September 2019

Standard Chartered Bangladesh recently held a launch event commemorating the launch of the Korea- Bangladesh corridor initiative.  With a dedicated team focused on Korean entities, the corridor will focus on helping Korean businesses invest and operate in Bangladesh seamlessly.  A guidebook titled “Doing business in Bangladesh”, offering readers information in both Korean and English, was launched at the event. The event brought together the leaders of Korean business and diplomatic communities in Bangladesh, along with policymakers and leading corporates of Bangladesh.

Standard Chartered Bangladesh has been playing a leadership role in enabling and facilitating trade and investment across key trade corridors such as China and Japan. The bank will be able to offer its Korean clientele the most extensive network among international banks in Bangladesh combined with strong presence in South Korea; a comprehensive product suite covering cash management, trade services, securities services and digital banking; financial risk management products; project finance and other specialised financing solutions; regulatory support and market insights honed over 114 years of operations in Bangladesh. 

Speaking on the occasion, Naser Ezaz Bijoy, CEO, Standard Chartered Bangladesh, said, “South Korea was one of the earliest investors in Bangladesh, and remains the largest investor in our textile and RMG sectors, accounting for more than a quarter of the sectors’ FDI stock. But its investments remain concentrated in sectors such as leather and banking and lag behind the top five nations overall, meaning there is significant potential for growth into sectors such as infrastructure, shipbuilding, light engineering and more, given the right conditions.”

He added, “The bilateral trade scenario is similar. South Korea’s total imports increased by around 3 times between 2000 and 2018, while imports from Bangladesh grew by a factor of 15. Yet, while we are on the upward curve, this still represents just 0.06% of South Korea’s total imports. We hope that initiatives such as this Korea-Bangladesh corridor desk, side by side with government efforts to improve ease of doing business and development of Korea-focused export processing zones, will build new bridges between these two age-old friends.”

Muhammad Abdul Mannan, Minister of Planning of Bangladesh Government, graced the occasion as chief guest. Also present on the occasion as special guests were Sirazul Islam, Executive Chairman, BIDA; Md. Alkama Siddiqui, CEO, Public-Private Partnership Office; Mr. Major General S M Salahuddin Islam, Executive Chairman, BEPZA; Mustafa Kamal, Chairperson of KBCCI and Mr. Jae Ho Chang, Deputy Director, KOTRA.

The Heads of Mission of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland visited Cox’s Bazar on 25 and 26 September 2019 and made the following local joint press statement after the visit in regard to the ongoing Rohingya crisis:

We reiterate our high appreciation of the continued humanitarian and other assistance provided to the Rohingya refugee population by the Government and the people of Bangladesh, including by the local communities around Cox’s Bazar.

We also commend the excellent work done by the humanitarian agencies in facing this crisis. The strong collaboration between the Bangladeshi Government, local actors, and the international community through the UN, INGOs and NGOs has been key to this response. 

The UN agencies, NGOs and INGOs involved in the humanitarian response are playing instrumental roles in Cox’s Bazar, not only to alleviate the suffering of the refugee population but also to support the host communities. We encourage the Government of Bangladesh to continue its close collaboration with the humanitarian organizations, to preserve humanitarian operational space, and to enable them to function in a free and unimpeded manner and in a safe and secure environment.

The Rohingya population who has sought refuge in Bangladesh need safety, security, and dignity. A safe and secure situation in the camps and surrounding areas in Cox’s Bazar must be upheld, in which refugees and host communities are protected and can feel safe.

We note with concern that the conditions for the return of the Rohingya refugees to Rakhine State in Myanmar in a voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable manner are not yet met. The international community must work jointly to urge and support steps by Myanmar towards a situation where this will be possible.

Heads of Mission

H.E. Ms. Winnie Petersen, Ambassador, Embassy of the Kingdom of Denmark 
H.E. Ms. Sidsel Bleken, Ambassador, Royal Norwegian Embassy
H.E. Ms. Charlotta Schlyter, Ambassador, Embassy of Sweden
H.E. Mr. René Holenstein, Ambassador, Embassy of Switzerland

 

To continue its robust growth, Bangladesh must take urgent steps to improve road safety, said World Bank Vice President for South Asia Region, Hartwig Schafer, as he concluded a two-day visit to the country with the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt.

