Possibilities are Endless

Possibilities are Endless

July 2, 2015

Mr. Muhammad A. (Rumee) Ali on IT Progress in Bangladesh

Mr. Muhammad A. (Rumee) Ali is a prominent leadership figure in Bangladesh. He served at different levels in local and international banking sector. He is the Managing Director, Enterprises at BRAC and also a Director of various BRAC concerns. He is the chairman of BRAC EPL Investments Ltd., BRAC EPL Stock Brokerage Ltd., BRAC Saajan Exchange Ltd., and bITS. He served as the Deputy Governor of Bangladesh Bank from 2002 to 2006 and as the Chairman of BRAC Bank from 2008 to 2013. He also lead the Standard Chartered Group in Bangladesh as its CEO. Rumee Ali is a member of the Global Steering Committee of the Performance Based Grants Initiative of International Finance Corporation, Washington DC.

Leading BRAC IT Service Limited as the Chairman, in an exclusive interview with BBF he shared how IT is transforming Bangladesh.

BBF: How important is IT services & products to the development of a country like Bangladesh? How has been the growth?

Muhammad A. Ali: I think for any country, IT is the future. If you look at the development of the world, the first industry, I would say was agriculture. Then they started generating surplus, which became trade. Then came industrial revolution that started with steam engines. After that the next big thing is the IT Revolution.

IT has created a totally a new concept of what a product is. Previously a product was thought something physical. But you cannot hold a product like an application in your hand, nor can you see it except in the screen of your phone, may be. For any country, to connect to whatever is going on in the world they have to be a part of this equation.

For Bangladesh it’s absolutely essential because in the absence of some other basic infrastructures which are needed to build traditional industries, IT offers a shorter route. Bangladesh must take advantage of this to reach development.

We have already seen some tangible benefits focusing on IT through Digital Bangladesh concept, certainly in the area of Wi-Fi connectivity, the growth of mobile payments, etc.

BBF: What is the core factor contributing to the growth of this market?

Muhammad A. Ali: Internet it is. Internet provided the highway; for any sort of trade or commerce to take place, you need to communicate. And it is an instant mode of communication as opposed to others.

The challenge for us is how we make it accessible. An inaccessible road does not add any value to the communication. Usability of internet depends on how you create access to it for everybody.

Internet can be of help for lot of our issues, for example spreading education. Internet should be a utility, just like other human rights so that a person sitting in a village can instantly access data like medical advices and so on.

BBF: How is the state of the industry in terms of the number & quality of IT service providers?

Muhammad A. Ali: I would say that we should have grown faster. Look at India. Bengaluru is one of the global hubs for IT which started in the 1980s. So, moving in that direction, India made it to set up some global brands. But, we could not make it when it should have been done. We had the people, we had good access to English alike India; if we could use that and educate our young people in IT, I think we could have made something out of it much earlier.

Yet Bangladesh is moving ahead and there will be bigger players in the market. As for ‘biTS’ (BRAC IT Service Limited) I can say, our intention is not to become only a national player, we want to be a global player.

BBF: What are some of the challenges faced by the IT service providers? What could be done to address these challenges?

Muhammad A. Ali: One of the biggest challenges we face as a country is access to information. Higher speed of internet is a must and it should be available everywhere. Everybody must have access to the internet and it is the best way to educate the people. People, who may join the IT industry and make it a bigger industry, must have the information about IT from an early age.

BBF: Tell us about some of the most solicited products & services of BRAC IT.

Muhammad A. Ali: The area where we have done well so far is in ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning). The ERP which has been developed for micro-finance by SBI Cloud is now being used in many countries where BRAC operates IT. We call our ERP Rongdhonu which has HR, Finance, and Supply Chain Management (SCM) which could be used with Resource Planning Software to support businesses within the industry.

Recently SCM has got a huge demand. Previously, SCM was done almost manually but our big conglomerates are getting bigger, so are the supply chains. More and more industries are realizing the importance of managing the risks supply chain can cause for an industry and it’s much better if you can manage it through a software. So, the demand for our Supply Chain software is increasing.

Outsourcing & managing applications are another demanding markets. Most of the applications are made based on foreign culture and habits. If we can make applications based on the demand of our people, I think there is a huge market for that. And ‘biTS’ is working on these areas.

BBF: In comparison to other emerging economies of the world, how do you think evolution of IT is transforming Bangladesh? How do you see the impact of IT on Bangladesh in the near future?

Muhammad A. Ali: In many countries it has been a step by step evolution. When I first went to the United States, I was surprised that the phones which we were using were much more technically ahead of those which people were using in the US. This was because they have got technologies which are historically theirs and they cannot throw it out because there is money invested in it. Whereas we could go straight to the latest.

So, Bangladesh has an advantage, in many cases it lived forward into the latest technology. On the other hand, to use latest technology, for example, 4G you need infrastructure also. Bangladesh has been lucky in some ways, in other ways we must work hard to enhance our infrastructure.

IT has become an integral part of our lives. Cell-phone number, e-mail ID have become our addresses; nobody asks for our home address anymore. In future, virtual reality can create another dimension for people. You can be in New York or Singapore in a 3D form without actually going there. So, the world is going to change in such a fundamental way, & the possibilities are endless.

Interviewed by

Raiyan Rumman

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