A global Bangladeshi based in the U.K. tells us how the older generation has created platforms for the emerging ones in pursuit of a better tomorrow
Shahagir Bakth Faruk is a name that resonates the success of Bangladeshis across a global platform. Faruk truly represents Bangladeshi diaspora in the UK; he was the former president of British–Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and former parliamentary candidate from Bethnal Green and Bow. Popularly known as Faruk Bhai, he is a community figure, who broke the ice by contesting in the election of the British parliament; a first that has led to the election of 3 MPs of Bangladeshi origin in the British Parliament.
Born in Sylhet, he went to the UK in 1973 for higher studies but chose the way of business and entered into the retail industry where he achieved excellent success. After that, he devoted himself to form a training institute to nurture better human resources. He is now a course director of the Royal Society of Public Health. Shahagir won the award in food safety in catering, health safety at workplace and many more.
Shahagir expounds on his journey of success, which was not a quick gain, instead a journey against the wind. He described how the world of business captured his attention, “I went to London for Ph.D. in Middleborough University, but in 1975 onwards I engaged myself in business. I reaped a good catch in the retail business of electronics.”
He postulates that we need to use a model that is unique to our nation, “The present generation of the Bangladeshi diaspora are extensively interacting with the mainstream of the UK and harvesting good results; many of them are doing very well in many countries particularly in the UK and North America.” Shahagir explains that the Bangladeshi community has come a long way, “Our success rate is higher than other migrant communities and the new generation are well educated and very competitive. NRBs have also learned to adapt to the day-to-day functionality and patterns of the U.K.”
The letter “I” does not exist in Shahagir’s definition of Critical Success Factor (CSF) of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO). “Teamwork, team spirit, team motivation are essential for a CEO of any company. These are required to maximize the profitability, productivity, and professionalism. Rewards will follow only if a CEO attains and achieve these criteria. A CEO does not necessarily have to chase visible and non-visible factors to get his rewards and reputation.”
As a globally recognized expert on food safety, he went on to say that food and catering are essential in every country, “The huge population in Bangladesh needs healthy, hygienic and safe food and water. A big chunk of Bangladeshi population does not have access to safe food. They consume hazardous and contaminated food. The government has a responsibility to make sure to protect the public by making mass awareness and taking proactive measures. Restaurants should have staff training program on food hygiene, health and safety and HACCP. The certificates need to be provided by recognized awarding bodies.”
“The migrated population of Bangladeshis here is 500,000 and 70% of them are the youth. They are persevering in fields ranging from medicine to engineering and diplomatic policymaking.”
His story of success was years in the making, “I engaged myself in employment and training business to empower people. My main mission was to develop the skill Bangladeshis who migrated here. My institute, Shahnan Employment & Training Bureau was the first Bangladeshi owned training and employment institute in the U.K. My book ‘Brick Lane: Bari to Basha’ captures this journey.”
Joining the political platform allowed Shahagir to further the visibility of his community, “I contested British Parliament twice under the nomination of the conservative party in 2001 and 2005. As I competed in Tower Hamlets and it paved the way for first Bangladeshi Bengali MP in 2010. He hopes that the future generations push the envelope for Bangladeshis in the UK,“Our participation encouraged the younger generation. I am the only member of London Historical Society. I am the only Bengali judge in British Curry Award, and Now I am a senior adviser of it. As a President of British–Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce, I came here with two trade mission.”
A ripple effect sometimes happens when one person steps up. Shahagir is proud to see that this has occurred in his field, “Following my success, I have witnessed many Bangladeshis engage with the British industry and achieve success in this business sector. I have four kids, three sons and one daughter, who were all were born in the UK. All of my children are attaining or have attained collegiate education and gone on higher tier jobs. My youngest son is currently in university, and he hopes to achieve the same success as his siblings.”
He believes that Bangladeshi have the same potential to occupy higher positions that are often reserved for foreigners, “Our younger generation in the UK is doing very good. Our third generation is obtaining prominent positions in the UK and North America. But the issue is we are not turning them towards Bangladesh.” Shahagir believes that it is important to guide these young minds towards investing in Bangladesh, “If we are successful in bringing them to Bangladesh and investing their brain, expertise, skills, knowledge, and money, it will bring benefits for the country.”
Despite the apparent potential in Bangladesh, Shahagir observes that not only have we been unable to utilize the talent in the U.K. He further infers that it is somewhat of a brain drain because we cannot get them to invest in Bangladesh. He believes that this is due to a lack of connectivity to their origins and the fact that this bridge between nations has not been addressed.
He mainly understands this immense potential because of the struggles that he has seen amongst the first generation of Bangladeshis. “We have worked rigorously for more than four decades to stand on the platforms that we have now. Not once did we lose hope and that is why have this space in British society.” Shahagir hopes to see that same resilience in the younger generation. When he sees the large migrant population in the UK, he finds a great sense of hope for his people, “The migrated population of Bangladeshis here is 500,000 and 70% of them are the youth. They are persevering in fields ranging from medicine to engineering and diplomatic policymaking. You also see a large number of them building successful businesses. They have the competitive edge to shine everywhere, and it is up to us to give them that space in Bangladesh also.”