Today, they attended the ‘Road Safety for All’ event in Dhaka. The road safety crisis has become a global epidemic comparable to diseases such as Malaria, Tuberculosis or HIV. Globally, about 1.35 million people die every year in road accidents, and more than one-fourth of these fatalities are estimated to happen in South Asia. The road safety situation in Bangladesh is particularly concerning: in the last two decades, increase in the road crash fatality rate per capita was three times higher the average in the South Asia region.

“Apart from enormous human toll, poor road safety can undermine a country’s growth and development,” said Schafer.  “But, road accidents are largely preventable and the time to act is now. The World Bank and the United Nations together stand ready to support Bangladesh to improve road safety.”

Many countries around the world have reversed the trend through adopting a safe system approach that includes Safer roads, Safer vehicles, Safer behavior, Strong governance, and Post-crash health care.

“Under the leadership of Honorable Prime Minister H. E. Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh is determined to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of cutting 50 percent of the number of road traffic fatalities within the next decade. We are confident that the goal set by our Prime Minister will definitely be accomplished with the close cooperation and coordination by all the citizens of Bangladesh,” said Finance Minister, Government of Bangladesh, A H M Mustafa Kamal, who joined the ‘Road Safety for All’ event as Chief Guest.

Road crashes are the fourth leading cause of death of children aged between 5 and 14, and 67 percent victims are within the 15-49 age group in Bangladesh. The economic and human cost of the untimely deaths and injuries are immense,” said Todt. “Yet we see tremendous opportunity through the commitment that the Government has shown and we look forward to working together for better road safety.”

At the event, the World Bank and the UN jointly launched a video competition ‘Road Safety Champions’ soliciting solutions to make Dhaka roads safer. The competition is for the Bangladeshi youth between 18- to 23-years old. The details of the competition are available at www.worldbank.org/Bangladesh.

During the visit, Schafer and Todt met with the Finance Minister, Road Transport and Bridges Minister, and other senior government officials of Bangladesh.

The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Since then, the World Bank has committed more than $30 billion in grants, interest-free, and concessional credits to the country.

Chaldal.com, Bangladesh’s leading groceries platform, and Cookups, Bangladesh’s leading platform for homemade food announce a partnership that heralds a stunning comeback for Cookups after a month-long hiatus.

Catering to the fast-paced, modern 21st-century lifestyles – both Chaldal.com and Cookups are pioneers in the food tech industry in Bangladesh. This integration between the two companies promises an exciting way forward, empowering farmers and enabling many home-makers to earn from home while getting hassle-free groceries delivered to their doorsteps.

“We are very excited about this partnership and believe that this has the potential to not only completely overhaul the face of food tech in Bangladesh but also change the lives of millions of women hoping to earn from home. Chaldal has many strengths which we believe will be very strong support for our business,” said Namira Hossain, CEO, and co-founder of Cookups. Cookups will resume its regular operations following this announcement from the 29th of September, 2019.

“It is clear to us that Cookups is a platform that people love, and we are really impressed by what the team has achieved in such a short time. In Bangladesh, we need startups to collaborate. As we are in the market for ingredients and Cookups is in the market for food, we believe that this partnership will complement each other’s businesses perfectly. I hope this step provides more confidence and helps to foster a vibrant startup ecosystem in the country”, said Waseem Alim, CEO, and co-founder of Chaldal.

To order groceries or find out more visit: https://chaldal.com/
To order delicious homemade food, visit: https://cookups.com.bd/

The World Bank Vice President for the South Asia Region, Hartwig Schafer, and the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Road Safety, Jean Todt will arrive in Bangladesh tomorrow to discuss the challenges and opportunities to improve road safety in the country.

During the two-day visit, they will meet the Honorable Finance Minister, Honorable Roads, Transport, and Bridges Minister, other senior government officials, and civil society representatives. Mr. Schafer and Mr. Todt will also participate in the “Road Safety for All” event in Dhaka on September 24, 2019, which is part of the South Asia Regional Program on Road Safety that includes Bangladesh.

“Road accidents are life-shattering experiences for families.  Apart from the enormous human toll, road safety has a major economic impact; globally, annual crash-related costs are estimated at 2 to 5 percent of the national Gross Domestic Product,” said Schafer. “I welcome this partnership between the United Nations and the World Bank in support of countries, like Bangladesh, to make traffic safer and help accelerate growth, reduce poverty and promote shared prosperity”.

