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Shakil Maruf
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The title of the thread is an oft-mentioned request of my father who is always prodding us 3 brothers in the states to do something in Bangladesh. This something or "kichu" is somewhat ambiguous to me.

Right now we are invested in real estate properties but Dear Abba doesn't mean that. He expects us three boys to do something tangible that will benefit the common people of BD as well as help us financially. I am at a loss as to what Bangladesh really needs in terms of expertise from its overseas citizens. Sending remittance is surely helping, but NRB's like us, what can we do to make a difference?

Many expatriate Bangladeshis are heavily invested in shopping malls, franchise restaurants etc., but I am not thinking in those lines as they do not benefit the common person that much. At one time I thought setting up food processing plants to get value added products from our agricultural commodities was a sure way to help the farmers and the country. There's so much wastage of our agricultural produce due to lack of proper storage and transportation that we run from bumper harvests to famine like situations every few years.

A few of my friends at Intel tried to do something in Bangladesh(microprocessor related) but gave up in frustration due to the corrupt bureaucracy.

Just like how some UK NRB's are setting up airlines, are there other avenues where a bunch of us can get together and come up with ventures that mimic some of the good practices of the developed countries as far as agriculture and infrastructure is concerned?
 

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Proud son of Bengal
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Open a school or hospital in the rural areas- thats the best thing anyone can do.
 

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bleh!
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would depend on how much you are willing to spend

at the end of the day it wouldnt reach the common man because the mastans would probably try to take it away from you.
 

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I have some suggestions which you're welcome to take (or not).

Bangladeshi working class people are honest and hardworking but as expats our duty is to help them with our exposure to better things (to technology, to more efficient ways of doing business, manufacturing etc.) which they obviously don't have. In essence our duty as expats are to provide them with jobs utilizing their cheap labor. Don't get sidetracked or disheartened by corruption which exists everywhere. In China it is actually worse. That's the price you pay for the third-world labor. Your buyers in the US or EU don't really care (other than the activists), why should you? Labor is cheap in Bangladesh and that's why its easier to do something (Kichhu kora) in Bangladesh.

Other than larger manufacturing sectors like shoes, garments and shipbuilding there are a whole slew of other things that could be made in Bangladesh -- niche products that require lots of high value addition (labor wise) like -- say leather goods. Bangladesh produces plenty of wallets and garden variety stuff but nothing specialized.

China does not subsidize manufacture of small items like leather goods anymore. Twenty years ago Bangladeshi manufacturers lost their shirts to China because of this.

China is now moving upmarket to higher value addition expensive products like cellphones or PDA's themselves. This is a good opportunity for places like Bangladesh to make low-tech products like leather goods, toys, electrical goods like injection-molded plastic items etc. where labor cost is cheaper than even other Indian subcontinent countries.

Look at the cellphone holster you use. This is an example of time sensitive manufacturing for which the ingredients are very easily available in Bangladesh. The thin goat leather, the plastic substrate stiffener, the glue (low VOC), magnetic closures, woven labels are all available. Samples can be made in a matter of days and sent overseas to middlemen.

By the time a new cellphone comes to market (to carriers like Verizon or AT&T in the US), it needs holsters only for about a year or so before they are obsolete. One can get a hold of local cellphone accessories sellers in the US and supply these. A holster can sell for $19.99 at Verizon which costs $3.50 to make in Bangladesh and that has a 50% profit margin. This is an industry for which very minimal machinery is needed. One needs only hire an experienced leather good supervisor from other competing factories.

Some of the other items could be PDA (i-phone) cases or Nintendo cases.

The total investment for a factory of ten workers may be less than twenty lakhs. Yes this is small scale but this is also lower risk, and as an expat you have access to style and fashion trends, quality requirements from the actual markets to bring to Bangladesh and understand the scenario of manufacture in Bangladesh way better than any middleman from say Taiwan or Hong Kong.

I've actually known some people who have successfully done this -- but there is definitely room for many, many more.

As far as food processing -- there is some prospect of processed foods for expat Bangladeshi people (jams, jellies, pickles etc.) but I think there is even more value addition in exporting flowers for which you should contact the Netherlands embassy. The world's largest flower wholesale market is in the Netherlands. There is also one in Kunming, China that is close to Dhaka (3 hours by by air). Our Shaikh Shiraz guy (Channel - I) already had a program on their operation.

The EU secretariat publishes a nice book on cut flower exports to the EU countries, available from Amazon.

