabin crew from home and abroad will offer modern in-flight services to ensure comfortable fly in the air.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bangladeshi police responding to SMS - Latest science fiction

This is one of the recent technology related development that caught me by surprise – Where you can send SMS to complain to police in Bangladesh. There is no wonder that mobile based value added services in Bangladesh are pioneering, innovative and much ahead of the game in the region. However this one went a bit too far. In a place where its challenging to get help from the police in time even through normal means, expecting that men in shining armour will show up just by sending an SMS is a bit far fetched. Moreover, I really don’t understand why would someone send an SMS to file a General Diary with police when the same could be done more conveniently by just dialling up number.

Foreign development agencies sometimes have a mandate to show impact to their donors. When it comes to technology, may be its too lucrative for them to show a science fiction like project for the local region which might wow the donor and media. It would have helped if UNDP could have looked at the existing systems of policing and thought of how to improve that first. For example, how about a 999 like nation wide number for emergency services such as fire, medical emergency and police related issues? I accept however that there are a few strange socio-cultural snags in Bangladesh which makes it difficult to even get a cab from the streets to make it to go where you want to. And to get help from police in time, without any involvement of bribes and bureaucracies is still a rather utopia. SMS and technology in general may be can’t change basic mindset or the impression towards police, something UNDP need to keep in mind. So lets come down to earth from science fiction like projects such as this and see how we can make basic technology work to provide public services to the common people.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Promoting your products and services through Statusbites

Since one of my key jobs is to find out how social media and user generated content can contribute to social change, we recently came up with a simple tactic which I call ‘statusbites’ to increase the circulation, frequency and visibility of status messages in social networks specific to any campaign, cause etc. Since the same principles can be applied to for-profit organisations as well, I thought to share the same for use by Bangladeshi managers who are contemplating how best to use social media for a variety of business objectives. Please note that increasingly consumers are getting to know about your products and services not from your official websites and TVCs but from the newsfeeds in their Facebook profiles through the fan pages and groups of companies they subscribe to. So an important mindshift needs to take place that rather than expecting consumers to travel to your websites to know more about you, you need to make sure that your message is travelling to where they are spending their times these days.

What are statusbites?

Statusbites are a series of short texts which describes a company product, service, news piece, event etc. which can be published and promoted over a period of time through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Why do we need statusbites?
Its not always the case that users come to your company website to know more about your products and services. You need to ensure that your messages travel to digital spaces where an increasing number of your customers spend a significant amount of their daily lives in recent times – social networks. Statusbites aim to inform consumers who are more comfortable to consuming information through social networks with the help of the series of statusbites. So by the end of the run of say 10-15 status messages and provided they have followed the sequence – they would be able to comprehend the key messages, key benefits, objectives, features etc. regarding the product, service your company is trying to promote.

Also, you can’t expect that all your followers and fans in social media come across your posts the moment you publish them. Most of the time your publications/status messages can be buried down a plethora of other messages that the users are bombarded with every second – both from updates from their friends/families and from other subscriptions. So you need to make sure that your message shows up often- not to flood the newsfeed, but in convenient frequencies.

How to prepare statusbites?
•Think of the 10 or 15 key messages you want consumers to know about the product, service, event you are organising
•Write each of them down within 130 characters with space and the hashtag of your choice (i.e. #gpnewoffer)
•State whether you want each of the statusbites to link to your company website, Facebook page etc.

How are they scheduled?
The statusbites can be scheduled to appear in your preferred social networking properties with the help of a third party software called Co-Tweet. The scheduling of statusbites publication can be spread over a week, two weeks etc. depending on the plan of promotion before, during or after a target event, date of your product/service launch.

Example:
Gpfact1/10 - #grameenphone launches #mobitaka to make remittances easier http://shortlinktoyourwebsite

Gpfact2/10 – did you know that #mobitaka allows you to get rewards of 10% for every 100 taka you remit? http://shortlinktoyourwebsite

Gpfact3/10 – did you know that 10,000 people used #mobitaka in November to remit a total of 150,000 taka to their friends and families? http://shortlinktoyourwebsite

So as you can see, you don’t have to do entirely new things in social media for your products and services, rather if you tweak your status message slightly to suit your objectives and the audience, you might appear to be more engaging and informing in social media networks. Let me know what you think.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

NOT EVERYONE CAN FLY


10,000 is the amount you have to spend to make a return trip to Chittagong.
14,000 for  Cox's Bazaar. Yet it took me not a paisa more than
9,000 to make a return trip to Kuala Lumpur. Ask me how?

To answer this question, we have to turn to the magnificent 70's. When despite the Cold War's Russian roulette, a gentleman called Freddie Laker coined the infamous "Sky Train" service between London and New York. Laker Airways, which eventually failed... had started an era in air travel which would shape a large portion of what we see as the "airline industry" today. Low-cost aka. budget aka. no-frills airlines, are in simple words, airlines that sell tickets at considerably lower fares. Although too simple to address, this cost-saving is actually achieved though a very streamlined, effective and no-bullshit model. Over the years, airline behemoths like Southwest in 70's, Ryanair in 80's, Easyjet in 90's and last but not least Air Asia in 00's have started out with this no-frills model, sustained the global downturns and have survived to be winners at the end. In fact Southwest today is one of the largest airlines in the world, and also one that sustained the least (-) growth during the post-9/11 recession. I wonder why?

I am not a widely travelled person as many of you who are reading this could and would be. But I do know a bit of history and adding to that a few jargon from the business school, a few years learning the consumer traits... I do at time get an insight or two, right. Today's dissection will not be about the low-cost air travel model, that's for the travel gurus and airline pundits to solve. But what I want to bring to light, is the successful and almost unimaginable revival of a dead-concept in the hands of a magician, who goes by the name of Tony Fernandez. Unless you haven't figured it out yet (gosh! this article is so not for you, then)... I am talking about the latest and the bestest airline that flies to Dhaka, Air Asia...

