Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   |  Volume 7, Issue 18, Tuesday, May 01, 2012



Hats off to the entrepreneurs


Today is a great day indeed. It is a day to contemplate on and celebrate the enormous contributions the workforce makes in spurring our economy forward. In any community, the skills and hardship of its workforce decides its fate.

But entrepreneurs also contribute hugely to a society's well-being. Have you ever stopped to wonder about the colossal role entrepreneurs play? Somehow, entrepreneurs, across many segments of the population, have become underrated.

There are many misconceptions about entrepreneurs. For example, many think that since an entrepreneur is his/her own boss, taking time off (for example skipping office for a day) is easy, whereas you don't have that flexibility if you are an employee.

While it is true that being your own boss allows flexibility to a large extent, you cannot, in reality, always exploit it.

Hafiz (all names are changed for anonymity) is a successful entrepreneur who has been doing business for more than 30 years. “Establishing a business requires an inhuman amount of work. A lot of attention needs to be given, and only God knows the number of nights I spent sleepless,” he recalls.

If you work for yourself, you put your own money, effort and emotions at stake. If anything goes wrong, you will be the one to suffer directly. This makes entrepreneurs work extremely hard, perhaps harder than employees. Also, creating an organisation that did not exist before is not a matter of joke.

On the other hand, another notion is that most entrepreneurs become entrepreneurs because they couldn't get a job!

We have to admit that there may be a segment of entrepreneurs who had no choice but to choose this particular career path. “Quitting education, I went to a foreign land and served as a blue collar worker for 12 years. When I returned home, I found out that the absence of academic skills and experience made it difficult for me to get a decent job,” Zubair, a small entrepreneur from Azimpur admitted.

However, this doesn't tell the story of all entrepreneurs. Many have quit jobs because they didn't like office politics, the work environment in which they served or reporting to a superior -- or they had a passion for doing their own business. Therefore, entrepreneurs are no less qualified than jobholders.

But one question that bemuses many is whether there is a need for academic qualification to be a successful entrepreneur.

Shahriar, a university student on his road to becoming a businessman says, “In Bangladesh, being able to read, write and carry out simple calculations is enough. You learn real business when you are in the business world”

Whether this is true or not is debatable. But there's no doubt that the value of business education (even education in general) will influence business in the future greatly in Bangladesh; many of the successful entrepreneurs today might not be very educated, but their next generation -- biological or hierarchical -- is.

So, when their time will come and they climb into the “hot seat” if you will, it can be said that they will bring a level of sophistication and supremacy their predecessors could never achieve due to lack of education.

In Bangladesh, therefore, optimists may claim, that a generational upward shift will occur in the way overall business is conducted. A generation is preparing itself; the transition has already started, the whole process will take years to complete.

Talking of “generation” might remind of yet another idea. Many people tend to believe that although the person who starts an organization is praiseworthy; his successors are not, since they have merely taken advantage of the momentum without creating anything of their own.

Is being a second generation businessman easy?

“It is not difficult if you just go with the flow of an organization and keep things the way they are. But when I went into my father's business, I wanted to have my individual projects that will expand our firm. I am also not happy by some of the methods we currently use and hope to change them. Also, sooner or later, you will face new challenges and difficulties,” said Shihab, a final year university student learning business under his father's tutelage.

Hence, even if things are “readymade”, it won't be easy if you have ambitious plans. But of course, the person who starts it from scratch had seen more hard times.

The personality of a super-successful entrepreneur, therefore, builds on the enormous risk, the painful hard work and the ability to motivate and lead people.

Hence, through this process, the entrepreneur unconsciously creates something that is perhaps best described as “the entrepreneurial mindset”: unwillingness to be submissive, a strong urge to build and achieve; creative, always opportunistic and dynamic.

He is a living powerhouse of momentum bursting with energy.

Any economist knows that there are primarily 3 factors of production (i.e. inputs): land/natural resources, capital and labor. But essentially, economists inserted another: entrepreneurship. And interestingly, if you think of it, the entrepreneur is the guy who brings together and organizes the other 3 inputs to form an organization and make profit.

Indeed, entrepreneurs are the people who defy the idiom “can't see the trees for the forest.”

They are the backbone of an economy one may say. They generate employment, bring new products for you to enjoy, change status quo and work as catalysts to boost economy.

Therefore, on this Labour Day, while we are saluting the achievements and prosperity of workforce, let's reserve a moment for the entrepreneurs too!

Hats off…to both the workforce and the entrepreneurs.

By M H Haider
Model: Shawon
Photo courtesy: The Daily Star archive


The office game

For some it's a taboo, while for others it's a reality. It can be both constructive and destructive, and can lead to either increased productivity or decreased work rate. Struggle for power and strength in an organisation can often turn a healthy game to something obnoxiously dirty, in a short enough time for one to be taken aback. But office politics, which often means backstabbing others and resorting to absolutely any means to get one's work done, does not necessarily have to be so every time.