Amazon link for book on cut flowers

And here's the addresses from Google's book excerpt from the same book.

cut flower wholesalers in EU

There is a large number of exporters form Himachal Pradesh in India exporting cut flowers (mostly roses) to the Netherland via air.
 

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bleh!
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the bureaucracy in bangladesh is far worse then in china, if you are known to be affiliated with one party when the next comes in power your projects are sure to be screwed!

nrb investment can be made in the agri sector like cold storage facilities, or harvesting strawberies, i know a person who grows strawberies and some other fruits and export them 100% for 300% profit.
 

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bleh!
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oh and make sure you have the capablity to turn a blind eye to many people

once my dad wanted to build several schools in a place, you know what the locals went about saying? the dude wants to be an mp from here hence he is building these stuff
 

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Shakil Maruf
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I have some suggestions which you're welcome to take (or not).

Bangladeshi working class people are honest and hardworking but as expats our duty is to help them with our exposure to better things (to technology, to more efficient ways of doing business, manufacturing etc.) which they obviously don't have. In essence our duty as expats are to provide them with jobs utilizing their cheap labor. Don't get sidetracked or disheartened by corruption which exists everywhere. In China it is actually worse. That's the price you pay for the third-world labor. Your buyers in the US or EU don't really care (other than the activists), why should you? Labor is cheap in Bangladesh and that's why its easier to do something (Kichhu kora) in Bangladesh.

Other than larger manufacturing sectors like shoes, garments and shipbuilding there are a whole slew of other things that could be made in Bangladesh -- niche products that require lots of high value addition (labor wise) like -- say leather goods. Bangladesh produces plenty of wallets and garden variety stuff but nothing specialized.

China does not subsidize manufacture of small items like leather goods anymore. Twenty years ago Bangladeshi manufacturers lost their shirts to China because of this.

China is now moving upmarket to higher value addition expensive products like cellphones or PDA's themselves. This is a good opportunity for places like Bangladesh to make low-tech products like leather goods, toys, electrical goods like injection-molded plastic items etc. where labor cost is cheaper than even other Indian subcontinent countries.

Look at the cellphone holster you use. This is an example of time sensitive manufacturing for which the ingredients are very easily available in Bangladesh. The thin goat leather, the plastic substrate stiffener, the glue (low VOC), magnetic closures, woven labels are all available. Samples can be made in a matter of days and sent overseas to middlemen.

By the time a new cellphone comes to market (to carriers like Verizon or AT&T in the US), it needs holsters only for about a year or so before they are obsolete. One can get a hold of local cellphone accessories sellers in the US and supply these. A holster can sell for $19.99 at Verizon which costs $3.50 to make in Bangladesh and that has a 50% profit margin. This is an industry for which very minimal machinery is needed. One needs only hire an experienced leather good supervisor from other competing factories.

Some of the other items could be PDA (i-phone) cases or Nintendo cases.

The total investment for a factory of ten workers may be less than twenty lakhs. Yes this is small scale but this is also lower risk, and as an expat you have access to style and fashion trends, quality requirements from the actual markets to bring to Bangladesh and understand the scenario of manufacture in Bangladesh way better than any middleman from say Taiwan or Hong Kong.

I've actually known some people who have successfully done this -- but there is definitely room for many, many more.

As far as food processing -- there is some prospect of processed foods for expat Bangladeshi people (jams, jellies, pickles etc.) but I think there is even more value addition in exporting flowers for which you should contact the Netherlands embassy. The world's largest flower wholesale market is in the Netherlands. There is also one in Kunming, China that is close to Dhaka (3 hours by by air). Our Shaikh Shiraz guy (Channel - I) already had a program on their operation.

The EU secretariat publishes a nice book on cut flower exports to the EU countries, available from Amazon.

Amazon link for book on cut flowers

And here's the addresses from Google's book excerpt from the same book.

cut flower wholesalers in EU

There is a large number of exporters form Himachal Pradesh in India exporting cut flowers (mostly roses) to the Netherland via air.
Lots of good information. Thank you.

I discussed this with one of my brothers and he mentioned that a Home Depot style one stop shop for builders and Do-It-Yourself types would also be very beneficial. We could utilize all locally made products (sand, cement, tin, rod etc) and also give impetus to small hardware outfits to build tools to specs. Right now you have to go to ten different stores to get your materials and even then might not find them.

As some of you mentioned, it depends on how much you want to spend. In Bangladesh we should strive to start things small and not care for too much profit right at the bat. As a nation, we are risk averse and this hinders a lot of development. My idea is utilizing our cheap labor to make quality products that will first and foremost satisfy our local needs(save on the import bill) and then export the surplus.

