As we approach the end of 2018, I thought it would be appropriate for me to share some reflections on my personal journey in Bangladesh over the first 18 months of my time here.
This is not a business announcement or a motivational speech, simply a note to express my feelings about the people that I have met here.
As you know I have spent most of my active career in telecoms outside of my home country Canada. This journey has been one of a good fortune for me where I've had the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and all over the world. I have been extremely lucky to learn and gain insights on the importance of our industry both to the development of economies and the improvement of the human condition. Mobile has a profound effect on markets and is a catalyst to rapid transition and development. It gives access to information and community, education and trade, security and healthcare. I believe working in this industry has a higher calling than simply focusing on the commercial benefit that we provide to our shareholders and the overall economy.
My experience in Bangladesh has been unique amongst all the ones that I have had. It's also important to say that in one way or the other all my experiences have been unique and special. But I want to focus on my time in Bangladesh.
It goes without saying that the economic success of this country is unparalleled in recent times. The strong and consistent economic growth of this country is remarkable. And has significantly contributed in materially raising tens of millions of people out of abject poverty and has spurred on the journey towards the middle-income economy.
GP’s history in Bangladesh is intertwined with that of the country itself and our contribution to the fabric of society is undeniable, long-lasting and only in its early stages.
One of the material benefits of being an expatriate executive is you get to see more of the country than many citizens have ever had the opportunity to do. So far, I have reached almost every corner of Bangladesh. I remember when one of my colleagues Sajjad Hasib brought me into the very dense corners of old Dhaka in my first or second weekend here.
I got a sense of the challenged human condition many of our citizens have to live with and the challenges we have to overcome every day to deliver services in this incredibly dense environment. For me it was a bit of an epiphany, strongly cementing a sense of mission.
As I've explained to you before, the career choices that I've made have been made to balance my professional interests with the intention to make a difference where I worked. That's why I'm not selling phones in Toronto or Montréal but working to develop communication networks in markets in transition where work really makes a difference and is personally fulfilling our work to ensure a safer online space for more than 400,000 students and 70,000 teachers and guardians with UNICEF, makes me especially proud, not because I am the CEO of Grameenphone but because I am also a father.
In my time here, I have come to understand that the people work in Grameenphone do so with a deep sense of mission, the mission to build a better Bangladesh for themselves, their families, and yes indeed, the nation.
You can’t imagine how humbling an experience it is to be accepted amongst a group of colleagues with such dedication and heartfelt desire to impact society.
It's true that operating a business like this one in Bangladesh is full of challenges. We are very big, we have massive impact on society, we create massive economic value for shareholders and yes for the economy of Bangladesh. It's also true that not everyone in our environment is friendly with us. That comes with the territory and we have to accept it.
But, my interaction with stakeholders in Bangladesh be it in the civil service, political circles, business leaders, members of law enforcement and the military has left me deeply impressed. I mean that in the most-humble way not as a judge, but as an observer.
The desire, even when we disagree (that happens pretty often) on policy issues, to find solutions for the common good, is everywhere.
I've also had the immense privilege of meeting young people from all over Bangladesh and this youth bulge in our population pyramid is potentially the biggest asset the country has to cement it future. Young people in Bangladesh like everybody else will not settle for anything but the best. The industry & the regulator must continue to complement each other to continue to build high-performance networks to enable the youth of Bangladesh to be competitive in the future.
The track record of Bangladesh’s success is remarkable and I am also encouraged by the rational approach to the future that is being expressed by a number of leaders in the country. It is understood what got us this far, will not be what is needed to get us to the next level. Garment manufacturing will continue to play a fundamental part in our economy but diversification is critical to de-risking the future for Bangladesh.
Home grown pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies are helping diversify the economy. But, it will not be surprising to you, that I believe that, the initiatives related to Digital Bangladesh are absolutely at the core of the future of the country.
I can't really think of many other places in the world where country has graduated from 2G to 4G in roughly 5 years and will likely go from 2G to 5G in something like seven years. This is a remarkable accomplishment. It is a critical one for our growth and the competitiveness of the Bangladeshi economy in an increasingly digitized and interconnected global marketplace. It's fair to say that with our 14,000+ 3G or 4G sites, we play a leadership role in the development of our digital economy. And we will continue to do so as we plan to further expand 4G sites to 10,000+ next year.
Finally let me speak about the people I work with every day. We've been through a rather challenging journey over the last 18 months and I'm sure there will be challenges going forward. I feel immensely blessed to work with this team and I'm grateful for your welcome in Bangladesh.
I want to congratulate you and commend you for work well done. We now have to close out this year in style and kick off next year with an awesome first-quarter.
I'm only 18 months in and I'm hopeful for many more to come and I look forward to sharing this incredible journey with you.
Thank you for your warmth, support and kindness.