Young Dreams into Action
Words alone cannot express the huge popularity that the concept of “entrepreneurship” has gained in the past decade. Even two years ago, I could not fully comprehend the reasons behind the hype of young entrepreneurs. However, now, after participating in the HSBC Young Entrepreneur Awards (YEA) 2010-11, I believe that entrepreneurship holds the key to solving some of the most daunting problems that our country faces today.
The journey to YEA started in early January. This was the time when several small earthquakes had alarmed the country. It felt like these small earthquakes were pointing to the advent of a larger earthquake. Adding to the fear was the recent report from the Ministry of Food and Disaster Management, which revealed that approximately 72,000 buildings in the city would collapse in the event of a 7 degree quake.
It was this fear, the fear that our country might share the same fate as Haiti, that awakened the entrepreneurial spirit within me; I started to look for a solution to this pressing challenge. Days of research finally paid off with the dawning of the idea of “CocoCrete” an innovative high-strength concrete, reinforced by the coir fibers of coconuts that can safeguard buildings from cracks and earthquakes.
Since CocoCrete uses natural fibers (i.e. coir fibers), its tensile strength is 40 per cent higher than that of plain concrete while its cost is almost the same. During that time, HSBC YEA seemed like the perfect platform -- not only for exposing my idea but also for turning the idea into a robust business plan. And that is how Team Stalwarts, consisting of Shehreen Kamal, Nusrat Sharmin Moutusi, and me (the Team Leader) was formed. Little did we know then that this competition would soon prove to be an experience of a lifetime for each of us.
After qualifying in the first and second rounds, my team proceeded to the Bangladesh Grand Finale which took place on May 26, 2011. In the final round, we had to present our business plan in front of the judges and compete against six other teams. The innovative idea of CocoCrete, coupled with our sound business model, finally made us the Gold Award winner from Bangladesh.
All the Gold, Silver and Bronze winners received the opportunity to participate in a week-long entrepreneurial tour in Hong Kong. Being the Gold Award winning team, we had a more difficult task at hand: representing Bangladesh and competing against the Gold Award winners from six other nations (Brunei, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, Shanghai and Thailand) in the Regional Grand Finale in Hong Kong.
We arrived at Hong Kong on June 17. The next couple of days flew by as we attended an interesting team-building session with participants from other countries and a welcome dinner. Both the events made us feel at home in a foreign land. In addition, we had to put in about 4 hours every night for preparing for the regional round, (thanks to our very own Rifat Faruq, an HSBC executive who accompanied us to Hong Kong and spent countless hours watching us practice) and we were ready to face our competitors in the regional round.
June 20, the day of the eventful Regional Grand Finale, finally arrived. Dressed in traditional sarees, which we managed to wrap around us with the help of some senior friends, we did turn quite a few heads as our new friends wondered at the perfect pleats! After our 10-minute presentation and 5-minute Q&A session, we were quite confident about garnering a position among the top three teams. Despite the confidence, we were still stunned into silence when we, Team Stalwarts, were given the first runner-up Diamond Award. The team from Thailand ended up being the second-runner- up (Jade Award) for their convertible heels project while the Best of the Best Award went to the Team from the Philippines for their eco-friendly food-packaging project.
It was not this win or the prize money of HKD 40,000 that alone made the stay at Hong Kong so rewarding. The entrepreneurial study tour, co-organised by HSBC and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), allowed us to not only explore Hong Kong but also bond with students from other countries. A Culture and Heritage Hunt at Wanchai, an old district of Hong Kong, and a trip to Ocean Park, the seventh most popular amusement park in the world, were as enjoyable as we expected. The closing dinner on June 24 marked the end of our stay at Hong Kong as we bade farewell to all the participants and organisers, who will be remembered for a long time.
Now, back in Bangladesh, I reflect on all the precious things that HSBC YEA has given me: a chance to visit Hong Kong, exercise my leadership skills, represent Bangladesh on a global stage and make some wonderful friends. Most importantly, it gave me the opportunity to explore what “entrepreneurship” was all about and to contribute, albeit humbly, to mitigate our country's risks from earthquakes.
(The writer is a student of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka.)