Face to face with Nabila Khurshed, Managing Editor, Bangladesh Brand Forum

Nabila Khurshed, at a time, is a writer, Researcher and Consultant. She has experiences of working in multidisciplinary sectors, starting from Public sector to Market Research to Publishing. Currently, she is working at Bangladesh Brand Forum as Brand Manager and also managing the Bangladesh Brand Forum Magazine for quite a long time. She has extensive experiences of working on “Youth” from a business and marketing perspective. For our Generation Change Report we talked with Nabila Khurshed, here goes her interestingly insightful thoughts and experiences on Youth-

Future StartUp: Briefly tell us about yourself and your passion?

Nabila Khurshed: I am a wordsmith, market researcher and consultant. I have worked with The Nielsen Company, Asiatic and Bangladesh Brand Forum at various stages of my career. As an opinionated person, I enjoy consulting and playing with words. My education roots from East West University and Lancaster University – concentrating on marketing. As I jumped through my academic years and graduated pretty fast, I have been focused with what I wanted to do. While pursuing BBA, I worked with Foreign Ministry, Singapore Medicine, Acid Survivors Foundation, Asiatic etc. After graduation I joined the global research leader, Nielsen. At Nielsen I worked for nearly 3 and half years on both quantitative and qualitative research, serving a versatile portfolio of clients. When things started to feel a little monotonous, I started freelancing for Bangladesh Brand Forum with a special column titled ‘Voice of Youth’ in partnership with my friend Tanzeel Abdullah. As I am a very people person, I was also one of the directors of JCI Dhaka during that phase. At Bangladesh Brand Forum, I have marketed a few successful events and have been managing the magazine for half a year.

Lancaster University gave me phenomenal experiences that broadened my thinking. There is so much to ponder upon when you are exposed to such diversity of culture. I belonged to a class with representation from 17 countries! Just sharing cultural differences is a great way to learn and reconsider the way you look at things. I think it is very important for an individual to be exposed to ideologies and perspectives totally different from the one he/she already have in mind. It triggers questioning; a state of mind that our youth lacks at the moment. Moreover, it takes impeccable passion, patience, cultural empathy to work with diverse group of people because they all are very different from you. Being respectful of others’ opinion is very important to evolve as a person.

The Youth Experience

During 2008 to 2010, I thoroughly enjoyed doing a column titled Voice of Youth. I thank Bangladesh Brand Forum to accommodate this crazy yet insightful page in the magazine. The page was developed mainly for marketers who have youth as their target segment. There were psychographic analysis, sometimes very corny though! Despite being a researcher, the biggest source of writing was our personal observations, interacting with the youth, being one of them at times, to understand them better. The column was specially articulated for the marketers who were designing products and services for youth; what factors are most important for youth, what motivates, what turns them off etc. Each month a new industry was covered. The results were very interesting, but sometimes very confined as I felt our young generation is a severe victim of peer pressure. However, that makes their decision making process simpler for certain brands.
In near future I would like to contribute towards transforming value system of young people.

Future StartUp: What is your perception and evaluation about our youth?

Nabila Khurshed: Without a question, young people are always promising. Positively, Bangladesh is a very young nation; our last election had 1/3rd new voters itself. I personally believe they are the most spirited part of our population and the future is very much in their hands.

The reason why youth exurbs so much energy is because ideas are yet to be generalized, diluted, constrained unlike the ones who have been working for 10-20 years. As the years grow people add experience to shelter on by many people lose the courage to try things, take risks.

The advantage of being young is also lies in the same fresh thoughts, mesmerizing ideas, and illogical passion! Most interesting thing of being youth is that, your mind is not being programmed towards anything.

You must be knowing that, after certain age people can seldom orient anything new because age makes us change resistive. Consider the technology-phobia older people have – it is nothing but losing interest to learn new things.

Arguably, I think half of the potential our youth have is not utilized. Sometimes their energies are channeled in wrong directions. Their focus is constantly challenged by collective forces of society, family and academics.

The root might be lying in the ‘collective’ approach of our society. Rather than allowing a young person to learn from his mistakes and making choices, others’ opinions are constantly being imposed on them. Classically, youth are having a problem of going with flow. Joining the majority is a dangerous trend with our youth. Young people are supposed to be questioning and curious. Without the mindset of questioning, no perspective is being developed, no voice is heard, no passion is followed. Just falling into the trap of peer pressure creates a knowledge gap for life.

Today’s youth have very surface idea about everything. The problem with superficial knowledge is that, you know everything like knowing nothing!

Not only that, the scope of developing individual personality shrinks in proportion with peer pressure. Youth here are bound to consider family and societal pressure in their independent decision making which makes things intricate for them. Individual potential/perspectives of each person could then act as resourceful ingredient for societal development.

Then comes question of passion and patience. Previously I said that our youth are having problem with focus; what actually I tried to mean is that they have very blur idea about what they want and what they are doing. Most destructive is when they even refuse to try to find their passion consciously. Finding passion is important. For instance, a lot of youth are joining banks because they pay fat money and yes, everybody else are doing so. What happens at the end is that after a certain time they feel a vacuum inside them. Some of my friends say that, they would pay banks back to leave their jobs!

At the same time, many of our youth are being pessimist by thinking that, there is very little opportunity for them. Undeniably, scope is limited but yet there are opportunities and you see, entrepreneurship is always up there. Of course we lack the platform from where you can start something. But youth must know its worth it to drive the extra mile for their passion over lending their lives to a passion they never believed in.

