Businesses should be more than the business itself. Milton, a Nobel laureate and noted economist, fully agrees with this sentiment and believes that when a business goes beyond its core activities to undertake credible, welfare-oriented initiatives, it has a tremendously positive impact on society.
For example, some recent initiatives taken by bKash, a leading mobile financial services (MFS) provider, have proven the value of this saying by making time befitting contributions towards the welfare of the common people, consumers or otherwise.
When the coronavirus outbreak first began, the entire world plummeted into a situation the likes of which were never seen before.
The ongoing pandemic has altered our way of living, cultural values and even our way of thinking.
Governments and private organisations from all over the world continue to grapple with the Covid-19 fallout, a horrendous task indeed and seemingly insurmountable for economies like Bangladesh.
The sheer magnitude of the threat posed by Covid-19 placed massive pressure on the country's limited health care facilities. But then, bKash stepped forward to help the government combat the health crisis.
Arranged by its overseas partner Alibaba, bKash donated 300 ventilators along with 300,000 emergency medical toolkits to the government, which could be recorded as the largest act of social corporate responsibility by any private sector organisation amid the pandemic.
The toolkits included infrared thermometers, masks and other protective gears. Besides, the MFS provider had previously handed over 50 ventilators and around 650,000 units of emergency medical equipment to the prime minister's relief fund in June last year.
Adding to all these time-befitting endeavours, bKash from its own fund provided 30 ventilators to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, Dhaka Shishu Hospital, Dhaka CMH and Central Police Hospital as part of its social responsibility to help accelerate the treatment of patients suffering from severe respiratory infections due to Covid-19.
The company also installed an oxygen plant at the BIHS General Hospital as part of this rigorous plan to be on the medical frontline during the unexpected crisis.
The ventilators and other equipment were the call of the hour for the country's public and private hospitals and other establishments, which struggled to deal with the sudden onrush of Covid-19 patients. It was also certainly a relief for the government, health ministry, hospitals and above all, the frontline doctors, nurses and paramedics who had scant resources.
These donations not only speak volumes of the organisation's unique and responsible business conduct, but also exemplifies its consciousness and thoughtful approach for the welfare of common people.
In fact, bKash had been silently active, or rather proactive, in keeping the wheels of our economy running ever since the outbreak began in March last year.
During the early stages of the pandemic, there was a lot of fear, frustration and uncertainty amid the nationwide economic lockdown and restrictions on public movement. However, bKash rendered a huge subsidy of over Tk 22 crore in the transactions made by its customers during the pandemic. This gave a great relief to the bKash user community who were already feeling the safety and comfort of monetary transactions.
Besides, bKash worked with Bidyanondo Foundation, which gained fame for exemplary charitable works including the One Taka Meal. bKash donated to this organisation to help them establish a hospital in Chattogram.
bKash's commitment to respond to the pandemic does not end there. Through the Sena Kalyan Sangstha, it provided food items to 5,000 poor families while another food relief programme was also extended to around 100 families of the low-income group in Panchagarh district in May 2020 through a non-government organisation.
Besides, bKash had a significant hallmark in its quest for extending welfare to the common people when it was entrusted to send the prime minister's cash incentive to 15 lakh beneficiaries in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.
bKash also delivered stipends to secondary level students in the shortest possible time and they were able to easily cash out from any of the 240,000 nearby agents without cost. This brought added relief to the students and their parents during the Covid-19 period.
Consumer trust made an upward swing when bKash partnered with 9 local commercial banks to facilitate inbound remittances during the early period of the global pandemic. It was almost a dreamlike satisfaction for tens of thousands of Bangladeshi expatriate workers to be able to send money to their families during such a crisis. The beneficiaries were also happy to receive the remittance instantly, which helped boost their morale and confidence amid the economic uncertainty.
While the Covid-19 pandemic steered the need for digital monetary transactions in order to avoid physical contact and ensure social distancing, bKash successfully managed this huge task.
Glaring examples could be the timely payment of salaries and festival bonuses to 10 lakh workers in the garment sector and various small and medium enterprises during the lockdown period.
bKash also helped disburse the government's stimulus package for the export oriented industries which came under financial pressure following the stoppage of global trade and a nosedive in consumption. Such prompt, safe and secured services were the need of the hour and bKash played a crucial role with such a benchmark of efficiency and trust of the beneficiaries that the scope for a "cashless" transaction era has now leapfrogged significantly.
To help people maintain social distancing amid the pandemic, bKash readily used its vast network of services to expand the opportunities that enable people to have money in their mobile wallet from bank accounts and cards.
Due to the relentless endeavors and continuous integration with banks, customers of 22 leading banks of the country can now add money to their bKash accounts easily 24/7. Customers can also add money from Visa and Mastercard.
Another area that bKash worked extensively on is the Pay Bill service. People needed to find a smart way to pay their utility bills while staying at home during the pandemic.
Hence, they relied on bKash due to its wide range of services. Currently, all the electricity bills, including DESCO, DPDC, BPDB, NESCO, BREB (Palli Bidyut) and so on, can be paid through bKash.
Besides electricity, payment of other utility services like water, gas, internet, telephone and TV is also possible through bKash, which helps customers remain at home during lockdown.
With its revolutionary successes in creating a vast web of mobile financial services across the country, bKash has become a household name and even a new grammatical "verb" to colloquially mean money transaction. Now, with the donations of medical kits including vital ventilators and the uninterrupted monetary transaction services during the pandemic, it has earned incremental appreciation from all and sundry. Truly, bKash has significantly relieved much of our worries centring the Covid-19 pandemic.
The author is a freelance writer and CSR consultant.