About bureaucracy, dad says we need "Gondar chamra". Like many of you, having lived overseas has built up a tendency in me to expect things to work on time and also efficiently for the most part. Whenever I faced unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles in BD, I literally wanted to jump across the table and plow the guy down. This happened at the car registration place and also at govt. banks trying to withdraw my own money!

Another phenomenon I noticed is whenever I discuss ideas with friends and relatives in BD, their typical response is "Are rakhen to, beshi bhujen. Ei deshe kichu hobe na". It's like people are resigned to the fact that the status quo will never change.
 

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I would actually think of having a scholarship fund to help poor students from the villages get a better undergraduate education to the cities. If a student from your ancentral village got good results in HSC, then you can fund his educational expenses to a good undergraduate college in Chittagong or Dhaka.

You can also provide some computers with internet access (operating using Linux) to a highschool in the district towns of Bangladesh and provide funds to maintain it. The "One Laptop Per Child" initiative makes laptops that are very durable and kid-friendly.

I would like to elaborate on what Manbil Bhai said, you can always sell Bangladeshi products such as nakshi katha and other handicrafts online through Amazon or eBay. Operating a firm in Bangladesh while living here might be a little difficult, but outsourcing the production process there and selling the products here would be a better idea.
 

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I would actually think of having a scholarship fund to help poor students from the villages get a better undergraduate education to the cities. If a student from your ancentral village got good results in HSC, then you can fund his educational expenses to a good undergraduate college in Chittagong or Dhaka.
Now you're talking! I've always wanted to do something like this but never got around to sounding out like minded people to be able to get something off the ground. I would prefer to sponsor a boy and a girl from post primary school level who have excelled but cannot go any further owing to lack of funds. We would provide complete funding that would feed, house, clothe and educate the two selected kids as far as their potential would take them. Up to an undergraduate degree, if not then perhaps a vocational degree/diploma that would enable to them find employment readily, if not at home then abroad.

You can also provide some computers with internet access (operating using Linux) to a highschool in the district towns of Bangladesh and provide funds to maintain it. The "One Laptop Per Child" initiative makes laptops that are very durable and kid-friendly.
I could easily collect used computers (PCs) in good working order because my company routinely refreshes our desktops and the old ones are sent to some recycling outfit who actually charge us to get the machines off of our hands. I, however, never acted on it owing to two reasons: 1) storage space, and 2) transportation cost i.e. who is going to bear it?
 

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Very good topic, it is also relevant to most of us here, as the forum is mostly composed of expatriate Bangladeshis.

I see kind of two different aspect in this topic:

1) Generate ideas for business investment in Bangladesh. This can include setting up joint venture factories with local firms to selling handicrafts from rural areas to Europe and USA. This is purely profit based initiative but at the same time can help the country immensely through investment and employment.

2) Social/non-profit activities like sponsoring a student to building hospital. This will require donation whether small or big.

Both are excellent ways to help our country, inspite of all the different point of view, this is something where we can all agree upon.

I am personally not ready for large scale investment or the private entrepreneurship aspect. But will be willing to start with small scale initiative in terms of non-profit activities.

Anyways, for those of you willing to sponsor a child, following is a good site through which you can do that:

http://www.soschildrensvillages.org.uk/sponsor-a-child/asian-child-sponsorship/bangladesh.htm
 

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Very good topic, it is also relevant to most of us here, as the forum is mostly composed of expatriate Bangladeshis.

I see kind of two different aspect in this topic:

1) Generate ideas for business investment in Bangladesh. This can include setting up joint venture factories with local firms to selling handicrafts from rural areas to Europe and USA. This is purely profit based initiative but at the same time can help the country immensely through investment and employment.
If I shared with you how Taiwan and Korea 'Uthey Galo' you guys wouldn't believe me. It happened right in front of me though -- and was very unglamorous. I was walking around in Seoul one day and saw one guy making $300 Cuisinart saucepans (medium size stainless steel dekchi). Mind you -- one guy. He made about fifty within the half-hour my business partner and I were talking. This was on an old rusty hulk of a Japanese machine which was well-oiled and ran smooth. The exact term is sheet metal press I think.

In that half hour he added ($50 wholesale price X 50) = $2500 to South Korea's GDP. The same time it takes some Bangladeshis in a Mudi dokan to finish a cup of tea and have some gossip.

Something needs to change.