1 Ringgit (Tk. 23) is how much he paid for taking over an ailing low-cost carrier by the name of Air Asia.  Although the token money was nothing more than a formality, he took over the debts of a dying airline with nothing but his exceptional management skills and a trusted bunch of investors (through Tune Group). He gave up his career as a Regional Boss at Warner Music, invested his life's savings into this unknown Tune Group and left the rest to his proven track record of turning things around. And this was all in 2001...

As 2002 drew the dawn of a new day in his own life and the life of his newest venture, Air Asia... It was nothing short of miraculous, when the airline posted profits within a year of its takeover. Some say marriages are made in heaven, acquisitions in hell; but this acquisition was simply too good to be true. And after nearly 10 years of doing business by selling a single class of seats, in a single type of aircraft (initially Boeing 737 and now Airbus A320), with no on-board meals, no refunds and exceptional turnaround times... Air Asia proudly boasts a fleet of 103 aircrafts (with 121 in orders) flying to over 60 destinations around the globe.

Their model was pretty straight-cut to begin with - keep journey times less than 4hrs , which enables them to have seats that don't recline, serve no complimentary meals and of course charge for everything from a reserved seat to extra baggage (well as opposed to a general airline, Air Asia offers 15kg of baggage per head) to even having some extra leg room (yes, they call it HOT SEAT :p). The aircrafts are maintained by some really efficient crew who have a turnaround time that can compete with a Formula 1 pit-stop any day (no wonder, Air Asia sponsors Scuderia Ferrari) and because they are all of a single type, having spare parts in dire times is never a worry anyway.

Ironically even after the arrival of this messiah (who has literally let everyone fly), the local scene hasn't changed much till today. United still flies return trips to Chittagong for no less than 11,000 and with almost equally shitty seats, they charge 24000 to KL as opposed to Air Asia's meager 17000 (at max on a peak period). Air Asia lets you pre-book tickets... not just any advance, but literally years in advance... Whereas for a traditional career out of Dhaka, web ticketing is a hieroglyphic and advance ticketing a myth. In the past decade, Bangladesh has seen the rise of a few private carriers (namely GMG, United and most recently Regent), demise of some other private carriers (Royal Bengal, Parabat, Best) and the continued disgrace of the flag carrier (Biman).

When the whole world is busy benchmarking them against the low-cost operators, Bangladeshi airlines' are busy fighting their own battle... staying in the green to stay in flight! Albeit we have one of the most discouraging air travel frameworks in Bangladesh - high cost of aviation fuel, non-competitive airport charges and subsidized flag carrier; the opportunities were always there. The moment Bangladesh government opened our skies for a short duration in 2007, airlines like Air Asia jumped into this opportunity. Foreseeing the ever-increasing spending habits of the growing middle-class and a lifelong "wanderlust" nature of us, Bangladeshis... Air Asia did what local airlines couldn't do in ages (probably could never have done, either).

They brought down flying to a "reasonable level"!!! By reasonable, I don't refer to the (throw away price) TkTk. 17,0000 I will be paying to fly off to KL once more in a few days via Air Asia. These folks from Malaysia, have not only made air travel an affordable mean of getting around (well ironically, only to KL and onwards for now) but also introduced us to a concept unseen, unheard and untried.

End of the day, all that we have learnt and tried to achieve is nothing but follow their suit by lowering airfares (when promotional fares meant 1 Ringgit for a KL-SG flight, we replicated it as 10-15% off on an already overpriced ticket of DHK-BKK flight), sticking to Cold War-era gas-guzzler aircraft (the De Havilland Dash 8s and even older MD-80s are nothing short of 10 to 20 years old as they are bought) and eventually getting themselves F*CKED (bankrupt) in the process (case in reference, GMG).

People say, men in the army have their brains in their knees; strangely it seems... so do the pilots and aviation aristocracies!!!

And thus we remorsefully realize... NOT EVERYONE CAN FLY!!!

The beauty of BUZZ!!!

Social networking, microblogging, instant messaging, twitting... all this make up for the world that we live in. A world which is LOUD, too OPEN for the closed-minded and COMPLICATED beyond definition. Yet we enjoy living in it... complain or not, suffer or not... we do like livin' in this "chaos". Such a world is nothing but a creation of ours; well at least I tend to think so. As we get more and more involved with the "power of the internet" over "actual human skills", we consistently make way for the "new world" to take over the old one, the one we define as our planet... a place where we have lived in for thousands of years. This change isn't a overnight process though; over the years... through the million hours we have spent making this world more a spiderweb, grapevine or whatever you wish to call it.... we have become victims of creating a BUZZ about everything. Everything that moves, every soul that sneezes... makes a BUZZ! In simpler words... we are a victim of the very buzz that we create to keep ourselves content, recognized and most importantly going on for more.

Sitting here in my desk on a random saturday night, with my facebook window open, MSN signed on, gtalk in "away" status... I am conveying my message through a blog. A message against buzz is ultimately going to be promoted via another buzz. That's how ironic the whole process is, yet that is how we have come to accept life as. We live in it, we breathe it, we look forward to creating a bigger and better version of it every freakin' time... We simply are... and will be...BUZZed!!!!


Authored by Sabih Ahmed at http://sabihspeaks.blogspot.com/

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cause marketing for Bangladeshi NGOs

This is that one time in the UK when patriotic Britons don the poppy in response to the annual call from the Royal British Legion's poppy appeal - As they mention that "each year the nation expresses its unequivocal support for The Royal British Legion's charity work through the Poppy Appeal. Our emphasis this year is the need to help the Afghan generation of the Armed Forces and their families - today and for the rest of their lives. Our target in 2010 is £36 million and we call on the nation to give generously and to wear their poppies with pride". Starting from day to day commuters to TV presenters,from football fans to students, Britons from all walks of life proudly seem to show off their support and engagement with the cause, as appealed by the British Charity. Some key observations which the Bangladeshi NGOs and charities can take note of.

