October 2018

 

The government of Bangladesh today signed a $300 million financing agreement with the World Bank to improve the transparency and efficiency of its major cash transfer programs for the poorest and vulnerable, including the elderly, widows, and people with disabilities.

The Cash Transfer Modernization Project will help the Department of Social Services (DSS) modernize the country’s four major social protection programs using cash transfers by improving beneficiary targeting, program administration, and benefit payments. The programs are the Old Age Allowance; Allowances for the Widow, Deserted and Destitute Women; Allowances for the Financially Insolvent Disabled; and Stipends for Disabled Students. These programs collectively reach about six and a half million of the country’s poorest people.

An efficient, automated and transparent social protection service delivery system is critical to build resilience and create opportunities for the poorest people,” said Qimiao Fan, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. “The World Bank is helping the government build common digital platforms to better administer safety net programs. This will help reduce administrative costs and errors by identifying the most vulnerable people with greater accuracy and transferring cash in a timely manner.”

In the fiscal year 2018, Bangladesh spent about $5.8 billion on social protection or about 2 percent of its Gross Domestic Product and improving the efficiency of these programs will help Bangladesh to use public resources more effectively.

The DSS has already started digitizing beneficiary records of its cash transfer programs, and the project will help further strengthen case management and payment processes. To accurately identify recipients of cash transfers, the project will help integrate DSS’s management information system with the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics’ National Household Database. For more secure and accessible payments to beneficiaries, the system will be linked to the Finance Division’s centralized payment platform, and use a network of banking agents, among others. Such actions—utilizing existing or emerging systems—will help further develop an integrated social protection service delivery system in the country.

The government is committed to developing a digitized modern social protection service delivery system,” said Mahmuda Begum, Additional Secretary, Economic Relations Division. “This project is a critical step forward towards this vision and aligned with the National Social Security Strategy, 2015.

The agreement was signed at the Economic Relations Division by Mahmuda Begum and Qimiao Fan on behalf of the Government of Bangladesh and the World Bank, respectively.

The credit is provided by the International Development Association, the World Bank’s concessional lending arm, which provides grants or zero-interest loans.  The credit has a 38-year term, including a six-year grace period, and a service charge of 0.75 percent.

The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. The World Bank has since committed more than $29 billion in grants and interest-free credits to the country. Bangladesh currently has the largest IDA -program totaling $11.3 billion.

 

The World Bank today approved $425 million to improve road connections in Bangladesh through building, maintaining and improving rural bridges in a program that will benefit two-thirds of the country’s people.

The Operation For Supporting Rural Bridges Program will maintain 85,000 meters of bridges, widen or rehabilitate 29,000 meters of bridges and build another 20,000 meters of new bridges. The program will also create jobs for local people by generating about 5.5 million person-days of employment, including long-term maintenance work. The program will support the government’s existing program for developing and maintaining rural bridges.

“By bridging the missing links in Bangladesh’s rural road network, the program will enable rural communities living in remote areas to have better road connections,” said Qimiao Fan, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. “This will help millions of rural people access markets, hospitals, and schools as well as create new opportunities for livelihoods.”

Bangladesh has a higher road density—that is the ratio of the total road length to the country’s land area—than any other South Asian country, including India and Sri Lanka. As Bangladesh’s flat terrain is crisscrossed by hundreds of rivers, bridges play a critical part in the country’s road system. For every 4.5 km of roads in unions or upazilas, a bridge is needed to connect two disjointed road sections. While Bangladesh enjoys an extensive rural road network, one-fifth of the rural bridges needed are not built yet. This project will build, widen, and maintain rural bridges in 61 districts. In 19 coastal districts, the project will construct or rebuild bridges to include climate resilient features.

The program will support government efforts to improve institutional capacity to plan, design, quality control and manage rural bridges, including to ensure they are climate resilient along coastal areas,” said Farhad Ahmed, World Bank Senior Transport Specialist and Team Leader for the program. “The program will promote citizen’s participation, including women, ensure construction quality and will develop a mobile phone-based application for citizens to report quality issues.”