The silver lining is however that making these saucepans (even in low-price China) is getting expensive. Enter Bangladesh. But Bangladeshis are sitting with their hands firmly in their pockets.

And mind you -- I don't hate the Nakshi Katha idea.

But you can sell a lot more Cuisinart pans than Nakshi Kathas.
 

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Shakil Maruf
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
If I shared with you how Taiwan and Korea 'Uthey Galo' you guys wouldn't believe me. It happened right in front of me though -- and was very unglamorous. I was walking around in Seoul one day and saw one guy making $300 Cuisinart saucepans (medium size stainless steel dekchi). Mind you -- one guy. He made about fifty within the half-hour my business partner and I were talking. This was on an old rusty hulk of a Japanese machine which was well-oiled and ran smooth. The exact term is sheet metal press I think.

In that half hour he added ($50 wholesale price X 50) = $2500 to South Korea's GDP. The same time it takes some Bangladeshis in a Mudi dokan to finish a cup of tea and have some gossip.

Something needs to change.

The silver lining is however that making these saucepans (even in low-price China) is getting expensive. Enter Bangladesh. But Bangladeshis are sitting with their hands firmly in their pockets.

And mind you -- I don't hate the Nakshi Katha idea.

But you can sell a lot more Cuisinart pans than Nakshi Kathas.
You bring up a very good point about the diversity of products that Bangladesh can manufacture if given the right tools and expertise. A lot of the automobile spare parts are made in "Mom and Pop" outfits in Japan.

An issue that puzzles me: are we lazy as a nation? Living in the Middle East, I saw how hard our laborers worked and it also made me wonder if this same effort was made in BD, wouldn't we be better off. Why do all of us work hard, follow the rules and basically obey all laws when we are outside the country but once back in our Matribhumi it's everything goes. I shudder when I see lane markings are not followed on Airport Road and basically well educated and well heeled people littering, jaywalking and generally being uncouth.
 

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Now you're talking! I've always wanted to do something like this but never got around to sounding out like minded people to be able to get something off the ground. I would prefer to sponsor a boy and a girl from post primary school level who have excelled but cannot go any further owing to lack of funds. We would provide complete funding that would feed, house, clothe and educate the two selected kids as far as their potential would take them. Up to an undergraduate degree, if not then perhaps a vocational degree/diploma that would enable to them find employment readily, if not at home then abroad.

I could easily collect used computers (PCs) in good working order because my company routinely refreshes our desktops and the old ones are sent to some recycling outfit who actually charge us to get the machines off of our hands. I, however, never acted on it owing to two reasons: 1) storage space, and 2) transportation cost i.e. who is going to bear it?
It would be a great initiative Towhid Bhai. Talking to some private universities might help to set up scholarship(s) for students coming from a certain area of Bangladesh. Or I guess one can directly ask the student to contact you along with grades and recommendations to ask for scholarship.


For the computers, can you ask some company to provide funding to ship those computers to Bangladesh as part of their CSR? Or you could contact BRAC USA or Grameen Bank USA to see if they would be willing to distribute these computers to different schools in the rural areas of Bangladesh. They might have some ideas about whom to approach to get the funding to ship the computers to Bangladesh.
 

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oh and make sure you have the capablity to turn a blind eye to many people

once my dad wanted to build several schools in a place, you know what the locals went about saying? the dude wants to be an mp from here hence he is building these stuff
You need to have a certain amount of "thick skin" to get things done otherwise, you wouldn't accomplish much. I do not know how difficult it would be today to begin a philanthropic endeavor, but many years ago, my father (may his soul rest in peace) along with two of his close friends started Mohammedpur Preparatory Girls School. I understand it is a college today. Needless to say, it did not them make these gentlemen rich, rather they met the occasional shortfall in funds, from their own pockets.

When the BAL was in power the last time, its mastan MP from Mohammedpur, somebody named Mokbul, made the Chairperson/President relinquish authority and hand over controls to him, making him the chairman. The gentleman remained undaunted and went on to open a private university!
 

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It would be a great initiative Towhid Bhai. Talking to some private universities might help to set up scholarship(s) for students coming from a certain area of Bangladesh. Or I guess one can directly ask the student to contact you along with grades and recommendations to ask for scholarship.


For the computers, can you ask some company to provide funding to ship those computers to Bangladesh as part of their CSR? Or you could contact BRAC USA or Grameen Bank USA to see if they would be willing to distribute these computers to different schools in the rural areas of Bangladesh. They might have some ideas about whom to approach to get the funding to ship the computers to Bangladesh.
I don't think I want to take these things on all by myself. If such things interest quite a few of you (and others not SSC, if we could spread the word), perhaps we could start a foundation, a charitable organization, then I would be willing to put in my best.
 