1. Performing a ritual
One of the most important elements that binds together a group, a tribe is the act of performing some routine acts depending on the time of the month, sighting of the moon or it can be any other relevant social norm to which everyone adheres to at the same time. British Legion has successfully branded this period of the year as if its the 'poppy period' where every interested British citizen buys a paper poppy clip from off-licence shops, tube stations for a pound or more and puts it on their clothes to show their affiliation to the cause. Its pretty amusing to see every next person around the city wearing it, be it on TV, work, public transport etc. As if its a yearly ritual which is unwritten in any holy script or in the country's constitution, but its the charity's appeal to practice this ritual for a noble cause it has been advocating for.

2. Connecting patriotism
The British Legion successfully linked its cause to a wider hook - patriotism. Whether the UK should have sent troops to Afghanistan or not, that might be entirely a different discussion. But the dignity that is involved in serving the nation wearing uniforms and the pain and losses that the families endure is something which has a very strong emotional appeal, much beyond any political myopia. Its very likely that social causes related to patriotism will almost always appeal especially to the young generation and prove more effective than calls and causes related to religious beliefs.

3. Using technology
The charity has made it easier for donors to make their contributions in a variety of ways combining mobile and web based channels. They have made it easier for people not only to donate money but also to track their contributions by providing transparency enabled by technology. They have also opted for outdoor advertising.

4. Adding glamour and peer pressure
The charity has successfully endorsed famous celebrities and media personalities to wear the poppy without signing any of them in exchange of any fat checks. The glitterati have picked this up as an accessory, as a 'must wear' during this time of the wear, lest they get branded by the British media or public as 'insensitive' to the heroics and sacrifices of the British troops. This sense of obligation is a type of peer pressure which spreads in common public as well, when you will see majority of the fellow commuters in the morning bus/tube wearing that, either you will become curious to know more what this is all about or you will end up getting one for yourself too, in order not to be left out of the current craze.


Once upon a time Bangladesh was called the land of mosques. Now its also the land of NGOs. We are so used to asking for alms to foreign donors with our palms up that we have completely forgotten to put our hands back in our own pockets. I wonder what does it take for a social enterprise or any NGO to release coatpins, badges of Bangla alphabets from a week before 21 February every year? NO. We would rather sell red roses and red baloons during that time because that's what 'others' are doing. Why doesn't Muktijoddha Foundation come up with such schemes which say a campaign called 'Amra ekti phul ke bachabo bole juddho kori' every December and asks for a donation of 5 tk. in exchange of a Shapla (water lily) pin or a wrist band which everyone will feel like wearing? Shapla - the national flower of Bangladesh, to remind the new generation that the valiant freedom fighters of Bangladesh had taken up arms to protect the innocent flower and the innocence of our motherland in 1971. Cynics will always claim that we don't have money, but I really don't have any urge to refute these claims, everybody knows very well how rich some rich are getting and how poor some poor are becoming in Bangladesh. Moreover when we already have a socio-religious ritual of zakat or fitra every year, I honestly believe that even religious NGOs could add some sort of innovation in their appeals for causes which can give them some uplift from stereotypes and prejudice. Finally, I can safely claim that Bangladeshi NGOs have enough clues and hooks in our culture and history to innovate the way they go about doing their business. Atleast this time, we should not wait to see first in Zee TV or Star Plus how this is done and then try to duplicate it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The importance of cha-shingara in doing business

Having worked in an international arena for more than 2 years now, I would honestly admit that I do miss the complimentary food supply that used to be an essential part of most business interactions in Bangladesh. May be its not recognised as a part and parcel of every business entity in Bangladesh, but food does play an important social role in all spheres of life in Bangladesh and may be business settings are not an exception. A glass of water is simply rude and miser, I don't remember not being offered and served atleast a cup of tea or coffee in almost in every business meetings I have ever had in my working days in Bangladesh. In more sumptuous situations, tea or coffee was certainly followed by either a lunch from Boomers or Fakhruddin's Kacchi or some ever green Shingara or samosas.

I doubt if there exists any empirical evidence to prove the importance to serve food or drinks prior or before any business meetings. May be it is related to a large extent a company's corporate culture and more generally to a country's social norms, which penetrates into the business environment. Its therefore hard to claim that it should be a prerequisite to any business dealing or to break the ice and to make every participant be at ease, with their stomachs and taste buds being taken care of. There are examples of countries around the world who have done and who are still doing successful business deals without the involvement of any culinary elements. But somehow I strongly am biased towards the influence of food in every sphere of business in Bangladesh. Even if it mákes you feel drowsy after lunch and even if you fear that it might derail the course of the business conversation, I argue that food and drinks have that inherent power to create that initial bridge or the mental (and stomach) connnection that needs to take place before we can get into serious matters of business. Again, there is no science or management theories behind it - its just an honest confession from a food lover who looked forward to the quality and promptness of any snacks being served or atleast offered - as the indicator of the warmth - fake or genuine - of a potential counterpart.

Life here is different. We meet, shake hands, exchange pleasanteries, settle down and get into business. Even water is may be too expensive to offer during an economic recession in the West. Not that any one is expressing any dissatisfaction towards it, everyone is getting along as if its normal. May be its taken for granted in many business cultures that getting the social tuning right by means of culinary elements is no way a pre-requisite of a successful business relationship, and its true that it works. However, it might be interesting to experiment how people might react to such cross-cultural import of food related tactics in order to establish a social connection first, prior to establishing any solid business connections. After all, we do business with people and its not a sin to mix business with food.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

From Sutrapur to Singapur - The rise of the Bua power!

Languages can often become tricky by calling someone something and meaning something entirely different or opposite. The term ‘Bua’ is widely used in Hindi for calling father’s sister (auntie) whereas somehow in Bangladesh, the same relationship is called as ‘fufu’ or ‘pishi’ in Bangla in Bangladesh, whereas the term ‘Bua’ has been somewhat generally been accepted as the salutation for the female domestic workers. May be its beyond the scope of this post that why do we call that special breed of workforce ‘Bua’, as if they are our fathers’ sisters’, whereas the treatment we have been generally handing over to them (exceptions exist) belittles and ridicules the term pretty bluntly.