The credit from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) has a 30-year term, including a five-year grace period. The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. The World Bank has since committed more than $29 billion in grants and interest-free credits to the country. Bangladesh currently has the largest IDA -program totaling $11.3 billion.

The government of Bangladesh today signed a $240 million financing agreement with the World Bank to help improve management and production in marine and coastal fisheries and aquaculture. 

The Sustainable and Marine Fisheries Project will help improve fisheries management systems, infrastructure, value chain investments, and encourage private sector investment to increase the availability and quality of sea fish. It will also support reforms in fisheries policies and regulations.

In the last decade, the fisheries sector accounted for around 4 percent of Bangladesh’s economy and is the country’s second-largest export earning sector after garments,” said Qimiao Fan, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. “World Bank financing will aim to expand coastal and marine fisheries with the goal of further increasing the fisheries sector’s contribution to the economy.” 

In 16 coastal districts, the project will set up community co-management associations with fishing communities, enabling them to adopt supplementary and alternative livelihoods. While empowering fishing communities, especially women through skills development and nutrition awareness, the project will also establish 100 model fishing villages.

The current fisher identity card system will be expanded under the project and linked with the geographic information system platform. Vessel registration and licensing for fishing will also be improved. In addition, the project will help the government conduct stock surveys and assessments for shrimp and sea fish stocks and strengthen monitoring systems for industrial and artisanal fisheries.

For Bangladesh, the fisheries sector is a major driver for growth. The marine and coastal fisheries have significant potential for sustainable and higher production,” said Kazi Shofiqul Azam, Senior Secretary, Economic Relations Division. “The project will directly contribute to Bangladesh’s Blue Economy initiatives.”

The agreement was signed at the Economic Relations Division by Kazi Shofiqul Azam on behalf of the government and Zahid Hussain, World Bank Acting Country Director for Bangladesh.

The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. The World Bank has since committed more than $29 billion in grants and interest-free credits to the country. In recent years, Bangladesh has been among the largest recipients of the World Bank’s interest-free credits.

 

By Marjiya Baktyer Ahmed

Junior Chamber International (JCI) made its landmark debut in Bangladesh in the year 1972, in recognition of the country’s liberation the year before. However, it was in 1998 that JCI Bangladesh started their operations to bring about systemic change within the society by empowering the youth with leadership skills. The organization is a platform for building leadership skills. It instills values in its members and strives by their vision of empowering the youth by equipping them with leadership skills to make a significant contribution to society.

JCI Bangladesh began its operations with two initial chapters – JCI Dhaka East and JCI Dhaka West. As of now, JCI has 14 chapters in the country, 12 of which are in Dhaka with 1 in Chittagong and another one in Sylhet. Mehedi Hossain presides over JCI Dhaka West. The young president started his career in 2014 as a Training Commissioner, rising steadily through the ranks until he secured the presidency.

JCI has won numerous competitions on debate and public speaking. In the first step of his induction, Mehedi found his niche in the debating arena, becoming the National Debate Champion in 2014. He went on to become the National Public Speaking Champion and National Debate Champion in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Mehedi describes JCI as a platform for leadership development saying, “Leadership development can be encouraged through sustainable projects in communities or through events – there are multiple ways to foster leadership.”

At JCI, leadership skills are taught through training workshops, competitions, and projects. Under Mehedi’s guidance, JCI Dhaka West launched an international training platform called ‘Convince’ in 2014. Since then the platform has hosted three training sessions with a focus on communication skills, management, and transformational leadership skills, moderated by international trainers.

Mehedi Hossain

Looking to engage local corporate leaders as trainers, JCI Dhaka West spearheaded the platform ‘Expedite’. Industry giants like Unilever and BUP dispensed training focused on the transition from academic life to the corporate/work life. Using Neuro-Linguistic Programming, local trainers taught the importance of living with a purpose and the need to prioritize.

Between the years 2014-2015, the platform ‘Voice’ was initiated. Rebranded and renamed ‘Steps’, the platform promotes English debate beyond the periphery of Dhaka. ‘Steps’ is focused on encouraging logical thinking and foster English-speaking fluency through debate. Mehedi stresses the importance of debate saying, “The more you debate them more your thoughts become logical, cohesive and coherent.”

