Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 4, Issue 11, Tuesday March 20, 2007


face of modern Bangladesh

Three and a half decades into independence, Bangladesh has finally surpassed its infancy and as we stand on the brink of another March 26, there is much more to do than recollect. While each one of us will relive, and rightly relive the turbulent and staggeringly influential final week of March once again, in addition to reminiscence, time has also come to look into how far and how well we have made it as a nation.
This Independence Day, Star Lifestyle pays heartfelt yet silent respect to the freedom struggle that we owe homage to for each moment of liberated existence, be it as individuals or as a collective whole. This Independence Day, Star Lifestyle takes a moment to step out of the system and applaud from the sidelines those sectors of our country that deserve praise. This Independence Day, we look at where we stand and who we have become on March 26 2007.

Sense speak the principles of marketing
Well sealed in the past are days when business transactions were defined merely by the core elements of money for product or money for service. Trading meant exchange and exchange meant only the basics. Although it has taken a good thirty-six years, the principles of marketing and management seem slowly to be catching on. The crux of the matter is no longer restricted to simply having products sold and elaborate affairs are made of promotional campaigns, décor and design and most importantly, customer relations.

With respect to the above, notable go-forwards so far as the service sector is concerned can best be seen in industries such as banking. The advent of a spiraling number of local banks without name or fame to their banners has meant that they are willing to go just that extra mile to fight for market share. To serve that purpose what better stratagem than paying heed to personal interaction with clientele? Banks that have not yet written their success stories operate on a smaller scale than their global contemporaries and the limited number of patrons they cater to only makes for a need to leave little to be desired in terms of friendliness, willingness to help and provide services that can easily be mistaken for amity.

Similar advancements have been made in the health care sector where attention is deeply being paid to the look, level of hygiene and attitude of personnel in hospitals and other medical centres. Considering that even half a decade ago, the forerunning options for medical attention were the likes of PG Hospital, BIRDEM and Dhaka Medical College, where patients should feel just two shades sicker from the mere interiors of the places that resemble dark and dirty makeshift war clinics, adulation can certainly be paid to the likes of United Hospital in Baridhara or Square Hospital on Panthopath. Aside all else, the admitted can safely put their feet on the floors or enter the bathrooms without risking the need to shudder.

This however, does not mean that all has been accomplished and scarce room is left for improvement. Many an organisation still subscribes to the perception that they are in actual fact doing consumers a favour by just being. After all, it will take more than a few business school lectures to amend long held attitudes.

And then there was…entertainment
A large part of the happy-to-be-Bangladeshi stance can be owed to recent developments in media and entertainment. Something in between BTV's offendingly innovation-less sets and monotonous programmes coupled with the greatest invention after sliced bread-cable television, meant that audience attention shifted entirely from local programmes to across-the-shores entertainment. And with media being directly correlated to widespread mentality, no bonus points for guessing why lost were the charms of Bangla gaan, Bangla natok and Bangla onushthan in general. With more TV channels than can be counted on fingers and toes combined, programme quality has now improved at the speed of light and right back in demand is locally produced entertainment with shows such as Siddika Kabir's Recipe, Kichu Katha Kichu Gaan, Tritiyo Matra, Close-Up 1 and Kaccher Manush.

And in speaking of entertainment, no dissection of the issue is complete without mention of another new and upcoming trend: event management firms. Evidently initiating such practices seem to be a much preferred choice of career lately and with recent expansions of the word entertainment to include concerts, fashion shows and reality shows, there is clear reason for professional intervention in relation to sound systems, stage décor, venue and seating arrangements, catering and publicity. Once again however, more efforts still need to be invested in the quality of service provided by these agencies, one glaring lacking for example, in programme presentation of the MCs.

Judging the book by its cover
Try to picture a little blue box with a single line embossed along the centre in black. The first image that comes to mind is the box for Tiffany and Co. Now named after the company itself, this “Tiffany Blue” box is recognisable anywhere in the world. After all, it is all about the packaging. And while most of the time you probably won't judge a book by it's cover, when it comes to buying other products, you are certain to make a portion of your decision based on the packaging of the product.

Gone are the days of glass soda bottles. While those bottles are still a nostalgic remnant of the past, new cans and pet bottles such as those for Mojo and Lemu are definite attention grabbers. The same rule applies for scores of food brands and products such as Radhuni, BD Foods, Cheeky Monkey, Pran Junior Juice, etc.

But the food industry isn't the only sector to have wised up. Various stores, company outlets and even service centres have caught on. Bakeries and eateries no longer serve take-outs in greasy brown bags. They now serve items in identifiable boxes and bags that reflect their name. Premium Sweets and King's Confectionery are prime examples of such food joints. Handicraft stores like Aarong, cell phone companies like Grameen, and many more are now embracing the “brand ware” concept. And just like stores abroad, they are now investing in designing custom shopping bags, boxes and other packaging materials so that their brand name is instantly identifiable.

In the end it's not just about what the product is, how it is packed is equally important.

