When the coronavirus pandemic hit the world early last year, the airline industry was among the first sectors that felt the crisis's impacts as almost every country closed doors to protect itself from the raging pathogen.
However, amid the crisis, a handful of airlines recovered faster than others, and Cathay Pacific Airways is one.
The 85-people team of the airline's Bangladesh operation, led by Country Manager Ahmed Reza, took the risk and kept the cargo flight section intact during the pandemic. As a result, it clocked 65 per cent growth in cargo operations.
"As the passenger operation was closed, our passenger team willingly moved to cargo operation. That's the feeling of respect and ownership in an organisation," he said.
Based in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific is the fifth largest airline in the world, flying to 200 destinations in 60 countries.
During Reza's long stint at British Airways, his boss once advised him to grow the feeling of owning the organisation, and to do whatever he could do for the betterment of the company.
"That really worked. Even after switching job, that entrepreneurial spirit stays if someone persistently follows that," he said.
The pandemic brought about strategic changes to Cathay Pacific's operation, and it has initiated innovation, especially in cargo sales.
"The airline industry has been affected by the pandemic. We are constantly analysing the market and discussing development," he said.
According to Reza, discipline has made a massive difference to Cathay Pacific's global operation, turning it into a successful operator over the decades.
"Discipline is a major factor in any organisation to grow, and it is impossible to achieve success in an undisciplined organisation.
"If we say internal discipline, it is about time performance. Everything must be organised, and airline staff have to maintain uniformity."
There must be uniformity in the service, discipline, a chain of command, and respect for each other, said Reza, who has been leading the airline's Bangladesh operation since August 2017.
As the key person of a global conglomerate, Reza needs to ensure the compliance of the company. At the same time, the airline has to follow the rules of the Bangladesh Bank, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh, other stakeholders, and the laws of the land.
Because of the regulatory requirements, he sometimes has to make tough calls.
"In terms of business, we need to think about the cost and the return on investment while making the tough calls."
When it comes to decision-making, Reza discusses with the people at every level so that everyone feels ownership in the decision.
"We value people because they are the most important thing in the business.
"Before discharging any non-performing people, we discuss ways to develop them and give the person scope to improve performance."
Reza had a fascination about the aviation sector from his childhood and had always wanted to become a pilot, but the dream did not materialise for some reasons.
Because of the fascination for the sector, he started his career with aviation companies instead of going abroad to study.
"The aviation industry is different than any other industries, and one needs to have a passion for it," said Reza, the first local country manager of Cathay Pacific in Bangladesh.
His life was not without challenges.
He spent 14 years at British Airways until the company wound up its operations in Bangladesh in 2009.
"At the time, opportunities were slim. But I always focused on self-development, and it resulted in getting me into Qatar Airways the next day British Airways departed from Bangladesh," he said.
From Qatar Airways, he moved to RAK Airways to head its country operations.
"That was a huge position compared to what I was doing before. I took up the challenge even though many discouraged me. The challenges made me stronger and helped me grow."
Reza gives a few tips to newcomers.
"One must have a can-do attitude. Decide whether your goal is position-oriented or purpose-oriented.
"Think whether you are enjoying the job or not. And grow your skills consistently."