With the intention to stimulate open discussions within the corporate sphere, Mehedi came up with a debating platform – Corporate Open. The platform allowed, Bangladesh Debating Council to participate and emerge as the victor last year. Corporate Open made its debut as a corporate debating platform which encouraged the inclusion of men, women and transgender people. Mehedi reiterates, “When you debate and discuss, you become more accepting of perspectives that don’t necessarily resonate with yours.”

While JCI Dhaka West offers training, they also create impactful projects with a more long-term goal in mind. Two of their flagship projects include ‘Embrace the Difference’ and ‘JCI Suburb Community’. Embrace the Difference is a brilliant initiative which caters to the differently-abled children of society. Trying to do away with the stigma surrounding differently-abled children, Embrace the Difference hosted an art competition where participants comprised both normally-abled and differently-abled children. The venture began humbly in 2016 with a small number of participants. Now it has bloomed into a large scale project which hosted an impressive 700 normally-abled and 100 differently-abled children from the Autism Foundation in 2018. Mehedi explains, “We plan on continuing with this as long as it continues to yield positive results. The promising aspect of this project is that it encouraged normally-abled and differently-abled children to develop a friendship with each other.”

JCI Suburb Community, on the other hand, has its sights set on building a community through sustainable means. Currently running five projects within a small suburban community called Kolakia located on the outskirts of the city. JCI has zeroed in on four key issues which need resolving. Firstly, a health camp which provides information and care on critical illnesses like cervical cancer has been set up. In Ramadan, JCI Dhaka West partnered with Arla and campaigned for healthy living by providing 2400 liters of milk in the community for free. They even began a campaign to raise awareness around menstrual hygiene management by engaging the children of the community to put on a play and educate their peers and other members within Kolakia.

And lastly, another notable issue within the community was the harassment of school-going girls faced. In order to mitigate this issue, ‘Na Bola Kotha’ was established, which became a safe space for the girls to voice their grievances and ultimately have them resolved.

One progressive solution JCI Dhaka West was to come up with is creating an interactive virtual reality game. The game is an immersive experience where the players get the chance to become a member of the community and explore it to unearth issues which need to be addressed. Mehedi expounds, “When you play the game you have to buy certain things and spending this money becomes part of the solution making process. Different players come with different solutions for the same issue. Thus it only stands to reason, that when multiple people play it then we have multiple solutions and we can pick the most ideal one.” This game generates revenue while coming up with solutions to tackle pressing matters.

Mehedi envisions using JCI’s influence to tackle more serious problems within our society and coming up with further sustainable plans and projects. With his tenure, as local president, at its end, Mehedi talks about his future plans. “The plan is to climb up the national ladder, then move on to international JCI platform. I have 12 years left to be in JCI so if I have the ability I can become the global president for JCI.”

 

Bangladesh can reduce poverty and accelerate growth faster by taking urgent actions to improve the quality of water and sanitation, says a new World Bank report. Despite the country’s remarkable progress in improving access to water and sanitation, 41 percent of all improved water sources are contaminated with E. Coli bacteria, which suggests a high prevalence of fecal contamination. 

The report ‘Promising Progress: A Diagnostic of Water Supply, Sanitation, Hygiene, and Poverty in Bangladesh,’ launched today, finds that poor drinking water quality affects the rich and poor and the rural and urban population alike. But, the poorest quintile of the population suffers three times more from water and sanitation related gastro-intestinal diseases.

Today, 98 percent of Bangladesh’s population have access to water from technologically improved water sources. However, the water quality is poor. E. coli bacteria was present in 80 percent of private piped-water taps sampled across the country, a similar rate to water retrieved from ponds.

Poor water quality and sanitation can hold back a country’s potential because unsafe water and poor sanitation are linked to nutritional disadvantages in early-childhood.” said Sereen Juma, Acting Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. “In Bangladeshmore than one-third of children under five are stunted, limiting their ability to grow and learn. Bangladesh has made great strides in expanding access to water and can build on that progress by focusing on improving the quality of water and sanitation.” 

