Digital literacy, awareness main focus
The primary role of bKash involves continuous efforts to promote digital literacy and educate individuals about the benefits of digital financial products. And with this, bKash plays a significant role in the digitalisation of Bangladesh.
"As a pioneer and market leader in the mobile financial service (MFS) industry, we always put digital literacy at the forefront of our agenda," said Mir Nawbut Ali, chief marketing officer of bKash Limited, in an interview with The Daily Star recently.
Digital literacy is not universal, so bKash has taken on the task of teaching many individuals how to use these digital services, he said.
The goal is to assure them that digital transactions are not only convenient but also simpler than traditional methods, he added.
He said they have become one of the most widely used digital payment methods in Bangladesh, serving millions on a range of needs, from mobile top-ups to remittance and various purchase payments.
In the world of the MFS, there is a unique niche that sits at the intersection of traditional banking and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies, he said.
It is a space where companies like bKash operate, dealing with customers much like FMCG giants do, he said.
Drawing an interesting analogy, Ali likened their role to that of companies like Unilever.
"Unilever introduced handwash products in Bangladesh. To habituate people with such hygiene products, it has to run massive awareness campaigns," he said.
"Just as Unilever had educated people about the importance of handwashing after using the toilet, bKash has a similar responsibility for pioneering MFS among educated people over digital payment services," he said.
"Our mission isn't just to provide a product; it's also about teaching people the value and benefits of using it. This responsibility comes with a hefty price tag, as it involves extensive awareness campaigns and educational efforts," he said.
When it comes to marketing financial products, bKash takes a different approach, he said.
Before launching a product, bKash dives deep into understanding customer behaviour such as their likes and dislikes and the implications of the product, he said.
"The goal is to know everything about customers, and this comprehensive approach allows us to work closely with various industries, a rare opportunity in the business world," he said.
The marketing campaigns are designed by bKash in a strategic way such that it is not limited to the publicity of products and services, rather enlightening and gaining the confidence of the customers on the use of MFS, he said.
According to him, one of the challenges they've encountered is enabling the transition of people from long-standing practices.
"For example, traditionally electricity bills are paid with cash and the customers receive receipts in paper. So, we had to assure that digital receipt is available in bKash payment," he said.
Changing these ingrained habits is a gradual process, and bKash is doing it with utmost care and patience, he said.
Behind the scenes, bKash puts strong emphasis on research and meticulous planning before introducing any new product or feature to their app, he said.
"This approach helps us avoid faulty products and provides a seamless experience for users," Ali said.
Ali started his career with New Zealand Dairy as a sales executive in 1997. He also worked for British American Tobacco, Grameenphone, Bakcell in Azerbaijan, Airtel and Marico Bangladesh in key marketing roles.
He joined bKash in 2017 as chief marketing officer and bKash became the best brand of Bangladesh for four consecutive years from 2019 to 2022 under his stewardship.
He said one of the remarkable aspects of bKash's services was how they manage to provide customers with a consistent experience despite the complexity of the backend processes.
According to him, bKash is not just a digital payment provider but a catalyst for change in Bangladesh's financial landscape.
"We are on a mission to empower people with digital financial solutions while ensuring that the transition is smooth and beneficial for all," said Ali.
Currently, bKash is running a campaign to inspire the resilience of the Bangladeshi people. The campaign titled "Amader bKash Thekay Ke" portrays the unstoppable spirit of people towards success, he said.
The campaign symbolically depicts people's indomitable strength that advancement is not limited to any particular person, rather it is for institutions, society, and the nation, he said.
"The economic development of Bangladesh and the journey of bKash in the past 12 years are tied to the same thread. Through this campaign, bKash salutes the indomitable spirit of the people through 'Amader bKash Thekay Ke' campaign," he said.
Research conducted by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) has shown that bKash has contributed to improving child nutrition, he said.
It has enabled allowing fathers or earning members to send money instantly to the northern parts of Bangladesh, compared to the previous weekly or monthly remittance cycles, he said.
"Ultimately, bKash's primary objective is to ensure that customers feel the smoothest possible experience. We also evaluate the broader impact of our services on people's lives," he said.