Road safety is a global development challenge. Every year, 1.35 million people worldwide lose their lives while driving, cycling, or walking on the road and another 50 million are seriously injured. A recent World Bank study has shown that for South Asia as a whole, a 50 percent reduction in road deaths would generate an estimated gross benefit of about $1.2 trillion.

 “Along with the World Bank, I look forward to a productive discussion with our partners in Bangladesh on the path for achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of significantly cutting the number of road fatalities over the coming years,” said Todt. “I call on Bangladesh to join and fully implement the key UN legal instruments on road safety, which can enable the country to address many major causes of road crashes.”

The World Bank and the United Nations are offering to countries a number of tools and support modalities to tackle road safety problems. This includes consideration in the upcoming call for proposals of the recently established UN Road Safety Fund, as well as technical support in the accession to the UN legal instruments related to road safety, administered by UNECE.

The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Since then the World Bank has committed more than $30 billion in grants, interest-free and concessional credits to Bangladesh. 

The Bangladeshi travel scene is seeing massive changes. Travelers are now opting for more flexible and convenient options for their travel related services. Leading Online Travel Aggregator (OTA), Go Zayaan has gained massive popularity and trust with thousands of travelers since it launched services in 2017. The company has been a pioneer in providing online services where travelers can now fulfill almost all their travel needs in minutes.

Go Zayaan’s vision is to provide customers with an unparalleled one-stop online travel solution. The number of tech-savvy travelers looking for digitally enabled travel options is growing exponentially. Go Zayaan received foreign investment from OS Ventures and local investment from BRAC Osiris Impact Ventures. Go Zayaan will expand its service offerings and invest in its in-house developed technology platform. The platform already offers travel services, such as domestic and international flight booking, premium visa processing services, local and international tour packages, customized travel plans and packages and round the clock customer support to assist travelers at any time.

Syeed Khan, Partner of the Osiris Group said, “We are extremely excited investing in Go Zayaan. The travel industry is seeing significant growth and technology will drive the user experience as consumers seek high quality, timely and transparent service.”

Founder & CEO of Go Zayaan, Ridwan Hafiz is also known for co-founding the country’s first and one of the largest digital marketing agencies, Analyzen. When he was asked why did he choose travel, he said, “I didn’t choose Travel; it chose me. We are working day and night to create the perfect Travel Brand. We do not plan to rest until the whole ecosystem reaches global standards. 

JCI Bangladesh recognized Ten Outstanding Young Persons of Bangladesh through an auspicious event titled “TOYP 2019” on 18th September, Wednesday at Hotel Radisson Dhaka.

The voluntary organization recognized the achievements of ten persons in eight different categories- which are Business, economic, and entrepreneurial accomplishment, Political, legal, and governmental affairs, Cultural achievement, Environmental leadership, World peace, and human rights, Technological development, Personal accomplishment and woman leadership, Medical innovation etc.

Honorable Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, MP, Speaker of Bangladesh Jaitya Sangsad graced the program as Chief Guest and handed over the awards to the Ten Young Persons for their outstanding achievements and contributions in different categories. The guest of honor of the program was Noor E Alam Chowdhury, MP, Chief Whip of Bangladesh Jatiya Sangsad and the special guest was  Sheikh Fazle Fahim, President of FBCCI .

Abdullah Al Morshed has been awarded for Outstanding Contribution in World Peace and Human Rights, Dr. Asraful Hoque Sium has been awarded for Outstanding Contribution in Medical Innovation and Advancement, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, MP has been awarded for Outstanding Contribution in Sports, Mohibul Islam Chowdhury, MP has been awarded for Outstanding Contribution in Political Accomplishment, Mohiuddin Ahmed  has been awarded for Outstanding Contribution in Environmental Leadership, Nusrat Faria has been awarded for Outstanding Contribution in Cultural Achievement, Salman Karim, has been awarded for  Outstanding Contribution in Business, Economic and Entrepreneurial Accomplishments, Shayan F. Rahman has been awarded for Outstanding Contribution in Entrepreneurial Accomplishment, Tahmina Mostafa has been awarded for Outstanding Contribution in Personal Accomplishment & Women Leadership and Tanvir A. Mishuk has been awarded for Outstanding Contribution in Technological Advancement.

The TOYP Bangladesh recognizes young people who excel in their chosen fields and exemplify the best attributes of the country’s young people. By recognizing these young persons, JCI Bangladesh encourages them and other young people to seek excellence and serve for the betterment of society. Through the event, JCI Bangladesh is contributing to the country by preparing better leaders, who will eventually create better societies in the future in Bangladesh.

