Beyond the Frontier

Beyond the Frontier

June 14, 2017

First Ever Bangladesh Innovation Conclave

‘INNOVATION’ is changing the corporate world. It is, in fact, perceived as both a challenge and an opportunity. While start-up companies are seizing the opportunity, large companies are struggling to accept this shift in paradigm and adapt their strategies accordingly. With Technology advancing, the demand for creatives and research are its peak. The market is the most competitive and it’s the survival of the fittest.

To address such a vital issue, Bangladesh Brand Forum (BBF) initiated the event Microsoft Presents Bangladesh Innovation Conclave In Association With The Daily Star, Beximco Pharmaceuticals Limited and, SSD-Tech on May 20, 2017 at the Le Meridien Dhaka.

The daylong event consisted of various sessions and presentations from local and international speakers from various sectors. They spoke at length about how technology helped them stand at the top of the market and the key role of innovation in moving forward.


Patrons and partners:

Bangladesh Innovation Conclave was organized with Microsoft Bangladesh Limited as Title Sponsor, In Association With The Daily Star, Beximco Pharmaceuticals Limited and SSD-Tech. The Daily Samakal, Spider Digital Innovations, IBA Alumni Association and ICSB Bangladesh were Strategic Partners. Le Méridien Dhaka was the Event Partner; Terracotta Red was the Branding Partner; Ekattor TV and Radio Today 89.6 FM were Media Partners; Masthead PR was the PR Partner and WebAble Digital was the Social Media Partner.

The Beginning

The event started at 10am, the guests started trickling into the Grand Ballroom from 9am. As the warm summer morning became more humid, the guests helped themselves to drinks and refreshments while getting to know each other, anticipating the fascinating topics to be discussed at the events.

Unveiling of the opening session:

The event started with a humorous introduction from the Master of Ceremony Mr. Nazim Farhan Chowdhury, MD of ADCOMM. He initiated the session by asking the guests “what is innovation?” He encouraged everyone to take risks and to think outside the box. He pointed out that education in the rural areas haven’t changed in Bangladesh despite the innovations taking place.

After introducing the partners of the event, he called upon stage Mr. Shariful Islam, Founder & Managing Director of Bangladesh Brand Forum. He welcomed everyone to the event and formally introduced the Bangladesh Innovation Conclave. He also informed the audience of Robi Bangladesh Youthfest 2017 Powered by Sailor, which is conducted in order to not miss out on talents and opportunities from students and to prepare youth for the dynamic marketplace. He considered preparing the next generation to be a challenge. Before moving on to the key sessions, he revealed the vision of the Bangladesh Innovation Conclave “Converting 8 divisional cities to 8 divisional hubs”.


Keynote Session 1: Raghu Das: Why Innovation is the Future

Raghu Das is the CEO of IDTECHEx, Cambridge, UK. It was his first time in Bangladesh. He started the session by informing the audience about IDTECHx. He said IDTECHEx addressed global megatrends, such as – pollution and resource control, product differentiation, mobility etc. His explanation followed with further examples of digital disruption where Netflix, Airbnb, Instagram, Facebook, Alibaba group were mentioned. He said tech innovation should be focused on structural electronics, that is, smart skin with load bearing components such as – Antenna Printing. The tech genius mentioned 3 innovation areas that needed to be exploited to its fullest:

  • Stretchable instruments
  • Flexible to rigid connections
  • Sensor structures and materials

The key components if worked on, will be more flexible for usage. Added to that, a greater electrification of Vehicles and manufacturing of innovation will bring about a paradigm shift in this global era of innovation. To make his argument more valid he listed some common pitfalls of commercializing emerging tech. He recommended not to focus on one specific component when the customer is looking forward to buy a solution. He also emphasized on the importance of partnership as it has the potential to fill in the missing elements. Ending his enlightened speech, he asked everyone to keep it simple.



Professor Michael Wang joined the session in a video and started with a warm greeting “Assalamualaikum” which caught everyone’s attention. Professor Wang is Director of Internet of Things Practice, Thynk Different, Co-Founder and CEO of and, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Columbia University. He called himself the third generation EEE since both his father and grandfather were electrical engineers as well.

He felt honored to be at the first Bangladesh Innovation Conclave. He talked at length about how Internet of Things (IoT) adds value to any business sector. He informed everyone about how he helped start the IoT central meet up group about two and a half years ago, which helped him to connect to various IoT communities in the US. The group was basically created from scratch and now has over 8000 members today across 16 different cities in the United States.

