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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Status Renting, Status Bites and a range of status categories

Many status conscious Dhakaiyas think that if you manage to reside in the Bermuda triangle of Dhaka city i.e. Gulshan-Banani-Baridhara, you possess a 'higher' status than the rest who live outside, or even on the periphery. However Facebook, the most popular social networking site in Bangladesh too, is poised to make this status vanity blurred, as apparently, everybody and anybody has a ‘status’, as long they are registered with Facebook, or with Twitter as a matter of fact. This certainly implies that these status-savvy digital netizens of Bangladesh have acquired the power of being micro-publishers for free, to start influencing their smaller sphere of acquaintances, through their frequent updates about own situation, feelings, news, etc. From my observation, I could categorize the status-mongers in Facebook according to the following categories. See if you want to add some more and think how each of these could be mobilized to spread the word-of-mouth regarding you, your business, brand. (read more)

1. Stato-holics
This group of people are status addicts, they prefer to update their status as frequently as possible. Most interestingly, even if they are ‘busy’, they somehow manage to get the time out of their busy schedule to update their status as ‘Abdul is busy’ or ‘Abdul is buzzzeeeee’ etc. making others wonder whether that person is busy with work or busy Facebooking!

This category of users may be good brand mouth-pieces for your product/service. Riding on their urge to frequent status updates, they need to be equipped with enough information and right incentives to help spread the word-of-mouse for your brand.

2. Status-stalkers
You might be having 500+ friends in your friend list but in reality you might be interacting actually with not more than 50 through personal messages, wall posts and seeing each other’s status updates. Then what happened to the rest of your colourful and long friend list? Have they suddenly turned their face off Facebook? I reckon not. This category of people prefer not to update their own status but prefer to have sneak peaks on what others are doing. Partially it could be because they don’t want their ‘friends’ to know what their own secrets plans are for job, holidays etc. lest their friends exploit this information and race ahead. So they prefer to keep a check on everybody else’s status regularly and remain themselves in a hidden mode. That’s what friends are for huh? In many case’s some stalk a handful of people genuinely to acquire more knowledge, contacts etc. They are Facebook introverts.

Good type for market research may be, who keep a check on what other people are upto, or may be saying about your brand, business or even you…and then reports back to you.

3. Stat-vertizers
My favourite type. Those who can happily rent out their status space as a micro-bill board to advertise about your business, either for free or for fee for a certain duration of time may be. I have been investigating with this lately and am keen to get in touch with Facebook to figure out if the idea of ‘Status Renting’ could be made a reality. So if I could convince say 10 of my target Facebook friends to update their status about my custom-made-status ready information on my business/product, then it would be made visible to their own friends, with whom I might not be connected. The audience of your audience is my audience that I am trying to reach here through status messages. Its short, crispy, share-able and more importantly you would be more influenced about anything if you read it in your friends’ status updates rather than hearing it from any unsocilited ad campaign, or from me. In exchange, if its possible to track the clicks from each ‘rented status space’, it would be used to may be pay the interested stat-vertizers for their favour.

--Friends and family might be bullied for a while to behave like stat-vertizers for a while but not for long, as there are no binding agreements. But if contextual status renting becomes a reality, it would be interesting to see how this works for businesses in a social media environment.

--Don’t let money ruin friendship.

4. Stat-wasters or Stat-blankers
This type of users are not always sure why they should use their status updates for. So sometimes they publish statuses such as ‘Abdul is …’. I really never understand the meaning of this ‘…’. To me, it’s a complete waste of space. Rather stay quiet and stalk other people than saying three dots. Also, some ignore the basic principle of brevity in status messages and opt for writing long epics in their status messages which certainly gets ignored for a skim-through status surfer.

Wish them happiness and wish them well.

5. True socialite
They are bit of a mixed bag. They actually share nearly each of their conceivable feeling/emotion i.e. ‘Abdul is happy, sad, sick, tired, sleeping, eating, walking, thinking etc.’. They talk about food, movies, politics, life, love, pretty much everything being social requires and enjoys status messages just because they themselves are genuinely like that. They also send each other virtual gifts, play games etc.

If a true socialite could be converted to a part time stat-vertizer, then it would be bthe est combination for your business/brand word spread. As people tend to rely more on the candid opinion of a True socialite than on the dry and monotonous updates from a stat-vertizer.

