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Contestants brainstorm on revamping union digital centres

Shanjida Hossain | Published: December 25, 2019 22:31:11 | Updated: January 02, 2020 00:47:03


Winners of Battle of Minds 2019 -- The Beetles from IBA, University of Dhaka-- Silvana Jahir, Khondaker Mushfiqur Rahman and Saima Mehedi Khan (from left to right) holding the champion trophy

Battle of Minds is one of the most prestigious business competitions of Bangladesh. Since its inception in 2004, this competition had always been limited to final year Bangladeshi undergraduate students. However, last year, this competition not only became open for all but also expanded globally. This year, Battle of Minds held its 16th instalment and after several gruelling sessions and rounds of the competition, The Beetles from Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka took away the champion trophy. The team consisted of Saima Mehedi Khan, Khondaker Mushfiqur Rahman and Silvana Jahir.

The grand finale of the championship was held on December 11 evening at a hotel in the capital.

To acquire a closer look at the intense and exciting moments of the competition, Shanjida Hossain interviewed the winning team and asked them about their preparation for the regional round.

Question (Q): Please tell us what your team's idea was about.

Saima: We were given the task of revamping the union digital centres (UDCs), a project under the ICT ministry and a2i. With the help of root level research, we tried to get to the core of the problem and brainstormed to find the most unique and feasible solution. We discovered that most people are unaware of UDCs, and the ones who are unaware are uninterested to go to UDCs for a lack of relevant services and finally the ones who do go to UDCs are unwilling to visit a second time due to inefficiencies encountered. As such, we divided our solution into three major parts, developing infrastructure, diversifying services and increasing mindshare. We tried to incorporate unique and relevant services in order to attract people to UDCs, for example: Jibika to cater to the unemployed youth, Shufola to cater to farmers and Anannya to cater to female artisans. We also made sure we brand the UDCs in the right manner so as to create a positive image for UDCs.

Q: What qualities do you think set your team apart from other teams?

Saima: We are a team of devil's advocates. Nothing ever seemed to please us until we asked ourselves enough questions to make sure the solution was absolutely flawless. I think what truly sets our team apart is the level of research we had put into this. From visiting three UDCs, talking to the Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO), and going out of our way to talk to every individual we found on the streets of places we had never been to before, to getting back home only to surf the net to get further information, we left no stone unturned to convince ourselves that we have done everything there could possibly be done. The solution that really turned heads was the introduction of offline caching in UDCs. While all other teams focused on better internet, we proposed the idea of relying less on the internet so as to make the system more efficient.

Q: With the overwhelming flow of emotions, how was the grand finale like?

Mushfiqur: The grand finale was everything we ever hoped for and more. From the walk to the stage to the nerve wrecking presentation to finally the announcement when we were tensed beyond comprehension, every moment of the grand finale would forever be tucked safely in our hearts. Sharing the stage together was the single most wonderful thing to have happened to us and we truly hope we would get to feel the same again for the global round. 

Q: How is your team planning on representing Bangladesh in the regional round?

Silvana: As the case lead for the regional round is yet to be revealed to us, we are trying to integrate all the feedback that we got throughout our journey in Battle of Minds and use it to further develop our skills so that we can set new standards for ourselves. We know the battle is going to be a lot more intense now, but we are determined to fight it out with all we got to establish Bangladesh as the ultimate champion.

Q: Battle of Minds is one of the most sought after and challenging business competitions of this country. Would you share your entire experience of this journey?

Mushfiqur: I participated last year as well but unfortunately could not make it past the semis. That being said the experience last year was so exciting and educational that I decided to participate this year as well and I am glad I did because this year the competition was even more challenging. This is the very first time that I have had to design a marketing plan catered towards the rural population. On top of that, we actually had to visit the rural areas and execute BTL activations- something I had never imagined myself doing. These new experiences coupled with the friendships that we made and the emotional rollercoaster we've been through actually made Battle of Minds 2019 a memory that we will cherish for the rest of our lives.

Q: What were your major takeaways from this competition?

Silvana: The major takeaways from this competition came in the form of immense learning-- learning about the wonderful initiatives rolled out by our government and the Access to Information (a2i) Programme of Prime Minister's Office to make "Digital Bangladesh" a reality, the challenges faced in this regard and how we can overcome those challenges. We specifically had to work with the rural market for our final challenge-- something which none of us had done before and the interaction itself was so wholesome and gave us a very deep understanding of how different and similar the rural market is to the urban market. Overall the competition provided us with an accurate representation of how real life businesses work and enabled us to convert the theoretical knowledge that we have gained so far into working solutions to propel real life business goals.

The interviewer is a second year student of BBA programme at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka. She can be reached at shanjida7f@gmail.com

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