Before moving to Bangladesh in May, among the known business challenges, I was well aware of the opportunities and the positive energy for which Grameenphone is legendary in the Telenor Group.
I was not sure of what we would find in Bangladesh as a country, but it has been an incredible experience so far.
Sure, there are issues to be addressed, problems to be solved, but that is the truth for any market.
In my view, the glass is far more than half full: the opportunities far outweigh the challenges.
The country is experiencing stable macroeconomic indicators over the last 7 or 8 years with a growing middle-class, a strong impetus to create economic zones, new infrastructure and a couple of very large bridges to change the flow of traffic in the country.
Bangladesh is a fantastic opportunity for investors. And there needs to be a concerted effort from the business community to recapture the narrative about what it means to operate here.
As a major player in the economy and a company listed on the Dhaka Stock Market, Grameenphone too has a role to play in promoting and investing in South Asia — and Bangladesh in particular.
More pertinently, Grameenphone is a great example of a Bangladeshi business success story.
In the last 20 years, mobile communications have greatly accelerated change in our culture.
Everybody who gets a phone here gets access to information, communication, security and education, among other things. Unarguably, mobile is a big equaliser.
It brings education where education did not exist before; it brings trade where trade is difficult; it brings access to information and the democratisation of information where it was not available before. It even brings avenues of entertainment into people’s lives.
As the largest operator in Bangladesh, Grameenphone has a profound responsibility to be sustainable and profitable and to invest in the society that it serves with a view to bringing about progress and respectful socioeconomic change.
I strongly feel that one of Grameenphone’s key objectives is to make the Bangladesh economy more digital and more competitive.
The importance of 4G for the dream of a digital Bangladesh cannot be understated. But in order to realise the true experience, much more spectrum should be made available at affordable prices.
Grameenphone’s number one chosen role is to allow Bangladesh to continue to be an international competitor and to grow as well as diversify its exports.
There is incredible entrepreneurial and business talent in this market. Their desire to build a better Bangladesh is matched to our desire to facilitate the same by providing services and infrastructure that make a difference.
Grameenphone is challenging the existing business models in order to provide customers the best tools, allowing them to act on their environment, interact with each other and transact in the marketplace.
Enabling these “moments” where customers act, interact and transact is at the very core of the growth opportunity for mobile operators globally, and Bangladesh is no different.
This does not mean we do everything. It means that we enable economic growth and digitalisation.
We create opportunities for others to use networks to build a digital economy that creates value for our customers and grows our own business.
In addition to providing telecom services, the way we do things makes a difference.
The way we apply our sense of ethics, the way we apply our governance, the way we apply our code of conduct or our way of work are humble examples of how business can be done. We believe these are important contributors to the society that we serve.
As a corporate citizen of Bangladesh, it is on us to contribute to the fabric of the nation.
We think there is an opportunity for Grameenphone as part of the greater business community to recapture the narrative and play a more active role in promoting the country for foreign investment; to stop worrying about things that are going wrong and think about things that are going right.
With all due respect to our politicians who are expected to extol the virtues of investing in this market, when business leaders and foreign investors carry the message that this is a great place to invest, it builds greater credibility.
Grameenphone understands this and we carry and will continue to carry that message everywhere we go.
I think that as we head into 2018 and beyond, there is huge potential still to grow the market and the business.
Bangladesh is investment-ready and investment-worthy.