A common perception about Bangladesh persists in the global arena – that this South Asian country is a land prone to natural disaster. If anyone browses the results of web-based searches for the keyword "Bangladesh," images of submerged land and flood-affected people emerge.
There are also negative images around the search tools showing migrants from Bangladesh drowning at sea or caught red-handed by border or coast guards in a foreign territory. We can also find reports on political crises and human rights violations in Bangladesh via search engines as international media tends to cover such selective news.
Otherwise, a beautiful Bangladesh appears with the images of poor farmers carrying plows and directing bulls, which depicts the country as still practicing primitive agriculture.
But advanced levels of agriculture are being practiced in the country. And there are a number of manufacturing units transformed into global-standard green factories. So, where are those pictures?
When the scenario is like this, how can we brand Bangladesh positively? We need to brand Bangladesh upon its core development. Bangladesh has been doing very well in the manufacturing sector. Around five million Bangladeshi people are working in a manufacturing environment. A hundred years ago, this scenario was seen in the United States, Japan and European countries.
The ready-made garment industry can be taken as a prominent example. But manufacturing garments is not the last. Bangladesh must be portrayed as a destination of manufacturing hubs, not only for garments but also technological equipment like: microchips, automobile parts, food, pharmaceuticals, ships, and many other things.
There are many elements for branding a country. First of all, we need to introduce Bangladesh as a feasible manufacturing hub. I would like to point out five things we need to consider. First, If the foreign audience wants to see Bangladesh, they must be introduced with images of Bangladesh as a manufacturing hub – like what people are used to seeing of a developed country with images of manufacturing units.
Bangladesh is currently competing with some Asia-Pacific countries like Vietnam and Thailand in the manufacturing field. So far, Bangladesh is considered a place for primary levels of the manufacturing process. But the reality is, a number of advanced manufacturing units have been set up in Bangladesh.
There are some steps a country needs to overcome to become a manufacturing hub. This is the time to depict how Bangladesh has overcome the steps. And the story must be reflected in the media. Local manufacturing industry related write-ups, images and data need to be brought to the fore so that a foreign audience can see how Bangladesh is prepared to welcome investment in the manufacturing sector. Creating a vibe on the issue is very crucial for positive branding.
Who is actually responsible for branding Bangladesh? Definitely the Bangladeshis living abroad for job or educational purposes. Government officials deployed in the Bangladesh consulates must work for changing the previous perceptions.
Bangladeshi movies on the global screens must uphold the country's image. Because, the depiction of Bangladeshi ultra-poor peoples' lives will not help portray a developing Bangladesh. Instead, a story of manufacturing workers, their changing lives and the social impacts could be worthy. The government should sponsor such movie making.
Public and private service providers, as well as immigrant workers, need to be educated about how to portray Bangladesh positively in the global arena.
Second, there are more than 10 thousand towers supporting the country's 2G-4G telecommunications network. Bangladesh has comparatively better internet services than other countries in South Asia, but the facilities have not become a part of branding.
What we are used to saying is that 13 crore SIM cards have been sold and nearly eight crore people are using mobile handsets. But access to information, digital financing and broadband penetration are comparatively high in the country. Unfortunately, we seldom talk about these advances. If we do, general people find us loyal to the incumbent ruling party.
Based on the vibrant digital connectivity, freelancing has become a potential choice of employment. There are more than one crore Bangladeshis working abroad. Among them, eight million people are doing brown-collar jobs and two millions are blue-collar.
The common perception about Bangladeshis says that our immigrant workers are doing menial jobs. But what about the six lakh freelancers who are providing technical support to different countries. This is prime time to deliberately glorify the contribution of such trans-boundary service providers. And it will brand Bangladesh positively. If we successfully can create an impression, service seekers in the foreign land will plan to outsource from Bangladeshis.
Third, we need to appreciate the extraordinary Bangladesh-born people who are shining in the world in different sectors like: automobile engineering, architecture, music and sports. Their life histories must be included in our national curriculum so that we can study about them and showcase them as the pride of Bangladesh. Consulate officials, the information ministry and everybody needs to uphold their contributions.
Additionally, we have to highlight the contributions of: Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Zainul Abedin, SM Sultan, and other cultural and sports personalities who have brought Bangladesh to global audience. All the international airports in Bangladesh must arrange vibes about the great Bangladeshis.
In general, we tend to showcase Bangladesh as a beautiful country with traditional boats floating on water amidst a vast paddy field. Fourth, we need to explore the potential of water tourism.
This is the land where you can find rivers, canals, beels, the sea, and everything related to a complex river system. Foreigners will visit Bangladesh to see how water courses influence riverine communities. I believe that every river can be a revenue stream if properly managed. Here, use of conventional boats will not be enough. Yachts with moderate accommodation facilities should be introduced to water tourism.
Branding of a country actually depends on how its intellectual people are represented. If you see the list of Nobel Prize laureates, you can find the developed countries at top level. Unfortunately, Bangladesh has a lower position on the Global Knowledge Index because local universities invest meagre amounts of money in research.
Fifth, if we want to brand Bangladesh positively, we should invest more in education and research because, unless a country becomes a research hub, her true prestige cannot be upheld.
Country branding mostly depends on how confident a nation is. We still need foreign supervisors and this colonial mindset drags us down.
We need to overcome language barriers if we want to work on international platforms. Among the people currently representing Bangladesh, a few have smart communication skills and a sense of decency. There is a deficiency in representational capacity. That is why we cannot translate the glories of Bangladesh into positive branding.
Finally, we need a national platform consisting of branding consultants. Because, only professionals can gather proper content and exhibit it in an effective style. Knowledge or ideas shared by the forum will help policymakers implement positive branding of Bangladesh.
If Bangladesh's brand equity changes in the right direction, the index of investment ecology and human resources will progress.
The author is a prominent motivational speaker and the chief public affairs officer at the digital financing company Nagad