Further, naturally occurring arsenic in ground water also affects people: about 13 percent of the country’s water sources contain arsenic levels above Bangladesh’s threshold. The Chittagong and Sylhet divisions suffer most from arsenic contamination. Climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of natural disasters that disrupt water and sanitation services.  During times of disaster, about a third of households in the country’s high-risk areas switch to contaminated, unimproved water sources. The coastal areas are increasingly suffering from salinity-intrusion, which is affecting the poor more. 

Bangladesh has successfully eliminated the practice of open defecation. Still, about 50 million people use shared, rudimentary toilets, and only 28 percent of toilets are equipped with soap and water. In urban areas, slums have poor access to clean water and safe sanitation. Large-city slums have five times less access to improved sanitation and have the highest rates of childhood under-nutrition in the country.

There is scope for Bangladesh to improve access to sanitation beyond the household level to public places, schools, health facilities, and workplaces,” says George Joseph, report co-author and World Bank Senior Economist. “Only about half of manufacturing enterprises in Bangladesh have toilets. Only half of the primary schools have separate toilets for girls, and 1 in 4 adolescent girls miss school during menstruation. A safe water and sanitation environment will encourage more women to participate in the work force.”

This research is part of the World Bank’s WASH Poverty Diagnostics initiative in 18 countries, including Bangladesh.

 

The World Bank released the Bangladesh Development Update on 2nd October 2018. The event was held in the World Bank office in Agargaon and was presented by Dr. Zahid Hussain, World Bank Lead Economist, with an introductory speech from Dr. Qimiao Fan, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. Dr. Ahsan Mansur of PRI, Bangladesh and Hossain Zillur Rahman also provided comments on the report.

The key message of the event centered around the much-debated topic of Bangladesh efforts of moving into the middle-income country status. Dr. Hussain reported that in order to fulfill this dream the country needs refueling (reforms) and sharper shock absorbers (stabilizers). Moreover, the report has been broken the policy challenges into the three-time frame: short-term, medium-term and long-term.

The Bangladeshi economy has been experiencing domestic demand-driven growth in recent years, hugely accelerated by the manufacturing and constructing growth. But the macroeconomic stability is being challenged by increasing non-food inflation, external financing shortfall, tightening liquidity and increased fiscal deficit. The report predicts that private investment has been robust in recent years and export and remittance will continue to support the growth rate of Bangladesh.

But stressors include the widening current account deficit slowdown of the major export markets, weak effort to improve economic governance, high non-performing loans in state-controlled banks and the burgeoning Rohingya situation. Thus a policy and institutional reform are imperative to protect Bangladesh from these risks.

Short-term policy challenges have been identified as controlling the non-food inflation, implementing tax policy reforms and modernizing the tax administration and finally improving the quality of public spending.

Medium-term policy challenges were diversifying the countries export, boosting private investment, generating greater electric power supply and more efficient pricing and usage of gas. While all the factors contributed to the growth levels in Bangladesh, special emphasis was placed on the energy needs. WB has called for smarter pricing of electricity, improving the load management and boosting the gas generation efficiency.

Long-term policy challenges were listed as avoiding the middle-income traps addressing the long-term priorities. The middle-income country trap is when a country clings too long to past successful policies or exit premature the policies that could have served as the basis to further development. Some of the suggestions put forward by WB include promoting structural transformation, entrepreneurship, and innovation. While the long-term priority recommendations include building the existing human capital through investment in education, health, and nutrition, creating better jobs to support these skilled workforces, addressing the congestion and messiness of the major cities and lastly environmental and preservation and climate change adaptation.

The report also forecast that that output growth in the fiscal year of 2019 to be at 7% and driven by the industry and services on the supply side and private consumption and investment on the demand side.


$515 million includes help for community hosting Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar

The World Bank today approved $515 million for three projects in Bangladesh to improve coastal and marine fisheries, forest management, and rural roads. These financings will help rural people by reducing poverty and creating new livelihood opportunities, including for local communities in the Cox’s Bazar district hosting Rohingya people who fled violence in Myanmar.

“These three projects will create opportunities for the rural population and especially help the vulnerable people come out of poverty,” said Qimiao Fan, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. “At the same time, they will improve the country’s resilience to climate change.” 

