Happy Birthday Iqbal Quadir: The Mobile Phone Architect of Bangladesh

Iqbal Quadir

“Connectivity is productivity”

The phrase may appear simple though it has a far reach. Poverty being a humungous enemy of the growing populace connectivity aids the fight against poverty especially in the developing countries. The thought of the visionary on these lines gave birth to a mobile phone revolution in one of the Asian developing nations. Iqbal Z. Quadir the founder of Grameenphone and Gonofone.

Date of Birth: August 13, 1958

Net Worth: Unknown

As the pioneer of mobile phone revolution in developing countries here are some less known yet interesting facts about the architect of a close and connected Bangladesh on his 57th birth anniversary.

0. The usage of mobile phone in the developing country save time and indeed it can be invested in productivity generating income. Though, the pennies earned in the least time may be meager the role of the phone as a productivity tool is evident. Indeed, connectivity enhances and strengthens the means of productivity. Hence, he coined the term” Connectivity is Productivity.”

1. Being a Bangladeshi he earned his graduation from Swarthmore College and MBA from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He dreamt of an innovative venture of development in the emergent countries. The concept of Grameenphone was evolved when the visionary faced some hard times tried connecting his computer in New York City and his childhood experience in 1971 of losing a day in search of a doctor in another village. His experience culminated in the conception of Grameenphone in 1993 and he co-founded the venture in 1995.

2. In the initial days of Grameenphone, a group of Americans backed the project with $1.65 million and later after eight years sold them to get $33 million. Grameenphone stockholders include Telenor, Grameen Telecom, and Marubeni now.

3. Jeffrey Sachs an American Economist and director of Earth Institute at Columbia University said that Grameenphone to be an eye opener of the world towards using modern telecommunications technologies in the poorest places of the world.

4. Grameenphone is the largest among the six mobile operators in Bangladesh. With Telenor holding 55.8% ownership in Grameenphone as of 31 March 2011 and is listed on Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) Ltd and Chittagong Stock Exchange (CSE) Ltd.

5. Connectivity hand-in-hand with investment creates a thriving environment for development. With this he conceived a perception of syndicate involving Telenor (a leading Norway’s telecommunication company), Grameen Bank a micro-credit pioneer in Bangladesh, Japan-based Marubeni Corp, Asian Development Bank from Philippines, Gonophone and International Finance Corp based in US, Commonwealth Development Corp in the United Kingdom. Iqbal Quadir remained shareholder of Grameenphone until 2004. Today Grameenphone adds to its account over 35 million subscribers irrespective of the geographic location of the customers.

6. Iqbal Quadir served as Fellow and Lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School concentrating on democratizing the technological impact on the low-income countries. In 2005, he co-founded the journal “Innovations” (MIT Press) and later moved to Massachusetts Institute of Technology to come up with Legatum Center in 2007 a global investment firm to catalyze the entrepreneurship in broad-based prosperity in low-income countries to empower the ordinary citizens with entrepreneurial skills.

7. As an executive director of the MIT’s Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship, he concentrated on generating power employing organic means through Girguis’ fuel cells in 2007. He is heading this innovative project using microbe-filled biodigesters to produce methane from cow dung and in turn methane is burnt to generate electricity. He agreed the technology to be a paradigm shift and can produce extra watts and this can help the poor to get power at low cost. He founded Emergence BioEnergy to cater the production of decentralized energy.

8. Since two decades, Iqbal Quadir has been serving the critical role of entrepreneurship leading innovations in the low-income countries as founder and director of Legatum Center, MIT. Additionally, he sits on the board of World Wide Web Foundation and the Global Fairness Initiative. Recently, he co-founded Money in Motion – a mobile phone-based banking services.

“I’m motivated by creating a level playing field for the world so that the weak have a chance”

Every imitative of Iqbal Quadir implies his above words and it has been his driving force to indulge and create more ventures of the kind Grameenphone. On his birthday let us wish him to come up with more triumphant projects enabling the emergent countries to the lead the race of development.

The article is a part of the B’day Series where we celebrate the birthday of renowned personalities from across Industries, very frequently. The series includes Entrepreneurs, C-level Executives, innovators or a renewed leaders who moved the industry with his exponential skill set and vision. The intent is to highlight the person’s achievements and touch base the little known, but interesting, part of his life. You can see the list of all earlier celebrated tech personalities, including Mark Zuckerberg, Marrisa Mayor, Sean Parker, Andy Rubin, Julian Assange, by following this link or subscribe to your daily newsletter.

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