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I don't think I want to take these things on all by myself. If such things interest quite a few of you (and others not SSC, if we could spread the word), perhaps we could start a foundation, a charitable organization, then I would be willing to put in my best.
You can try going through "Change Bangladesh" organization based in US, it's a non partisan group created by expatriates in US and working to help Bangladesh.

I know that they already had few initiatives like the one you mentioned above, if you contact them I am sure they can help out with the distribution of the PCs..

http://www.changebangladesh.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5&Itemid=52
 

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Tetulia theke Teknaf
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Wow..... lots of good ideas and very practical in my opinion.

Open a school or hospital in the rural areas- that's the best thing anyone can do.
i like your idea a lot. rural development is a must.
 

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I don't think I want to take these things on all by myself. If such things interest quite a few of you (and others not SSC, if we could spread the word), perhaps we could start a foundation, a charitable organization, then I would be willing to put in my best.
I have contact with the head of BRAC USA. Towhid Bhai, if you would like to, I can ask her if its feasible to send these computers to Bangladesh.
 

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Maybe something we could emulate?

Philanthropic arms usher in hope for light at remote Mymensingh village

Aminul Islam, back From Netrokona, June 26The people from all walks of life at Goichachhia village under Kendua upazila in Netrokona were in euphoric mood all day yesterday as the foreigners visited the village to inaugurate a newly built school under Basic Needs Programme.

Goichachhia, a remote village, cuts it off from all modern amenities like electricity and so on. It has no education institutions at all and the rate of literacy is almost zero. The school was built as a result of private philanthropy of a US family.

Tom Hubbard, a great heart doctor hailing from Virginia state of the US, funded to establish the school at the village, some 50 kilometres off from Mymensingh town. The school named after Tom and his wife Susan Hubbard was inaugurated by the couple.

“It is my maiden visit in Bangladesh and in South Asia as well, but I am very happy that I could help the underprivileged children mostly deprived of education to make them perfect for the present world,” said Tom, a medicine doctor and a dentist.

“Now the poor children will get quality education there,” he added.

Tom told The Daily Star, “Following friendship of his son Richard Hubbard, a medical student in the US, with Shohan Rahman, a BBA student of ASA University in Dhaka, in 2007 during his summer tour in Bangladesh, we were interested in doing something for the poor and helpless children of this country that paved my way to coming to Bangladesh.”

Shohan is the leader of a group of volunteers studying at ASA University in Dhaka. The youngsters of the group, all from BBA department of the university, conduct various charity work, including rendering free education and treatment and nutrition programme, for the poor children at two points of Mirpur in Dhaka, they said.

Susan Hubbard, Tom's wife, in a smiling face told this correspondent, “We are very happy to involve us in such charity work that will continue for the years together and this institution will charm us as near and dear ones to visit Bangladesh again and again.”

“The people of this country are very good and we hope this initiative would be successful,” she went on.

Richard said, “My heart cried when I saw a child affected with malnutrition at a slum in Mirpur during my summer visit in 2007. Being influenced by Bangladeshi charity workers led by Shohan, I decided to do something for the poor children and that resulted establishing a school at Goichachhia.

“Being influenced by the charity work of ASA University, I also influenced my parents to do something for the humanity,” he added.

A total of 40 poor children will get the opportunity to study at the school, scheduled to start its session next year, Richard said, adding: “My parents will do everything possible for the progress of the school and I seek allout supports from the local people to make our dream a real.”

Richard's younger brother Chandler Hubbard was also present on the occasion.

Gazi Jalal, a member of the charity group, said they opened two learning centres at Mirpur for poor children and they monitor the centre five days a week.

“We are out with our noble mission and we want to spread our activities throughout the country in near future, increasing charity workers at every education institutions of the country,” he added.

“Fund is not a matter as there are many people to come forward for such philanthropic work, so our mission will surely shine,” said Adhrita Islam, a classmate of Jalal.

Md Kamrul Islam, the only honours student of this village, said the school would be a great hope for the children. Most of the people here live below the poverty line, but now they could send their kids to the school for receiving education, he added.

Mohammad Shahjahan, a farmer of the village, said, “We needed a school heartily and the foreigners, who came here with their helping hands, should be welcomed with open arms.”

http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=94428
 
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