In the program, National President Irfan Islam, TOYP Committee Chair and National Treasurer Sakib Ahmed, TOYP Committee Co-Chair, Salehin F. Nahiyan, National Executive Vice President Sarah Kamal along with other National Officers, Local Presidents members of JCI Bangladesh were present. Diplomats, Government officials, Business leaders, Leading Entrepreneurs, Students and Young Professionals were present in the event as well.

LankaBangla Finance Limited has launched its first-ever Contactless EMV-enabled LankaBangla VISA Platinum Credit Card in Bangladesh. The launching event took place in Hotel Sarina on September 17, 2019.

Contactless cards will allow customers to make payments by simply waving the card near the point of sales (POS) machine without the need to swipe or insert the card into the machine. The contactless card will provide customers with improved convenience as the speed of the transaction will be significantly faster and will offer increased protection from card fraud as it comes with EMV enabled chip and NFC (Near field communication) Technology.

To commemorate this milestone, LankaBangla Finance, and VISA will be offering a range of exclusive benefits and discounts through VISA’s wide network of over 1000 partner outlets nationwide which include exclusive offer like BOGO (Buy-1-Get-1) at renowned hotels in the city, exclusive discounts at dining and lifestyle. In addition, LankaBangla Finance will issue complimentary Contactless LankaBangla VISA Platinum Credit Card for the first year and will allow the cardholders to avail 100% waiver on the renewal fee by making only 12 transactions in a year.

Alongside this, the cardholders will be able to pay back later at 0% interest up to 36 ezpay installment facility with the ezpay program of LankaBangla at their partner outlets by using Contactless EMV-enabled LankaBangla VISA Credit Cards. On top of it, VISA Platinum Cardholders can get 3 complimentary access to Balaka Executive Lounge and unlimited complimentary ‘Meet and Greet’ service at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.

Regarding the launch, Khwaja Shahriar, Managing Director & CEO, LankaBangla Finance Limited, said, “We believe customers will adopt the contactless card as an alternative to cash that is both simple and secure. We are excited to offer our customers a new payment option that they can use at a growing number of merchants around Bangladesh. With this Latest contactless technology of VISA Card will ensure more secure transaction system for our customers. We believe, this endeavor, jointly initiated by LankaBangla and VISA will bring remarkable convenience for the valued cardholders with the transactional efficiency.”

Along with the higher officials, the launching event was also attended by Soumya Basu, Director, Business Development, VISA South Asia; Khurshed Alam, SEVP, Head of Retail Business, LankaBangla Finance Limited; Md. Minhaz Uddin,  Head of Cards, LankaBangla Finance Limited and Osman Haidar, Business Director, ITCL.

From a cottage industry, Bangladeshi toy manufacturers have turned the table on their Chinese counterparts and are now setting their sights on the global market

There are certain objects that bring us instant joy, fill our mundane lives with delight. The sight of colorful toys puts a smile on our faces, brings out the playfulness that has taken a back seat as we wander the avenues of life. It might miss the eyes of many, but the toys that are being displayed outside the retail stores in Bangladesh have undergone a massive change. Most of them are now made in Bangladesh. 

THE TORCH BEARERS
Over the years, the quality of locally manufactured toys has improved exponentially, which allowed retailers and wholesalers to put more faith in them. As the industry matures, dependence on imported toys has been declining rapidly; manufacturers are expecting the domestic toy market to become self-sufficient within the next five years. It began as a cottage industry a decade ago with a handful of manufacturers and has now evolved into a thriving sector with over a hundred high-quality manufacturers. Statistically, the size of Bangladesh’s domestic toy industry is Tk 10,000 cr; over 90% of it used to be dominated by Chinese imports; local manufactures took this challenge head-on and brought it down to a mere Tk 2000 crore. 

THE MIDAS TOUCH
According to insiders, the industry flourished after the Bangladesh government allowed tax exemptions to promote local manufacturing. In 2015, authorities granted VAT exemption and customs duty reduction on the imports of parts and accessories required for toy manufacturing. It allowed manufacturers to import accessories at 5% duty; it helped to reduce the cost of production significantly. The list of materials that were granted the reduced tariff included sticker papers (non-printed), self-contained electric or non-electric motors, parts, and accessories, remote controls for electronic and electrical apparatus and gearboxes. It was the masterstroke that tilted the balance toward local manufacturers and encouraged local entrepreneurs to invest. The current growth suggests that Bangladeshi manufacturers will soon be able to compete with international toymakers in both domestic and global markets. However, Made in Bangladesh toys are already conquering markets all over the world.

