Team Engine’s Himika driven to have a positive impact in Bangladesh
Samira Himika wears many hats: entrepreneur and communications specialist, campaigner, art promoter, product designer and even vocalist. One broad goal drives her: making an impact.
Himika has been doing just that as managing director of Team Engine, a company she founded with the hope of improving the lives of other Bangladeshis. Team Engine aims to help entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises develop their businesses. This ‘social good company’ began in 2010 with 11 employees and now has ‘family’ of more than 50 members.
Team Engine’s projects include Alchemy, a nationwide campaign that promotes healthy living and disease prevention, as well as Ancestor, a platform that encourages reading, appreciation of cultural artworks and self-exploration. The company’s research and development team has developed optical character recognition technology that allows – for the first time ever – the digitalization of content in Bengali, the main language of Bangladesh, spoken by some 280 million people there and in neighbouring parts of India.
But Himika didn’t stop there. She recently founded two other businesses, and says all her companies ‘will give solutions to things we talk about over dinner or in chitchat, but we don’t act on. I want to have an impact, help people grow, and if they grow, we grow’.
In 2009, with her career at the BBC World Service Trust ‘at the top’, Himika was faced with a decision: what to do next. ‘I had a conversation with myself,’ she says. ‘I had two options: take a global position or pursue something that would utilize my skill, my passion, the value of the brand that I created around me. I chose the second option. I have no regrets.’
As the daughter of one of the founders of Grameen Bank – a Nobel Peace Prize-winning microfinance institution and bank that makes small loans to the poor without requiring collateral – Himika connected with people from a young age. ‘I understand the people’s pulse,’ she says. ‘All of the strengths of this country are something I learned in my childhood.’
She’s learned her own strengths, too, with one of the most important being conviction. ‘People tell me that if I think of something, I do it. People understand who is a doer and who isn’t. I have this doer characteristic, so people believe in me. Also, I am a very positive person; I try to stay away from negative things.’
This attitude has served Himika well as an executive committee member of the Bangladesh Association for Software and Information Services (BASIS), the national trade body for the country’s software and IT-enabled services (ITES) industry. She leads the BASIS Women’s Forum, which seeks to increase the number of women in the country’s technology industry.
The Women’s Forum is supported by the Netherlands Trust Fund (NTF) III Bangladesh project, which aims to boost the competitiveness and export revenues of the high-tech sectors in Bangladesh. The forum, which launched on June 27, will provide mentoring, counselling and training to women, who represent about 10% of IT business owners in Bangladesh, and try to place women in jobs. The NTF III programme is funded by the Dutch government through the agency Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI), and implemented by the International Trade Centre.
‘Some people say I’m doing too many things at a time,’ says Himika, 32. ‘I look into my business in a way that yes, these are initiatives which are contributing to society, the country, the people. I have a lot of work to do. We hope to be globally recognized soon, brand-wise, as unique boutique companies. We’ll be all over, also outside Bangladesh, in 10 years. We require great energy because we’re trying to do something that has never been done.’