“What is Internet of Things?”- He asked, and answered by saying that it is the connectivity of physical objects to the internet in order to monitor and control their behavior which allows gaining efficiency.  He mentioned more about how there is going to be more than 50 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020. According to the co-founder of Intel, the computing capability doubles every 80 months which, has allowed super cheap yet pretty efficient internet connected devices. Moreover, he also emphasized on Metcalfe’s Law which states that the value of the network increases by the square of the number of nodes in the network. By combining these two, he said, is where IoT becomes very interesting.

He has been working with DataSoft System Bangladesh Limited for the past six months to create an IoT based workforce within the country. He went on to describe how traditional schooling systems are flawed and that it should be more IoT based since, in that way a student can be more aware of the job sector and work accordingly to improve the value proposition of IoT.

The session ended with him sharing photos of a class he taught and saying that he is looking forward to the next session of BIC. It was followed by a refreshing tea break and networking session.


Innovation in Action Presentation: Hishab

The title of the presentation was “Innovation in Action”. The presentation was conducted by the CEO of Hishab, Zubair Ahmed Zubi. His plan to innovate was specifically targeted on cellphones. To diminish the inequality and to make life easier for those in the rural areas of our developing country, Hishab plans to turn any phone into an ERP. In Bangladesh 45% of the entire population live in poverty. Out of 45%, 35% can barely sign their name whereas a percentage of 85 own cellphones. He plans to fill in this gap by something that is a solution to this problem. ”What is the solution?” he asked the audience .With multiple incorrect answers, he revealed the answer by saying “It’s your voice”

He goes further into speaking about how every cellphone can be turned into a POS and ERP. “All you have to do is Call and Speak”. He felt that since the rural residents haven’t received adequate education, speaking over the voice recognition device will be easier than typing. This idea is can reduce costs drastically lower. He backed it up by mentioning some of the major features of Hishab:

  • No Training required
  • No internet connection required
  • No Hardware Purchase necessary
  • No application download needed

His presentation ended with a mention of his target customers – Bank Asia and Akij Group. Hishab’s investors are – Spiral Venture, IMJ Group, DFIP.



The second session was conducted by Mohammad Foysol Chowdhury, Director of R&D, Cambridge CMOS Sensors Limited., Cambridge, UK and, also a black belt at Karate for 17 years. Mr. Chowdhury’s topic was STARTING UP AN INNOVATIVE COMPANY.

He talked about starting up a company relating to the present days and then to his personal experience. He mentioned to think a lot about the idea and to consider other factors such as competition and benefits. He emphasized on the fact that it is not bad to have some competition since the first ones usually fail. He asked guests to interrogate themselves with a series of questions like- “How will I do it?”, “Why should I do it?”, “Can I do it?” In answer to the question, he suggested everyone to always answer in affirmative. This would scale the determination behind the idea.

The next important factor that he talked about in a start-up is the funding. He elaborated how funding can be both money and time. With all these sorted out, he suggested everyone to analyze their competitors. It is vital to know who they are and how much market share they own. A SWOT Analysis is a very useful toolkit here which, determines any company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Moreover, he also focused on how there should be an exit strategy too if the business doesn’t work out.

The session ended with a lively Q&A session.


Panel Discussion 1: What skills are needed for innovation?

The moderator for the panel was Sajid Rahman, CEO of Telenor Health, Telenor Group.

There were 5 panel members: Syed Almas Kabir, CEO, MetroNet Bangladesh Limited.; M.A. Mubin Khan, MD, EATL; Raghu Das, CEO, IDTECHEx, Cambridge, UK; Yasir Azman, Deputy CEO and CMO of Grameenphone Limited; Kristin Low, Co-Founder, Brinc Plus at, Founder, Design Thinking Asia.

“What skills are needed for innovation?” The discussion started with Mr. Mubin Khan where he put the limelight on the importance of education. He said Bangladesh Bank has at its disposal USD 40 million for a contest among university students to look for the most innovative ideas and the brightest of students. He hoped this generation has the ability to generate ideas to develop useful applications. He used Singapore as an example of dynamic and innovative leadership. He felt that the young population are the biggest strength of Bangladesh as they have modeling, prototype, and problem solving abilities.

“Why are some countries more innovative than others?” This question was directed to Raghu Das. He said that it was not necessarily an issue with financing. He firmly believed that innovation is a result of strong entrepreneurial spirit and having culture that encourages that spirit.

