“Bangladesh has an abundance of talents. Our objective is to provide them with the necessary opportunities to grow and thrive.” – ERIK AAS, CEO, Banglalink Digital Communications Ltd
What is Banglalink’s view on CSR?
Our approach to sustainability goes beyond corporate philanthropy. It is centred around the notion of using technology to empower communities. I firmly believe that Bangladesh has an abundance of talents, and our objective is to provide them with opportunities to grow and thrive.
Let’s talk about your work with ‘Kormo with Google’. How is this program helping communities in Bangladesh?
This program’s goal is to provide in-person assistance to job applicants. Kormo is physically present at Banglalink stores around the capital (both large – mono-brand outlets (MBO) and small – Banglalink Sales and Service Points (BSSP). Kormo is able to reach out to a big number of its target group in Dhaka quickly since a huge percentage of the urban youth visit these venues to seek services. Kormo Jobs and Banglalink have arranged two online job fairs since February 2021. An average of 50+ businesses attended each job fair, with 60/70 open positions. Applicants apply for these positions and are selected for interviews. 40,000 job seekers applied for jobs at the online job fair on average, and a substantial proportion of them was hired on the online job fair on average, and a substantial proportion of them was hired. A program called ‘Meet with Experts’, is also organised where local market experts are invited to share their experience and their career journey with job seekers
What other milestone CSR activities are being taken by Banglalink?
Currently, we are running a number of CSR programmes targeting different groups. For example, our program ‘SDG Hackathon’ provides the participants with an opportunity to propose solutions to SDG-related problems. IT Incubator, another CSR initiative taken by Banglalink, helped many digital entrepreneurs take their ventures to the next level. We launched ‘Womentor’ for female engineering students with a view to bringing more diversity to our teams. We also partnered with Sena Kalyan Sangstha, Bangladesh Army and Bidyanondo Foundation to help households affected by the pandemic and natural calamities.
What challenges do you face while working in CSR and communities in Bangladesh?
When it comes to CSR, I think it would be better if you could get more partnership opportunities. It would also be helpful if we had sufficient information about areas where we can contribute more significantly through CSR initiatives. In some cases, we feel the necessity of a properly trained workforce as well. These things can help us a lot in taking our CSR initiatives in a more transparent, well-governed and purposeful manner.
How can other sectors help companies create more effective changes?
Organizations from every sector can contribute to CSR practices. This is not about which sectors are doing the most for social development, this is about how different sectors are addressing socio-economic issues, and are taking initiatives to tackle them together. CSR is essentially a collaborative practice, which requires multi-sectoral approaches. Every sector has its own resources and strengths, and when different sectors join forces, CSR initiatives become more impactful and sustainable.
What are your thoughts about the future of CSR in Bangladesh?
I think corporate organisations operating in this country are gradually realising the far-reaching
impacts of CSR initiatives. As a result, CSR is expected to become a key part of an organisation’s core objective in future, instead of remaining a secondary focus. CSR initiatives are likely to turn into a means of upholding Environmental, Social, and (Corporate) Governance (ESG) standards of an organisation, as these factors are getting increasingly important in the corporate sector. I also believe that CSR will play a bigger role in the way people perceive an organisation. That means the brand image of an organisation will not only depend on its commercial success or service quality, but also on the social contributions it is making through sustainable CSR initiatives.