With his 15 years of experience in the Education sector, ATM Kamruzzaman joins Kite Bangladesh Ltd (a sister concern of Dnet) as the Chief Executive Officer and tells us about his share of experiences and how he wants to guide Kite in the coming days.
Hello, I’m Priyotosh Das from Communication team of Dnet. Today, I’m with Mr. ATM Kamruzzaman, the newly appointed CEO of Kite Bangladesh Limited who has been working with Dnet and Kite BD for a long time. We have gathered here to know more about him and Kite BD along with other interesting facts.
Interviewer: How would you introduce Kite Bangladesh Ltd. to someone who doesn’t know about it?
AK: Thank you Priyotosh, Kite Bangladesh mainly works with Education. We are focusing on developing the students in light of the 21st century. There is need of innovation in this regard. Our slogan is ‘Innovations in today for tomorrow’. We are going through innovation every day and technology is working as one of the major tools. For example, we are working on multimedia content, interactive content targeting the children up to tertiary level. We are designing products and services for them in innovative ways which is interactive and helps in ensuring aspects ranging from developing their mental well-being to providing quality education, quality life, and sustainable livelihood.
Interviewer: From which level to which level are this happening?
AK: We are focusing from early childhood up to tertiary level which is higher education as we know it. This is our target group so you can say they are children, youth to adult.
Interviewer: Alright. Can you tell us about the formation of Kite Bangladesh Limited?
AK: Thank you. Kite Bangladesh Limited was formed as a joint venture between Dnet and a Japanese group named Kite Group. There is a company named Kite Image Technologies and Takuo Furokawa is the founder of it. This one time some years ago, he came to visit Bangladesh and met Dnet. They work with new technology and innovations as well as children’s development. Dnet was also working for Education. After meeting with Kite Image Technologies, Dnet reshaped its Education to also focus on developing children’s education. This is how Dnet and Kite Image Technologies Limited started their joint venture as Kite Bangladesh Limited in 2010.
Interviewer: Kite Bangladesh is a beautiful name. An image of a flying kite starts to float in our minds when we hear this name. How did this name get selected and what is the significance of it?
AK: Takuo Furokawa who is the founder of Kite Image Technologies, had an influence in selecting the name. As the name is beautiful and it is a sign of inspiration for the children. We see children in Bangladesh playing with kites with excitement. So, Dnet liked the name and chose it. The present logo was then modified to fit the context of Bangladesh. That’s how the name got selected.
Interviewer: Kite Bangladesh is working on different wings of education. Would you kindly tell us more about those?
AK: Thank you, as I’ve mentioned earlier we are emphasizing on education which fits the need of the 21st century. We focused on digital literacy. To develop students’ computer skills, we offer computer learning course and we have a book named ‘Esho Computer Shikhi’, which was developed in cooperation with CLP (Computer Literacy Program) USA. They have a branch in Bangladesh and the book is brought to you by joint venture of Dnet and Kite Bangladesh Ltd. This book helps student’s to self-learn about computer. Teacher plays the supporting role in this case. The typical model of training is not followed here, the student engages in self-learning about computers and improves his/her skills. This is one of the programs. Another on is about modernizing the classroom delivery of students, especially high school students. To develop this and to sustain the learning of the students we have developed multimedia and interactive content, for example a student can play games and learn at the same time, as a result the learning gets embedded in their mind and they enjoy the whole learning process at the same time. We have observed that the awareness among parents is more in urban areas than in rural areas. This awareness is about attendance, what the student is actually learning, the curriculum, result, concentration, involvement and progress of the student. To connect parents with this awareness we have developed a program which is named ‘Connecting Parents’. This is mainly a SMS based and online service so that the parents can get information about the students right from their home. They can get to know about attendance, progress and status of student and also if the teacher has any comments about that specific student. Our plans also include the development of parents alongside the students as well as the teachers. We are currently working on parenting course. We have developed training module for teachers. We are providing training to teachers so that they can handle and utilize the multimedia contents in a well-manner. I should also mention that if multimedia content is not well utilized, it will be counter-productive because if the teachers become dependent on content and let the content drive the teachers’ actions, it will defy the core purpose. We will provide training so that teachers can lead the situation and we like the initiative from the government. We are carefully monitoring the content leading the teachers issue so that it doesn’t happen. ‘Kite Classroom’ is another one of our initiatives. We want to put the whole education system and its constituent parts under one umbrella named ‘Kite Classroom’. If by any chance any students misses a class, they will be able to get the content right from their home. They will be able to view the assignments and tasks given by the teacher to the students and the overall teacher-student progress will be viewable by the parents. We have also developed a scale system to rate the teachers of students and the program. An interactive symbiosis is developed here so that parents and teachers can mutually contact with each other and share their feedback and expectations. There are the initiatives that we are working on right now.