Not all actions will be successful, but zero action will surely result in zero success. Like they say it, Rome was not built one day. If your dream is as big as Rome, you must have the patience for it.

I will relate the disease of ‘not questioning’ with the political situation of our country. It is clear why our youth is losing interest in politics. But isn’t it frightening that a person is not interested in something that affects their life in every walk? I feel it is scary that they are avoiding something fundamental instead of thinking about it, let alone fixing it. If you look at India, their good percentage of youth feel responsible to be mindful about politics , and I would praise the media for injecting such thoughtfulness amongst them.

Considering the ambiguous state of politics in our country, an integrated effort needs to be displayed (media, business houses, academia etc) in Bangladesh too in order to make room for young people.

Thanks to the World Wide Web, a sense of asking question among youth is gradually developing and this is a good sign.

Positively, youth have started to bring in cultural changes. In sectors like media & ICT they have shown manifested commendable performance and credibility. I think in near future this trend will increase in manifold.

Future StartUp: How do you see the current changes happening around us pushed by technology and social media?

Nabila Khurshed: Well, let’s start with social media. As I’m from business, I would say it (Social media) has brought redefined the way business communication works. Now anyone can market almost anything with almost zero marketing costs. Look at some of the facebook boutique stores a number of young people have opened up – making thoughtful use of social media and making huge amount of profit. Therefore, in some way, it is working as a catalyst for youth entrepreneurship.

Along with that, we are now more connected, more empowered with our voice heard and staying well informed. It has created dramatic changes in the way people socialize, work, business, research or even matchmake!
Of course, information flow is a positive thing but it is also true that information overload creates dilemma and confusion. Also, every individual has a information consumption limit and overflow freezes the thought process

At the same time, technology we experience, small to big, simple to sophisticated, all exist to make our lives better. All these technology is facilitating mobility at greater extent and empowering its users. Now productivity has increased in manifold. The most important feature of technology is that, it recognizes power of individual.

Future StartUp: How do you see the influence of social media, and technology on our young generation?

Nabila Khurshed: There are both positive and negative influences. Information overload can sometimes make learning shallow, and create a generation of ankle-deep learners.
Similarly, over connectedness via social media has been contributing to a new dimension of peer pressure. Now your family and friends are not the only ones following details of your life but many other people too. So collective pressure is not only from family or close friends, but also from mere acquaintances. As our activities are so transparent, we are getting more involved with showing off. And the concern of privacy was and will be always there.

At large, social media has an impact on our value system but not all influences are negative. Like everything else, a person has to make a choice over the web of what to buy-in and what not. A more active filtering system needs to be there to make social media a better space. As Facebook is no longer a subtle form of communication, the administrators must take it seriously.

On the other hand, technology has made initiative taking easy. Youth are now doing many new things leveraging technology. Best part of tech is that it enables you to do something bigger than you are.

The world is more complex, interrelated and interdependent than ever. Speed, flexibility, and competition all has multiplied in last few decades. The challenges faced by our young generation are more global, complex and multi-dimensional than ever. To tame the challenges changing times throws at you, technology plays the most crucial role

Future StartUp: Do you think our youth are getting enough scope to grow? If not what can they do?

Nabila Khurshed: I think the scope of personal development is limited because we are a conservative society and others’ opinions are always a variable in our decision making process. Here youth have very limited opportunity to learn through experimentation.

I believe, everyone should learn from their own mistakes not from others but our youth are not even getting enough chances to make resourceful mistakes!

There is lack of both platform and motivation for personal development. Now giving youth the ambit to grow has to be a combined approach. All stakeholders should come forward to perform their parts to give our youth what they need to grow where youth have their roles to play too. Mindset is the most important factor. Our youth should focus on developing themselves as resourceful people, not just resourceful employment candidate to fill in positions. In that process teachers play a very important role. Surely, family’s role is undeniable but after a certain age a person is less interested to learn from home. Along with teachers and parents, our government needs to be supportive of youth development.

Future StartUp: What do you think about the state of young entrepreneurship in Bangladesh?

Nabila Khurshed: Well, I have to admit that, we have many areas where young entrepreneurship can flourish. Ours is a consumerist society, market potential is huge and there are lots of untapped markets which can be catered. In a consumerist society people are always ready for more. More can be translated into more business, more entrepreneurship.

Due to emergence of new media, communication and marketing cost has reduced almost to zero. Youth can reap the benefits of the technology to fuel their initiative.

Opportunities exist for youth in creative sectors, and small niches of big sectors. ICT sectors, boutique item, fashion, branded clothing line are some sectors worth mentioning. The most essential thing youth can shelter on is hype. Brands are built on hype and hype is all that sells.

Contrary, there are problems to be addressed too. The traditional mindset that ‘youth are a bunch of jerks who doesn’t understand what they are doing’ must change. We must create the space where youth will do something by themselves. Entrepreneurship takes courage and persistence, and it should be appreciated by people of all ages.

Future StartUp: Do you have any prediction for Bangladeshi youth 5 years from now?

Nabila Khurshed: Well, it is tricky to predict. Though I think, there will be many initiatives in sectors like mobile application development (with the introduction of 3G), creative industry and media. Youth will begin to be individualistic regarding decision making and choices. I hope they will be more passionate to follow their dreams instead of giving in to the trap.

Future StartUp: Thank you

Nabila Khurshed: Thank You too.

Note: This Interview is taken by Md. Ashiqur Rab and Muhammad Zakaria. Thanks to Md. Julfikar Islam for reading first draft.

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