Ask people about office politics and I am sure you'll end up bagging some pretty negative ideas. While that is how it has evolved to be, one has to realise that it is an eminent part of the office culture which has an inherent need. Just like the way a country cannot run in the absence of a political environment, a closed system like an organisation can't either. This is because the basic motive of office politics is to build and nurture relationships and collaborations, to push people harder to get them to achieve higher results that are in line with the objectives and goals of the organisation.

There is nothing called not being a part of office politics. Whether you engage in the game or not, being in the organisation by default has made you a part of the game. It's more like you have found your silent position in the whole act and might not ever benefit much from it or lose, taking a risk less position. But this also means that your political state in your organisation will most probably render you stagnant, while those who actively participate uphold themselves, create more connections and move forward, while you limit yourself in your comfort zone, afraid to let go with the wave and vouch for opinions.

So the way to go by it is very simple and there is nothing called playing it safe. You definitely need to be a part of office politics if you consider yourself to be an important part of the organisation. But you also need to develop a keen sense of right and wrong and need to know the limits. There is just that right amount of talking that one should be doing in public, that right amount of openness and that exact amount of friendly attitude that does not make you come down as somebody sly, or in the opposite case, rude. Because one has to work mostly in teams in an organisation, letting go of the overtly individualistic attitude is necessary in creating team synergy.

If you think that somebody is going out of the way to unfairly justify his progress, then you shall do what it takes to make it an issue. But if somebody has done something note-worthy, do make an account of it and try to appreciate it. Being honest this way will make you gain the trust of your co-workers much easily. Always remember, getting along with people never hurts. We all always like that happy-go-lucky guy in the corner cubicle who makes an effort to make the atmosphere lighter and goes about his business in an sincere, honest manner.

By Afrida Mahbub


Let's Move to Paris
Romance author Eloisa James's bestseller “Paris in Love” takes readers into the journey of a Shakespeare professor who took a sabbatical from her job, sold her house, and whisked her family to Paris. With no lawns to mow, classes to teach, and no meetings to attend, she and her Italian-American husband try to live the very different, very cultured Parisian life with their hilarious children who are shocked by the discipline of French people.


Food Style Guru
A day in the life of a tattooed and pierced red head Adam Pearson, a famous 'food stylist', is viewed by the Huffington Post this week (“Food Informants”). Pearson's job is to style the food we see in magazines and television -- those plates of sizzling steaks and chocolate cakes that make our mouth water at first glance. Can't be that hard, right? Not really, when photographers, artists, and science is involved in decorating a dinner for two.


12 days of race riots, factory strikes, and on top of it all, a missing girl in 1919's Chicago is told in the book City of Scoundrels, by Gary Krist. It was during the time of industrialisation when nothing could go wrong -- everything was booming but the ambitious plans of Chicago must be halted and in the middle of it all. A carefully researched and detailed book of the other side of modernisation and money-making schemes in America.


Professor Facebook
To help the “academic world to grow more connective tissue”, social media is becoming something necessary by big universities these days. The Economist discusses in the article “Professor Facebook” how today, science is also about competition and to win, they have to go out there through sites like Facebook- something unheard of before. With growing number of young scientists, even if you don't want to share your work online, to win, you might just have to.


Saris captured in a book
Coffee table book “Sari: Splendour in Threads” was just launched in Mumbai and captures sari aficionado and lover of literature Soha Parekh's interest in the fashion and history of the sari in South Asia. Through photos and commentary, she explores the sari from many viewpoints and how it still has a long way to go internationally.


High heels' high price
Watch out ladies -- the price of designer shoes are going up (The Guardian, Life & Style section). While women have traditionally loved and invested a lot on shoes, this might come to a halt as all designers alike from Marc Jacobs to Yves Saint Laurent are putting on more numbers on the tag. This might even be true for cheaper shoe stores -- the price of materials and labour is growing worldwide, and so will those shoes. So start allocating those savings.
By Olinda Hassan


Helping with homework and study habits

Certain key practices will make life easier for everyone in the family when it comes to study time and study organisation. However, some of them may require an adjustment for other members of the family.

Firstly, turn off the TV set. Make a house rule, depending on the location of the set, that when it is study time, the TV should be switched off. A television set that is on will draw youngsters like bees to honey.

The second question asked is whether the radio should be on or off? Contrary to what many specialists say, some youngsters do seem to function all right with the radio turned on to a favourite music station. It actually may help them to concentrate.

Designate specific areas for homework and studying. Possibilities include the child's room or the dining room table. Eliminate as much distraction as possible.

Since many young people will study in their own rooms, function becomes more important than beauty. Most desks for young people really don't have sufficient space to spread out materials. A table that allows for all necessary supplies such as pencils, pens, paper, books, and other essentials works extremely well.

