Meet the Fellows: Thaslima Begum, TEEK TAKA

Lab Fellowship is back – and this year’s theme is data. For the next nine months, we’re supporting 16 Fellows working on 10 start-up projects with the potential to positively disrupt the financial system. In our Meet the Fellows blog series, we’re introducing the innovators working with data to change finance for the better.

On her Twitter profile, Thaslima Begum aptly describes herself as a founder by day and human rights journalist by night. A successful freelance journalist who has written for The Guardian, The Times and The Independent, Thaslima has covered human rights stories across South Asia and the UK including, most recently, the Rohingya crisis. While interviewing garment workers in Bangladesh, Thaslima was frustrated by the slow progress made since Rana Plaza – one of the worst industrial incidents in history. She decided to go beyond storytelling and create something with the potential of lasting change, not just for Bangladeshi garment workers but the industry as a whole.​

The result is TEEK TAKA – an ethical trade finance platform that seeks to improve labour practices in global supply chains. With an initial focus on Bangladesh, Thaslima is building a blockchain solution that incentivises factories to adopt ethical and sustainable behaviours by rewarding them with access to cheaper and faster financing. The platform also provides garment workers with digital identities, making it easier to verify fair wage payments, contract hours and safe working conditions.

The name TEEK TAKA is a play on the common Bengali phrase ‘Teek Tako’, meaning to stay good. Adapting ‘tako’ to ‘taka’ (Bangladesh’s national currency), Teek Taka translates to good money, and perfectly summarises the ethos of the organisation. As Thaslima explains:

“Living wages and decent work are fundamental to ending inequality – that’s why we’re committed to improving labour practices in global supply chains.”

As a newbie to the world of finance, tech and start-ups, Thaslima is excited about being part of the Lab community and the peer-support element of Lab Fellowship:

“I look forward to having my assumptions challenged and learning new things. I hope we can all use this experience to share our unique skill sets and learn from one another. I believe when you’re surrounded by passionate people who share a common commitment and purpose, anything is possible.”

Thaslima is eager to learn about ethical data practices and maximising the power of data and technology for TEEK TAKA over the course of the Fellowship:

“For TEEK TAKA to truly achieve its potential, it’s absolutely crucial the platform we’re building utilises data in a responsible way.”

As TEEK TAKA is the first blockchain project of its kind in Bangladesh, she is particularly keen to connect with Lab community members with experience of the technology, to seek their feedback and advice. The platform will also be piloting this year, so Thaslima is interested in collaborating with relevant stakeholders such as brands, suppliers and finance providers.​

Perhaps most importantly, Thaslima is absolutely up for the challenge:

“People are often held back not by their innate abilities, but their mindset. I believe anything can be learnt and that is what I’m here to do.”

If you’re interested in supporting TEEK TAKA please contact Naomi Alexander Naidoo. To find out more about Lab Fellowship and how you can get involved, visit filab.uk/Fellowship.