Two years back I tried to put my thoghts for REBRANDING BANGLADESH in the following ariticle written for SSC....But some how I didn't post it...Now I am posting it here (I am sorry in advance as you may find it too long, a bit illorganized and unedited as I am not a good writer but you will understand what I am trying to say. Please read it phase by phase in several days and please add ideas and critisize it )
THE GAP IN THE PERCEPTION ABOUT BD IN THE OUTER WORLD AND
WHAT PLACE BRANDING HAS GOT TO DO WITH BANGLADESH?
The issue is the ‘perception gap’ about Bangladesh in the outside world. In seventies, Bangladesh was termed as a ‘bottomless basket’ of the world by the western media. Till now, the country’s image has not improved significantly. Till today, Bangladesh is portrayed in the western media as country of cyclones, floods, with no significant economic activities etc. But Bangladesh has come a long way from the situation it had in seventies and eighties which is not highlighted appropriately in the western media. Bangladesh now without any major help with the outside world handles the natural disasters. In eighties, almost 100% of the budget of Bangladesh was dependent on foreign aids, now Bangladesh it self provides 60-70% of its budget from internal sources. It has now some established industries like Readymade Garments and Pharmaceutical Industry. Bangladesh is one of the major exporters of clothes in the world. Bangladesh has achieved tremendous development in rural socio-economy. According to UNDP, in 2006, Bangladesh has performed well ahead of its neighboring countries like India, Pakistan, Nepal in the area of child mortality, gender parity at work, children education, empowerment of women, sanitation etc. For contributing in the rural development, one Bangladeshi organization (Grameen Bank) and its founder Dr. Muhammad Yunus have received the Noble Peace Prize, 2006. The country has now a strong private corporate environment where millions of hardworking people work.
REMEDY OF ‘PERCEPTION GAP’ IS REBRANDING BANGLADESH IN OUTSIDE WORLD:
The new Bangladesh Brand will be targeted to General public of the people from different parts of the world such as
USA and Canada.
UK and north European countries.
Far East and ASEAN countries:
Japan, South Korea, China
Malayasia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam
Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait
India, Pakistan, Srilanka, Nepal
Iran and turkey
If positive rebranding is possible in western world is possible, rebranding in far east and ASEAN contries and south asia will be an easy task because more or less those countries are influenced by the western perception. Middle East requires a special branding strategy where perception differs from that of western countries.
Current perception about Bangladesh in the western world: (TO BE CONFIRMED BY A SURVEY CONDUCTED IN THOSE COUNTRIES):
Country as general:
1. Bangladesh is a poor country, much poorer than its neighbors like India and Pakistan.
2. most of the parts of Bangladesh go under flood water every year.
3. it is a Muslim country like Pakistan, afghanstan with many fundamental mullahs and women in BD wear burkhas like middle east.
4. Dhaka its capital is like a slum capital like many impoverished African countries (according to experience with SKYSCRAPER CITY website (the leading forum related to world cities), where many of the westerners couldn’t believe after watching the pictures, that Dhaka has so many highrises and glass buildings.
5. Bangladesh is the most corrupt nation and attitude of all people will reflect that.
6. Bangladesh does not have educated human resources like its neighboring country India.
This negative perception in the public’s mind of the western world does harm to us in many ways. people in their childhood get the general impression about a country and later many of them become either a tourist or investor of that country. And in this way westerners perceive us as a country of not worthy of visiting, investing or respecting.
As an investment worthy country:
1. Bangladesh is such poor that it might not have much investment opportunities.
2. Bangladesh has no educated or skilled human resource.
3. As a Muslim country, it is very conservative hence they even not think of it worthy for business visit.
4. It has got violent political backlashes often.
As a tourist destination:
1. It is a small and overpopulated country, therefore nothing much to see.
2. It is a Muslim and conservative society, therefore nothing to do here as a fun loving tourists.
3. It has significant health hazards like malaria, dengue etc.
4. As people are poor, there is always a chance of being harassed by beggars, and touts there.
5. There are fundamental terrorist groups there and there is significant risk of security for westerners.
6. Dhaka is a very small, polluted city where there is nothing available from medicine to day to day things that westerners use.
7. There is not many of a tourist spots there.
8. No western foods are available in Bangladesh and it does not have quality hotels to reside in.
NOW HOW THE PERCEPTION OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC ABOUT BANGLADESH CAN BE CHANGED IN A SHORT TERM?
Well, some of the perceptions of the general public in western world about Bangladesh are true and there is no argument to hide those shames but many of them are a bit over exaggeration. And besides downsides, Bangladesh has also some positive features that are not reflected at all in the existing perception. For instance,
1. Bangladesh is no more a ‘bottomless basket’ case. There were times in seventies and early eighties when almost 100% of Bangladesh’s budget was dependent on foreign aid. Now Bangladesh itself provides 60% - 70% of its budgets from internal sources and this contribution is increasing day by day (source: Ministry of Finance, http://www.mof.gov.bd/budget/afs.html
2. Bangladesh is often flooded during monsoon, but it does not mean all of Bangladesh goes under water (it goes but very rarely, only in 1988 and 1998 BD experienced such flood in recent history). There are many areas which are usually free from flood water in particular all the tourist spots like, Chittagong hill tracts region, Cox’s bazaar and St. martin island, Sylhet tea estates and North Bengal never go under water.
