The pursuit of excellence itself is a reward. So says Finance Minister AMA Muhith.
“Nothing can be more pleasant than pursuing excellence. If you have that excellence, you will be rewarded one day,” Muhith said.
His words of wisdom reflected the successes of two enterprises and two individuals who were honoured at the 15th Bangladesh Business Awards ceremony at Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka last night. The awardees stood out among their peers for their contribution to the economy that came through hard work, ethical practices and governance.
Muhammed Aziz Khan, chairman of Summit Industrial and Mercantile Corporation, won the coveted award as the Business Person of the Year while Walton Hi-tech Industries was recognised as the Enterprise of the Year.
Mutual Trust Bank was honoured as the Best Financial Institution and Rubana Huq, managing director of Mohammadi Group, was awarded as the Outstanding Woman in Business.
Aziz Khan, Anis A Khan, managing director of Mutual Trust Bank, SM Mahbubul Alam, a director of Walton, and Rubana Huq received the awards from Muhith at the ceremony attended by nearly 300 guests, including diplomats, politicians, industrialists, corporate heads, economists, civil society members and celebrities.
At the ceremony all speakers extolled the winners who made the cut for their outstanding contributions.
DHL Express, the world's leading logistics company, and The Daily Star, the leading English-language newspaper in Bangladesh, hosted the awards night, which has been recognising and celebrating excellence in business leadership in Bangladesh since 2000.
Aziz Khan was awarded for turning Summit Group into a giant company that helps build the country's infrastructure that Bangladesh and its business community badly need.
The group's Summit Power generates about 16 percent of the country's total electricity. His companies are the first private sector power generator, port owner and operator as well as provider of information communication connectivity via fibre optic.
Since its inception, the company has invested $1.2 billion in the country. Its revenue income was Tk 5,000 crore last year, up 64 percent over 2013. It employs about 5,000 people.
Aziz Khan said electricity was the most important physical infrastructure of all and his company would continue to strive to produce power so all entrepreneurs could reach their full potential.
Walton was honoured for its quiet journey towards becoming a local manufacturer and exporter of electronic goods, automobiles and home appliances from an importer.
Established in 2006, the company is in manufacturing, retailing, designing and exporting of its products and appliances including air conditioner, freezer, multi-stage freezer and automobile.
It has about 80 percent of the local refrigerator market in terms of unit sales and around 30 percent market share in the local television industry. The firm's annual production capacity is 1.4 million refrigerators and freezers, 300,000 motorcycles, 300,000 air conditioners and 1 million television sets.
Mahbubul Alam of Walton said: "The award will encourage us in our journey to the future."
Mutual Trust Bank emerged as one of the best-run banks in Bangladesh where the banking sector is beset with problems from a lack of good governance to financial felonies.
Its management enjoys the broadest power in the industry. As a result, the bank is growing steadily. It paid 20 percent dividends for its shareholders for 2014 when most of the banks were unable to pay even 10-15 percent.
The bank's operating profit rose by nearly 24 percent in 2014 from a year ago. Net profit after tax recorded a whopping 68 percent growth and earnings per share almost doubled to Tk 3.12 in 2014.
Anis A Khan said his bank was different from other banks because of its utmost importance in corporate governance, independent management and focus on customer service.
"The bank will continue to focus on innovation, adoption of technology and improved customer service in our efforts to become one of the best banks in the country."
Rubana Huq leads one of the leading and pioneering garment companies in Bangladesh: Mohammadi Group. She was awarded for excelling in her professional life both as a leader and a role model.
The company started with only one factory at Khilkhet in Dhaka with 500 workers in 1985 and exported goods worth $70 million in the last fiscal year with 15 percent year-on-year growth. Currently, it employs 9,000 workers in its eight garment factories.
A trailblazer, Rubana is setting up a new factory where 600 workers will have accommodation and will be given the ownership of the dorms after six years of their stay in exchange for a monthly installment. Bangladesh Bank is helping the project with Tk 20 crore in loans at 2 percent interest.
Rubana said the female workforce was the deciding factor behind the garment company's success. "So, all entrepreneurs should invest in developing human resources. Our entrepreneurs also need to take a hard look at the people working in the factories."
In his speech, Muhith said Bangladesh had done pretty well in the last 40 years although 16 years of the four decades ruled by military adventurism left the country's growth stunted and took the country backward.
He said the country was able to offset the losses thanks to the contribution of all citizens. The government and the private sector also played a key role.
Yasmin Aladad Khan, senior vice president for DHL Express for Southeast Asia and South Asia, said Bangladesh's graduation to the status of a lower middle income country would give a boost to the SME sector in the country.
She also said investment in education was important for any country as it laid the foundation for creating future business leaders.
Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, said the awards celebrate the greatest achievements of the businesses for their contribution to the economic growth and taking Bangladeshi brands to the international level.
“There are two stories about Bangladesh. One is the journey from where we were to where we are. It's a brilliant story. The second is the journey from where we were to where we could have been. It's a story of missed opportunities,” Anam said.
“We should forge our future path in such a way that we do not miss any forthcoming opportunity.”
He said the awards honour the success of the enterprises and individuals who made the country successful.
He said Bangladesh's entrepreneurs had proven that they can have a global presence if given the opportunity.
What they need is an opportunity to scale up to be regional players before they graduate to the global level. The fundamental prerequisite for that to happen is the appropriate policy and regulatory framework, he added.
"If we can make them free of political uncertainty and regulatory challenges, our business community will be able to churn out globally successful companies such as Facebook and Google."
He urged the government to create a congenial environment where energy of the business sector can be used to flourish on the world stage.
The awards night started with a dance performance to the tune of a song written by national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam.
The awards were introduced with the specific objective of creating an environment of excellence and competitiveness which would drive the members of the business community to achieve greater heights of productivity, efficiency, financial discipline and modern management.
The awards recognise and generate public recognition of the achievements and positive contributions of businesses and individuals, who have not only grown themselves, but also contributed to the country's economic growth.
Anjan Chowdhury, a director of Square Group and whose father Samson H Chowdhury won the award in its inaugural edition, said it was an absolutely prestigious award as winners were picked through strict criteria. "It encourages existing and new businesses."
Mahbubur Rahman, president of International Chamber of Commerce Bangladesh, Latifur Rahman, chairman of Transcom Group, M Matiul Islam, the first finance secretary of the country, M Anis Ud Dowla, chairman of ACI Ltd, Geeteara Safiya Choudhury, former adviser to a caretaker government, and Annisul Huq, mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation, were present among others.