Creating more qualified accountants need of the hour
Bangladesh needs to generate more accounting professionals to meet the growing demand for qualified accountants in a bid to facilitate the faster growth of the economy, said a noted chartered certified accountant.
Currently, Bangladesh has about 4,000 qualified accountants, whereas it would be 400,000 in India and 21,000 in Pakistan, according to Md Arif Al Islam, a council member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).
"If you take the size of the population into account, we are far behind. Being a global council member, I would try to work towards raising the number of qualified accountants."
In Bangladesh, there is one qualified CA for every 38 companies, he said.
Islam is the first Bangladeshi to become a council member of the global body headquartered in London.
As Bangladesh is on its track to becoming a middle-income country in the next decade, it needs to develop accounting professionals to facilitate economic growth.
He also stressed creating enough qualified CAs since it is tough for a finance manager to get involved in wrongdoing as misdeeds may see their membership revoked.
"So, it ensures accountability."
Islam praised the accounting professionals in Bangladesh as qualified.
"The only challenge is that the number is not enough."
Islam said ACCAs are not locally recognised and allowed to sign audit reports whereas ACCAs are recognised in the UK and many other developed countries.
"We need to adopt a strategy to include such global professional degrees locally so that we have an adequate supply of qualified accountants to support our economic growth."
Islam became a professional CA in 1999 while he was working in the UK at a chartered accountancy firm. After a few years, he returned to Bangladesh and joined KPMG Bangladesh.
He joined Grameenphone and went on to become general manager for finance and the chief financial officer of the country's largest mobile phone operator before becoming the deputy CEO.
At his peak as a business professional, he left Grameenphone in 2009 to co-found Summit Communications Limited a year later.
In less than 13 years, Summit Communications has become a major player in the country's telecommunication and internet service industry.
It is the leading internet transmission service provider after laying the largest fibre optic cable network of about 50,000 kilometres across the country.
Summit Communications is also the leading international internet gateway operator, the international terrestrial cable operator and the tower infrastructure provider. Recently, it obtained a submarine cable licence.
But the journey was not an easy one.
Initially, Muhammed Aziz Khan, chairman of Summit Group, Muhammad Farid Khan, chairman of Summit Communications, and Islam envisioned that the company would build a strong ICT infrastructure.
But it was a little too ambitious because mobile operators were already there with their infrastructure, fibre optic cables and towers. Internet service providers were also there, recalled Islam.
Entering into the infrastructure business is very challenging when infrastructure is already there, he said.
"But we could see that no one shared their existing infrastructure and everyone was building their own. As a result, there was a lot of duplication and the price was not coming down."
So, Summit Communications tried to work towards the customers' needs: How can it help customers have a better price and better quality of the network?
"That was our initial philosophy," he said.
But building infrastructure involves heavy investment whereas the business is not that secure.
Summit Communications took a lease of the existing fibre and bandwidth from existing operators and build a common network in 64 districts at minimal investment.
Before investing a lot of money, the company was able to generate cash flow and make it sustainable. And after three to four years, it started to pour in funds.
Summit Communications plans to launch the submarine cable by 2025.
Islam's enthusiasm to pay attention to details, the virtue of working hand in glove with associates and the fearlessness in pursuing new things perhaps have helped him achieve significant feats in life.
But to him, nation-building and the willingness to do something for the country and the world have always been the driving force.
"I have always wanted to do something for the mankind and for the country that has a big impact," he said.
"When I worked at Grameenphone, we believed that if we achieved 10 per cent more telecom penetration, it would contribute one per cent to GDP."
"And as the CEO of Summit Communications, I know good penetration with fibre and transmission bandwidth has a higher contribution to GDP. Achieving this kind of things personally motivates me a lot."