18th Bangladesh Business Awards: Laurels for business heroes
Two companies and two individuals were honoured yesterday for their extraordinary success and contribution to the economy at the 18th edition of the Bangladesh Business Awards, the annual event that honours the movers and shakers of the corporate world.
Indian IT trailblazer NR Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys, now a global leader in technology services and consulting, joined business leaders, diplomats and noted citizens to toast the winners.
Gowher Rizvi, international affairs adviser to the prime minister, handed over the trophies to Azam J Chowdhury, chairman of East Coast Group; Mominul Islam, managing director of IPDC Finance; Hafizur Rahman Khan, chairman of Runner Group; and Qamrun Nahar Zahir, chairperson of Ananta Apparels.
DHL Express, the top logistics company in the world, and The Daily Star, Bangladesh’s leading English newspaper, organised the event at the Radisson hotel in the capital.
IPDC Finance, the country’s first non-bank financial institution, won the accolade in the Best Financial Institution category.
Qamrun Nahar Zahir, chairperson of Ananta Apparels, one of the leading apparel solution providers in Bangladesh, won the award in the Outstanding Woman in Business category.
Azam J Chowdhury was crowned the Business Person of the Year.
Runner Group took home the Enterprise of the Year award for its remarkable journey that saw it become the country’s first two-wheeler manufacturer and exporter in less than two decades.
The theme of this year’s awards, “Better business environment for tomorrow”, could not have come at a better time. The global e-commerce market is estimated to be worth about $3.4 trillion by the end of this year, $1 trillion of which is attributed to cross-border e-commerce.
Countries that are able to execute faster regulatory reforms and create favourable policies that encourage cross-border trade will stand to gain the most, said Yasmin Khan, executive vice-president of DHL’s Asia Pacific (excluding China) operations.
“We see tremendous opportunities in Bangladesh and we will continue to invest strongly not only in our infrastructure, but also in helping small and medium-sized enterprises to start selling globally,” she added.
Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, said the awardees had gone on to take Bangladesh forward in a way that the country was now instantly recognisable on the global stage.
“Bangladesh’s business community deserves special focus for their contribution to the economy and the country,” he added.
He said the economy was growing and the country was being industrialised. At the same time, there is environmental pollution.
In the pursuit of industrialisation and higher growth, rivers are being destroyed and water is being overused. This is not acceptable as it is destroying the nation’s future, he said.
“This is the reality we can’t ignore anymore,” he said.
A special attraction of the last night’s event was the keynote speech delivered by Narayana Murthy titled “Building a vibrant software services industry in Bangladesh”.
“We live in an extraordinary era. Never before was the competition so intense, opportunities so huge, and challenges so daunting. It is because of one significant phenomenon – globalisation,” he said.
Hailed as the “Father of the Indian IT Sector” by Time magazine, Narayana Murthy said Bangladesh, with its large educated population, should embrace global software opportunities.
“Today, we live in a global village. No country can afford to isolate itself from the global market.”
Every country leverages its competitive advantages to trade in the global bazaar products and services that leverage the advantages, Murthy said. “This is the best way to create jobs in Bangladesh.”
Orientation towards exports helps Bangladeshi enterprises benchmark their products and services on a global scale.
“If you succeed in the highly competitive global market, you are likely to provide high quality products at the best prices even in the domestic market.”
According to Murthy, a big advantage of Bangladesh is its pool of well-educated, high-quality, English-speaking people.
“Your talent pool is a unique asset. Your youngsters will succeed if they are willing to unlearn old ideas, learn new ideas, apply them and move from ‘reactive problem solving’ to ‘proactive problem identification and solution’ for your customers,” he added.
Rizvi congratulated the winners of the awards and thanked the DHL and The Daily Star for hosting the event for the last 18 years.
“It is an extraordinary feat,” he said, adding that the corporate sector of Bangladesh had taken the country where it was today.
Bangladesh came into being in a very sorry state, but today it has defied all odds and has emerged as an example of development around the world, he said. “In this task, the role of the corporate sector has been extraordinary.”
The adviser said Bangladesh progressed tremendously but challenges remain, including poverty.
He bemoaned the fact that Bangladesh still has two-tier education and healthcare systems.
Those who are educated are doing better and those who are left behind are getting little, he said.
The country has some of the finest hospitals while there are people who are not getting quality healthcare, he added.
“We must give access to success to all people. Unless we do that, we will not have fulfilled the dream with which Bangladesh was founded,” he said.
Rizvi said Bangladesh was still lagging behind in social justice. The poor are not getting enough opportunities. “I urge you to look beyond your company to your larger responsibility.”
The Bangladesh Business Awards is the most prestigious and important business award in the country, said Michael Foley, chief executive officer of Grameenphone.
The jury board that picks the winners are so professional and neutral that no question has been raised about the awards, said Syed Mahbubur Rahman, chairman of the Association of Bankers, Bangladesh.
“This inspires the award winners to work even harder,” said Rahman, also the managing director of Dhaka Bank.
BGMEA President Rubana Huq said, “The award continues to remain important as this is a token of acknowledgement of the contribution of business to the country. Aspirations are enhanced and entrepreneurs feel incentivised with recognition.
“I sincerely believe that this award grows in scope and width every year and encourages private sector to excel beyond the regular practices.”
The programme was attended by M Matiul Islam, the country’s first finance secretary; M Anis Ud Dowla, chairman of ACI; Mahbubur Rahman, president of the International Chamber of Commerce Bangladesh; Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue.
Marie-Annick Bourdin, ambassador of France to Bangladesh, Winnie Petersen, ambassador of Denmark to Bangladesh, Miarul Haque, country manager of DHL Express Bangladesh; Naser Ejaz Bijoy, CEO of Standard Chartered Bangladesh; AF Nesaruddin, president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh; Shah Husain Imam, editor of the Financial Express; KAM Majedur Rahman, managing director of the Dhaka Stock Exchange; Arif Khan, managing director of IDLC Finance; and Syed M Kamal, country manager of Mastercard Bangladesh also attended.