Honouring Business Leaders: Persevering through the pandemic
Two individuals and two companies yesterday won the prestigious Bangladesh Business Awards for creating jobs and contributions to the society and the economy.
Rupali Chowdhury, managing director of Berger Paints Bangladesh, received the award in the Outstanding Woman in Business category at the 19th Bangladesh Business Awards, an initiative of DHL Express and The Daily Star.
Abdul Muktadir, chairman and managing director of Incepta Pharmaceuticals, scooped the award as the Business Person of the Year.
The Best Financial Institution award went to Dutch-Bangla Bank Ltd (DBBL) and the Enterprise of the Year award to apparel manufacturer and exporter Snowtex Group.
They were recognised in virtual presence of Tipu Munshi, the commerce minister, Binod Chaudhary, the wealthiest and most successful industrialist in Nepal, and Nurhayati Abdullah, managing director of DHL Express Emerging Markets, along with business luminaries of the country, corporate leaders, and eminent citizens.
The event began with a tribute to late Latifur Rahman, one of the founders of The Daily Star and founder chairman of Transcom Group. The successful entrepreneur, known for his ethical business practices, died in July.
During his keynote speech, Binod Chaudhary, an entrepreneur, politician and philanthropist from Nepal, called Latifur Rahman a great entrepreneur and visionary.
In 2000, DHL Express and The Daily Star introduced the awards to recognise the achievements and positive contributions of business houses and individuals who have not only grown but also contributed to the economic development of the country.
Soon, the awards rocketed to become the most prestigious honour in Bangladesh's business community.
Of the awardees, Abdul Muktadir pulled off an incredible success in the country's pharmaceuticals industry when he went on to make Incepta Pharmaceuticals the second largest drug maker in Bangladesh in just eight years.
His success stemmed from the high investment in research and development and advanced technology and pursuit of producing quality products for local and export markets.
Today, Incepta exports medicines to 67 countries. The company's annual turnover is Tk 2,755 crore. It employs about 10,000 people, way higher from less than 100 when he started.
Rupali Chowdhury took Berger Paints Bangladesh to new heights after taking the helm of the company in 2008.
Since then, the company has grown manifolds, as the champion entrepreneur led from the front and made Berger the number one company in Bangladesh's paint industry.
Snowtex started its business as a supplier of accessories and trims to local garments factories in 1998. Today, the group employs more than 16,000 people with $250 million annual turnover.
It has exported apparel products to around 50 countries, and its top buyers are Berne Apparel, Decathlon, Columbia, VF and Bestsellers.
Snowtex Outerwear, a company under the group, has been certified as a green factory by the United States Green Building Council.
DBBL's name is synonymous with innovation as it has turned into a lender in the banking sector of Bangladesh, introducing newer products and services.
It was the first lender in Bangladesh to have set up a mobile financial service, Rocket, rolled out the debit card and agent banking, and built the largest network of automated teller machines.
Net profit of the bank stood at Tk 434 crore in 2019, up from Tk 420 crore a year ago. The bank scooped the award in the same category in 2007.
The award ceremony was moved to the digital platform because of the pandemic. It was live-streamed on Facebook.
In his speech, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said entrepreneurs were taking the economy forward.
"Today, when the global economy has plunged into a recession because of the pandemic shock, Bangladesh stands tall among most of the economies and is going to post the highest.
"This has been possible because of your resilience, dedication, and our hard-working population," he said.
The government is committed to facilitating businesses and attracting investment in order to become a developed nation, he said.
"We have taken many steps to improve our ranking in the Ease of Doing Business Index and boost industrialisation," he said.
Chaudhary, the first billionaire from Nepal, credited the business community of Bangladesh for the economic performance even during the pandemic when staying afloat is being considered as the biggest dividend.
He praised the government of Bangladesh for keeping the higher growth trajectory, reduction in poverty, and higher per capita income and literacy.
Chaudhary said he always felt that there was no monopoly of big economies and enterprises in a free economy.