“Can the developing countries replicate that level of trading and funding?” Mr. Yasir Azman answered by saying that as long as countries are willing to go through disruption, innovation is inevitable. All the big corporations need to accept it and focus on digitize consumer in order to shape the global market.

Kristin Low agreed that innovation is required to survive but not everyone follows this principle. He believed that misdiagnosis of problems led to this reluctance. As a solution, he advised everyone to follow a mindset of viewing people as assets.

Syed Almas Kabir considered innovation to be at the center of all activities. He believed it necessary to be conducted from a regulatory point of view, meaning, the government has to be respectful and supportive.

‘On a scale of 1 to 10, where are we?’ In answer to that, Syed Almas Kabir thinks we are slowly progressing. Accepting innovation is a trend and he rates the progress at a 5 as of now.

Yasir Azman believed Grameenphone has a big role to play in the advancement of innovation. The government needs to bring in the right facilitation for the next generation as GrameenPhone cannot simply do this alone. Government needs to focus on the areas that require more attendance in comparison to the developed sectors of the country.  R&D needs a lot of focus from both private and public sectors.

“How do we make the skillset quicker?” Kristin Low answered this question by mentioning major factors to work on –

  • Cultivate entrepreneurship
  • Design entrepreneurship
  • Fill the gap around R&D
  • Seek opportunities

The panel discussion ended with these insightful answers from the panel members and Sajid Rahman finally moved towards the audience queries.


Innovation in Practice: Music World

This section of the event was conducted by the Mr. Asif Iqbal, CEO of Gangchil. After hours of endless sessions about technology and innovation he brought a fresh burst of energy by playing the famous hit song “Jhoom by Minar”. The audience, refreshed, continued to listen to his speech. He started his speech by saying there are 3 stages of music development

  • Creating awareness
  • Making connections
  • Marketing

Gangchil Music club focuses on content, digital and distribution while creating an Integrated Music Communication Platform (ICMP).

“Music is the central drive of entertainment” and its distribution is not only based on cellphones but is on the virtual state where a 360 degree approach is not necessary. Although music content is created across all access modes, its advancement to the global area is still lagging behind. But, the CEO is highly optimistic, shouting” together we can make it happen”



He is the Co-Founder CTO and CIO, Hishab, Ex Director, IBM. Cheng came on stage to talk about ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND DEEP LEARNING. As soon as he stepped on to the stage and compared AI with teenage sex, the crowd cracked into a bout of laughter.

He started by describing what AI is and how people have started to use it more often now. He mentioned that the Hishab team is trying to take AI to the next level and provide voice recognition to people through it. He brought up machine language and describes the two aspects of it – supervised and unsupervised learning through examples of real life scenarios.

Then he moved on to Deep learning. He explained how it is a subset of machine learning and that there is an input and output with many layers in the middle incorporated with it. The layers are a mere measure of how much money one is willing to spend on it. So it is not really the layers that matter here, rather the amount of time that is required to go through those layers. It is also not recommended to have too many layers unless the problem is really complex.

Mr. Cheng closed the session by answering the questions from the audience.


Presentation: Microsoft

After a sumptuous lunch the audience where shown video clips that highlighted the evolution of Microsoft over the past years. They were shown the challenges Microsoft faced and the paradigm shifts they went through to reach the stage where they are now.


Keynote Session 4: Kazi Monirul Islam: Developing the right structure to create the next innovation in your organization

After working 15 years in various companies in Banhgladesh, Mr. Kazi Monirul Islam has realized everyone talked about large companies but not about being innovative. Using slides he compared trying to make large companies innovative is similar to making elephants dance. On the other hand, small businesses are disrupting the market which is making it more challenging for the big companies to step into the paradigm shift. He did agree that it is very hard for a company to grow big and still remain innovative as very few large companies will take big, bold risks and invest in the future. It is a rare sight to have an idea turned into reality but it is not impossible. He ended his speech by pointing out 3 approaches to Corporate Innovation:

  • Think big but start small
  • Create an empowered group of agents
  • Put innovation at the core of the organization


Panel Discussion 2: Successful Innovation in Bangladesh

The moderator of the panel was Iftakharul (Ifty) Islam, Chairman of Asian Tiger Capital Partners.