This blog had been advocating for increased export of Bangladeshi manpower around the world. So the news that Singapore has shown interest to take 45000 female domestic workers came as a very good news, opening up an avenue of diversification in our manpower (or call it peoplepower?) export portfolio. We however don’t want to brand Bangladesh as the country which only exports military personnel in the front lines in the most dangerous war-torn locations not because they have superior military skills and equipments but may be because their lives are cheaper to buy with - in dollar terms. We also don’t want foreigners to get the impression that Bangladeshi manpower is only good for building roads, bridges, malls and keeping the house and wives in order in Arab homes or in South-East Asian economies. It might be true that we are not yet exporting en masse visionary scientists to NASA or IT professionals or investment bankers like some of our neighbours but rest assured that we can take pride in the fact that we are atleast not exporting troublemakers (read terrorists), credit-card fraudsters or sports match fixers to work (in disguise) in foreign territories. Our workforce is generally very timid, vulnerable and very prone to being exploited not only at the hands of foreign agents, but first hand by their local counterparts and offices even before they get onboard a plane. And since the Bangladeshi high commission in almost every country is extremely efficient in keeping good relations with political big-wigs in transit and to keep welfare issues of Bangladeshi workers abroad as much down in the priority list as possible, it becomes all the more challenging for the manpower to cope with difficulties while ‘at work abroad’. Now since the manpower has been diversified into womenpower with the female domestic workers being placed to working in homes in Singapore, some relevant issues pop as a consequence. Food for thought only.

  1. When the male workforce are already so much prone to abuse, exploitation and fraud once they are in foreign territories, I wonder how grave it might become with respect to female workforce. So other than setting up language and etiquette training centers to train the female workers before they fly off, it might be a good idea to train them in basic martial arts and self-defence techniques to ward off attacks from home owners (especially Arab and Chinese) who have the potential to unleash physical abuses with the help of nails, hammers, flames, etc. Sarcasm intended regarding the self-defence training, who knows when the female migrant workers might need them!
  2. I wonder how the greedy dowry seeking bridegrooms will exploit this situation. Would the rate for dowry be higher for ‘female workers returning from Singapore’? Although financial independence is supposed to liberate the female workforce out of discrimination and poverty, its not always the case in Bangladesh.
  3. In any case the there might be a void in the Bua industry in Bangladesh. A large number of female workers hailing from rural areas preferred to take up jobs in numerous garments factories around the country, which seemed to be an obvious option preferred over working as a maid in cities. Now the prospect of a better pay, although as a domestic worker abroad, might even drive more of them away from the kitchens of our homes and garments factories. So far so good for them though.

I remember an essay in high school titled ‘sromer morjada’ (Dignity of labor). I wonder if we were the only country in the world writing pages after pages dignifying every piece of labour by anybody. Whereas the invisible classifications we create in our society based on what people do is a real contradiction and plain hypocrisy. Some people in the West call them ‘nanny’, some ‘governess’, we call them ‘female domestic workers’ or simply – Bua. However it would be worth acknowledging atleast that these Buas would now contribute to the healthy foreign remittance for the country. It is to our own interest to make sure that they can keep doing the same in good health and safe working environment.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Subscribing to Hamdu Mia's vegetables

One of the great things about packaging is that it presents consumers with the 'first moment of truth' with the product they are contemplating to purchase, consume and/or refer to others. The 2nd moment of truth is when you actually unpack the product and start using it, consuming it. Sticking to the first moment of truth, ever wonder how that could be used for telling stories about agricultural goods?


The idea is simple and so is the question I am asking. Would it make any difference to your purchasing decision or the way you look at a bag full of brinjals or cabbiages if the pack has a picture of the farmer who produced it, which part of rural Bengal he hails from, his name and specialities? Although the idea seems straight forward but like all other good things in life, there are challenges in the context of Bangladesh. Lets look at why and why not, how and how not - you would want to do this.

1. It has the potential to brand specific farmers who actually grow the agricultural produce and who actually deserve all the credit and recognition for their hard work. So even if Nandan or Agora sells vegetables, there is no harm in recognising the source.

2. As a regular buyer of fruits, vegetables, I don't think it will make any revolutionary impact on my purchase decisions of such day to day food items which are not cost sensitive too, like buying electornic goods. However, if I get to read a story about the farmer..say 'Hamdu Mia' who carefully produced the nice and healthy looking cabbiages in his humble land of 0.5 acres situated in Panchbibi in Joypurhat, North-West Bangladesh...it just has an added possibility of giving a face to the otherwise faceless vegetables and fruits. It also has the chance of a story telling to take place, attempting to establish a human connection between the consumer and the producer.

3. There is no mystery in the fact that the huge number of intermediaries that buy bulk agri-produce from the original farmers and make it available in city markets make the whole scenario very complicated. There is a high chance that the story of the actual farmer might get lost in carriage and change of hands before it reaches the city from the rural fields.

4. Although some upclass city malls sell vegetables and fruits, its largely sold in kitchen markets in neighbourhoods by retailers who might not be interested to 'tell any kind of story of any farmer' whatsoever.

It seems that the only people who can infact introduce some sort of storytelling element to this are the Agoras and Nandans. They can easily accommodate a picture of the farmer along with a short story of the journey the vegetables made in the same board displayed for price in the aisles and shelves. I agree to the fact that telling a story of the producer of the fruit will not make them taste any more delicious or the vegetables any more healthier...but who knows...if you can give it a right spin backed with evidence that the 'potatoes produced by Hamdu Mia' or the 'Brinjals coming from Feni' are the best in terms of quality and food value..then there you have it! However, we better give due credit to Hamdu Mia when his goods get sold well in the city vegetable markets, some sort of a mechanism to recognise him, monetary or otherwise, would make him happy and appreciated.