Interviewer: There are many times when a communication gap develops between teachers and parents or teachers and students, technology is used here to minimize that gap.
AK: There are working parents, who are unable to go to school to take updates of their children in a regular basis. They are only checking the diary of the student, but with this system, parents will be able to view their children’s academic progress from their office or home.
Interviewer: That is wonderful. All these initiatives are using technology to promote and make access to education easier and sustainable alongside the traditional methods.
AK: We are focusing on quality education. Trying to make it easily understandable to teachers and students alike. We are working on building such a system.
Interviewer: What is the span of Kite activities in Bangladesh as of now? Is Kite working outside of Bangladesh?
AK: We are working with CLP, USA at present. We are running the program in Bangladesh with the same name. This program is operational in schools around 54 districts. We have deployed Computer Literacy Center (CLC) in these schools. We have 4 laptops and a printer and we provide training to teachers. We have also deployed Smart Class Rooms (SCR). Smart Class Rooms consist of TV, and laptop. The teacher can show interesting content on the TV to easily explain complex matters to the students. For example – human digestive system and process. A teacher can easily explain this with the help of an animated video by showing it through the TV. Students can easily understand how the process takes place, how blood functions, how the food particles flow, how digestion occurs etc. So, we made Smart Class Rooms and focused on four subjects primarily, Science, Geography, Mathematics and English. We have developed content on these subjects and they are shown in the SCR’s. We have 159 SCR’s throughout Bangladesh and 300+ CLC’s.
Interviewer: In these 54 districts?
AK: Yes, we are also working on another initiative with British Council. We are giving training to teachers from all around Bangladesh. We Kite Bangladesh Ltd. are providing service to the British Council. Three of our trainers are working there. Teachers from all around Bangladesh come there and we provide training to them about the six core skills.
Interviewer: Great! Since all of these initiatives and programs focus on education, so I would like to know from your perspective, what is the necessity of education?
AK: There is no doubt or no scope of any debate that education is absolutely necessary. If I focus on why working on education is necessary in Bangladesh, I will say that the whole world is making progress in technology, medical science, education and many other sectors and as a developing country, Bangladesh should not be lagging behind. If we can make the education competent with the pace of progress that is happening around the world, Bangladesh will sustain in the globalized world environment. In this regard, one of the most important aspect is ‘International Learning’. What is the status and way of education around the world? Each student in competing with other students from around the world. If progress is to be made the students must be compatible enough to compete according to the international standard of education. If you talk about the workplace situation, the people from Bangladesh who are working abroad, they are facing many problems. We are thinking to develop the students in international quality and prioritizing on international learning. We are trying to use internationally used technologies in Bangladesh. We are taking ideas from international schools and students. We are taking an initiative to connect an American school with a Bangladeshi school. So that they can engage in cultural sharing and understand how education works in each other’s systems. This allows students to be better equipped to face new situations and be familiar with teaching-learning methods. Creating values and morals in the hearts of students is another important aspect. To build them as good and responsible citizens, it is imperative to teach them the right things and technology can help a lot in this regard. Our society is changing and the values and morals are also changing. We have started a course named ‘Education through Entertainment (ETE)’ to raise awareness about this. The aim is to develop morals and values education in students through entertainment. I think that we must not be limited to traditional method of teaching and improve our overall system of education. Classroom education and co-curricular activities are needed to be developed, technology education is needed to equip the students with the necessary skills to establish themselves in a better position. Many students from the rural areas are disconnected from this technological education and they are unable to get higher education in many cases. We have observed that initially they make good results but later on they fail to cope up. Education is a field which needs constant working on and this whole process will not end so soon. This needs to be taken good care for a long time. Support from the private sector is also needed alongside government initiatives. We are also trying to promote and utilize time appropriate, new and technological education to the rural schools. So that they can also compete with the urban schools and so that we can minimize the digital divide. We want to minimize the digital divide at various levels, between urban and rural schools, between Bangladeshi schools and schools from other countries.
