Fellows Friday is a weekly series on the TED Blog that profiles one TED Fellow each week. We have asked the Fellows to answer our question below to share their knowledge and advice with other social entrepreneurs, innovators, and changemakers who are coming up with big ideas that can change the world. Read past Fellows' answers here.
Creator of CellBazaar, a virtual marketplace that can be accessed via mobile phone, Kamal Quadir is on to his next mobile phone-based venture, bKash. This new company provides access to financial services through the mobile phone. Kamal divides his time between homes in America and Bangladesh, yet this nationally-recognized artist still squeezes in time to paint -- sometimes while on an airplane home!
Question: There are many aspiring social entrepreneurs out there who are trying to take their passion and ideas to the next level. What is one piece of advice you would give to them based on your own experiences and successes?
Answer: Every country, and every community, is very different. What I find is a good way of solving problems in Bangladesh or the US may not be applicable to somewhere else. So a social entrepreneur must figure out, “What is the competitive advantage we have here?”
I spoke of Bangladesh’s tremendous mobile network before. But Bangladesh has other competitive advantages. For example, how is Bangladesh able to feed the equivalent of half the US population, from land area that is the size of the state of Wisconsin? We have farms that can be harvested four times a year. Things grow very quickly. If you have a mango seed and plant it, in a few years you’ll have a mango tree growing mangoes.
In such a populous country, our biggest resource is our people. When I do a project here, a lot of people are always involved. When I did CellBazaar, I involved hundreds of people to educate millions of people on how to use the technology.
This time, with bKash, which is a joint venture of a US company Money in Motion and BRAC Bank, I am literally deploying thousands of people to teach millions of people how to use bKash. Why spend money on expensive newspaper or television ads that may not reach the target market very well? If I teach common people to go door-to-door to teach people how to use this mobile banking, it is not only creating jobs, it’s also giving people first-hand teaching of a new technology which really cannot be taught with those expensive ads.
So finding the advantage and capitalizing on it is the important thing. Think hard and find out, “Is this my competitive advantage?”
Read the rest of Kamal Quadir's interview here.