Photographer : S. A. Mahmud Salim
For more details, please visit : http://www.panchagarh.info


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bangladesh seals historic win against England - now what?

Now that we have finally secured wins against all leading cricketing nations, its worth thinking if there are any opportunities to seal this occasion with items to promote and preserve before we plunge into yet another long gap before we taste the winning wines in future. Even at the time of this writing, England, the only country left to be beaten by the cricketing minnows (that is us), has already secured the Natwest Series with a resounding 144 win over the audacious Bangladeshi Tigers. No wonder the three lions were really embarrassed and waken up by the 5 run victory by Bangladesh in Bristol on 10 July.


This might be an opportunity for those who sponsor the Bangladesh cricket team to come up with say a DVD of all major matches which we consider as the milestones in the cricket history of Bangladesh. We can include brief interviews of players on their reactions and aspirations on how they felt when they won and how they want to keep winning in near future in all major cricket tournaments. Such a DVD may be a considered as something to keep for collection for numerous cricket lovers in Bangladesh as our team is yet to convert winning against major opponents a regular phenomenon. So as we wait for who knows 20 more matches before we seal a victory in the cricket pitch, we can package our short-lived ecstasies of winning and preserve it for long rainy days ahead. Also, such materials can be used to inspire nevertheless the future cricket enthusiasts and new talents that on our day, when all our batting, bowling and fielding departments click together, no force can stop us to win and we really can win, whoever the opponent is. After all, cricket - to a great extent, is a mind game, other than being a game played only by a bat and a ball. And the greatest player in the cricket pitch is your mind, which is your strength and control over your temperament is the final and most important skill required along with techniques to spot the odd balls and hit a cover drive for four.


We hope to see the day when winning becomes regular and natural to us, and other than celebrating irregular fireworks against other teams, we can start aiming for winning a series or a major tournament trophy. As Jamie Siddons continues to do his best, we can always relish our great matches when we rose to the occasion and made the red and green wave with pride. Lets get the winning Tigers DVD and watch it again and again until it becomes obsolete and irrelevant, when these wins will not be called 'historic' anymore and become day to day events.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Happy birthday dear customer!

No wonder we have become a ‘like’ generation whereby we limit our interactions and expressions to our friends and families through Facebook’s ‘like’ buttons only. Too busy we are sometimes even to post a comment, or a message in the inbox, let alone picking up the phone and chatting for nothing for a while. That is how some friendship has become, while the number of 'friends' in your Facebook list keeps growing, what an irony. So I knew that way that my friend Harun is busy with his life and work in Finland and we never communicated for more than a couple of years now. Everybody is busy. So when he finally decided to show up (on Facebook that is) with a wish on my birthday, all this bitter and void feeling of ‘not being in touch’ disappeared. I was wondering if its true to some extent that people in general are more sensitive, or vulnerable or receptive to attention, or atleast they expect to be remembered on their birthdays. I don’t know if its true for all ages or all gender or for all consumer in all countries or not, may be it’s a human thing that exists sub-consciously even if we consciously deny it. What do you think about it?


In the same note if you notice that your date of birth is one of the most sensitive information companies can collect while you subscribe to their products or services. How many of those companies actually do something with that piece of very personal and unique information of yours when the day actually arrives? Other than letting the data lie dormant in the company’s member database, wouldn’t it be nice if the company could do something to make your day more special to you? Say for example, you get a text from your mobile operator on your birthday exactly when the clock strikes 12 AM saying, “Happy Birthday Asif, you are given 100 taka of free talk time to enjoy on your special day as a gift from Grameen Phone and its staff. Enjoy!’. How would you feel if the brands you love return the same on a day which is very special to you? Similarly the restaurants you visit, the food malls you go to, if at any time they have collected your date of birth, they have all the more reasons to try to connect to you on a personal basis, so that they can send you some gifts in the form of freebies, vouchers to spend or any special discounts for you only valid for that day. The companies should remember however that they should not take this day as another opportunity to push sell or promote a new product, rather the focus should be more on celebrating the customer, his/her loyalty to the brand all through out. One might argue that what happens if birthdays of 10000 customers fall on one day? Or you might argue that this is extra cost for the company in terms of customer service. In that case, its always a good idea may be to either randomise this birthday special treatment within a limit of customers which don’t dent the company’s budgets. But the fact is, its better to communicate to atleast some chosen customers on their birthdays rather than not communicating to anyone at all.


It does not require any market research to predict that consumptions tend to be higher right after monthly pay days. Similarly it’s a general assumption that consumers as a community might be more prone to buying your product during community events such as Eid, Puja, National festivals etc. but if you intend to get connected to users on a more individual level, its worthwhile to plan your activities surrounding their birthdays. Every customer feels like a king for atleast that one day, and your brand can certainly make an impression by showing up with a nice little gift of thanks or appreciation. And finally for those Bangladeshi consumers who are celebrating their birthday today and reading this post, wishing you a very happy birthday and happy consumer experience with Bangladeshi brands!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

And the best business award for climate change goes to....?

Who doesn’t like to get awards? Not everyone wants to do an Aamir Khan act, where the Indian actor is famous (or infamous) for his defiance stance against Bollywood awards. Going against the wind can be a good idea for a celebrity to get noticed and create headlines. But when it comes to businesses, may be not everybody wants to take a chance to challenge business awards, especially if they are coming your way for innovative new issues and sometimes backed with financial or reputational gains. The Daily Star and the HSBC Bank in Bangladesh have been pioneers to apply the ‘awards strategy’ not only to champion current causes but also to embolden their brand images in the same push. The leading English daily of the country is already tied up with the annual business awards jointly sponsored with DHL whereas HSBC is also knows to be involved in various entrepreneurship development related projects, among other social projects.