Interviewer: That is very exciting and wonderful. So we came to know about the present activities and how they are contributing to fulfill several kinds of objectives and outcomes. I wanted to know about the Mission and Vision of Kite Bangladesh though I think you’ve already mentioned it through the previous answers, but if you can specify about these in short.
AK: Vision is to build a society where everyone will be able to avail quality education and its different parts in affordable price. Mission is to ensure quality life of students and people through the products and services developed to fulfill our vision.
Interviewer: You’ve mentioned Smart Class Rooms and other initiatives a while back, can these be considered as product?
AK: The thing with education is that the products and service are closely inter-related with each other. I am having to provide service for the product which I’ve already launched at first. Say, we have developed a training module as a product but we are then providing that training, giving follow-up training, refresher’s course and other relevant activities which serves as the service part. We are providing service for all the products which we have developed. Suppose, Smart Class Room is a product but we are also providing service for it. How a teacher will use a SCR, training the teachers, follow-up on it, developing content, providing equipment’s and repairing them if they give any problems.
Interviewer: So, these are the products and services at the moment. Is there anything new happening?
AK: As we’ve said, we are working on ‘Kite Classroom’ as a new initiative. It will be a platform which will support multiple channels like mobile app and website. Parents will be able to access the website or use the mobile app to track the result, notifications, progress of their children. They will be also be able to view comments, provide feedback and take parenting courses which will be made available to them. There will be generic courses for the students and also for teachers and parents. We are thinking to provide values courses here so that parents and students can get this training from their home at the same time. We will inform new inventions, discoveries and interesting stories through this. We are trying to implement a holistic approach to allow a lot of interesting and engaging materials to the clasp of hand. It will not only be mobile app and website based, there will be face-to-face trainings as well and we want to implement the phrase ‘World in your hands’ through this ‘Kite Classroom’ initiative.
Interviewer: Has this already been launched?
AK: Work is in progress, almost 80% is done. We will be launching it very soon. We’ve already started piloting this at a school in Dhaka, named Udayan School. The piloting is in progress and hopefully we will be able to launch this by the end of this year.
Interviewer: This sounds very promising! We’ve heard about the Roopkotha mobile app, if you share something about this.
AK: Roopkotha mobile app reads out the fairy tales or ‘Roopkotha’ as we call it in Bangla, to the viewers. These fairy tales are the ones that we have heard from our parents, which are a part of our cultural identity and heritage. This helps a lot in mental growth and wellbeing of a child. When they are recited a story, they paint a picture of it using their imagination. This helps in the development of their imagination and creative mind. With the help of technology we are able to revive the old and interesting cultural fairy tales, tell them to our children in a new and engaging manner, teach them proper and well pronounced Bangla, carry on the cultural identity and preserving its value, helping in the mental well-being and growth of children, and overall building a good society so that they preserve our heritage and culture. This is Roopkotha mobile app with this parents are able to recite fairy tales to their children. Maybe after a long day at work when the parents return home and take their children to bed and then hear a request to recite them a story, often they don’t have the energy or can’t recall the stories in its full extent. This mobile app will help them to recite this story to their children. The child will fall asleep while listening to the stories through this app. Our plan is to establish Kite Bangladesh as a household name. For example, if I tell you a name, you will say ‘Oh, this brand or this name is related to this’. We want to be that name which comes to your mind whenever you hear education. We also want to develop games, especially about science where students will be able to learn about science through playing games. This will happen through Roopkotha. Roopkotha itself is a program, though we started with an app, but it will not be limited to a mobile app only, it will make progress.
Interviewer: Roopkotha is a wonderful initiative. Because due to less reading of books we are forgetting the pronunciations, accents and language patterns, how to write and other aspects and this app helps to address all these issues. Dnet is currently working as a Social Enterprise, previously it was a non-profit organization. Is it the same for Kite?
AK: Kite Bangladesh Ltd. is a for-profit organization. But we will not work like the regular or typical organizations. Our primary focus is on developing the education sector, create an impact, bring a change, and all these while generating revenue. Because without generating revenue we will not be able to sustain and make new innovative products. From that point of view, we will definitely think about generating revenue but our primary focus will be to improve quality of education and creating an impact. Accountability is high in this regard so that we can ensure the highest efficiency of money spent. We will not be developing any product solely with the purpose of business. Business and creating impact will happen in a parallel manner. We will work on things which matter to people and which will benefit them.
Interviewer: Wonderful. What is the size of Kite team at present? What is the specialty of the team which you have?