Consider placing a bulletin board in your child's room. Hardware stores sell wallboards that might not look too pretty and aren't framed but a 4 x 3 section is inexpensive and is the perfect place on which to post pertinent school items. You might want to paint or cover it with a burlap to improve its appearance or let your child take on this project.

Encourage the use of a small book or pad for writing down assignments so that there is no confusion about when certain assignments must be turned in to the teacher.

Keeping general supplies on hand is important. Check with your child about his or her needs. Make it your child's responsibility to be well supplied with paper, pencils, note pads, notebook paper, et cetera.

Regularity is a key factor in academic success. Try to organise the household so that supper is served at a standard time, and once it and family discussions are over, it's time to open the books. If the student doesn't have other commitments and gets home reasonably early from school, some homework can be done before supper.

Consider your child's developmental level when setting the amount of time for homework. While high school students can focus for over an hour, first-graders are unlikely to last more than 15 minutes on a single task. Allow your child to take breaks, perhaps as a reward for finishing a section of the work.

Organise study and homework projects. Get a large calendar, one that allows space for jotting down things in the daily boxes. Rip it apart so that you and the child can sequentially mount the school months for the current semester.

For example, you can tear off September, October, November, December, and January and mount them from left to right across one wall. Have the child use a bold colour writing instrument (felt tip pen) to mark exam dates in one colour, reports that are due in a different colour, et cetera. This will serve as a reminder so that things aren't set aside until the last moment.

Teach your child that studying is more than just doing homework assignments. Encourage your child to do things like: take notes as he's reading a chapter, learn to skim material, learn to study tables and charts, learn to summarise what he has read in his own words, learn to make his own flash cards for quick review of dates, formulas, spelling words, etc.

Note-taking is a critical skill and should be developed. Many students don't know how to take notes in those classes that require them to do so. Some feel they have to write down every word the teacher says. Others have wisely realised the value of an outline form of note-taking.

Rewriting notes takes time, but it can be an excellent review of the subject matter. However, rewriting notes isn't worth the time unless they are used for reviewing and recalling important information.

A home dictionary is essential, but if it is kept on a shelf to gather dust, it won't do anyone any good. Keep it in an accessible place and let your child see you refer to it from time to time.

Help your child to feel confident for tests. Taking tests can be a traumatic experience for some students. Students also need reminding that when taking a test, they should thoroughly and carefully read the directions before they start to mark their test papers. They should be advised to skip over questions for which they don't know the answers. They can always return to those if there's time.

During a homework session, watch for signs of frustration. No learning can take place and little can be accomplished if the child is angry or upset over an assignment that is too long or too difficult.

Parents should help with homework, testing the child in simple ways to see if they are progressing or not, from time to time.

Read directions, or check over math problems after your child has completed the work. Remember to make positive comments - you don't want your child to associate homework with fights at home.


The walk of life

Walking in suburban London is a necessity; most people have to walk in order to drop their children off to school. Others have to walk to and from their place of work. Yet some just walk for pleasure and relaxation, because walking can be a great, gentle exercise or a really vigorous workout.

In Dhaka most people that I know of walk to keep control of their diabetes and/or high blood pressure. Young people who take an early interest in their health and well-being walk to keep fit. For the elder generation going to the ever-popular Ramna Park for a walk means a chance to get out of the house and socialise with friends; because let's face it there really aren't many places for the elder generation to go to 'hang out'.

For me as a mother of two young children, who has walked all over London during my school days and then for work and later to take my own children to school, I could not recommend walking highly enough. It's the minimum of exercise that we should all be taking part in.

This is of course possible due to the fact that the infrastructure in London is very hospitable to walking. There are wide and smooth pavements and scenic views which invite one to walk, whenever and wherever they can even if they have a car.

However, the same cannot be said of Dhaka. All I have seen and have been doing myself is getting out of the flat and getting into the waiting car to take me wherever I wanted to go, and if the journey is a short distance and the car is not available then I just jump onto the waiting rickshaws.

The infrastructure in Dhaka does not really invite one to take a gentle stroll around. I deplored of ever being able to walk like I used to in London.

But hold on, don't get too depressed. Once I had admitted my children to school, I started meeting mothers who, like in London, walked to drop their children to and from school. And even better, I meet mothers who went to Ramna Park for their morning and often evening walks.

As you can imagine, this obviously piqued my interest, so I started telling the driver to take me to Ramna Park, which I discovered is not that far from my flat and have since started taking part in the walking culture of Dhaka.

I have to say that I am extremely impressed with the wide and varied group of people I see at the park, who take time out for this essential exercise, even if only for half an hour. A walk in the park gives many a chance to get involved in lots of cultural and social events which take place inside and outside the park.

Walking is a necessity and essential exercise for life. So my fellow citizens of Dhaka, walk to keep fit, walk for life.

By Rahena Subhan


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