MAKING HEADWAYS
Bangladeshi toys are already famous all over Europe and North America. They are exported by a handful of foreign companies who have set up factories across Bangladesh. Hashy Tiger which is located at Comilla EPZ, was set up by Japanese toymaker, Hashimoto Group; it was the first completely export-oriented toy factory in the country according to BEPZA (Bangladesh Export Processing Zone). In 2017, their export value was close to a million dollars. They primarily manufacture toys for the Japanese market and some international clients. Bangladeshi fans of diecast model cars will be pleasantly surprised that a significant number of them are produced in their own country. A Hong Kong-based company Sonic Limited established its factory at Uttara EPZ of BEPZA in 2013. Sonic Bangladesh Ltd provides model cars, motorbikes, toy tanks, and toy planes. Their primary markets are European countries, Japan, and the U.S. Similarly, The Golden Son limited manufactures toys for some of the biggest companies in the world. It is chaired by Lin Yu Chen, who is Taiwanese but now has a Bangladeshi passport. Lin aims to expand operations and train their employees so that they can manufacture all the toys for Golden Son destined for 107 countries.

PREVAILING SUPERIORITY
The primary reason for foreign factories setting up factories in our country is the availability of low-cost labor. For a long time, this has been the biggest draw for investors looking to set-up manufacturing plants. The foreign-owned factories that we have discussed came to Bangladesh for the same reason. Toy manufacturing is labor-intensive; concurrently, production cost in China has been soring due to the rising living standards among the Chinese. Therefore, despite the infrastructural problems, Bangladesh is attracting global toy manufacturers as the most cost-effective solution. However, foreign manufacturers face some barriers, which has slowed the pace of expansion of the industry. There is a shortage of skilled local labor; most skilled workers in Bangladesh work in the RMG sector; toy manufacturing requires a special set of skills, and the training process can be very time-consuming. Factories are trying to bridge the gap by bringing trainers from China and Japan, who in turn produce local expert trainers. Currently, most factories have foreign production managers, but much like the RMG sector, skilled local employees are being developed gradually. 

SMALL PRODUCERS, BIG OBSTACLES
Although the toy industry has witnessed rapid growth, the elephant in the room needs to be addressed. The majority of the exporters are either foreign-owned or local factories with massive resources. The small manufacturers are limited to producing toys for the domestic market; there is a benchmark for standard and competency that hasn’t been met by smaller entrepreneurs. There are quite a few constraints that are holding back local Bangladeshi toy manufacturers from cashing in on the enormous global demand. The majority of local manufacturers produce simple plastic toys like relax baby chair, dinky cars, and toy furniture sets. To export, they are required to provide more sophisticated toys with flawless accuracy. Most local manufacturers do not possess the infrastructure or the manpower to support the production of such magnitudes. Commonly, even simple plastic toys do not maintain export quality. As the polymer is not produced in Bangladesh, toymakers are forced to import it (polymer) from China. However, toys made from sub-standard polymers fail to pass the safety standards in Western markets, which have precluded small manufactures from producing toys for large international manufacturers and have restricted them to the local market. 

EPILOGUE
The global toy market is projected to grow at a steady rate of 4% and is projected to worth more than $120 billion by 2023. As China is shifting towards more specialized manufacturing products, Bangladesh has the opportunity to become the largest toy manufacturing country in the world. It has the potential to employ millions of people and generate billions of dollars in revenues. We need to carve the avenues of our destiny carefully; Bangladesh has to devise sustainable infrastructure plans to ensure factories have hassle-free and fast logistical support. One of the significant issues faced by exporters in the delay in freight shipping in Chittagong Port, the government needs to find ways to accelerate the shipping process. As experts have suggesting relentlessly, it is time to completely overhaul our technical and vocational training institutes to produce skilled human resources; they will form the backbone of a potential billion-dollar industry. Most importantly, we should be careful not to leave behind the small entrepreneurs who have established this industry in the position it currently holds. 