The $175 million Sustainable Forests & Livelihoods Project will help improve forest cover through a collaborative forest management approach involving local communities. The project will plant trees in about 79,000 hectares of forest, including a coastal green belt that will also help increase climate change resilience.

“The project will support increasing income through alternative income generation activities for about 40,000 households in the coastal, hill and central districts of the country,” said Madhavi Pillai, World Bank Senior Natural Resources Management Specialist and Task Team Leader for the project. This will include Cox’s Bazar where nearly one million Rohingya took shelter. The project will particularly help the host communities through its income generation activities, improving the availability of wood for fuel in a sustainable way and reducing human-wild elephant conflict which has affected parts of the district.

The project will develop and implement Protected Area management plans for about 10 Protected Forest Areas with the involvement of community members.  

The $240 million Sustainable Coastal and Marine Fisheries Project will help improve fisheries management, expand mariculture and strengthen aquaculture biosecurity and productivity. In 10 coastal districts, the project will set up community co-management associations with the fishing communities, enabling them to adopt supplementary and alternative livelihoods. It also empowers female workers through alternative livelihoods support, skills development, and nutrition awareness.

Fisheries are vital to the country’s food security and the sector employs more than 18 million people. After garments, a fishery is the country’s second-largest export earning sector,” said Milen Dyoulgerov, World Bank Senior Environment Specialist and Task Team Leader for the project. “The project will help improve fisheries management systems, infrastructure, and other value chain investments. This will result in better productivity and availability of fish.” 

The project will also help expand the current fisher ID card system, which will be linked with the geographic information system platform. It will also improve vessel registration and licensing for fishing.

The $100 million additional financing to the Second Rural Transport Improvement Project will help rehabilitate rural roads in 26 districts that were damaged from last year’s heavy rainfall and floods. The ongoing project has improved and repaired more than 5,000 km rural roads that helped millions of people access markets, hospitals, and schools. The financing will factor in climate-resilience in planning, technical design, implementation and maintenance of the roads.

 “The financing will continue a road safety program to ensure traffic safety as the rural roads are facing increased motorized traffic,” said Dung Anh Hoang, World Bank Senior Transport Specialist and Task Team Leader for the project.

The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. The World Bank has since committed more than $29 billion in grants and interest-free credits to the country. In recent years, Bangladesh has been among the largest recipients of the World Bank’s interest-free credits.

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Maliha M Quadir
Founder & CEO
Shohoz

Creating Ride Solutions Through Tech
It was a wonderful Saturday morning and the commute to Shohoz’s Gulshan office from Bashundhara was easy; there was almost no traffic. I was going to meet Maliha M Quadir, the founder and CEO of Shohoz, a web-portal that started its journey four years ago with digital ticketing services for interdistrict travel by bus in Bangladesh. The country that has always made the headlines for road traffic accidents and the sorry state of the public transport system is now being recognized for a tech-based company that aims to solve these problems. The start-up was able to execute the mammoth task of getting a bus and launch companies to affiliate with their ticket services; proving that innovation thrives when there is a necessity.

Last week Shohoz unveiled details of the $15 million in funding they received for Shohozrides, the ride-sharing wing of the company. This service aims at making life easier for commuters in a city where everyone grapples with an insurmountable traffic gridlock every day.

An Out and Out Tech Company
As I entered the office, a big table tennis board welcomed me. On the ride hand side, was a room painted with white and orange stripes, reminding me of their old logos. “Think Digital” is written in the emboldened font on the backdrop of a meeting table. Upon entrance, you realize that tech is the life-blood of this company. They recently launched a new logo, from which one can easily consider Shohoz to be an aficionado of everything young and digital. They opted for a primary color, green, associated with the youth and chose a minimalist font, matching with the slogan beneath – “jibontake shohoz korun” – calling out to people with a promise to make their lives easier.

