By Marjiya Baktyer Ahmed
YLP an Ever-evolving Platform for Young Leaders
Young Leaders Program – the brainchild of Channel I have stepped into its fifth season this year. This initiative began as a way to bring together the brilliant minds of our country and equip them with leadership skills. Taslim Ahmed – acclaimed CEO of Unitrend Ltd. and Consultant, ICAB who is one of the prime initiators and a permanent fixture in the jury panel – recalls that it was around ten years ago when he would take classes in Marketing, Communication, and Branding that he noticed, “That in class, the teachers would use examples from outside. For a student, a local example will be easier to grasp than an international example because perspective is important.”
Channel I provided the platform to mend this gap and offered the opportunity to educate the young generation about successful companies in Bangladesh. Taslim recounts the magnitude of local brands like Pran and Walton. In his second observation, the CEO noted that fresh graduates often found themselves in an unfamiliar environment once they stepped out of universities and into professional workspaces. He realized that students were not receiving basic guidelines and there was a lack of grooming. YLP allows contestants to engage with renowned CEOs and officers of companies while letting them work with particular products or on social responsibility projects. Taslim comments, “For a new graduate to be around these experienced individuals and receiving feedback and criticism on his/her performance is invaluable for his/her growth, because sure you learn lessons in classrooms, but there are also lessons you learn outside the classroom in practical life.”
The Young Leaders Program is open to students who have completed their undergraduate and masters from any discipline. Even young professionals are eligible to participate. Participants have to pass through a written and oral exam in order to become viable candidates. The candidates are then separated into groups and assigned tasks working with actual products. This year Pathao and Berger were the key companies. Contestants had to work on Pathao’s car service and pinpoint the problems and offered solutions by doing a case study and observing the market. They were guided by university teachers who groomed them and offered guidance.
When there are 10-15 candidates left, “The groups are dissolved and tasks are assigned individually. The final task is to sell themselves, like a real interview.” When there are 10 candidates left, winners are determined and receives a full-fledged scholarship. The University of Malay, Catholic University of Milan have become permanent. Taslim postulates, “We have students studying in Essex. We’ve even got students to universities in France and Belgium. So winners receive full scholarships.”
In the beginning, the candidates applying were mostly from the business background. Over the years, however, candidates from all disciplines have begun applying. From doctors, engineers and architects – this variation in applicants reshaped the dimension of the program. “This has created variety in the case studies and the tasks at hand.”
Instead of limiting the tasks to business products and services, the contestants have had the chance to tackle traffic related issues, and have even worked with the government emergency service 999. Another way this program has evolved has been the cancelation of short-term scholarships offered to contestants to pursue abroad because the time was not enough for contestants who are going abroad for the first time to assimilate properly. Realizing that there is always room for revision Taslim details, “It’s been a wonderful journey so far.”
The program runs for 4-5 months, with the camping process taking place for 30-45 days. From a staggering 2,000-3,000 applicants, a select group of around 150 is picked out. This is further shortlisted to include 60-80 candidates, after which they are divided into groups of 10. During the camp session, contestants live in the Channel I dormitory. This is where contestants are put to work on projects, products, services and learn how to present them. After the program wraps up, contestants have to complete pending formalities like completing their TOEFL or IELTS. Also if a contestant requires, YLP assists them in arranging their passports and visas.
“This year has been interesting”, the CEO comments, noting the change in direction the program has taken. Before the focus was on brand servicing, but this year partnering with Pathao and Berger has allowed contestants to work on a massive service provider. This has allowed for a major insight into the behavior and needs of consumers which are invaluable for companies.
“We’ve also worked with social media this year to gauge the advancement in digitization,” says Taslim, who is a staunch supporter of the Digital Bangladesh vision, and commends the skills of the tech-savvy youth generation. Looking to the future, Taslim comments on the need to work with contestants once they move back home. He also alludes to the importance of broadening the horizon for students in the intermediate level or who have newly enrolled into university. He concludes by saying, “It’s not that the young generation will change the landscape, they are already doing it. They are brilliant, and I am very hopeful about the young generation.”