Special Coverage Social Business Youth Summit 2014

Panel discussion on “Entrepreneur’ Talk”

02 Jul,2014

Dhaka, July 02 (BdChronicle):

A panel discussion on “Entrepreneur’ Talk” took place after the prayer break at the SBYN 2014. The panelists were Duncan Power, Ashir Ahmed, Ahad Bhai, and Tafsir M Awal.

“We can be entrepreneurs to other people's social business ideas,” said Duncan Power, Executive Director of Grameen Foundation Australia, and Chief Executive officer at Dana Asia.

Talking about his experience in Dhaka Power said “there are millions of motor vehicles clogging the roads and they need to be serviced. A few days ago I was invited to have tea at a road side mechanics shop. It was raining and the rain was falling on the mud floor. The owner told me they could only provide the most basic facilities due to lack of fund. Yesterday I went to the owner of a big automobile company. He told me they are having difficulties finding a training shop that they can trust.”

“They can trust our training shop as our service is of very high quality and our shop will be a social business. There are also difficulties like the cost will be higher than the road-side auto mechanics shops, but we will provide long term solutions to their problems,” Power said.

“We work with the rickshaw pullers. They live a very harsh life. They have no savings. They receive no institutional help. We teach them and help then open bank accounts.  We encourage them to save money in their bank accounts and we match the amount they deposit in their accounts. With this fund we help them become entrepreneurs - own their own rickshaws instead of renting them. We also help them get ads on their rickshaws. Currently there are over 10,000 such rickshaws all over Bangladesh,” said Ahad, who is the founder of Panther Social.

There is also social business involving rickshaws and there are many talented artists who do rickshaw arts, Ahad informs the audience. However, they do not receive good price for their art, said Ahad. “We help them make their arts available to local and international market,” he added. 

Tafsir  Awal thinks Bangladesh has the most challenging environment for entrepreneurs in terms of acquiring logistics, bank loans etc. Unless someone is politically connected things will be very difficult for social business.

“Best entrepreneur are not necessarily the best managers. He needs to have a lot of heart. It won't work if you don't trust yourself and your product,” Tafsir added. Tafsir Awal is Director, Panther Social and Director Multimode Group.

Ashir Ahmed related his amazing story of involving 85 thousand villagers in social business. He created a vast database of information on villages around Bangladesh. He employed ordinary villagers to input the data.

Ashir also distributed Portable health kits. They are connected to a Grameen health call center.

Ashir Ahmed and his team went to 32 to remote locations in Bangladesh with the health kit. They served a total of 32,000 patients. Ashir Ahmed is an Associate Professor of Kyushu University in Japan. He is also the director of Global Communication Centre, Grameen Communications.