The Big Leap
Our dialogue began with how she approached Golden Gate. Maliha politely corrected me, “It was not the only firm that has stakes in this huge investment. Of the $15 million raised during the pre-series B investment, Singapore’s Golden Gate Ventures is the lead investor. Other investors participating in this round include Linear VC, 500 Startups and Singaporean angel investor Koh Boon Hwee. This was our fourth round of fundraising.” Maliha, who has always taken a great interest in economics, is grateful to the network she harnessed ever since her Harvard days. Before starting Shohoz, this corporate-turned-technopreneur had a remarkable stint at Morgan Stanley in New York, Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore, Vistaprint, and Nokia. The exposure has certainly helped Maliha identify her holy grail – do something tech-related that can solve a problem in her country and create revenue at the same time.

Building & Branding a Digital Bangladesh
Shohoz paved its own way in a new market and plays a crucial role in developing Digital Bangladesh. So it comes as a no-brainer that angel investors from Europe and the US had no qualms backing the company. However, she feels that the demand for a local angel network is immense. “It takes a long time to reach the profitability of a tech company. Furthermore, local investors should have a thorough understanding of that fact that procuring funding is difficult.” Maliha is a tale of success in a space that was not expected and she wants this story to show Bangladesh in a positive light. “The country has been maintaining a steady 6%+ GDP for decades and that’s a feat that would be highly commendable in foreign investment circles, but not many of them know about it.”

Maliha believes that collaboration and partnerships are a necessity in order to grow. It is this dynamic that has put Shohozrides on the road to success. “It is high time we collaborate with global expertise and brand our country with proper storytelling. The digital advancements that we have made here in Bangladesh are phenomenal. In many cases, we are way ahead of our neighboring countries. But have we represented those facts properly?” She particularly praises the recent decisions made by the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) to attract more foreign direct investment. Like all her contemporaries, she praises the private-sector led growth. Nevertheless, Maliha admits that bureaucratic tangles and delays in implementation of projects exist, but she thinks these issues are not only endemic to our country. In this connection, she mentions the annual report that charts down the Ease of Doing Business in countries. “I think we should get in touch with the authority behind these kinds of publications and support them with more facts and figures. This will put Bangladesh on a higher ranking.”

The “Mobile-first” Strategy
As our discussion took a more focused turn, I inquired about the inception of Shohozrides. “The idea of launching the ride-sharing app came to me in early 2016; but at that time, it was illegal in our country, which is why we didn’t pursue that goal. We launched Shohozrides on the same day the government approved ride-sharing, which proves the idea was already in the works.” She differentiates between Shohoz’s maiden portfolio and now, saying it stands apart for a number of reasons: “The bus ticket booking service is doing well. We have come a long way in the last five years. However, this is not a frequently used product, whereas the ride-sharing service is. The former is web-centric, while the latter is mobile-based. This is also in line with our “mobile-first” strategy. We are happy that as of April 2018’s data, Shohozrides have offered around 1 million rides.”

The company is now eyeing other popular app-based delivery services, i.e. food delivery. “We are executing on a grander “super-app” strategy. To help Shohoz finance this growth, Shohoz has brought onboard a great lineup of experienced international and regional investors that bring tremendous consumer technology experience, strategic foresight on technology trends in the region, and deep networks which will help us expedite the evolution of our Shohoz super app,” she elaborates. Maliha has some ideas to share when it comes to the progress of the booming tech business: “The bandwidth cost is very high here. This has to come down, which will eventually encourage more people to use the internet. At the same time, payment gateway and credit card fees are something that needs to go down too.” She affirms that a digital nation is not possible without a meticulous plan. ”If we really want to build a Digital Bangladesh, we have to come up with a vision and execution plan that ensures inclusivity and mass awareness about the products that we have to offer.”

No More Business as usual
Maliha does not believe in charity. “When you empower people with the necessary tools, they have the license to build their own future.” This is why she thinks every business should consider itself from the point of view of a social business, creating values, while generating revenues and giving back to society. And with tech businesses, this is possible even more because it can bring a huge pool of consumers under one umbrella with the help of a digital platform. Speaking of outsourcing business, which a big number of youths in our country are looking forward to, Maliha thinks it’s important to have a holistic idea and knowledge of developing a product. “Many freelancers are happy getting small works from multiple employers that earn them good money. However, in the long run, it doesn’t empower them with the skill of developing their own products.” She points out that product development is a precursor to putting anything into the market. “Learning product development is so damn important. I think this has to be mandatory for everyone to do one-year of hands-on training in coding and programming willing to build their career in tech. Without the right technical skill set, we cannot dream bigger, let alone execution.”

