True to its reputation, the Bangladesh Business Awards once again honoured entrepreneurs and enterprises for their services to the economy through innovation, creativity and sheer courage.
DHL Express Bangladesh and The Daily Star hosted the 14th edition of the event at Sonargaon Hotel on March 28.
It was a starry evening as noted businesspeople, diplomats, bureaucrats, politicians, entrepreneurs, celebrities, civil society members and academics gathered to welcome this year's winners.
The Best Financial Institution of the Year award went to Delta Brac Housing Finance Corporation Ltd, one of the top non-bank financial institutions, for providing the middle and lower middle class with an opportunity to own houses in cities.
Chittagong-based Habib Group, which has emerged as a leading conglomerate from a regional trading house in six decades, won the Enterprise of the Year award for delivering products and services of the highest standards.
Tania Wahab, managing partner of Karigar, a brand of customised leather products, was honoured as the Outstanding Woman in Business for her steady journey towards fame in less than a decade. She has already become a role model for budding entrepreneurs.
The Lifetime Contribution Award went to Laila Rahman Kabir, managing director of Kedarpur Tea Company, for her contribution to the economy in general and to women empowerment in particular.
In her long career, Laila Kabir became the first woman to lead the Association of Tea Planters of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Employers' Federation, and Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
She recalled how she had to toil in the 1970s in transforming a derelict tea garden into a top-class tea estate in the country.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed gave away the trophies to the winners. He said Bangladesh's business community is so capable that everyone can be proud of them.
“The businesses have become the engine of growth of the country,” he said. “Our exports growth for the current fiscal year is on target despite political unrest last year.”
Desmond Quiah, country manager of DHL Express, said his company was proud to join The Daily Star in recognising the outstanding achievements in the business and corporate world of Bangladesh.
He said every year they look at the successes of the businesses and become amazed to see even stronger commitment from entrepreneurs and innovators to overcome any odd.
Quiah called for a consistent policy framework and an environment that will enable the businesses to contribute further to the development of the economy.
Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, talked about how the country's business leaders made their way in the global arena through hard work, creativity and ability to take risks. He also said the products and services that they offer can compete with the best and the brightest.
"Bangladeshi businesses are capable of producing goods and services which can be competitively sold anywhere in the world."
He reminded the businesses of their responsibility to the society and environment they operate in.
Anam's call for environment-friendly industries and production was echoed by Sanjiv Mehta, executive vice president of Unilever South Asia.
During his keynote speech on capitalism, Mehta said instead of running only after profit, businesses have to be caring about the society and environment for sustainable growth.
The awards ceremony included a dance performance from Pallavi Dance Centre, which was directed by Minu Haque. Musicians such as Zakir Hossain, Gautam Sarker and Sajidur Rahman enchanted the audience with their tabla performance.
The Bangladesh Business Awards were introduced in 2000 and are given annually to individuals and companies for their excellence in business. In the last 14 years, the awards ceremony has become one of the brightest nights in the calendar of the business leaders, as the initiative has earned reputation for honouring extraordinary entrepreneurs and enterprises. So far, 58 individuals and enterprises have been awarded by DHL Express and The Daily Star.