Other than ‘status-renting’ I am also researching with a concept I coined as ‘status-bites’. Inspired by what soundbites do, I think status-bites are the next best thing to educate your audience on your business/product on a slow and scheduled status release format. I am applying this specifically for reports that other teams produce for public consumption at my present workplace. It is argued that in times of information economy, attention is the currency, which no one wants to spend too much. So not many people have the time or interest or the access to go through a full report of 30-40 pages. But they would not mind to have a surface level idea, gist of the actual content in small chewable chunks, right through their status feeds so that they can be informed about the key aspects of the issue at hand through the screens of their smart phones or desktop screen. Think about it, is there anything about your business/brand, which can be released through status messages in a planned way over a period of time? May be a week or so?

Lastly, something I call ‘status-serials’. Can you tell a story about your brand/business in 10 status messages in a serial fashion? So that I have the urge to see what your next update is? Can it keep me interested in your sticky status for a week or so? However, none of these terms are in Google yet.

That it, time to update my status about this post now.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Part time and voluntary jobs in Bangladesh: Can help?

Why doesn't have a special section only for part time jobs in Bangladesh? Or for voluntary jobs? Its obvious that focuses mostly on the full time job market openings as that is from where they make their revenue from, from the employers that is but I am sure a huge number of people, mostly students are eagerly looking for part time jobs around Bangladesh.

When you read the experience and skills requirements for job openings in Bangladeshi companies, you sometimes wonder if even Superman or Spiderman would have dared to drop their CVs through It would have been better if those job adverts would have also included the minimum bidding (or the bribing) amount for buying that post, if knowing a high-rank insider would have helped or not and facts like that. If job seekers, students don't even get easy information and access to part time jobs first, if they don't get part time exposure to management and business establishments, then how on earth would they even come close to the fancy wishlist employers fabricate and advertise through Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a lucky 'boro bhai' in a telecom or a bank to bag eventually an internship or some sort of a part time work, with the hope of turning it to a full time bread-earning source eventually. Still a large number of students and first time entrants to the already saturated Bangladeshi job market rely on neutral platforms of available information, of which is the pioneer. This unpriveleged segment also includes those who live outside urban cities and hope to get concrete, reliable employment information either in their district towns or in Dhaka city. But how many of them actually end up getting any part time job, let alone a full time one?

In a country where you have Abdul to do your grocery shopping, Quddus Mia to drive your car, Morjina Bua to do your cooking and Soniar Maa to do your landury, its very unlikely that you will need someone else to do part time jobs for you. I am sure Fahim Bhai would argue that in a country where even full time jobs are saturated, how can you seek a market for part time jobs? This is what also replied to a query related to part time jobs. However entrepreneurs seek and find opportunities during crisis. was never a game changing player in the job search market in Bangladesh, as they were the first mover in this case and they still hold the market leading position and they established the rules of the game. Those who followed suit in the forms of, etc. are mere look-alikes and don't offer any true value in comparison to If does not think seriously about how to promote and publicise part time jobs more, then it will be just a matter of time that someone with the brand say or could catch them napping in their complacency. The pretext that 'the concept of part time jobs is not popular in Bangladesh' is not convincing enough any more and we want to change the rules of the game now.

Four things to consider particularly.

1. Can redesign their website to have special sections on part time jobs only? Interestingly they have an article on this topic but that is pretty much about it.

2. Can come to any agreements with its clients (employers) that they would publish adverts for part time jobs with special discounts to encourage employers to think seriously about publicising part time jobs beyond company notice boards, emails/memos and word of mouth?

3. Can focus on voluntary jobs in Bangladesh? As we are a land of NGOs, I am sure many students, job seekers with a stronger social sense would love to be part of any social development company, for experience's sake. Voluntary jobs hold great value when mentioned in CV, as experience counts, not the fact that one worked for free. Many non-resident Bangladeshis also are interested to work in a voluntary role when they spend their vacations, term-breaks in Bangladesh. They mostly rely on information from friends, family. can play a good role here by being the reliable provider of information even before those Bangladeshis head back home to seek the voluntary role.

4. needs to look beyond Bangladesh too. Can it play any role in the job hunting of non-resident Bangladeshis? Certainly ethnic origins play little role in the global platform while getting a job, but there is no harm in making sure that I, as a Bangladeshi living abroad, get and give information to fellow Bangladeshis around me first and foremost...about job openings around me which might fit their profile. Community building is essential for Bangladeshis living abroad and this needs to be beyond political and religious affinities. The new bond should be based on economic terms, on jobs and opportunities.