Going with the flow
Maliha takes notes from her past as she speeds into the future. She received her best advice as she emerged into her vocational life at Morgan Stanley. “My mentors emphasized the importance of flexibility. Of course, we all have that five-year plan at the beginning of our career,” but that should not be set in stone according to her. ” As we grow, we must know how to adapt to the changing scenario. You never know where life will take you.”

As I was winding up the interview, another slogan on the wall of her room caught my eye. “We can and we will.” I asked one last question, “Will you try your luck in businesses other than tech?” She looks at me with a winning smile and quips, “Tech is my area; tech is my business and tech is changing the world, period.”

 

Sheikh Galib Rahman
Director of Software Engineering
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond

Sheikh Galib Rahman is a man of two fortes. He juggles people and tasks with the utmost ease. Engaging in conversation with peers and like-minded people, one could never tell that his vacation home would include attending multiple networking events. One day he is delivering a keynote before hundreds of youth dreaming to make money with outsourcing business; the next day, he is meeting the who’s who of the ICT sector of Bangladesh. Names like Mostofa Jabbar (the Minister of ICT), Sonia Bashir Kabir (the country director of Microsoft Bangladesh), and Shamim Ahsan (Former BASIS President), are his immediate orbit. Nevertheless, his solar system, bigger mentors, wellwishers and former recruiters from IBM, JP Morgan Chase, Cap Gemini, and Disneyland.

Galib spins memories into allegory with the same ease as everything else he does, making his rags to riches story just as opulent as the man behind it. Galib was only 17 when his life would take a most unexpected turn; a diversity visa to the US offered him not only newer opportunities and a novel way of life. His parents wanted him to become a lawyer but upon entering the US, like many other Bangladeshis, he had to join a $9/hour job at the Dunkin Donuts where the owner highly demotivated him to pursue his parents’ dream. Galib instantly knew he had to leave the place as soon as possible. After working there for six months, Galib finally found a new opportunity. This time he would be a waiter at Trump Tower; the job opened a new network for him. He was accepted LaGuardia Community College under the City University of New York. His stint at the college was a mixed bag: both fun and challenging at the same time. “There were even nights when I slept in the car or at the subway. But I was happy in a way that I knew one day I will have a better condition than this. It took me three years to complete my two years of college,” he looks nostalgic as we carry on with the interview.

By then, Galib had a different bend of mind and wanted to study something, which at that time, was even impossible to dream about: he chose computer science as a subject of his further studies. “I had nothing against becoming a lawyer but computer science compelled me more. Luckily, with the connections, I had been harnessing for the last two years, I landed a job in a high-end bar. I was earning $700-800 as tips per night.” He wanted to purchase a Lexus IS-250 with the money he had saved. “I was criticized for my purchase because people believed that I did not earn the stature for the car.”

It was 2008 when Galib graduated and was looking for a decent job that would enrich his resume with expertise in the field of his incumbent studies. He applied for a job at FINRA-Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in their Document Management System. The first round of interview went so well that he was right away. Though he was successfully finished the next couple of rounds. Unfortunately, he fell severely ill and ultimately, couldn’t prove his mettle to obtain the job which has an offer of $110,000. Galib never lost hope; he kept trying and finally managed to get the job of an Analyst at IBM, at a lower remuneration, $80,000 a year. He had to shift to Ohio. “Life was different there. The posh and pomp lifestyle that one can enjoy at the Big Apple was not readily palpable at the Buckeye State,” he reminisced. Besides the job, Galib put his people-person skill to test and eventually managed to gather 20 Bangladeshi students whom all were living together.

During this time, Galib decided to hone his skills further. In two years of time, he finished six courses which helped him get an offer from Capital One Bank, Virginia, as Software Specialist. “My life changed while working there, as I met Rama Krishnan, a great mentor who taught me many lessons about personal and professional life. I also met Pradip, who was my recruiter; we eventually became friends and started a new company called Transfotech. Like many startups in NYC, it was started in a garage. Paradip and I used to create free tutorials for those willing to build careers in computer science.” It was 2011 and their courses became popular among the non-resident Bangladeshi students who needed training in soft skill development, career management, and specialized training in the field of software development, software quality insurance et al.