Bangladesh certainly had natural disasters like flood, cyclone etc. but it is the resilient people of Bangladesh has who fought back and now a days without much support of the outer world, the country itself handles those natural calamities.
3. Bangladesh is certainly poor but not much poorer compared to its neighbors. For instance, according to CIA fact book the comparison GDP par capita in PPP (purchasing power parity) for Bangladesh and India are-
Bangladesh $ 2100 and Pakistan $ 2400
One top of that, according to UNDP, Bangladesh is performing tremendously in rural development and was well ahead of its neighbors in 2006 in the areas of child mortality, health and sanitation, gender parity at work, gender parity at school etc.
For contributing in the rural development, one Bangladeshi organization (Grameen Bank) and its founder Dr. Muhammad Yunus have received the Noble Peace Prize, 2006.
4. Bangladesh is a Muslim country but it is not an extreme one. It is very moderate Muslim country and practice of islami shariah is here a personal issue rather a legal or state issue. Therefore, here use of burkha for women, attitude towards the participation of women at work, living daily life is completely considered as personal and people has freedom to choose their way of life.
5. Yes Bangladesh is one of the most corrupt nations in the world, which is known to the entire world. But what is not known to the outside world, that
this corruption is confined to government offices and political parties. The general public here is very hardworking, welcoming, helpful (according to tourists at Lonely Planet’s tourist forum, ‘thorn tree’, one of the world’s most famous tourist forums)…they have nothing to do with corruption. A comment on the general people of Bangladesh by a western tourist can be noted in this regard-
My recent trip to Bangladesh
I just returned from a 14 day trip through Bangladesh and it was totally amazing. I did Dhaka, Chittagong, Hill Tracts, Sundarbans, Barisal and nearby villages (took "The Rocket" steamer down from Dhaka to Sundarbans). While Dhaka (and Chittagong) has its shortcomings (pollution of all sorts being the biggest pain), it was an experience I've never had before - not in India, not in Nepal, Myanmar, Central America - there is no place like Bangladesh. Its not really the natural scenery which amazed me, but the people. The most friendly people I have come across - ever. If you like taking portraits, you'll have 140 million opportunities (that is if you have enough time to snap the total population - ok, deduct about 100 people who may decline your quest to snap them).
Mahmud and his brother did an awesome job to plan my trip and took care of me almost every minute I spent in Bangladesh. These two gentlemen should be awarded with - how about a Nobel Peace Prize!
Met up with my friend "Zoltan" and what a character! He made my trip even more special (see his detailed reports about Bangla on this branch).
Anyhow...I truly enjoyed Bangladesh and as it is totally virgin territory (no tourists), its was a truly special visit! GO explore -- before the mass tourists arrive! I'm off to Vietnam tomorrow and then to South Africa. Will post Bangladesh pics sometime in late January.
6. Though Bangladesh has political instability, it is neither a communist country nor it has military ruler. It has some kind of democracy for last 15 years, freedom of speech and a strong independent print and electronic media.
7. Bangladesh has developed a strong private corporate culture and it has many skilled and well educated technical and managerial human resources who are not only working in the country but also working around the world including developed countries. For instance there are Bangladeshi engineers working in Microsoft, IBM, AT &T, NASA etc. Bangladeshi medical consultants are working in all major medical services in USA and UK. Pharmacists are working in Phizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Teachers and research scholars are working in leading universities of the world including Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge etc.
Bangladeshi technologists and managerial staffs work in significant numbers in the Middle East.
8. Though Bangladesh is a very small country in the world map, it has diversification in landscapes, culture and religion. It can offer different experience for the tourists. For instance it offers eco tourism to Chittagong hill tracts where tourists go to live with ethnic tribal areas for several days in remote hills and lead the local life without help of the civilized world.
BD can offer a steam ship tour through the river and Sundarbans (the world’s largest mangrove forest- the home of Royal Bengal Tiger) which is a unique experience to see the rural Bangladesh. Or, it can offer the calmness of Cox’s bazaar and st. Martin Island tropical beaches where there is no rush of tourists and still virgin in terms of mass tourism.
9. There are also some economic achievements of Bangladesh. Bangladesh managed to develop a huge Readymade Garments industry employing thousands of women. It is now a leading exporter of clothes in North America and in EU (one in every 3 t-shirts in EU is made in Bangladesh).
10. Bangladesh has a disciplined and well trained armed forces, which has contributed immensely to the world peace by participating in the UN peace-Keeping missions. BD has the highest number of peace keepers working for UN.