"It is all about your imagination, innovation, and courage. It is all about not easily accepting defeats and rather, continuing the journey despite the most adverse circumstances."
Also a lawmaker, Chaudhary said businesses in South Asia and emerging economies continue to struggle to keep the operations going as business decisions are made based on political considerations.
"If you can do business in South Asia, you can do business anywhere in the world," he said, while speaking about the severity of bureaucratic and political challenges in doing business in South Asia.
Chaudhary, chairman of CG Corp Global, a Nepalese conglomerate with a portfolio that comprises more than 169 companies, said because of the pandemic, the way of doing businesses is changing, and businesses would have to accept the reality and move on.
"It will also open a new set of opportunities."
Md Miarul Haque, managing director of DHL Worldwide Express (BD) Pvt Ltd, emphasised tapping the global e-commerce market.
The size of the domestic e-commerce market in Bangladesh is around $1.5 billion. However, the global cross-border e-commerce market is around a trillion dollars, he said.
This could mean a significant source of potential export earnings, diversification for the country's industries, connecting thousands of SMEs and micro-enterprises to customers around the world, and producers reaching out to more than 7 billion people rather than just 170 million people of Bangladesh, he said.
Miarul said producers get only around 20 percent of maximum retail price (MRP). But if they can reach out directly to consumers through e-commerce, the same $30 billion of exports can potentially grow to $150 billion.
"We just need some heroes like you to dream this again," he said in his speech.
Miarul said he dreamt of a regulatory infrastructure where delivery of shipments to recipients would only be a matter of hours after arrival in Dhaka, instead of days.
"These delays may lead to billions of dollars of missed opportunities. I dream of that day when we will truly see paperless clearance so that we can avoid printing millions of pages as hardcopy clearance documents."
Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, said each of business icons and awardees of the Bangladesh Business Awards are stories of immense creativity, courage and consistent perseverance.
"By telling their stories, we would like to tell the people of the country about what they can do, inspire them, help them get out of their limited visions, and connect them with people who have broken out of their shells and done new things."
Business leaders play a much bigger role than they are appreciated, he said.
So, the purpose of the awards is to bring out in the public domain the people, entrepreneurs and enterprises, who by providing employment and chalking out new ways of doing businesses, are creating wealth for the country, Mahfuz Anam said.
He said Bangladesh was showing the world on how to overcome difficulties and limitations. "We must now start a new faith in our country, people, entrepreneurs, and our ability to face challenges."
The noted journalist paid tribute to the farmers who have made agriculture a wonder, entrepreneurs and new businesses, as well as to the government for business-friendly policies.
Business leaders are striving forward despite all obstacles, and nothing exemplifies their capacity than what they have done during the pandemic, he said.
When the world stopped, entrepreneurs, factories and workers kept machine rolling, helping Bangladesh become the highest performing economy in Asia in 2020 as per the International Monetary Fund, the editor said.
In her reaction, Rupali Chowdhury said: "I am very, very happy. This is a very, very happy moment."
"I don't consider myself as a finished product. I consider myself a work in progress. This award is going to inspire me to move further beyond, inspire Bangladeshi people and create jobs," she said.
Abdul Muktadir credited the collective efforts of the family members, the owners of Impress Group, the owning company of Incepta Pharmaceuticals, and employees of the drug-maker for its achievement in the last two decades.
He called for going for very high-quality science education. "Only through that, we can stand out."
DBBL Managing Director Abul Kashem Md Shirin said the award would inspire the bank to introduce more digital products for its customers, particularly those living in the rural areas, thus giving a boost to financial inclusion.
Snowtex Managing Director S M Khaled said: "This is a very prestigious award. Whenever we look at the previous awardees, we see that they are honourable and successful business persons and groups.
"So, we are honoured to receive this award. This will help us keep doing what we have been doing for the betterment of the society and country."
Making It Big, a book written by Binod Chaudhary, was officially launched in Bangladesh during the award ceremony.
Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Syed Almas Kabir, president of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services, and Ziaur Rahman, regional manager at H&M, spoke in a pre-recorded video.