* Photographs: Mahmud Hossain Opu 

By Maimun Mustafa 

How Bangladesh Can Navigate Amidst the Wave of Changing Technologies

At the onset of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), Bangladesh is uniquely positioned to benefit. In 2019 the country experienced its highest ever GDP growth rate of over 8% and PWC predicts it will be among the top 30 largest economies of the world by 2030. However, to compete in the dynamic global marketplace, the nation cannot stay complacent with its non-diversified export-oriented growth, 81% of which has been attributed to the Ready-Made Garments (RMG) industry. To stay true to the development trajectory, this South Asian miracle economy has to effectively take advantage of the opportunities presented and overcome challenges posed by Industry 4.0. 

A Brief History of Time
Each of the prior industrialization breakthroughs had a specific impact on reshaping the world of commerce. 

The Shifting: Winds Of Change
The rapidly evolving nature of innovation brought on by the previous IRs is both a testament as well as a reason for giving due importance to Industry 4.0. The first two IRs lasted for approximately a century. However, their successor dramatically changed the earth, as we know it, in only 4 decades before giving momentum to its own successor. As the open flow of goods and services gave birth to modern globalization, the 3rd Industrial Revolution was important for the pivotal shift of economic power from the traditional colonial nations to Asian Tigers and BRICS countries. Therefore the impacts from this period had a widespread powershift in economies in comparison to its two predecessors. Technological change causing disruption of global business practices in exponentially decreasing time intervals provides appropriate signals for the adaptability requirements of any nation wishing to stay competitive in a global economy.

“The 4IR is unlocking a new cycle of economic growth. This innovative technological breakthrough will greatly impact our economy and bring changes in labour intensive job market. Bangladesh needs to formulate a strategic road map for industrial transformation considering 4IR technologies.” 
– Osama Taseer, President, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry

Trajectory Targeting
Industry 4.0 broadly refers, among others, to the following aspects of technology: real-time use of data intelligence, system integration, simulation, additive manufacturing, cybersecurity, cloud computing, autonomous robotics, augmented reality, internet of things (IoT) and the concept of smart cities. The prospects opened by 4IR are diverse. We must bear in mind however that all concerned parties must comprehend which components to adapt, how to adapt or if possible at all to adapt to Bangladesh’s business context. If properly implemented the automation encouraged by Industry 4.0 can bring greater transparency via data-driven decision making, enhanced monitoring, improved resource allocation, more consumer outreach, and new employment opportunities.

Building Business Bundles
Integrating cyber-physical systems and Industry 4.0 standard technologies will allow us to enhance efficiency in our textiles and RMG units, our largest export earner. Corruption and inefficient use by employees may be reduced significantly by seamless automation and monitoring of data collection as we make way for pricing to be more dynamic and transparent along the supply chain. 3D printing could bring in new possibilities for intricate mass reproduction of delicate instruments for extensive commercial production. These production practices can be replicated in other consumer and capital goods industries. Big data and artificial intelligence can assist in the prevention of market force distortions from farm to table or from sourcing to factory. Furthermore, it would give rise to efficient modalities for diversification to other export-oriented industries than rely on just RMG. 

Financial Flexibility
The spiraling growth of 50+ scheduled banks in Bangladesh can also benefit from augmented reality and virtual kiosks in relation to the difficulty of introducing increasing traditional ATMs. This could allow banks to bring 70% of the population under 40 under the banking net, especially in rural areas where existing policies have failed.

Urban Utopia
Automated data transfer incorporating IoT for creating smart cities could be a Godsend for Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka that faces a loss of 5 million working hours every day due to traffic congestion and poorly managed transportation services. As the other major cities also become megacities Dhaka’s successful policies could be integrated in other urban areas as well.

Making the Market
As more industries mushroom with the adaptation of these standards, the consumer will become aware of how to find new use cases through exposure to such technologies. After usage, adaptation will be followed by innovation as both users and producers can play with the opportunities and bring new solutions domestically or through international export of ICT services. Collectively this may translate to greater availability of newer business cases for complementary services like 5G telecommunications. At a panel at INFOCOMM 2019 in Dhaka, Mahtab Uddin Ahmed, CEO of Robi Axiata Limited and Michael Folley, CEO of Grameenphone stated 5G currently has few market opportunities

Defending Digital Development
With more virtualization and digitization through networks comes the risk of cyber threats. The recent cyber-attacks targeted at local banks as well as the infamous Bangladesh Bank cyber heist is fresh on policymakers’ minds. As such the demand for this industry would grow and build an ecosystem for developing local cyber technical professionals that can battle global threats.

