Bangladesh Youth Enterprise Advice and Helpcentre (B'YEAH) was founded in 2007 with an ambition to empower young Bangladeshis to start their own business and realize their dream of becoming successful entrepreneurs. After almost 12 years of journey, the organization is looking to expand its horizon.
The new strategic ambition, the organization’s executive director Rashed Mamun said, is the economic empowerment of young people in Bangladesh through not only entrepreneurship but also skills development and access to opportunities. “Our ultimate goal is youth empowerment by creating economic opportunities for them.”
The organization plans to do it in two ways. It will continue supporting entrepreneurship. Second, it will upskill young people through training, mentoring, etc, and connect them to opportunities.
The organization feels that skill development is not enough. Access to opportunities is equally important. Someone getting trained in entrepreneurship or graphic design does not bear any fruit unless you can give them either capital or market access to build a business or offer job opportunities after the training to earn a living.
B'YEAH says after years of work in entrepreneurship development, it now wants to take a step back, expand its horizon and invest in empowering youth economically. It can be through entrepreneurship, skill development, job placement, and other means.
The new strategic ambition allows B'YEAH to operate on a much larger canvas. The move makes sense given that the organization has worked in the domain of youth entrepreneurship for many years. While entrepreneurship is incredibly important, it is not necessary that everyone be an entrepreneur. And probably not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur or can be an entrepreneur. To that end, equipping young people to be self-reliant through skills development can open up new doors of opportunities for them.
B'YEAH says it wants to remain open and when a young person comes, have a candid discussion with her and connect her with mentors and experts who will guide her. “If she wants to learn some skills, we will help train her and help her find opportunities in her field.”
Youth unemployment is a growing challenge for Bangladesh. While entrepreneurship is one of the most effective solutions to creating economic opportunities, skills are necessary and can open new doors of opportunities for a young person. Bangladesh is a country of young people. The median age of the country is 27.6 years. While this offers an incredible opportunity for gaining demographic dividends, it also poses new challenges due to rising youth unemployment. A recent ILO study found that 40 percent of young people are not in Education, Employment, or Training. A significant percentage of these young people suffer from a lack of marketable skills, which makes it challenging for these people to pursue entrepreneurship or any other economic activities. This is one of the reasons B'YEAH considers this to be an important challenge to address. With training in marketable skills, young people can double their chance of success in life and work.
The model of B'YEAH will remain the same. The approach will be focused on capacity development, mentorship-led, and advisory services. However, this time around it will not be only about entrepreneurship, it will also be about other in-demand skills. B'YEAH has found its model to be effective when it comes to helping young people find economic opportunities. It believes the same model can be applied to skills development.
B'YEAH has recently run a related pilot course on Cybersecurity where it worked with a Bangladeshi expatriate to provide a training program on cybersecurity. More than 100 youths participated in the course and a number of participants have found income-generating opportunities using the skills they learned in the course. The workshop was a combination of training, one-on-one mentorship, and guidelines for finding jobs in the field.
B'YEAH says it has received an excellent response, with many participants saying the workshop helped them find a direction about how to not only learn the skills and also how to use the skills to find opportunities.
A mentorship-led skill development program with a focus on access to opportunities is not entirely new. But often organizations don’t execute these approaches well. Consequently, they don’t produce results. But it is a model that can produce results if done right. B'YEAH says it sees huge opportunities for Bangladeshi youth if they get the right training and can have guidance about how to find opportunities in the global market.
To that end, B'YEAH wants to focus on skills that have global demands. The organization says it plans to pay attention to in-demand skills that will give young people access to the global market.
This is a good strategy because there is a growing demand for tech talents across the markets. Thanks to the rise of remote jobs, it is easy to find jobs from anywhere in the world. Moreover, freelancing and remote work platforms also offer opportunities where if one can deliver good work they can also get more work and in turn build a team and turn their solo gig into an enterprise.
“We want to complement government effort to build a SMART Bangladesh, a technologically advanced nation, and gradually take the technology to the grassroots level so that our youth are equipped with the right skills to find economic opportunities”, says Mr. Rashed. “We are working with different partners and looking into how we can support young people more effectively.”