It is agreed that creating more part time jobs is something that does not control as it depends solely on the employers and unless they have enough reasons, incentives to create part time jobs, can hardly do anything. Its just that they are in an influencing position as they interact with nearly all leading employers in Bangladesh. So they have enough ground under their feet to make a case for the part time and voluntary job seekers of Bangladesh. Hope they will do it before someone else does.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Are you Worried? Bharti-Airtel says not to worry!

Are you worried? Do you subscribe to Worried? As finally the Indian mobile behemoth has arrived in Bangladesh with a visa costing them a mere Rupees 45 lakh only and with the promise of juicy hanging mulas worth $300 million (Mula is Bangla term for radish, when we say ‘mula jholano’ it means hanging a radish to imply ‘alluring’, ‘promising big hollow things ahead’ etc.).

Its no wonder that Bangladesh is the ripest place on planet earth for mobile phone industry. Where else on earth would you get 150 million people crammed inside the largest delta of the world with naturally one of the highest population density per square mile? Where else on earth can you find such a monotonous landscape which is plain and where setting up one BTS (Base Tower Station) would suffice to serve to a greater number of mobile customers, as they literally are living next to, on top of, each other. Forget about voice quality at present and let alone Value Added Services, this market and the consumers are premature enough and would be happy enough to be subscribing to Airtel, so feed them according to their appetite isn’t it?

Warid always seemed Worried right from the word go in Bangladesh. Rumour has it that their entry into the market was questionable and BTRC blessings were bought through speed and cheap money. Other than slashing down air time charges, playing with their logo, encouraging love-birds to talk for cheap or free all night long and distributing branded blankets under the guise of CSR to the distressed, they seemed pretty worried all the way through.So I guess they were happy to have been relieved to be sold off to big brothers across the border where their media is also terming this as a 'distress sale'. Speculations are already underway about this due to the origin of the source country of take over and our bitter-sweet relations with them from time to time ranging from politics, water, sports, immigrants, religion, onions, eggs, sarees, criminals, militants, movies, cable television etc. Some of the speculations include:

--What does this hold for ordinary Bangladeshi mobile users? Reduced tariffs? Value added services? Better voice quality? (a CNG wala who uses mobile during traffic jams in Dhaka)
--Is it a threat to our sovereignty? What if Bharti-Airtel alliance tap sensitive phone conversations from our beloved politicians and export it across borders? (from an Indi-allergic person who loves Bollywood films and TV serials though, watches secretly and usually doesn’t admit it)
--If it were a ‘tata-byebye’ to Tata then why is it a ‘yaya’ to Bharti Airtel? And why now? (from a person who loves to bash the Gov no matter what)
--Will they create more jobs for Bangladeshi graduates? (from a student eager to get into telecom industry)
--Will they make sure that locals represent a significant important number of management positions? (a manager in Aktel thinking of a leap once the take over is complete)
--Will they help ease the Indian visa application processes? (from a frustrated frequent traveller to India)
--Will Airtel fly in Bollywood stars to promote their events in Dhaka? (from an event management executive)

Irrespective of their seriousness or funny-ness, the fact remains that Bangladesh is a mobile cow which everyone had been milking and Bharti-Airtel can also milk for years to come, until the delta vanishes under the sea due to global warming, climate change etc. Foreign Direct Investment of this scale is always welcome, its just that we as consumers are still not sure about the strength of balls of BTRC. Also the lack of any proper implementation of consumer protection rights only keeps us as vulnerable as we had always been. Also, GrameenPhone and Banglalink have been pioneering patriotic marketing thoroughly in their marketing campaigns to gain the mind share of the Bangladeshi youth mobile-sumers who are becoming more and more conscious of their national identity. Wonder what marketing approach Bharti-Airtel would adopt in this case. Also, how would they name their new born? War-tel? Bharid? Its just such a nice example of Indo-Pak management working together to tap the odd man's market (its us :) ). Ab dono milke maarenge!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Abed Sir becomes Sir Abed : Problem Solved, Poverty Alleviated

Its a matter of great pride and rejoice that our beloved Abed Bhai or Abed Sir is officially going to become Sir Abed. He is going to become officially knighted by Her Majesty the Queen of the Commonwealth Rani Mata Elizabeth Part II. Please note the difference it makes when Abed Sir becomes Sir Abed, how a mere reordering two words changes the landscape.

