Noor Elahi is the country manager of Western Union, a leading multinational money transfer company, for Bangladesh. He also serves in the same post in two other South Asian countries – Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
He joined Western Union in 2013 as the head of marketing and soon started to look after the marketing of the company in South Asia. He had also served as the marketing head of another global company Emami.
"I started my career as a marketer. It was indeed a passionate profession and I am still a marketer at heart," said Noor Elahi in an interview with The Business Standard conducted at his Gulshan office.
"After graduating from North South University, I joined a local mobile operator company's brand division in 2007. Then I worked with FMCG companies and headed the marketing division. I moved to Western Union from there. It was a nice journey for me as there was ample opportunity for working with different brands," he added.
In the last few years, Bangladesh has produced several leaders in the top positions of some multinational organisations including: Abrar Anwar (Standard Chartered), Yasir Azman (Grameen Phone), Shehzad Munim (BATB), Md Mahbub-ur Rahman (HSBC), Syed Mohammad Kamal (Master Card). They all have led their respective organisations using their talent and capability.
Noor Elahi said these pathbreakers have changed the perception of global companies about Bangladesh.
"Global Companies have started to see Bangladesh in a different way. For the significant expansion of digital services and infrastructure development, most of the global giant investors are thinking about Bangladesh. The country has even become a new hub for producing leaders for a global role," said Noor Elahi.
"Our economy is growing robustly, and we have been able to attract foreign companies in different aspects like adaptability, digitalisation, innovation, etc. As a result, foreign companies are choosing Bangladeshis to lead their local offices and beyond," he added.
Noor Elahi said, "For Bangladesh, we natives can understand the market best. Because we are very familiar with local people, their languages and sentiments. But at the same time, Bangladesh being a very robust market with a high population, there is a lot of learning from Bangladesh that we offer while leading other countries."
Western Union, now serves 200 countries and territories around the world and, through a partnership with banks, NGOs and retail chains, it helps send remittances to Bangladesh from around 170 countries. Western Union contributes a significant percent of the total remittances that Bangladesh received in a year.
"We are trying to introduce new services like outbound remittance sending from Bangladesh soon. We are working with the Bangladesh Bank on it. Now, so many students have to send money abroad for study purposes. Expatriates also have to send money to their homes and for medical needs. Once we start the service, the outward remittances will be smooth and easier. Primarily we are going to provide the service partnering with Bank Asia and Social Islami Bank," Noor Elahi added.
He said the digital financial services have been helping people in the country to face a critical situation like the Covid-19 pandemic.
"At Western Union, we are trying to expand our service delivery model using digital platforms and state of the art technology. And Bangladesh is adapting to it very well, with Mobile Financial Services expanding its boundaries – a new settlement model like NPSB coming live. The usage of internet banking is also rising. During the Covid-19 pandemic we have learned a lot about the advantage of digital financial services. Western Union also was open while the whole world went into lockdown to curb the infection of the virus – to serve our customers," said Noor Elahi.
He said Western Union is trying to encourage Bangladeshi people who are being trained by the Bureau of Manpower and Employment Training and other organisations to send money through formal channels. The company is working with expats who are also social media influencers to build awareness and develop skills to increase remittances further.