Often touted the Oscars for the business community, the Bangladesh Business Awards' draw was once again witnessed on May 5 this year.
Leading entrepreneurs, politicians, former bureaucrats, corporate leaders, diplomats, economists, noted citizens, media personalities and young entrepreneurs gathered at the capital's Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden to celebrate the 16th edition of the awards.
DHL Express, the world's leading logistics company, and The Daily Star, the leading English-language newspaper in Bangladesh, hosted the awards night.
The event started with a dance number from a local group as the guests settled into their seats.
Desmond Quiah, country manager of DHL Worldwide Express (Bangladesh) Pvt Ltd, set the stage rolling with his welcome speech.
“It is especially heartening to see how we, and the businesses we honour, have grown over the years.”
He said the initiation of the awards was not just to recognise the exemplary achievements of today's business leaders but also to send a message of hope and inspiration to those of tomorrow.
“Through the awards, we have witnessed a growing number of winners from sectors as diverse as pharmaceuticals, plastics and beauty products, many of which have enormous potential to push Bangladesh's economy up the value chain.”
Quiah said Bangladesh needs to make training, empowering and motivating its people a top priority to realise its goal of becoming a middle-income nation by 2021.
“This is not some idealistic call to action -- it's just good business sense. Businesses in Bangladesh can only continue to grow if they give their people opportunities to do so.”
Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, said the efforts that the businesses put in to log profits are often overlooked in Bangladesh.
“So, I strongly feel that this value judgment has to be challenged and changed. This was the idea behind the awards.”
He said businesses take risk, create jobs, foster creativity and create wealth for the nation. “So, their success stories need to be told over and over.”
A special attraction of the awards night was a keynote speech by Chandra Shekhar Ghosh, founder and chief executive of Bandhan Bank, India's fourth largest private bank.
Bandhan Bank is the first and only microfinance entity in India that has transformed itself into a universal bank.
The Indian entrepreneur, who was raised and educated in Bangladesh, praised Bangladesh for its progress on both economic and social fronts.
Talking about the achievements of the bank, Ghosh said: “We have reduced the interest rates by 4 percentage points. Out of 840 bank branches, 550 are headed and run by all erstwhile micro banking staff. These branches are now running very successfully and generating good business.”
The entrepreneur told the audience, which includes young entrepreneurs: “Don't hesitate to take risks. If you are confident, hardworking and honest you can succeed anywhere.”
Anisul Islam Mahmud, water resources minister, presented the awards to the winners.
Speaking as chief guest, the minister said the award is not only honouring the businesspeople; it is also recognising the contribution of the business community as a whole.
He said owners, management and workers will have to work as a family to drive the growth of the businesses.
“This year's winners have shown that they have treated their workers as part of their families. This is the attitude we all must adopt.”
Two companies and three individuals were honoured at the prestigious event for their contribution to the economy.
Kutubuddin Ahmed, chairman of Envoy Group, was crowned the Business Person of the Year, while Meghna Group of Industries took home the Enterprise of the Year award.
City Bank won the accolade in the Best Financial Institution category. Luna Shamsuddoha, founder and chairman of Dohatec New Media, a leading software company of Bangladesh, won the award in the Outstanding Woman in Business category.
The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Harunar Rashid Khan Monno, a pioneering industrialist of Bangladesh.
Since its inception in 2000, the award organisers have given away the accolades to 17 companies, 15 businesspeople, 16 women entrepreneurs, nine financial institutions, six for lifetime contribution, two joint ventures and two under the special achievement category.