Of the many good things the British left for us as colonial hangovers other than English language, railway networks etc. is the term 'sir'--to use as a sign of respect to professionally superior, respected personalities, teachers, bosses etc. The three-letter word is expected to carry a lot weight when it comes to branding a person's capabilities, experience, expertise. The term 'sir' has great powers to please your boss, to oil him, to pretend as if you respect him and his (mostly shallow) knowledge (about which you care little). So here we are, the first Bangladeshi to become a 'Sir', or a 'Mohashoy', 'Jonab' in local lingo. Its interesting how we don't become 'bhodrolok' or 'gentleman' unless 'bideshis' label us for our whatever achievement. However I would carefully leave aside any critical discussion and analysis on Sir Abed or on his brainchild BRAC, as not only I am under qualified to talk about these but also there are many sage word and wisdom traders in the country who can do the honours. I would rather make merry of the fact that this has given us another opportunity to broadcast brand Bangladesh, brand BRAC and another brand ambassador in the form of Abed Sir..thukku..Sir Abed, proudly seconding champion boxer Muhammad Ali in the field of micro-credit...Dr. Muhammad Yunus.

There is no surprise we only recognize our own potential and brand icons mostly after foreign friends recognize and appreciate it. I am sure even though we have the option to look at the good side of Mr. Abed's receiving this recognition, there would be thousand voices ready within Bangladesh to belittle or question his contribution in the form of BRAC. As it happened after Boxer Yunus received his Nobel trophy. Inspite of home-grown allergy to global success by Bangladeshis, I think its a great opportunity to establish BRAC brand as the pioneer in the field of poverty alleviation, international development. BRAC is an export ready (already exported to 8 countries in Asia and Africa) Bangladeshi brand, the visibility of which is mostly limited to development practioners in the West. I wonder how many of us and non-Bangladeshis actually know that BRAC is the largest development organisation in the whole world? We can discuss later what 'large' means and how and why it effects on our lives but for now, eat the fact that this is the biggest mark in this field and you can stop guessing names such as ActionAid, CARE, Oxfam etc. Though I get a feeling that BRAC genuinely cares more about alleviating poverty and being recognized in the process through genuine contribution in terms of poverty research, action plans, success stories etc. They might not be that bothered about how their brand value could be extended on a global level so that other Bangladeshi brands (both belonging to the NGO and non-NGO sectors) can piggyback on the excellence of achievements that BRAC has bagged globally. BRAC and Mr. Abed's contribution in this field is another testimony of the fact other other than exporting Taslima Nasreen, hoard of illegal immigrants, Islamic fanatics, stories of floods and cyclones, Bangladesh also exports iconic brands such as BRAC and icons such as Mr. Abed, Yunus and hopefully there are many more in the making.

I also think however that we should come out of this notion and euphoria of us being awarded by friends and well-wishers in the West. Although many claim that I live on pots, I still hope for the day when BRAC will give an award to an NGO in Africa or to a development researcher in a UK/US university for their (his/her) notable achievement in the field of poverty alleviation. The award will be called BRAC Poverty Alleviation Excellence Award to be given by Great Sir Abed Part I. Award recepients need to travel to Bangladesh and receive it. We can also start giving away 'Bhai' awards or 'Kutub' awards to foreigners in this field. Say Ban-Ki Moon receives 'Kutubhood' or 'Bhaihood' from Sir Abed for the former's contributions to some field related to he comes Kutub Ban-Ki Moon or Bhai Ban-Ki Moon.

I admit though that if Bangladesh becomes the center of excellence for poverty reduction strategies and initiatives then it should become a rich country before any other. Why this is still not happening is a fact well known and not much worked on (please refer to our 'khaslots'). Its very paradoxical that the places that produce top-notch brains to tackle poverty are themselves one of the most impoverished. Keep getting awards and remain poor and wait for foreign instructions and aid. A bit of a dog and pony show for this sector that is.

Key take aways for this post:

--BRAC is world's largest development organisation
--Dr. Muhammad Yunus is Made in Bangladesh, as his side-kick, the Bangladesh production also features Sir Fazle Abed, the founder of BRAC.
--Please share this with your non-Bangladeshi friends.