While B'YEAH started with an ambition to empower young people through entrepreneurship, the company has been broadening its approach for a while. And it has now come up with a comprehensive approach to youth empowerment. Entrepreneurship development remains a core focus of the organization, it has also added equal weight to skills development.
B'YEAH takes a twin approach to youth empowerment combining entrepreneurship development through several long and medium terms initiatives and skills development with a focus on in-demand future-ready skills. In entrepreneurship development, the organization has already been working on high-impact initiatives. It has now streamlined its initiatives across entrepreneurship training, digitization, access to market and finance, business development support, incubator, an accelerator program for small and growing businesses, and impact incubator.
On the skill development end, the organization says it will mostly focus on future-ready in-demand skills such as digital marketing, in-demand soft skills, cybersecurity, etc.
Let’s take a closer look into some of the critical areas B'YEAH aims to focus on going forward:
Green and social entrepreneurship. One of the major changes the company has brought in is focusing more on the small and growing business incubator and impact incubator. While both programs have overlapping components, these programs will target different groups of entrepreneurs.
B'YEAH already runs two programs around this. It has launched and successfully completed its first BYEC incubator program this year. It is currently running an impact incubator program supporting four enterprises.
B'YEAH has built the internal capacity to build an impact incubator program. Over the years, it has worked in almost all these areas.
As a partner of Youth Business International, B'YEAH also receives substantial support from the UK-based organization. For instance, YBI has piloted a Green and social entrepreneurship toolkit in India, Turkey, and three other member countries. B'YEAH has been localizing the toolkit for Bangladesh. The toolkit is open for YBI members.
“We have already taken the ToT,” says Mr. Rashed. “We have a master trainer in our organization. Once we are done localizing it, we will be able to launch a green and social entrepreneurship incubator in Bangladesh.”
Next B'YEAH wants to take innovation and tech to the grassroots level. B'YEAH aims to teach its entrepreneurs and businesses how to approach innovation.
B'YEAH appears clear-eyed in this regard. The organization says innovation does not mean bringing in some novel idea or transforming an industry and so on. Rather the organization says it wants to train people on how to approach incremental innovation and progress and help small and growing businesses make small tweaks that will help them grow faster and make a greater impact.
The lack of innovation often significantly limits the potential of small businesses, B'YEAH says exposure to innovation and tech can help these businesses grow faster and bigger creating opportunities for more people.
The second layer of the focus in tech is training people in tech skills.
While tech is a logical choice given the employment opportunities the sector offers, it is relatively uncharted territory for B'YEAH. The organization says it aims to focus on the in-demand tech skills and create more trained people in these fields. The organization also sees partnership opportunities with the Government where it can align itself with the strategic vision of the government as well as with private sector organizations to deliver on many of these ambitions.
Finally, B'YEAH says it plans to double down on its decent work initiatives. The organization has over the years done some meaningful work in decent work and it aims to expand on it.
The kind of work B'YEAH is aiming to do is not common for NGOs. For instance, tech, and cybersecurity is not something NGOs work on. As a result, it will be challenging for B'YEAH to convince many of its stakeholders initially.
The second challenge comes from internal capacities. In many of these areas such as technical skill development, B'YEAH does not have enough internal strength. The organization will have to rely on other organizations. However, B'YEAH has support from YBI and can take support from there to prepare itself.
Finally, although it has been working for 12 years, B'YEAH has always been promotion shy. It did not promote its work over the last few years. “We have been in the market for the last 12 years but we have always been shy about showcasing our work and marketing our work,” explains Mr. Rashed. “It has created some challenges for us. People don't know much about us.”
B'YEAH says going forward one of its ambitions is to empower Bangladeshi youth to be competitive and find opportunities globally, be it freelancing, jobs, or entrepreneurship.
The organization plans to use its existing model to approach its new ambition.
B'YEAH appears confident that its mentorship-led model can be applied to skill development and helping people access opportunities.
“The core approach and philosophy remain the same,” says Mr. Rashed. “For instance, in Cybersecurity, we are doing the same thing. We are giving training, connecting people with mentors, and helping them access opportunities. We have also onboarded a pool of trainers and mentors. The building blocks remain the same. We are just moving into different verticals.”
While B'YEAH is expanding its horizon, the organization remains mindful of the fact that things might not work. To that end, it says it will continue evolving as it moves forward.
“We will evolve as we go along and make changes when necessary.”