The dynamic duo were certainly quick to spot the next best buzzword to spread in the Bangladeshi corporates. After squeezing a lot of lemon out of corporate social responsibility, make way for 'climate change' my friends. The Daily Star and the HSBC Bank recently announced climate awards in four categories with an objective to encourage individuals and institutions working to face the challenges of climate change. Certainly it’s a good thing to raise awareness about climate change and the risk it poses to Bangladesh being the most vulnerable country in this case. It also goes without saying that Bangladeshi businesses have an important role to play to increase awareness and also to do business in a climate-friendly way. Consequently there is no harm in recognising and awarding the champion businesses who lead with examples in relation to climate change threat to Bangladesh. HSBC is also calling itself the ‘first carbon neutral bank’, only God and Sanjay Prakash know what this means but I reckon one of the upcoming trendy jargons to use in relation to climate change following ‘carbon footprints’, ‘green entrepreneurship’ and the likes.


From a different perspective, if Bangladesh is like a sinking boat due to the threats of climate change, the Daily Star and HSBC are planning to award businesses who do less damage to the already sinking boat. An award for those businesses and individuals in Bangladesh who are not increasing the size of the deadly hole under the Bangla boat by means of doing business ‘dangerously’ in a way which may aggravate the climate threats. What I don’t understand is if we as a country are in the receiving end of the catastrophic consequences of climate change, then what is the point of giving awards only to businesses which are in Bangladesh? Our businesses are not responsible to bring about this worst kind of threat to our country, then why should all the rules and regulations in terms of climate protection and responsible business apply to our brands? Can we expect HSBC and Daily Star to continue this award may be under water in Bay of Bengal in 2030? Or they can try that may be this year to ‘raise awareness’ around the world, similar stunts were carried out by the aqua-friendly Maldivian government officials lately.


I recommend giving awards to western businesses who need to be encouraged by the HSBC and Daily Star for their adherence to protecting the climate through their business functions. Why can’t they lure global climate culprits like BP with this award? Why can’t we, as the most vulnerable country affected by climate change, start giving awards to foreign companies who should sort out their business acts first which are the main reasons for the global warming, rising tidal waves and changing temperatures? I think its high time that along with taming our home businesses concerning climate change, we also should bring to books, through awards or op-eds or campaigns – the foreign businesses which need to make their business processes ‘climate friendly’ first. Sanjay please pass this message to your foreign bosses.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Musa Mama conquers Everest - Now what?

Certainly a red and green salute to the first Bangladeshi for making us feel literally on top of the world for the first time. Musa Ibrahim is a common and heroic figure in Bangladesh now after his conquest of the Mount Everest as the first Bangladeshi. It goes without saying that we badly need role models for our youth, brand ambassadors to hold our country image high in the global stage. Musa has just done that risking his own life in the treacherous slides of the mighty Himalayas. He has started his descent and have been honoured with accolades in Kathmandu by the Bangladeshi high commission and the expats. Before he continues his return to Bangladesh, I thought to express my hope and fears regarding how this great man could be branded well and bad - by Bangladeshi corporates.


I would sincerely hope that –

If you are a telecom brand of Bangladesh, then please don’t put Musa Mama on top of Keokaradong, making him claim that he can get the network from the highest point of Bangladesh, only and only with your mobile network. Also please don’t make Musa make a roaming call from Kathmandu to his eagerly waiting mother and fellow villagers in Thakurgaon, to break the news of his mountain conquest and the news of his return – by echoing the promise to ‘stay close’ with your near and dear ones. If you are an energy drink producer, then please don’t insist Musa Mama to pose with a can of your energy drink like a shark or a bull or a tiger and claim that it was this great energy drink which gave him the so valuable energy when he was climbing the gigantic Sagarmatha. Similarly if you are in the business of making chanachurs or noodles, please spare him from claiming in a product endorsement that it was your greatly delicious instant noodles or spicy chanachur that kept him going when he paused for a break on his way up to the prestigious mountain top.


Either there is a high possibility that some brands can approach him to endorse their products and services and turn him into a paltry commodity. Or there is a possibility that we will comfortably overlook the tremendous potential this man holds to inspire the youth to aim high against all odds. The most prominent job adverted on bdjobs.com should be for a brand ambassador for Bangladesh. Luckily we got Dr. Muhammad Yunus and I am sure even though he possesses a sparkling, wide smile capable enough to have landed him a role in a toothpaste advertisement, he must have declined such offers as he has other priorities and better means to support himself. I am not sure about Musa though. It is to be seen how the young dynamic man who is a journalist by profession, handles this new found fame now.


Bangladeshi brands would be better off if they decide to join hands to host this man and his unique feat to celebrate a common achievement and preach a common message of pride, self-belief, ambition, perseverance – as a Bangladeshi youth. I hope Musa sees the bigger picture, as he must have seen from the top of Mount Everest, that he has a game at hand to inspire those who breathe Bangladesh around the world. Going above and beyond representing any particular business brand, he should rather convert himself to a national brand and set out in a mission to carry the brand of the red and green. Actual business brands who might take part in making this happen for Musa and for us, would be treated as true heroes in the long run.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

In the search of young Bangladeshi entrepreneurs

The call to air more business based shows in Bangladeshi TV channels is nothing new for this blog. We have mentioned the need to make programs in TV channels not only to give dry commentary and stale news about recent business events and products but also to give young Bangladeshi entrepreneurs a platform to demonstrate their business ideas and possibly get some mentoring, funding, patronising etc. Its not news anymore that companies like HSBC and BATB regularly arrange business plan competitions every year and award financially the winners. But I have always questioned the outreach of such initiatives. Agreed that its an effort worth appreciation, by the very nature of the potential of that initiative, it calls for increasing its outreach especially outside Dhaka and other cities, where only the priveleged young people, may be belonging to private universities would get the chance to enter into such competitions. It certainly overlooks the vast majority of young entrepreneurs who might be already running small businesses in rural Bangladesh, with or without a well composed business plan and with or without any formal knowledge of how to run a business and how to seek more venture capital beyond 'love money' from friends and family.


