Doing Business In Bangladesh

  1. Bangladesh is ranked 129th out of 185 economies in Doing Business 2013. Its overall rank is 5 points lower compared to last year, reflecting decreases in 5 out of 10 indicators.
  2. According to the most recent Enterprise Surveys (2007), the top 3 obstacles to running a business in Bangladesh are Electricity, Access to Finance, and Political Instability. Firms suffered 100.7 power outages in a typical month on average, compared to the regional average of 33.9.
  3. Bangladesh is one of the most open countries to foreign equity ownership, as measured by the Investing Across Sectors Indicators. All of the 33 sectors covered by the indicators are fully open to foreign capital participation. Registration of a foreign investment project with the Board of Investment (BOI) is currently only possible for investors in the manufacturing sectors. It takes 9 procedures and approximately 55 days to set up a foreign-owned subsidiary engaging in international trade in Bangladesh, longer than the IAB regional and global averages.
  4. Bangladesh’s economic freedom score is 53.2, making its economy the 130th freest in the 2012 Index. Its overall score is 0.2 point better than last year, reflecting improvements in business freedom and labor freedom that counterbalance a significant drop in trade freedom. Bangladesh is ranked 28th out of 41 countries in the Asia–Pacific region.

Source: World Bank


Visa Information

With some obscure exceptions, visas are required for citizens of all countries. Israeli passport holders are forbidden from entering Bangladesh.
Visas on arrival (either by air or land) have not been available for some years, but in March 2008, 15-day landing permits started to be issued again in exceptional circumstances. The immigration department doesn’t encourage tourists to arrive without a visa and there is no guarantee you will be granted entry (especially if you have just arrived from a country with a Bangladeshi embassy), but the word is that some people had managed to obtain them. For the moment, we recommend that you do all you can to obtain a visa in advance, but this is an encouraging sign that visa rules might be further relaxed.
Visa validity and the granted length of stay seems to vary from embassy to embassy, but normally you will be issued with a visa valid for two or three months from the date of issue, and good for stays of one to two months. Visa fees vary according to nationality, whether you are seeking single or multiple entry and which embassy you are applying through, but they normally cost around US$50/€30/£25.
Requests for visas for stays longer than three months are usually denied. If you decide to extend your stay, extensions can be obtained, though this requires tangling with Bangladeshi bureaucracy and isn’t a good idea.
Visa extensions & change of route permits
To apply for visa extensions and change of route permits you will need to visit the Immigration and Passport Office (889 750; Agargaon Rd, Dhaka; Sat-Thu). This is also the office where long-term visitors are ­required to register.
Travellers have reported poor service and misinformation at this office. You will need to be both persistent and patient.
If you overstay your visa, you will be fined for each extra day. In some cases travellers have been charged even more, given no receipt and the extra charge has not been explained.
Extensions up to a total stay of three months are generally easy to obtain. If you’ve been in Bangladesh for three months and wish to extend beyond that, the process can take up to a week or more, and there is no assurance that you’ll receive an extension. The more convincing your reasons for wanting an extension, the better your chances of getting one.
Processing of requests to stay longer than three months is notoriously inefficient, so start the process early – at least a fortnight before the expiration date, if you’ve already been there three months.
If you exit Bangladesh by means other than that by which you entered (ie you flew in but are leaving by land), you will need a change of route permit, also sometimes referred to as a road permit. Change of route permits shouldn’t take more than 24 hours, but sometimes take up to 72 so start the process early. The permit is free. You will need a couple of passport photos.

Business Etiquette

Communication Styles

Bangladeshis are quite implicit/indirect communicators. They tend to communicate in long, rich and contextualized sentences which only make sense when properly understood in relation to body language.
It is important for people who come from implicit/direct cultures to understand that their communication styles may be seen as rude and the information provided inadequate.
Personal space is less of an issue in Bangladesh than many European cultures. Bengalis stand close when speaking to someone of the same gender and touch is common.
However, when speaking with a woman the space is often increased. 

Meeting & Greeting

Business etiquette in Bangladesh is reasonably formal. Proper behaviour is expected.
Men greet each other with a handshake upon arriving and leaving.
Foreign men should nod to a Bangladeshi woman unless she extends her hand. Businessmen should be addressed by the term "Bahadur" ("Sir"), while women may be addressed as "Begum" ("Madam"). This may be used with or without the surname.
Wait until your counterpart moves to a first name basis before you do so. 

Business Card Etiquette

Business cards are exchanged after the initial introduction.
Educational qualifications are valued so include any university degrees.
Present your business card with the right hand.
Treat business cards given to you with respect. Merely glancing at it then throwing it on the table would be rude. Study it, comment on it and ideally place it into a business card holder. 

Business Meetings

Meetings in Bangladesh are generally the place where decisions are disseminated rather than made.

They will usually be led by the most senior present who sets the agenda, the content, and the pace of the activities.
Meeting structures are not very linear in Bangladesh. There may be an agenda and a starting time, but they only serve as guidelines.
Completing a meeting fully takes priority over time and may extend well past any scheduled end time.
Meetings may commence with some small talk.
Communication is formal and follows a hierarchical structure. Deference to the most senior person in the group is expected. This is especially true when dealing with government officials.
One should never let their level of professionalism slip. Casual behaviour may be misinterpreted as a lack of respect.
Never lose your temper or show emotion. This may lead to a loss of face which will mean a loss of dignity and respect.
The need to avoid a loss of face is also reflected in communication styles. Rather than say no or disappoint people Bangladeshis will phrase sentiments in such as way that it is up to people to read between the lines to understand what is being implied. Phrases such as "we will try", "that may be difficult", or "we will have to give that some though" may really mean "this can't be done". . Therefore, it is important to ask questions in several ways so you can be certain what was meant by a vague response. Silence is often used as a communication tool.
Many people comment on the lack of smiles in Bangladesh. This has nothing to do with unfriendliness but rather related to the fact that a serious face is believed to demonstrate maturity. 

General Business Hours