Eventually, they started making full stack courses and became the support system for every Ghalib who has faced negativity and demotivation that had met them in their new found home. Transfotech, which started in 2011, now has become a very popular website and garners 20,000 hits per day worldwide. Many programmers who took up classes at Transfotech are now successfully employed in companies like Google, Homeland Security, etc.

Galib’s next big break came when he joined JP Morgan Chase in the position of a Manager for Management of Software Development. He was at the help of six different teams stationed in six different states in the USA. ” The job required a lot of traveling and for the first time, I got on-the-job ‘training’ on how to run a global team. Before starting that job, we worked for Microsoft and NetJet on various software projects.” While juggling all of this, Galib strongly felt the need to hone his skill as a manager. “The importance of skills in managing a team. It is when one is responsible for big projects worth millions of dollars. The specialization in the tech area alone wouldn’t enable me to excel as a manager.” In 2015, Galib got his next big break and this time in Homeland Security in the Software division for the $75 million projects of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration management. Galib boasted about his stay at the project which also recruited more than 30 Bangladeshi engineers. His team won several accolades and awards from the government for being the most professional and timely delivery of work. Galib also worked for Central Medical and Medicaid services, a federal agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, until he joined his current position at the Federal Reserve Bank two months ago in the Software Quality assurance department.

While doing all things data, Galib never forgot his country and its rich heritage. The data geek is also a foodie and set up his own restaurant called Mirch, at New York, his second home. Simultaneously, he wanted to promote more Bangladeshis to the policy-making position; Galib recently worked at the IT advisor of Mizan Chowdhury, the first Bangladeshi who was a 2018 Democratic candidate seeking election to the U.S. House to represent the 5th Congressional District of New York. “I wanted the Bangladeshi youth to be empowered and politically active; I want them to have a life which is full of dreams, purpose and success stories.”

Galib has been closely monitoring the development of the IT and ITes scenario in Bangladesh. Terming the growth “phenomenal”, he said that, “while working for USCIS, I have got to gather experience about immigration and I can disseminate that information, which will be helpful to anyone willing to try for US Immigrant Visa.” With so many different experiences in data and software management, it is easy to assume that Galib would be an expert in cybersecurity issues. He helped the government of Bangladesh while putting together the Cyber Security Act. “This will raise many eyebrows but is a fact that 78% of women of 18-30 years are victims of cyber crimes, and 69% of them never get to tell anyone about that violence. This is why we need to be careful about this issue.” Nevertheless, he is highly optimistic that the youth of Bangladesh has finally set their eyes on the global outsourcing market in a serious way. “The entire market is worth $600 billion, of which 62% comes from the US and 20% from the UK. Of this huge pie, Bangladesh earns only something around $700 million. So the scope is huge. But our youth badly needs to brush up their soft skills and more technical knowledge to go up the value chain and do bigger projects. In addition, corporate training is a cry of the moment as outsourcing companies need people who are good at handling international clients.” During this vacation, he attended a seminar at the DC office of Comilla, where hundreds of youth who look forward to breaking a leg in outsourcing came to hear from him. He was all praise about the initiative taken by Badal Fazal Mir. honorable commissioner of the district. “This kind of initiatives will empower the grassroots people to dream higher and with their participation, the desired IT revolution in Bangladesh can truly happen.”

When asked where he sees himself in ten years, Galib looked relaxed. “One of the best advice I ever received was from a primary school teacher in Barisal, who said, ‘Sometimes the situation will demand to go one step backward in order to go one step forward into the future. Never hesitate to make that move backward.’ I am a person who always likes to go with the flow. Maybe I will join politics or set up a bigger business. I don’t know yet,” he answers with his signature-charming smile. With so many gems on his crown already, there is no doubt that whatever he becomes; he would put the welfare of the people first and eventually develop a tech empire that will empower the millions of youth tomorrow.