Recently BBC has started the Junior Apprentice TV show. The six-week competition has candidates all aged between 16 and 17, battling it out through a series of gruelling tasks in the hope to become the first ever Junior Apprentice. The winner will be awarded access to a fund worth £25,000, which will go towards his or her business career and will be personalised to their individual prospects and development. If you ever get to see these shows, you will realise how practical and challenging doing business can be. But more interestingly you will realise how business skills are honed by 16 and 17 year olds who are yet to finish even their schools and still there is so much to learn beyond classroom based education and business plan competitions. Above all, the encouragement and inspiration such programs and initiatives create is tremendous, enabling likeminded young entrepreneurs to perceive their small business ventures more seriously and give all out effort.


When we are so fond of and quick in copying foreign TV serials and reality shows, I wonder why don't we copy the good things first. Also if the world of copying TV programs is open for all, why do we have to wait until an Indian version is aired through Bangladeshi TV space whereas the BBC programs are open for all to view and 'copy' the idea if needed. Lord Sugar is one self-made business icon in the UK, to compare someone with him in Bangladesh might be a step too far. But its obvious that we have too many speakers in presentations and trainers in workshops but very few business leaders in the true sense. A successful business leader is not only supposed to make more money for him/herself but also to educate, inspire especially the young in the society. How many of our business celebrities are doing something worthwhile to nourish the business talent and potential of the young entrepreneurs? How many of them have reached out to those who live outside cities?


There is no denial of the fact that reality TV programs for young business entrepreneurs of Bangladesh can never be the only resort to ensuring classy business cadres. But what is the problem in starting with it? Atleast it would bring back some viewers back to watching television which is so full of mundane drama serials and political dog and pony shows. A business show involving young entrepreneurs would give some much needed respite from the plagued drama serials and singing competitions. What do you think?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Chandni Chawk offers training on bargaining skills

Have you ever thought of that one skill almost everyone in Bangladesh applies in their day to day lives? It starts from the hour you step out of your house to go to work or to school. It takes place the moment you get into doing some shopping centers or for your kitchen shopping. Places like Bongobazar, Gawsia or Chandni Chawk are perhaps the centers for excellence for applying and seeing this unique skill in action. This skill is not yet offered through the skills development workshops by bdjobs.com or Prothom Alo jobs and I will have to ask training gurus like Quazi Bhai or Parveen Apa if they have ever provided trainings on this skill. Interestingly, the learning and application of this skill is not limited to blue collar executives or salaried employees. Infact this skill is practiced and perfected in some cases by those unemployed women who have been involved in the most demanding yet unpaid job one can ever imagine - housekeeping, or lets put it as domestic project managers. From dawn to dusk, the invisible skill in action in a typical Bangladeshi life is that of - bargaining.


How many times it happened to you that the rickshaw-wala agreed to your asking price to ferry you to your destination? Did you ever have any luck in trying the same with stubborn and egoist CNG-walas or the cabbies? May be you must have had some success while shopping in Bongobazar or in Kacha bazars around your city. I remember experiencing shock and awe while discovering myself unwillingly accompanying my spouse in the great battle field of Chandni Chawk near New Market in Dhaka. This is one place where its acceptable to ridicule the vendor's asking price and reduce it to near dust and dirt in the form of the proposed bidding price. Same applies for Bongobazar may be. Do you think what takes place during these transactions apply in any situations in your business life in Bangladesh? Or for the sake of sounding good, we call it 'negotiation skills' in board rooms? Do we agree or disagree to the fact that there is a difference between bargaining and negotiating and both might as well apply depending on the circumstances in day to day business situations?


It seems negotiation skills focus more on problem solving where the promise is for a win-win situation for all or both the parties involved. There is little or no manipulation and the spirit is that of cooperation. On the other hand it seems that bargaining involves, to some degree, manipulative tactics even to end up in a win-lose or lose-win situation. There is no incentive for a buyer out in Bongobazar to negotiate in a win-win situation so that the seller and buyer both are happy and the transaction takes place. Rather the seller would be hell bent to maximise his profit margin as much as possible and would come up with undeniable excuses to defend his asking price. This can have special effect depending on the buyer's skin color and appearance so that foreigners or 'those who look well-off' are asked exhorbitant prices in the first cut. Personally speaking I score very low in the bargaining skills and always prefer fixed price venues to do all my shopping. Sometimes I regret however for not having practiced enough bargaining skills in business situations, something I used to do as a Dhakabashi any ways - as that is the need of the hour there. Interestingly, there is no explicit focus on this ability to bargain effectively in training courses or business discussions. I think that in our search for civility, the desire to approach every problem with the idea of attaining a happy resolution, makes us forget the importance of bargaining. Some problems demand street-wise bargaining skills. Not everyone comes to the table with the epistemology of negotiations. Sometimes, people come to the table like they are shopping in a bazaar.


Its interesting to make an inventory of khati deshi skills we possess in Bangladesh and how we can translate and apply the same to further our business objectives both within and outside the country.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Kozmo gets social with social media



We recently arranged yet another phone interview with an early adopter of social media for business. Mr. Arif Hafiz is the founder of Kozmo, 'the legendary Bengali culture renaissance institution that arrived on the Dhaka outing/nightlife scene in 2005...a cafe chain that pioneered the lounging culture in the city with live gigs, recitation, readings and off course cosmopolitan cuisine!' as the way it puts it on its Facebook page. A couple of issues became clearer from the conversation with Mr. Arif Hafiz which could be summarised as below.

Communication cost

Social media has dramatically decreased the cost of communication for Kozmo to reach out to its customers - existing and new. Your marketing mix can allow a combination of communication channels such as TV, print, radio etc. but its increasingly getting more appealing that the cost for conveying your marketing messages is the cheapest if done through social media. Companies as big as Coca Cola recently included social media in their ad plans for the Super Bowl. Moreover, communication can be very interactive and personalised which is otherwise not possible in traditional communications channels.

