Bangladesh is endowed with natural beauty and bounties such as 700 rivers, highlands with evergreen forests, the world’s largest unbroken shoreline, the largest mangrove forest in the world, and a great biodiversity including the Bengal Tiger.
Bangladesh, home to 163 million people from a range of ethnic and religious diverse communities, is also the second largest apparel exporting country in the world.
We have come far as a nation since 1971, and I like to think of my beloved motherland as a country of great warmth and hospitality, modest and happy, with an optimistic future. Over the next 10 years, we will officially join the middle-income club of nations (Bangladesh 2.0), thus uplift social welfare, reduce and fight poverty, create stronger infrastructure, reduce inequalities in income by ending social exploitation, and empower women and marginalized groups.
It’s high time to explore Bangladesh. It is high time that ‘Made in Bangladesh’ is felt with pride and innovation. This is the opportunity and promise to the other nations as buyers and investors
The GDP of the nation is forecasted to grow more than 8%, and we hope to see the testimony to growth in our new economic zones to be established across the country. In the Bangladesh 2.0, over the next 10 years we are also expecting to embrace diversifications of our apparel industry, and we will offer our trade partners a segmented portfolio of products and brands that are of higher value.
We as a nation need to showcase what Bangladesh can become over the next 10 years. We must start planning for branding the Bangladesh 2.0 to the world.
Imagine how the other countries on the planet would understand the unique opportunity we can offer. Imagine how we could brand Bangladesh in the same way as other famous brands have been created. Imagine if we marketed Bangladesh in the same way as Coca-Cola, Apple, and Mercedes have done and evolved into trustworthy global brands.
Our brand message to the world will be that Bangladesh 2.0 is a land of opportunities blessed with its people, fast growing infrastructure, and favourable investment climate. The country’s progress in human development, industrial relations, and workplace safety are our top concerns. Bangladesh is a dynamic and developing nation. The next decade will be the decade of transition to a higher order of economy.
It’s high time to explore Bangladesh. It is high time that “Made in Bangladesh” is felt with pride and innovation. This is the opportunity and promise to the other nations as buyers and investors.
So we have the “why” in place. We now need to look at the “how.” How can we do this?
To answer the “how,” we can look to the term called “nation branding.” The aim of nation branding Bangladesh is to measure, build, and manage the reputation of our country. Nation branding means the creation of the applications of corporate marketing concepts and techniques in the interests of enhancing the reputation of Bangladesh in international relations and thereby increasing the awareness of the country amongst potential future business partners with all the obvious benefits for growing trade, benefiting and uplifting social structures, and conserving our natural resources.
Many countries uplift their position because this can fuel their economic growth dramatically. Think of the “Wirtschaftswunder” which catapulted Germany into one of the richest nations only 10 years after World War II and boosted morale in the country so that Germany still remains in the league of richest nations in the world.
Many countries seek to attract investment capital, increase exports, and attract a talented and creative workforce via branding of a nation consequently increasing human capital intelligence which drives innovation.
So, how can a tried and tested model like nation branding become a reality for us? The task will be inspired by the famous quote: If you can dream, it you can do it. The first step is to create a national and international board of strategic visionaries in the fields of economy, marketing, academia, and entrepreneurs and share with them the dream for Bangladesh 2.0 -- 10 years from now.
Bangladesh is moving up in the world of global business Photo: Bigstock
The team will identify the goals for Bangladesh 2.0, secondly analyze and understand the current situation, thirdly outline the opportunities and/or obstacles, and finally recommend various growth routes in a SMART (SMART: Specific, measurable, acceptable, realistic, and timely) strategy.
The goals are related to the “why,” and the “what” is part of analysis, opportunities/obstacles, and the final growth routes.
The analytical part will not only be focusing on the growth scenario for the current apparel industry, but also outline how to create a diversified value-added road in contrast to the current successful “low-price” driven tactic that the industry runs on in 2018.
But in 2028, this will not be the path to success, as no middle income country can compete on price alone, as higher social standards will increase wages and will make products more expensive to produce and export.
Innovation, technology, and value adding will be the key factors for success in the 2028 Bangladesh 2.0 model, differentiating against competition.
The obvious question, then, will be what opportunities Bangladesh 2.0 has next to the apparel industry to grow the GDP by 2028. The opportunities could lie in the human capital of 163 million people and the DNA of our country.
Thailand has built a very successful tourist industry rooted in hospitality. Can this be another way of diversifying the Bangladeshi business model?
Taiwan has developed high-tech business because the government saw the future already in the 1970s, when they focused on IT and educating young people on technology. Taiwan is now the 5th largest producer of computers in the world, and the income has catapulted Taiwan to financial success and social uplifting for the entire country.
In other words, identifying the opportunities for Bangladesh 2.0 will be derived from looking for the essence of being Bangladeshi and Bangladesh as a nation. What is truly working in our favour of natural-born abilities, which by default is embedded in our culture? Warmth and hospitality could be turned into business opportunities in conjunction with our unique nature.
The obvious question will be what opportunities Bangladesh 2.0 has to grow the GDP by 2028. The opportunities could lie in the human capital of 163 million people and the DNA of our country
Benchmarking against other countries which once were middle income and have made the leap into industrialized nations is an opportunity to be explored. They all have focused on the education of their population to drive innovation in new entrepreneurship and business models.
Could the need for education be a business model to export for Bangladesh? We could, over the next 10 years, co-create and attract the best in global academia to create an innovation centre for sustainable global solutions, which many Western companies will want to pay premium prices for.
Solutions that will brand and market Bangladesh as a front-runner and innovator in sustainability, and create opportunities for various growth areas related to energy, climate changes, and social injustice. The nation that cracks those dire challenges will also be the country which will grow their GDP most successfully in the next decade to come.
The Middle East found oil in the 50s and 60s -- this became their single source of income. But Middle Eastern countries are now being forced into finding new income revenues, as CO2 emissions are creating environmental challenges, and the oil will run out one day.
The oil was a natural reserve. Will the human capital of Bangladesh be the natural winning formula for Bangladesh in terms of exporting global solutions to global problems based on our intellectual capacity?
All of these ideas are opportunities for Bangladesh 2.0. However, there are also obstacles to be taken into account. How do the natural calamities stop the business models? Do we need to rethink the governance and eliminate a good part of the bureaucracy to foster the vision and the dream?
The various opportunities are then measured against obstacles for growing and nurturing our current Bangladesh into Bangladesh 2.0, and then evaluated against cost, time, realism, and what is actually doable.
The final steps are to invest and deliver on the promise. Walk the talk. Put your money where your mouth is.
Delivering the dream will brand and market Bangladesh for the next growth curve, if managed consistently and passionately through the techniques of storytelling and marketing via media and social media.
Creating the key messages of what now is a reality as opposed to a dream, and consistently proving, documenting, and broadcasting our stories by telling the world about our success again and again, will brand Bangladesh 2.0.
Mostafiz Uddin is Managing Director of Denim Expert Limited, and Founder & CEO of Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE).