Md. Hasan Mahmud Khan
Fellow Since 2004
This profile was prepared when Md. Hasan Mahmud Khan was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2004.
The New Idea
Hasan’s idea is to bring professional identity and rights to the hundreds of thousands of poor youth employed in the informal food service sector in urban Bangladesh. Ignored by mainstream workers’ unions and usually living away from their families, these youth lack a strong support structure and are very susceptible to drugs, violence and crime. Hasan works with youth and their employers. With youth he organizes those working in low-scale restaurants and cafeterias into peer groups and leadership committees that facilitate recreational activities, team-building, education and life skills development. He also trains in labor laws and group entrepreneurship. The program fosters leadership skills, self-esteem and strong social support networks for them. Simultaneously, Hasan is introducing owners in the informal food service industry to workers’ rights, formal employment contracts, quality management systems and improved customer satisfaction; helping them create socially responsible businesses. He is also connecting the informal food service sector to trade unions and sensitizing customers and other stakeholders to workers’ issues and rights. For example, women usually don’t work in or visit low-scale restaurants because the environment in is not gender sensitive. Hasan addresses the gender dimension in training sessions with owners and workers. Hasan recognizes that while improving the current working conditions of restaurant workers is important, financial sustainability and career mobility are essential to moving them out of perpetual poverty and into the middle class to enjoy steady incomes and economic growth. He has developed a business model for a chain of jointly worker-owned restaurants and is presently training workers in personal financial planning, entrepreneurship, marketing skills and other business skills necessary to run their own restaurants. The Ahar Social Chain Restaurants will be marketed as a socially responsible, jointly worker owned and operated, quality food service brand that will set a new standard in the food service industry.