All these positive points and reality should be informed to general public in a way that will change their perception about Bangladesh.
HOW TO INPUT THE ABOVEMENTIONED INFORMATION TO THE BRAND ‘BANGLADESH’ FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC OF THE WESTERN WORLD:
(WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT THIS IMAGE PROBLEM?)
1. We know every big city in the western world has some kind of big festivals at some point of time in a year such as London has its LONDON CARNIVAL; Sydney has its own festival.
Bangladeshi community has to participate on this festival at a grand level demonstrating Bangladesh’s culture while doing so distributing free gifts (i.e. Bangladeshi Icons like royal Bengal tiger, canoes, booklets about the tourism opportunities and positive things about Bangladesh).
A formal organization (which we are going to form) containing professional event management and advertising people from Bangladesh, students and any interested Bangladeshi volunteers living in those western countries, and if possible a representative of Bangladesh embassy will coordinate the whole participation in those festivals.
2. Perception about a country in western world in the mind of a person is usually grown at young age because when the go to school they read about different countries and areas of the world, again when they are a bit older they get confirmation about their perception by how the media there portray the image of the country.
The young generation now a day in western world use internet as a tool for interaction with others. There are numerous ‘blogs’, ‘forums’ and sites like, thorn tree (for tourists), skyscrapercity (for city scapes and cities), YOUTUBE (for showing videos of any kind to the outside world) which are used by the millions of youths all around the world. These sites can be utilized to convey the positive message about the country to the youths of the western world.
And I can assure you this is a very effective tool and its effectiveness is proven. I can mention a couple of example here. In the Bangladesh section (inside Indian subcontinent) of ‘Thorn Tree’ forum of LONELY PLANET, (one of the world’s most favorite tourism BLOG), there is a person called MR. Mahmud, who himself without out of only patriotism tried to portray Bangladesh as a good tourist country and offered free help to the tourists who are interested about Bangladesh. His strategy worked and he managed to bring many western tourists to Bangladesh. It is really a success story. Kudos to Mr. Mahmud.
Another instance is a Bangladeshi guy living in US whose nick in Skyscrapercity forum (the world’s city forum ) is ‘TMAC’, TAN and other patriots have posted thousands of pictures of Dhaka, rural areas and tourist sites in the Skyscrapercity and has been able to change the perception of the many people in a positive way about how Bangladesh looks. Many of them were impressed to see Bangladesh’s modern urban looks (of Dhaka) and natural beauty that otherwise had the negative impression about our beloved country.
3. Bangladesh needs to send some strong message to the outside world about its attitudes and handling of corruption, fundamentalism etc. it has done that about handling fundamentalism by controlling the extremism very fast which was appreciated by the western world very much.
In case of curving corruption, so far government failed to take any meaningful action. But Transperency International -TA (a Germany based think tank) is fighting against it all alone. It is revealing corruption statistics and building public awareness against it by various promotions. The activities of TA has to be highlighted in the western media…..giving them an idea that ‘we know this is a problem, and we earnestly are fighting against it, government did not help us, but we the public are concerned and taking actions by ourselves’.
4. More and more success stories of Bangladeshis has to be framed in documentary videos like, ‘Dr. yunus’s success with Grameen Bank Model’, ICDDRB’S success about eradicating cholera, Mr. Leepu’s success about exotic car designs (it is already shown in Discovery channel all-around the world) etc. And then making arrangement to show these documentaries to the main stream western TV channels, if necessary even on payment.
5. For tourism, there should be a One Stop Information Service in Dhaka airport under a private management where, there will be counselors who will suggest the tourists according to tourist’s budget, days available and type of tourism he/she wants. And this whole service has to be free of cost; if possible it has to be provided by the help of sponsorship of local corporate companies like telecommunication farms or multinational companies and banks.
PLAN OF ACTION:
Now whole promotion of rebranding has to be done as an integrated action so that,
one activity becomes complementary to the another. For instance, the participation in festivals of the different cities has to be coincided with promoting Bangladesh in different FORUMS and western medias.
To do this, a formal organization has to be formed which will co-ordinate the whole promotion thing. If possible, the government of Bangladesh, local media and local corporate companies’ participation should be ensured to solve funding problem, to get the help of the government and non government institutions. Say if government approve and provide the fund necessary it will also be possible to hire lobbyists to promote the image of Bangladesh in the parliaments of western countries and hence get new opportunities of bilateral benefits. We have to convince about the simple idea to all in Bangladesh that, if Bangladesh’s image is increased, its export order will increase, its people will get more visas to western countries, people living abroad will take pride to introduce themselves as Bangladeshis and the government of BD will get more respect and acceptability to the western countries for which it always concerned about.
To promote the idea of the rebranding to the politicians (ruling party), private sponsors, and media, seminars, face to face negotiations has to be done. They should also give examples of companies like INTERBRAND which are engaged in such place rebranding.