Farzanah Chowdhury, Managing Director, CEO, Green Delta Insurance on her tenure as EO President

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Energizing Entrepreneurs

Farzanah Chowdhury enthusiastically imparts the wisdom of Entrepreneur Organization, and how this platform will be the driving force behind the creation of well-rounded entrepreneurs.

Tell us about your journey with EO.
Entrepreneur Organization is a platform that hosts entrepreneurs who have established and become industry leaders in their respective sectors, who have generated massive turnovers, and who have significantly contributed to the community. EO is set upon 5 core values – cool, thirst for learning, trust and respect, making a mark, taking risks and going where we aim to go. Members of EO are keenly working on driving business and constantly involved in innovating. EO drives innovation, perseverance, and learning. EO functions as a peer-to-peer learning platform, where entrepreneurs share their experiences, knowledge, and swap advice with each other.

The journey of an entrepreneur can be solitary. EO facilitates a space for entrepreneurs to band together and bounce ideas and hold discussions on multitude fronts, for instance, corporate governance, workplace regulation and even including personal issues. At EO, we take into consideration the challenges of the time we live in – the environment is changing, business dynamics are changing, therefore the risks are also changing. We also focus on generating entrepreneurs from the youth demography, because this is the population that will drive the future. EO is a platform that drives the whole ecosystem of entrepreneurs. It is going to be an influential organization in terms of policy levels, policy advocacy, and policy framework as well.

Bangladesh decided to join the EO community because we thought it would be encouraging to have a learning platform; a platform where knowledge sharing is the driving force. I have learned so much by just being a member. You learn from each other, like what the other industries are doing, how they are managing their businesses, managing their homes, corporate norms, etc. It becomes a family.

Can you tell us about the involvement of female entrepreneurs in EO?
We proudly say that we have 21% members who are not only female, but they are actively involved members of EO platform. The active female members are very well known figures in their respective industry in Bangladesh. Our members include Zareen Mahmud Hosein, Mehnaz Tabassum, Nishat N Hamid, Zahida Fizza Kabir, Sohana Rouf Chowdhury, Azra Salim and Faatin Haque among others from various sectors who are really active and also on the board. Our board members diligently arrange learning sessions where we invite international speakers. EO is a platform that is bridging the knowledge gap by providing access to information exchange.

Imran Khan, Chief Strategy Officer, Snap Inc. at a Learning Event

What’s your take on the impact that’s being created by the EO members in the local business ecosystem?
It has created a massive impact since its launch in 2016. Ever since I have become a member of EO, I feel like I have a very strong network and it has really helped me expand my horizon in terms of business, learning, and outreach. This network has allowed me to stay connected to the globe, and it has proved itself to be a powerful network. It has enriched my knowledge and inspired me to contribute in every aspect of my business. EO encourages entrepreneurs to take risks. So if I am taking that risk, who inspires me – my fellow EO members. As a learning platform, EO allows entrepreneurs to obtain knowledge from the movers and shakers in the country. We bring in lots of knowledge and expertise, which makes EO a very powerful international global platform.

When we talk about the impact, view the SDG report. This is a very powerful statement of an industry. This will inspire others, which is actually added to the report. Now you can say the first SDG report in the private sector was launched by a new member, this is how we engage with each other in terms of learning and sharing. Risk-taking ability increases.

What has been the most rewarding part of being associated with EO?
Of course learning. EO brings about a platform where everyone is equal, whether it is a billion-dollar company or a million-dollar company, it doesn’t matter. We are all equal and peers. Recently, we have released a new ad with the message – what can you give to the community? Because giving back to society is how we are going to accomplish the SDG goals and create the impact. EO gives me the energy to pursue accomplishing the SDG goals. That is the most rewarding part.
This platform decides who will be the future of Bangladesh, alongside it is creating an impact in the national economy. EO Bangladesh is creating impact in the whole world through our members contribute to the impact business. Bangladesh is one of the few EO member countries who are really contributing towards impact.

An Evening out and about at rooftop restaurant with EO Bangladesh members and spouses

Tell us about the Impact Awards Ceremony that EO Bangladesh is organizing in March? What’s the vision behind?
The Impact Awards have 12 applications shortlisted. Impact in terms of – the way I define impact in my SDG report – impact comes from innovation and through innovation, you can go towards your reach and by going towards an outreach you can create impact, so innovation, outreach, impact – are connected to each other. Whatever your activity or business it has to be contributing to society.

We are trying to encourage the EO members and their spouses to come forward and go beyond the arbitrary CSR initiatives. It’s one step ahead of CSR. CSR means you do your corporate social responsibility – which is usually a one-time investment. We at EO take a different approach. In order to create a socially, commercially, viable project you have to invest – we call this positive investment. Our policy is along with investing, we have a long term vision which enables revenue generation.

When I am invited by the UN to speak, I am often asked to speak more about how SDG contribution is helping your bottom line and business growth. The funding gap and skill gap is because the corporations are not collaborating, which is why EO is creating both awareness and impact. We also focus on skill development for the youth population. In regards to this, we have a flagship student entrepreneurship competition. It’s a global competition. Every year we do it here nationally. The winners are able to become global entrepreneurs. Last year the winner was a female participant who had a very innovative product. Impact also comes from quality. We have reached 1 lac women but changed the livelihood of 10-15 women that are now successful entrepreneurs.

In our country, the next 10-15 years will be shaped through investments. EO can play a pivotal role in this economic transition. Having the movers and shakers in our country develop their risk-taking ability will allow EO to promote the youth population and the women of the country. We are the first to sign the WEP – woman empowerment principles. We also do mentorship, where entrepreneurs apply and our learnings and knowledge are cascaded down.

We have to evolve and change so that we don’t become obsolete. We need to learn and know how to read the minds of youth and understand them. You have to sell not just a product, but a solution to a customer’s dream. Where do I get this energy to innovate? – EO.

 

Where do you want to see EO in future?
EO wants to be the most influential entrepreneurship organization in the country contributing to the national economy, to the youth, to the women, to the entire education system of this country. To be an entrepreneur education is very important. To be an entrepreneur one must gather work experience. I worked in microfinance, in the banking sector, and then I came into entrepreneurship. Because I worked, I could innovate. You deal with all external issues, internal stuff, business management and growth. The CEOs seat is a very hot seat.Forum experience is the best experience. It has given me a lot of courage and also solutions to my problems.

We handled each other, at the least we sat beside one another and listened to each other. Moments like these are scarce in this artificial age. You have to prepare yourself for the future and the unknown crisis that you might have to face. We are doing a very group integrated effort, we are going to UN, for that, this time we have an UN Impact Summit with probably 50 participants and 39 chapters. So I am also participating there. I am one of their international EO women leaders; so I feel to be prepared for the future, we need to integrate our ideas and thoughts together, and learn what is happening in the outside world.

Youth is the future, and EO will always be there to guide them. We want to implement the thoughts and ideas and energy of EO into the youth population and lead them into the brightest future we can collectively create.

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