Article published on the International Trade Center’s website, December 2014
Bangladesh is a life changing experience.
It was 2011 when I first came into contact with Bangladesh. I attended an event in Amsterdam organized by ITC and the CBI (Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs). The aim was to promote Bangladesh as an outsourcing destination. I was positively impressed by the commitment and enthusiasm of both the organization and participants. At a moment of my career when I was trying to find my place again, this event was inspiring and a boost of energy.
It would be only after a second event in 2012 that I could finally have the chance to go there, and experience in person what all those enthusiastic people were talking about. This was my first visit to Bangladesh as part of a Trade Mission and visit to Soft Expo 2013. It sounds like a cliché, but that was a really life changing event.
I have always had my feet firmly on the ground and my concept of reality is pretty rational. But once you step out of the plane at Dhaka airport, boundaries are going to be pushed beyond your wildest imagination.
And then, once your senses are right under your skin; when your mind is unable to activate that self-defense instinct towards the unknown and unexpected. In that very moment, a second flood of sensations and experiences comes. Your heart, wide open and exposed will have no choice but to absorb till the last drop of the love and dedication Bangladeshi people puts on what they do.
In less than 24 hours I experienced so many things that I found myself in a sort of spiral I could not escape. From crazy traffic, lots of colors, smell, noises. Huge contrasts that you witness as you move through the streets. Intense days, rushing, heat… I almost forgot that I went there for business. And I am doing it again in this article, so let us focus on business.
If you ask me whether it is easy doing business in Bangladesh, I would say no. Is it worth the effort? I would definitely say yes.
To help with part of the difficulties, ITC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs played a crucial role. They created the bridge between Dutch and Bangladeshi companies, thanks to programs like NTFII and III.
Further it also contributed the ability to see past the first impression. You have to discard preconceptions and instead keep an open approach to recognize positive signs in a difficult environment. People receptive to the surprises that a developing country can offer will do very well. Behind traffic chaos, poverty and dirt, there are millions of driven people. And among them lots of young, highly qualified and committed professionals.
But the key to success is the character of Bangladeshi people. Nothing is difficult for them. It is that resilience, a concept you will often hear or read associated to that country. True. This all may sound like a whole bunch of nice words. In that case, just consider this. People that wake up every morning to fight their way through such a terrible traffic, even for hours to, sometimes do their job in very basic conditions. And despite all this, being responsible for most of the clothes we are wearing, the website where you book your holidays or that official mobile app of your favorite singer. I think it is a proof that you can find a solid partner for your businesses in Bangladesh.
As I said at the beginning, in my case it was life changing. I went to Bangladesh intending to outsource graphic work, and I came back with a notebook stuffed with ideas, full of inspiration and new energy; and the plans to develop a complete new product for my company. In less than one year this plan was a reality. It became a remarkable product for one of the biggest automotive companies in the world. A great achievement for me, and a truly success business story from the cooperation between Bangladeshi and European companies.
After almost two years and four visits to Dhaka later, I can only advise: do not miss the chance to go there and give it a try. In the beginning Bangladesh will probably bring up more questions than answers. You might find yourself in that swirl of emotions I mentioned before.
Today I look back and I have many answers. I understand it perfectly well. It was all a strategy, a well-designed master plan. Bangladesh and its people throw at you such an overwhelming amount of impressions that your brain is not able to assimilate the flood of data. And then, once your senses are right under your skin; when your mind is unable to activate that self-defense instinct towards the unknown and unexpected. In that very moment, a second flood of sensations and experiences comes. Your heart, wide open and exposed will have no choice but to absorb till the last drop of the love and dedication Bangladeshi people puts on what they do.
If you experience this yourself, that should give you some of the answers to your questions. And, if you are lucky, it will shape your live forever.
Thank you Bangladesh, now I understand everything.