Relevance

It perhaps made more sense for Kozmo to opt for Facebook as its main mode of communication platform because the kind of business it is in, it attracts a crowd predominantly urban, young to middle age and who are techno-savvy. Kozmo is a place for dining out, enjoying gigs and most importantly for socialising. So a strong social media presence to engage its visitors is a natural component in its marketing strategy. Imagine companies like RahimAfrooz, the energy sector pioneer company of Bangladesh. Should companies such as them also jump into the social media bandwagon just because Mr. Arif Hafiz of Kozmo uses it and is seeing returns? May be not. The role of social media may become a bit murky when it comes to purely business to business industries who can be better off by sticking to their websites and extranets. However companies which are more consumer facing and allows consumer interaction within its premises (restaurants, retail shops, banks, mobile customer service centers etc.) are good candidates for extending their service through the social media channels.

Resource

Its clear that Kozmo's social media activities are solely dependent on the founder himself. Its possible that its more because of his natural love for his entity which he founded which makes him the natural spokesperson for his brand through Facebook. What would happen if Kozmo grows so large in all divisional headquarters of Bangladesh in 10 years? Will the business complexity allow Mr. Arif to continue his conversations through social media? Or he will need to appoint someone to carry on the conversation while he can focus on money matters? Its extremely important to atleast to attempt to define some roles and resources within the organisation as to who or which group would take care of the social media communications. It could be a cross-department, it even can be someone external to the company who has turned out to be an accidental spokesperson (like a good brand ambassador) by virtue of his/her love and loyalty towards the brand.

Exclusivity

Fans and followers of Kozmo on Facebook need to enjoy the exclusivity they might receive for opting in this channel over any other. Say if Kozmo promotes daily discount codes to its 'fans'by posting a note like this, 'rush to Kozmo today and write this discount code ILOVEKOZMO24APR at the reception to have 50% discount on everything you eat! Spread the word. The offer is for its Facebook fans and their friends and their friends only, so spread the word and hurry, as this offer ends today!'. This has the potential to create some sort of urgency to loyal Kozmo goers to redeem the short-lived discount. It also has the potential to make the 'fans' feel special as the discount was offered to them only and was not published in a newspaper or aired on TV, radio.

Relocation of marketing efforts

It will be an increasing trend in coming years that consumers will spend more time on social media on a daily basis than they would be reading newspapers, sit in front of TV or be glued to radio stations. As internet will start permeating consumer's daily lives, a lot social interaction, entertainment, education, news breaks, even social commerce and group buying will take place in a social media setting. It doesn't imply that your business should abandon established means of consumer communications, it just implies that your business should start taking social media as the best way to get social with your customers, pretty much the way Kozmo has done it.


Monday, April 19, 2010

We want a National HR Policy for White Collars

PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION RIGHT NOW.
In our country there is a primitive Labor Law for blue collar employees. There are specific law for Government Employees. But There is no specific Law for While Collar Employees of the Private Sector in BANGLADESH. There are some private organizations who are heard to have Employee Service Rule or Employee Hand Book, but actually, these are rarely found in hand. Kazir Goru Ketabe Thake.The Private Sector has a BIG proportion of workforce who are educated, in most cases, having a Masters, suffer from different problems during their employment life, for example:

  1. Forced Resignation
  2. No platform for submitting a complain in that case
  3. Business owners' whimsical way of paying Bonus and Incentive (If at all)
  4. No Leave or Different type and Numbers of Leave for Different Organizations
  5. No Provident Fund or Gratuity or Insurance in most cases
  6. No Regularity and standard policy in promotion and salary increment
  7. etc etc and many more as You know
For standardizing the industry, we strongly believe these HR issues are burning issues of the day. The Government should immediately take some action ....

PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION AND GRAB HANDS WITH US AND LET US COLLECT 100,000 SIGNATURES THEN WE SHALL SUBMIT A "PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION" OR PIL WITH THE HIGH COURT. PLEASE SIGN YOURSELF AND FORWARD TO YOUR FRIENDS, COLLEAGUES AND ALL OTHER BANGLADESHI YOU KNOW IN PRIVATE SECTOR. IN FACT WE ARE THE CONSUMERS OF THE ECONOMY BUT OUR EMPLOYMENT, SOURCE OF INCOME IS IN THE HANDS OF WHIM OF THE EMPLOYERS, PLS JOIN US AND INVITE OTHERS TO JOIN. CLICK NOW.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Renting our bums and mobile phones to GrameenPhone

Okay, so I am up to my neck with a certain annoyance, and I'd like to ask a question. I once heard or probably read somewhere that "any space is advertising space". Okay good. So my bum is a space, and TATA Nano can put a label there, and create exactly the same brand promise that their product exhibits.

Quoting Wikipedia, "Advertising is a form of communication intended to persuade an audience (viewers, readers or listeners) to take some action." Other websites, dictionaries etc, cite the similar definition. Advertising executives may have more creative definitions, but they all will circle around the above. Going back to the space issue, my bum is a space, and so is my mobile phone. I understand that. I also understand that I own both of them. One was a birth right, the other I paid for. But, nonetheless, they are BOTH mine.

Now if TATA Nano were to place a sticker on my bum as advertisement, I would politely say no. Ofcourse, if I were a retard, I would charge them a rent. Its still a legal and a better deal than giving free advertisement space. The same policy works for all space owners (billboards, rooftops, office windows, shop windows, toilet seats...). A rent must be paid. But I have control over my bum and can say no. But what about my mobile phone? I own it, I paid for it, I keep it safe, and I take care of it. It is space, but it is mine. So when Grameenphone sends me a barrel of text messages (even at 5am) on my mobile phone, encouraging me to download wallpaper, ringtones, porn, lottery tickets, espn sports updates, real estate updates, and in summary, avail products of other companies, I consider them as advertising on my space.


If they are using my space to advertise, Where's My Rent??

--Tauseef Anwar