Job Diversion and Creation
Many fear that due to artificial intelligence and robots replacing human jobs, there would be employment displacement brought on by 4IR. McKinsey states that as a result of automation an estimated 400 to 800 million current occupations could be displaced but also forecasts the overall creation of 555 to 890 million new employment opportunities by 2030. As such the net employment opportunities override the losses substantially.

Education for Employment
‘As high as 50% of jobs in developing countries are vulnerable to 4IR, although most jobs have some components which cannot be automated,” opined Syed Almas Kabir, President of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS), who is also a Director of the apex business body, FBCCI. Mr. Kabir further states, ‘If education is unable to keep pace with the changing demand for skills, those who already have the skills to use new technologies will earn even higher premiums. Job polarisation will increase the supply of labor competing for lower-skilled jobs. To mitigate this crisis, existing labor force should be up-skilled and re-skilled to make effective usages of 4IR innovations transforming their jobs.’

Recently Education Minister, Dr. Dipu Moni announced the inclusion of mandatory technical education by 2021 in all schools. If the training has curriculums that address continuous skill enhancement, the Bangladeshi workforce may compete with both quality and quantity in the wake of 4IR.  

“The cognitive ability to adopt constant flux of change driven by 4IR should be developed among all major stakeholders, and in the society as a whole. Education and skill development should go through transformation—focusing on cognitive capability and lifelong learning to prepare us to leverage 4IR in our favour.” 
– Syed Almas Kabir, President, Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) & Director, Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI)

Digital Dementia
Though Bangladesh has evolved on numerous levels it lags behind in the willingness to progress in some significant areas. Cashless transactions remain a distant dream, with 94% of the population still preferring to deal with paper money. According to a Bangladesh Bank report, at present only 8 percent of the utility bills and 2.6 percent of the salaries are paid through digital platforms. POS systems are very less as high costs deter SMEs from using them. World Bank data highlight that around 70% of people in the country still do not have access to traditional banking. This is especially prevalent in rural areas and contributes to imbalanced growth. The online VAT payment system developed by the government over the years was abandoned due to pressure from businesses’ unwillingness to incorporate digitization. As the global community progresses on such issues numerous Bangladeshi businesses and consumers remain isolated.

Integration Inertia
What prevents the general Bangladeshi household in using the traditional cutting blade in place of the kitchen knife? Why do the majority of people prefer to wash clothes manually or cannot afford to use washing machines? Why does the general commuter not respect traffic rules? The answers to these questions imply that the introduction of advanced technology is useless if the people, for whom it is intended, cannot or do not choose to benefit from it. The apprehension of loss of jobs by workers and lack of desire in adopting 4IR standards by management may act as frictional factors to take advantage of Industry 4.0 in Bangladesh. It is only when foreign buyer enforced compliance forces these firms, companies rush to integrate without properly strategizing in advance. Before we even move on to complex technologies we must ask ourselves why we are immobile in much simpler areas? Overcoming this cultural inertia should be a top priority for Bangladesh as a nation if it wishes to come on top in 4IR.

Bangladesh can benefit immediately in some industries while certain opportunities require investment for seeding the future. Just like a building has to be built from sound foundations, Bangladeshi industries must incorporate the principle learnings from the first 3 Industrial Revolutions in existing processes before they can hope to successfully compete in Industry 4.0.

Beyond Boundaries
Bangladesh can benefit immediately in some industries while certain opportunities require investment for seeding the future. Just like a building has to be built from sound foundations, Bangladeshi industries must incorporate the principle learnings from the first 3 Industrial Revolutions in existing processes before they can hope to successfully compete in Industry 4.0. Developed economies in the 3IR remedied issues like managing organizational change, ensuring adequate compensation, working hours, adopting agile approaches, providing enhanced consumer utility and customer service. It is important to recognize that the growth of the middle class is fundamental as well as those of SMEs. These could be key takeaways for Bangladesh as it strides out from the 3IR.

The 4IR has the potential to fundamentally transform the nature of work, commerce and how society functions. It is an iterative process where organizational culture needs to adapt in line with technology. The people who use the technology must have the skills to grow with the change in innovation. It is vital to not get lost in the sea of intriguing opportunities though. Bangladeshi industries must navigate through diversified 4IR waves that provide the business value pertinent to what they can do differently and take advantage of in the global as well as local supply chain.