‘We need high speed internet, continuous electricity and online financial transaction facilities’

Golam Faruque was recently ranked second in the list of best illustrators, third best graphics designer and ranked fourth in the list of logo designers by Upwork, the world’s most popular freelancing market place, in June 2016. The illustrator is also a teacher at Daffodil International University. Rakibul Azam Rana recently had a candid conversation with Faruque about the global freelancing market and the challenges faced by Bangladeshi freelancers

Please tell us about your Upwork award.
While studying in Fine Arts at the Dhaka University, my journey began as a part-time employee in computer graphics design and offset printing technology of pre-printing house ‘Colour Scan’. Farid bhai, the owner of ‘Colour Scan’, was an inspiration for me. Also, better performances in work, delivering on time, keeping in constant touch with the client during every project and being ethical about the work has helped me in achieving the award.

How long have you been engaged in such freelance work? What motivated you to come into this line of work?
I was born in Sharifabad village at Gaurnadi upazila in Barisal in my grandfather’s house. My father was a government employee and I was the third of five children. I always felt a bond toward illustrations since childhood and I believe I have derived this from my mother. Against my father’s wishes, I gained admission to the Faculty of Fine Arts in the University of Dhaka. While my father did not pay for the academic expenses, it was my mother who took up the expenses a year after my admission. But a year later, the cost of my studies increased and the price of paint and canvas increased to Tk 5,000.As my mother could not pay this sum, I had to earn the money by giving private tuition. The university fees and other charges came from stipend.
I completed my Masters in Drawing and Painting in 1996 from the Faculty of Fine Arts of Dhaka University. Before completing my Masters, I started working on computer graphics. In 1994, I gained considerable experience in computer graphics and offset printing technology from ‘Colour Scan’ and worked there for two years.
Then in 1996, I joined Grey Global Group, an advertising agency and worked there for a decade. Due to my performance in various national and international brands, I was assigned the position of Head of Creative of G3, a sister concern of Grey. Later, I started my own advertising agency ‘Paper Rhyme’ together with my partner. There I was Head of Creative and chairman for seven years.
In 2011, I opened the account in Upwork, the world’s most popular freelancing market place. From 2013, I left my position in Paper Rhyme to fully concentrate on freelancing. Currently besides freelancing, I am an adjunct lecturer in the Department of Multimedia Creative Technology of Daffodil International University, Dhaka.

Do you feel that freelancing to offshore companies and entities are proving more fruitful for men & women in Bangladesh?
Actually freelancing opportunities are there for people from all across the world. In Bangladesh, most people are young. As a small country, our population is more than the employment opportunities. I think, outsourcing and freelancing can be the platform to overcome the lack of employment opportunities, in the near future.
We need to spread the concept of freelance outsourcing to the people in most parts of Bangladesh by training them. Besides this, we need high speed internet and continuous electricity. Online money transaction facilities are also required where a local freelancing company can send money and also receive. If these factors can be ensured, Bangladesh will enjoy a boom in the global freelancing market. Today our country depends on the garments industry. I believe in future Bangladesh will be the country of freelance outsourcing.

What sort of problems are freelancers facing at the moment?
Currently freelancers are facing problems like lack of PayPal facility, online transaction issues and lack of high speed internet.

In what ways can the government encourage or facilitate the work of freelancers?
We are working under restriction especially we can’t hire a freelancer easily through online methods as PayPal facilities are not present in our country. For example, I was receiving work of an e-commerce website design and coding. The client liked the design, but coding was a bit complicated. That is why I wanted to hire an online.
However, I could not do so as the bank informed me that I cannot hire experts online through my international credit card from a local bank. The bank also informed me that this system is restricted by the Bangladesh Bank.
The government promotes and encourages freelancing but we cannot reap the benefits of the trade if we are not provided with proper facilities. Right now we are buying internet at high price, especially for mobile internet. We, the outsourcers and freelancers, need to be present online for 24 hours. If the government decreases the tariff on state-owned telecommunication services provider Teletalk, then it will be more effective for freelancers.
My sincere thanks to the government that earlier it used to take at least a week to transfer money to bank account from Upwork (O-Desk). Now it takes only a day.