AK: I have recently taken responsibility as CEO of Kite. We used to work in the non-profit model and shifted to for-profit model/revenue generating model. We are a team of 11 people at present. 3 of them are interns and the rest of them are permanent members. Everyone has expertise in their own fields. Two of the team members help in web development and software design. One member is helping with product design and development. One member is leading the Roopkotha initiative. A mixed team is working now and a good side of our team is that we share a lot of knowledge. When a product gets developed it doesn’t happen through one single person only, it is teamwork. Product developer sits with the software engineer and marketing team to scope out all the possible ways and life cycle. We think about the life span of the product. The team members are very capable and it will be redesigned restructured in future. We will rebuild the team according to our plans for revenue generating model but as of now, the team is performing really good.
Interviewer: Is there any plan for expansion of the team?
AK: Of course there are plans for expansion. We will make things happen like a for-profit organization but one thing we will keep in mind is that we will continue R&D (Research and Development) and will deploy a separate team for this. The aim is to better understand and analyze the products so that they can live up to the expectation of the market and time.
Interviewer: R&D before the product is launched, isn’t it?
AK: Not only that, before, during and after the product development. Throughout its entire life cycle.
Interviewer: In the traditional method, R&D is seen to be mainly be performed before the product launch. But in this case, we are seeing that you are emphasizing on doing R&D throughout the product life cycle.
AK: When we will quit a product, we will do R&D and then quit it. This will help us finding the flaws and develop a new product.
Interviewer: The strategy is a bit different that the R&D will be done throughout the process from top to bottom.
AK: For example for Roopkotha app, we will be taking feedback from parents and work on them so that we can implement them in the app for improving their experience and efficiency.
Interviewer: This includes the maintenance and improvement.
AK: Yes. We are emphasizing on human-centered design, both during development and improvement.
Interviewer: Then it will be very good because earlier it has been seen that often products are launched and no further improvement scopes are studied and it remains in the same state. But in this case, it will be different.
AK: Our main way of thinking is ‘Learning by doing’. We will be working and will be learning whilst doing so. We are now thinking that if an initiative needs 5 years to develop, we will start developing it right away for a certain portion of the whole thing and then make learning progress from that point on. This is our strategy and plan for now.
Interviewer: Glad to know this different approach to work. We came to know about different stages of development and strategies. Can you tell us about the weaknesses or challenges which you’ve faced so far?
AK: One of the major weaknesses which we have is now our team is a small one. The education field of Bangladesh is a big one. There is scope for doing a lot of work here. We are not big enough to address all these issues. We are preparing ourselves for it and this is one of our weaknesses. Another point is that to capture such a big market, we need a business development team and marketing team. Which we don’t have right now. We need to expand our technology team to fulfill future needs. We also need to improve our efficiency. Also I think the team needs to put in higher level of effort to achieve our desired outcomes. We are arranging trainings to develop our teams in the right way. We are planning to empower our existing team.
Interviewer: So at one hand you are planning to expand your team with newer departments and sectors while also empowering and arranging training for existing team members to enhance overall productivity. What are the partner institutions that Kite is working with at present?
AK: The organizations which are working on Early Child Development (ECD) are one of the partner types a Kite is a shareholder of ICSD. Kite recently did a partnership with iSocial and they will also be promoting a book named ‘Esho Computer Shikhi’. These two are our formal partnerships at the moment and with Dnet is our relationship will always remain as it is our mother organization. We are sharing different kinds of work with Dnet. We are planning to create new partnership with the Institute of Education and Research (IER) of Dhaka University. We will be working on partnerships with organizations which work in Education. We are also exploring new organizations to create meaningful partnerships. Education field is a vast one as I’ve said before, so if many organizations start to work together, that will bring satisfactory results and eventually benefit the Education sector.
Interviewer: That seems to be a good bunch of plans. You have been working in the Education sector for quite a long time now, even before Kite. For how many years have you been working in this field and what’s your opinion about your experience?
AK: I am working for the last fifteen (15) years in the field of Education. At first I worked with primary and pre-primary schools, at that time I used to work in CODEC. I have worked in the coastal belt and then moved onto join in the training division of BRAC and worked for 7 years. My whole tenure there was with Education initiatives. Teachers training, school based training, working with teachers and student development and then joined Dnet and here for 6 years. I am working at Dnet with education and technology, content development, module development, teachers training, development of teachers and now I’ve joined Kite for one and a half months as the CEO that is from March 1. Kite also works for education and my whole journey is in the field of Education. I saw from up close what are the problems and challenges that are in the education field. I’ve worked with teachers and students alike. I didn’t only learn by reading books or by staying in Dhaka only. I’ve stayed with teachers and students, day in and day out in the fields in many places around Bangladesh. I tried to find out the problems and then design the modules accordingly.
