A CELEBRATION OF INNOVATIVE IDEAS | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 02, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 02, 2020

A CELEBRATION OF INNOVATIVE IDEAS

Applauds echoed in a room full of young spectators, as the grand finale of Battle of Minds (BOM) 2019 came to a close, celebrating the brightest young minds of Bangladesh. The final round of one of the biggest talent recruitment platforms in the country took place on the night of December 11, 2019, at the Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden.

The theme of this year’s challenge was “Digital Transformation” that was based on the Vision 2021 goals of Digital Bangladesh. The top five teams included The Beetles (IBA, DU), Goal Diggers (FBS, DU), Now You See Us (BUP), The Three Horsemen (IBA, DU) and JLSQ (NSU). The Beetles, which included Silvana Jahir, Saima Khan and Khondaker Mushfiqur Rahman from Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka took home the championship title. Now You See Us, from Bangladesh University of Professionals and The Three Horsemen, from IBA, DU took home the title of the first and second runners-up respectively.

The intense battle of the night was adjudicated by an esteemed panel of judges which included Stephan Matthiesen, Finance Director, BATB; Saad Jashim, Head of HR, BATB; and Golam Safwat Choudhury, Head of Marketing, BATB. Md. Sohorab Hossain, Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Education was present as the chief guest.

For the initial selection round, students were asked to send in a video that outlined an innovative new business idea leveraging on the strength of digital technology under the pillars of automobile, financial technology, retail or any other relevant industry of choice.

From over 4000 registrations, the top 180 students were shortlisted for the bootcamp of BOM 2019. The students were welcomed through an ice-breaking ceremony, where they took part in several team-building exercises and mentorship from subject matter experts. The 180 students were divided into 18 mixed teams of 10. These teams were tasked with solving an impromptu case study on how to digitally upskill the people of rural Bangladesh, following which they had to present a 3-minute elevator pitches on this case study.

The top 80 were then picked out to take part in the next round: focus group discussions. Students discussed a business challenge in mixed groups and were tasked to construct a plausible solution within an hour. The moderators assessed the influencing and collaboration abilities of the participants, selecting the top 30 to proceed to the semi-final round.

These 30 participants were then divided into groups of three per team, based on everyone’s institutional backgrounds. The teams went through a briefing session, where they were explained the case they would be working on. Building on the bootcamp’s theme of national digital upskilling, the task for the semi-final was to increase the overall footfall and awareness of the 4500+ Union Digital Centres (UDC) across the country, which is a critical strategic imperative of Digital Bangladesh to digitise urban and semi-rural communities. Representatives of a2i (Access to Information in Bangladesh, an organisation that aims to provide information through a citizen-centric service delivery system) introduced the teams to the concept of UDCs and talked about all their extended ventures. The teams were then challenged with preparing a 10-minute long presentation, from where only five teams went through to the finals.

With the theme of celebrating the National ICT Day on December 12, the setup of the final round focused on collaborating with a2i and helping the Government of Bangladesh fast track its mission of fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are set out by the UN aim to equip ordinary citizens with the technology to access critical government and private services, hassle-free. The top five teams had to travel to different unions across the country to execute the strategies they developed with the help of their assigned mentors (BOM alumni) and present their findings to a2i, which would then be used to implement real life changes to enhance UDCs for the future. Each of the teams’ plans and their hands-on work in these unions was the subject of presentation during the grand finale.

The grand finale opened with a video presentation of previous BOM winners, sharing their experiences and talking about what it means to be a part of this prestigious competition.

After this, Saad Jashim, Head of HR, BATB took the stage to give a speech on this year’s competition. He said, “Through BOM we aspire to provide our participants with an unparalleled experience. We took all the candidates through an intense journey, where they had to travel to different parts of the country to gain practical insight on the work that goes into activating any kind of project. We believe that the ones who go through the challenges faced in BOM learn some things that no other platform can teach them. Today, on the final round of BOM, we will see all their hard work in their presentations.”

He also added that last year, teams from over 40 countries took part in the first global round of BOM and the team from Bangladesh took home the global championship trophy. He hopes the winners of BOM 2019 will be able to do the same.

Before the first team took the stage, a video was presented which summed up the entire journey of BOM 2019.

Champions of the night, The Beetles presented an idea of providing information without the use of an active internet connection. “Through primary and secondary research, we had found that people were firstly unaware of UDCs because of some gaps in branding and communication strategies. Those who knew about UDCs were uninterested in visiting those UDCs because similar services were available in the nearby telecom stores. Lastly, because strong internet connectivity is still not commonplace in remote areas, many of the UDCs have a really long service delivery time which creates unwillingness among people to re-visit. So, one of the main ideas we had was to introduce an offline component into the UDCs so that they can still function and cater to the visitors’ needs without the need for strong internet connectivity. We also suggest providing special services that empower the unemployed youth, farmers and female artisans and designed a communication plan to generate awareness and trial,” said Khondaker Mushfiqur Rahman. 

Team Now You See Us took another approach in reaching the rural areas of the country. Farhan Ishmam Sikder talked about his team’s journey for the final round, saying, “We travelled 60 kilometres away from the heart of Dhaka to a small village in Cumilla known as Luterchar. Keeping the most traditional storytelling instrument – the bioscope – at the heart of our campaign, we created an impactful awareness with a buzzing rural crowd. The awareness bit was followed by an evening class at the UDC for the rural people in order to make them understand the utility of UDCs and importance of coming into digital inclusion. The pilot class was taken digitally by Ayman Sadiq using the UDC resources in association with 10 Minute School.”

Adiba Samantha Parvez, from team Three Horsemen, said their plan was to break the vicious cycle UDCs were trapped in. She added, “We decided to tie it to a need that was ubiquitous for people in all walks of rural life, a need that was organic and recurring and that would tackle the issue of low footfall and hence ensure commercial viability for UDCs once and for all, we decided to tie UDCs purpose with livelihoods.”

For the winning team, the experience has been more rewarding than they anticipated. Saima Khan said, “From finding it difficult to interact with each other the first time, we were randomly put into a team to holding onto each other when the champion team was about to be announced, we came a long way.”

Silvana Jahir felt the experience was something she will carry with her in the future. She said, “Winning BOM has always been a dream since I started studying in IBA, DU. Becoming the national champion was surreal. The journey not only taught me how to solve real life business problems but also gave me memories I’ll cherish forever.”

Md. Sohorab Hossain announced the name of the champion team, welcomed them on stage and handed them the trophy. He went on to thank BATB for organising BOM and said, “The government is working relentlessly to develop a skilled workforce in the country. Through competitions like these, the potentials of our young students can be assessed properly which will not only create new possibilities and opportunities for our youngsters but will also cater to the overall development of the country.”

Shehzad Munim, Managing Director, BATB, emphasised on how fresh graduates are helping the country progress. “BOM creates an opportunity for students to unbox their talents and ideas. As a result, students benefit themselves and these talents play a vital role for the development of the country,” he said.

Even after all the glories achieved, the journey for the champion team does not end here. Khondaker Mushfiqur Rahman also said that his team is still not done taking on new challenges. “While we are absolutely delighted to have become the national champions, we are not giving ourselves any room to become complacent,” he said.

The champion team is set to take part in the regional round of BOM 2019 in the coming year, where they will get a chance to reach the global finale of the competition. Only time will tell if Bangladesh will continue to uphold its legacy as champions in the global arena, and leave another significant mark in history.    

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