There were 5 panel members: Tahsin  Ifnoor Sayeed, Head of Business Intelligence, DNET; Mahboob Zaman, MD, DataSoft System Bangladesh Limited; Syed Farhad Ahmed, MD and CEO, Aamra Technologies Limited.; Kader Abdul, PhD, CEO, Viola Vitalis AB (Sweden) and, Sonia Bashir Kabir, MD, Microsoft Bangladesh Limited .

The first question of the panel discussion was directed to Syed Farhad Ahmed to give a few examples of innovations that have taken place in Bangladesh. Infrastructure, connectivity, machine power up were some of the names he mentioned as examples.

In a hypothetical situation, with all the network gone, how useful will be cellphones? Focusing on the 140 million people of this country, he felt cellphones are a matter of affordability. He envisions a time when each customer would be connected to hotspots.

Sonia Bashir Kabir emphasized on encouraging the new generation to be curious and courageous. Data is the new currency and Bangladesh is the test bed.

Kader Abdul talked about the vital importance of Research & Development for Bangladesh as there are no purchasing capacity or limit. He expects the future generation to take courses that will add to the marketable skillset so that further experiments with more creative designs can be developed.


Keynote Session 5:  Zunaid Ahmed Palak

Zunaid Ahmed Palak, the Honorable State Minister, Ministry of ICT, Government of People’s Republic of Bangladesh as a resource person. The theme of his session was “Why Innovation will be the key for future Bangladesh?”.

The key to change the country is to innovate and overcome the challenges. There are 4 pillars of digital Bangladesh:

  • HR Development
  • Digital Industrialization
  • e-Governance
  • ICT

“With the proper training, research and practice of these 4 pillars, Bangladesh can be ranked as a developed country very soon” is what he believes.

He promoted Bangladesh to be a global hub for IT as it is a labor intensive country which is in dire need for a digital change. Innovation road map is to be developed in 4 regions of Bangladesh and would be performed in duplex mode to fasten the procedure. Lastly, he mentioned Bangladesh requires more funding for global promotional market in order to “Be digital, Build digital”


Innovation in Practice: M Power Perspective

This presentation was carried out by Mridul Chowdhury, Founder of M Power Social Enterprise. The presentation was regarding the ICT based innovative solutions to pressing developed countries. He talks about how we all passed from the desktop era to the tab era. That we no longer want to look at reports but rather be notified when to look at reports. He advices on using the resources that are not being used and to decentralize expert services. He ended his presentation by leaving a lingering question for the audience, “Can innovation be engineered?”



Kristin Low is the Co- founder of Brinc Plus at and is also the Founder of Design Thinking Asia. His topic was, “Cross over of Human Centric Design & Emerging”. Wearing a broad smile, he stood right in the middle of the hall unlike all the other speakers who spoke from the stage was something to notice right at the beginning of his speech. He put forth the idea of a game where if a person seemed less involved, the more he would ask him questions and instantly, he had everyone’s attention.

After introducing himself, he started his speech by directing a question to the audience.

“By 2030, what do you think will be the largest company in the world?” he asked. Answers like Tesla, Google, Clean Water came up but Kristin had other ideas and he said that the largest company by 2030 is more likely to be an educational institute. Kristin believes we have to constantly improve ourselves to keep up with the growing robot technology and modifying our schooling system is the only way of doing so.

This is where he played a game with the audience and asked them to come up with an answer for a given context where a solution is not helpful. Through this, he backed up one of his statement “Good technology can be bad solution to a problem if applied to the wrong context”.  This is where design thinking comes in handy. It basically involves two types of thinking:

  • Divergent thinking: Creates more choices
  • Convergent thinking: Makes better decisions

Combining these two types of thinking provides us with Design Thinking. Kristin also said why Design Thinking is necessary for Bangladesh – it is because Bangladesh thrives with constraints. The amazing and entertaining came to an end with audiences all urging, “Let’s build Bangladesh!”


Regional Innovation Roadmap Presentation

Chittagong has a population of over 2.5 million people and it is the , second largest city. It is renowned for its coastal seaport. The city is a hub for finance for the economy, participating in boosting its economy. Chittagong has the potential to develop the country through its seaports, sight demographics, hill track regions etc. that can be the revenue source for the community. Despite immense contribution to the economy and income generation, Chittagong has not changed much in the past 10 years and is in need of innovative advancements. Technology can be handed to use to quicken the shipping and keep track of their trading transactions. This session was help independently and will have a follow up round table discussion to strengthen the deal.


Alvi Rahmaan Atoshie & Rahat Shahriar Islam

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