Interviewer: So you’ve went to the field, sat and talked and saw the situation right from where the problems and challenges reside and this has enhanced your experience and this will definitely be of good use for Kite. After being the CEO of Kite, what is your feelings about this?
AK: One thing I’ve noticed is that, position changes a person’s perspective and way of thinking. It improves and changes you in a positive way. The first thing that came to my mind after taking over as CEO and the responsibilities that come along with it is that how do I push the organization forward? I must make plans to do that. I want to this organization to do better as it is a big responsibility. Thinking of this, I always try to maintain the ethical and moral matters. An organization should always take this matters into consideration. Since we work in Education, we must abide by the moral values. I also tell my team about this. I always enjoy challenges.
Interviewer: I see.
AK: I used to be afraid of challenges in the beginning but now I see it in a different way. To me, challenges mean there is a new opportunity. And opportunity means there is something that can be done. When this challenge is overcome, success awaits and achievement are attained. Problems are opportunities and just like that, every challenge brings new possibilities and opportunities. This is a major thought process which I have and I also have another important aspect in mind that is to develop plans and strategies for Kite. What will Kite achieve, how it will be achieved, what will happen with the team, what will be their roles, who will contribute in what manner, addressing the strengths of Kite, setting goals, setting milestones to break down each goal into smaller manageable portions to be achieved and setting a timeline for all these. Another important thing is that I plan to continuously monitor the development as it happens, so that I can ensure our desired objective. I am optimistic that through all these activities, Kite will become a household name and reach a good position.
Interviewer: So you want to make Kite Bangladesh Ltd. a household name so that everyone can recognize and contribute to the society by developing the education sector by using technology and with your experience to create a positive impact. Lastly, I would like to hear an interesting and fun story about Kite Bangladesh Ltd?
AK: Thank you. There are two interesting stories that I will share. I tell my team members, if you don’t enjoy your work, there is no need to do it. Our working environment is not like typical organizations. There is no boss culture or dominance of any single member or any biased decision or execution. Each component leader is the boss of that work but you will not understand or be able to determine if there is any boss when we work, because we always have fun, brainstorm and let everyone talk and share their ideas with equal importance and enthusiasm to bring out the best possible result. We debate a lot which is a beautiful side of our team and this helps to sort down ideas to their best versions. When a team member or I present an idea or concept, everyone thinks about it and tells openly if the idea seems to lack something or needs improvement. We are open minded and always have fun while working. Maybe I am leading officially, but you’ll not get that feel as every component leader works in their own way and comfort and everyone is a team player.
Interviewer: That is very nice!
AK: Another interesting story is that we went to many villages where there is no electricity. We took solar panels to charge our computers. Many of the village dwellers didn’t see a laptop or computer or even a TV in their lifetime, especially the elders. Our laptop was the first time they saw a screen where videos and sounds happened. They peeked through the windows to see in amazement. It was like a magic box to them where pictures and videos can be seen. This is a very interesting matter and wonderful feeling. In the southern region, beside Kuakata, there is also a village without electricity. It is a fishermen’s community. They only used radio’s to listen as entertainment but when we took our solar powered TVs, which was the first time they saw a TV. This is a very interesting for us and we feel proud that we were able to give them their first TV experience.
Interviewer: This sounds very interesting that through your activities and initiatives, they were able to see TV for the first time in their lives. You must feel very good about it.
AK: We do actually. The best feeling is that when we introduced them to learning computer for the first time in their lives. Teachers first began working on computer using our machines, is a great feeling indeed!
Interviewer: Introducing something new to their lives and also initiating their first computer lesson must feel great indeed. Thank you very much Mr. Kamruzzaman for sharing your wonderful experiences. We had some idea about Kite beforehand but after talking with you, we learned many other aspects and many things we didn’t know in this level of detail. We hope everyone understands the noble purpose of Kite Bangladesh Ltd. and enjoys the interview. We hope Kite Bangladesh fulfills all its desired objectives, best of luck and thank you very much for finding time for the interview.
AK: Thank you too and I will end by saying that Kite will be a household name and people will instantly recognize that this is Kite product. Kite will be a trusted partner in education to the parents, and to the community and schools.
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