Bangladesh: a country with tremendous potential | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 15, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 15, 2019

Bangladesh: a country with tremendous potential

In conversation with Guy Meldrum, Regional Director of Asia-Pacific and Middle East, British American Tobacco PLC

You've had an illustrious career for over 20 years. Tell us a bit about your journey with BAT.

My journey started in BAT Australia in 1994 as a Marketing Management Trainee in Trade Marketing, so you can say I started at the very bottom and worked my way up the ladder. In the earlier days, I served in various positions including global travel retail and brand management in Australia. I left BAT to work for Kellogg, but re-joined BAT London and then Switzerland once I moved overseas. I then came back to Australia where I worked as the Head of Trade. Thereafter, I was made the Asia Pacific Regional Head of Trade Marketing based in Hong Kong. Afterwards, I assumed the role of Marketing Director in South Korea and then in Russia. I came back to Korea as the Area Director for North Asia and later became the Area Director of Australasia.

From Russia to Korea to Australasia, you have worked in completely different countries. Where would you say you had the most challenging experience?

I would definitely say it was Korea with respect to the intensity of the business challenges we faced there. However, in terms of cultural differences, I think Russia would be the country that presented me with the biggest challenge. The ways and modes of doing business in Russia were very different from what I was used to being around in Australia. The approach to problems by the Russians, both in personal and professional terms, was unforeseen and needed getting accustomed to.

Despite cultural difference across countries, what is the one element behind a successful company that you think remains uniform throughout?

From my point of view, it's really all about the employees' attitudes, abilities, and positive mindset about overcoming challenges. I believe that we can always get the output we strive for, once we put in our complete dedication behind doing things. Besides, the sheer level of determination, perseverance, and resilience in these people I've worked with were remarkable. This may be due to the fact that the work culture, challenges, and the utmost competitiveness in BAT, bring out the best in them. Lastly, the warm feeling of being a tight knit community is what I have found to be constant in these people, regardless of their nationality.

By now, you have gained familiarity with Bangladesh, its people and culture. How do you perceive Bangladesh and our future talents?

I am firmly of the opinion that Bangladesh is a country with tremendous potential and will go a long way into becoming a powerhouse in the global stage. It has already made a strong foundation in the global BAT family; we now have two Bangladeshis in the Asia Pacific Middle East leadership teams. There are also about 32 Bangladeshis appointed in different nations in various roles at BAT across the world. I see a lot of young minds of this country developing and possessing the right skills needed for the future. Hence, the constant economic growth and the government's can-do attitude to cultivate a better nation, is paving the way towards an optimistic path ahead for this nation and we look forward to playing a part in that.

What is your take on the Bangladesh market and its 'Asian Tiger' Economy?

The constant 6%+ economic growth rate for the past few years reflects the country's energy, persistence & agility. Bangladesh has been acknowledged as the 9th fastest growing country by the World Economic Forum and its progress is truly remarkable.  The huge investments that are already underway are testaments that Bangladesh is on the right track. With the government also maintaining a positive mindset towards private & international businesses, I believe exciting times lie ahead for the private sector being a part of this dynamic country.

Considering the FastTrack growth of the country, how do you see BAT Bangladesh as a development partner?

BAT Bangladesh's motto has always been to contribute towards the development of the country. Every initiative taken has been aligned with this vision & in collaboration with various offices of the government. Our initiatives in the farming community to promote good agricultural practices, our challenging recruitment platform Battle of Minds, Women Leadership platforms empowering women across the organisation and adapting eco-friendly processes throughout our value chain– all actions are in line with the government's national goals & UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through these initiatives and our 3 CSR programmes – Afforestation, Water Filtration Plants & Solar Home Systems – we contribute towards 11 out of the 17 UN SDGs & 4 out of 10 National Goals. These tools are imperative for the country to achieve its middle-income nation status & we aim to continue to contribute towards building a better Bangladesh together.

As a well-known 'Inspirational People Leader', what advice would you give to the future talents of our country?

I've realised over the years that leadership is all about learning and practicing every day. You need to learn throughout your life and have the zeal to do so at the same time. It can be from books, the internet, other people, and just about any other experience. I would suggest the people of this country to be bold & courageous, to step up, continuously learn, and learn to lead. They should boldly demonstrate their skills. There will be good paths as there will be bad, but it will be a continuous journey of learning. Coupling that with believing in self, identifying personal leadership style and establishing leadership stance is essential.

What would you say is your source of motivation and continuous energy?

That is mostly my upbringing. My family and surroundings have been big influencers in making me who I am today. My formative days in the company have motivated me to learn about teamwork. What motivates me now, is seeing the development and growth of the people I deal with. All around the Asia-Pacific and Middle East, my job requires me to facilitate and encourage leaders to become better leaders and to help grow the next generation of leaders, along with curating the current ones. Thus, their encouragement and growth in turn becomes mine as well.

How would you define yourself outside of work and balance your demanding work life?

Realistically speaking, the world has moved away from work-life balance in a way that it's now time to think in the lines of what entitles happiness at work. My personal philosophy is less about juggling work and more about making sure that the moments I have with my loved ones are quality moments where I'm really present in them. That's not going to be easy when you are in a senior leadership role where you're expected to set the example. So I try to remind myself that mental and physical well-being is a part of my job description too.

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