Fasihur Rahman

Head of Private Sector Programmes, Quay Asia Ltd.

Fasihur is the longest-serving secretary general of the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA); he held the position for a record 11 years from 1999 to 2010. To date, he is well respected among key business leaders in the RMG sector, trade union members and development partners.

We had a discussion with Fasihur about his career and expert insights. Below are edited excerpts from our conversation.

What was your first paid job?

I was a cartographer for a few months. I would go up in a plane and take pictures, photo mosaics of the landscape, identify the different soil types and make maps.

What has been your greatest professional achievement?

Being general secretary for BGMEA [Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association]; it’s the largest export trade body in Bangladesh, and we worked with 5,000 garment owners who employed 4 million workers; we exported all over the world, kept in contact with all the embassies and empowered female garment workers.

In 20 years’ time what single important change would you like to see in Bangladesh?

I have a lot of concerns, but the most important is improving the standard of education. We must meet international standards because if that can be achieved, everything can be achieved.

In Bangladesh what opportunities exist now for young people that did not exist when you were a student?

At that time it was hard to get employment, and the situation is the same now. But there’s one big difference: now girls are studying and succeeding. These days, I’m worried about the boys, though I haven’t diagnosed the problem.

What has been Bangladesh’s greatest achievement in terms of social or economic development in the last five years?

The rapid growth of exports in the RMG sector — in 2011 it was $25 billion and now it’s almost $40 billion. Also, the IT sector: a lot of young men and women are becoming IT specialists.

What remarkable innovations have there been in your profession or area of expertise?

The laws have changed: BGMEA is bound by the laws of the land, and in 2006, the labour laws changed and gave a lot of new facilities to workers. I’m very happy to have been a part of this.

What advice would you give a young professional looking to start a career in your profession or area of work?

Read, write, and speak. You need to have these skills to compete in the international arena. Do you watch Al Jazeera, BBC or CNN? These people always have big bookshelves behind them!

Do you have any other interests?

I’m greatly interested in anthropology: I just finished reading Homo Sapiens and now will read Homo Deus [by Yuval Harari].

Learn more about Fasihur from his CV.