Getting the word out
The dull and drab days of ridiculous advertises and discordant jingles are now history. Bangladeshi companies are now very particular about how to spread the word about their products and services. What was previously considered a necessary tool is now perceived as crucial: advertising. As ridiculous as it may sound, people are influenced by their favourite celebrities to buy a product. Pioneering commercials such as Reshmi and Nobel's RC Cola ad have now inspired ad-makers to hire well-known celebrities to publicly endorse their clients' products. Hence it is no surprise that

everyday we see a different commercial with a different star in it. But it doesn't end there. Next to the stars, ad-makers also give attention to detail and hire well-known musicians to create the jingles. After all, the catchier the tune, the longer you'll remember the product. And to top it all off, often times these commercials are shot at exotic locations to add to an already fantastic promotional campaign.

Don't think, with all this energy spent on making ad-films, advertisers neglect the print media. In fact they put the same amount of thought into making print ads, as they do while making commercials. Thus it is no wonder that all the magazines and newspapers in the country sport so many eye-catching commercials.

And just in case a full-page layout or well shot commercial isn't good enough to catch the eye, ad firms take “precautionary” measures by using huge billboards with amazing pictures to get the word out. Just think of Cats Eye or Soul Dance and you too will get the pictures.

Television, print, or billboards, when it comes to advertising, Bangladeshi ad makers are certainly hitting the ball way out of the court.

The taste of Bangladesh- Eating your way through…
Even till the late 90s, the trend of going out for “chinese” continued. There were Chinese restaurants that fared extremely well with the generation- Chung Pai, for instance. The turn of the millennium saw a whole new era of modes for gustatory entertainment. Suddenly, there were variegated cuisines being dished up everywhere. Suddenly, life was filled with choices- scrumptious culinary delights from Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Lebanon, Italy and so much more. But what was to happen to traditional Bangladeshi food? The bhartas, the bhajis, the daals and the trademark fishes? What people could have at home, being cooked in their own kitchens and being served on their tables everyday for lunch, they did not want to have on “special occasions”.

But lately, eating out the “bangla style” is in vogue. Restaurants like Mondira and Bhoirob Ghaat, and food outlets like Dhanshiri, Kosturi, Motorshuti and Dastarkhan have faced a steep hike in demand. These among many others have dedicated themselves to dishing up Bangladeshi cuisines. Nowadays, there are even food stores and restaurants that serve a Bangladeshi buffet. These include an array of 'khaati bangali' food like 'shutki bhorta' and 'begun bhaja' as well as something slightly on the high end like biriyani and paratas.

The Bangladeshi outback
With a change in social outlook and people's standards of living on the rise, more and more people are learning the single most valuable lesson of life- that, all work and no play is bound to burn you out. They are embracing escapades- so comes local tourism. This has been beneficial to those who cannot afford tickets abroad. They can easily take a trip to the wilderness of the Sunderbans, the lush greenery of Srimongol, the serene beauty of Bandarban, the history-tainted Rajshahi and much more.

Needless to say, many new tour operators have come into the market and the more established ones have diversified into tours on a national level. Not only have the number of tour operators increased, so have the range of packages. For instance, there may be three to four different packages for Bandarban. One can cater to the thrill-seekers, including activities like trekking and mountain climbing, the other could be for honeymooners while another may be tailored for the middle-aged couples who just want to sit back and revel in the scenic beauty, and so on. Furthermore, there has also been a rise in the quality of subsidiary businesses from hotels and banking facilities to souvenir stalls and public transport.

These packages are being offered by Parjatan, as well as private operators like Shamatata and Guide Tours. Many of the packages are seasonal, so check with the operator before you dive in. Also, the cost varies depending on the type of package- costs may be lower for students who are prepared to economise, while those looking to bask in the luxury of it can settle for a bit more.

The entire nineties decade saw an unquenchable thirst for metropolitanism in Bangladesh, be it in terms of architecture, the schedules people maintained or the kind of lifestyle that was pursued. Technology and materialism were the strongest drives of the time frame and in the quest to assume the role of any other modern day conurbation, the aspects of insane busy-ness and mechanical ways of life gained preference over the values and cultures that made us just that bit more human than the West.

Come the turn of the millennium, it is too soon to tell whether full realisation has struck or not, but we are once again back on track. Harmfully and unduly frenzied lifestyles promise to be slowed down by evening shutters pulled on shopping malls, parking space becomes once again an attainable concept, schools emphasise the importance of physical and spiritual well-being instead of only high-stress academic curriculums through the encouragement of ECA, deshi products have once again become usable and the youth of today thinks not only of settling in some First World country but actively fighting blood and thunder for Bangladesh with their voluntary services, their business solutions, their music and their efforts. Bangladesh is on a promotional campaign and nationalistic pride is 'in' with new force.

In her thirty-six year old journey, Bangladesh has lived through many phases- of unmeasured ecstasy and unrealistic hopes, of bitter disappointment, frustration and corruption, of completely forgetting Bangladesh and striving to be something it was not and lastly of coming back to an era where Bangladesh is once again it's people best identity. This Shadhinota Dibosh, welcome back to who we are meant to be. Welcome back to Bangladesh.

By Subhi Shama Reehu, Tahiat-e-Mahboob and Shahmuddin Ahmed Siddiky
Photo: Star Lifestyle archives


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