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typical work day
work day begins at 8:30 in the morning with a visit to either
Credit Agricole Indosuez, a French bank with whom my company
has a classified credit facility, or to Janata, a nationalized
bank which is considering our proposal for debt financing
of an Acrylic yarn project. Although I face the same challenge
of raising money at both banks, my approach differs between
the different banks. When dealing with Indosuez, I must
be very objective with in-depth knowledge of the issues
while with Janata, my frequent visits are what matters most.
Although I did not study business, my keenness towards finance
and my achievements within the business department of my
company have assigned me these responsibilities.
11:30 and 12:00,I visit our textile mill, which is about
an hour's drive from the city. I work there as the technical
director, and my primary responsibilities include monitoring
plant efficiency, product quality, maintenance, and my favorite
-- working on customer response analysis, a recently devised
and relatively unique strategy for quality assurance. The
job is demanding and sometimes challenging. We are continuously
on the look out for new products and means to becoming cost
efficient. By 2:30 or so I leave the mill for our city office.
I work with our executives in preparing and following up
on various proposals, preparing quotations etc. I also attend
meetings with equipment sellers. One of my routine jobs
is to sit with my colleagues in the procurement department
for testing and selection of raw materials, mainly cotton
and dyestuffs. By 4:30,I usually begin work on my personal
business, which I maintain through a separate desk in our
head office. At this desk I maintain my trade intermediary
business for readymade garment export and footwear. I spend
about an hour here before I retire for the day.
significant leadership experience
the last three years I have devoted a significant amount
of time and energy to the betterment of young entrepreneurs,
who in this country are mistreated, stripped of opportunities,
and looked down upon. In my quest to start my own business,
I faced many obstacles that I later found to plague all
entrepreneurs in my country. Established family heads discourage
their younger members from starting separate businesses;
they would rather their younger members join them in the
so called "safe business." Moreover, companies
and government organizations will not award contracts to
young people since older people earn respect for their age
rather than their ideas in this traditional sub-continental
culture. With an uncooperative family and no sources of
funding, young entrepreneurs face little chance of success.
difficult conditions, I realized there were many young people
who were full of potential but lacked support. By meeting
with these people, I motivated them to believe that together
we could help improve collective situation. In October 1996,the
seventeen of us founded the "Young Entrepreneurs Society"
(YES). I served as the coordinator for the first two years.
We figured that in order to get our message heard, we needed
to prove ourselves a significant lot. We started with social
activities like helping poor students with registration
fees for matriculation exams and organizing blood donation
our first seminar on the "Prospect of Software Development
Business in Bangladesh and the Government's Role, "
and five months later we had our second seminar on the "Obstacles
for Young Entrepreneurs in Bangladesh' with the finance
minister as the chief guest. Following our seminar, the
central bank extended loan facilities of up to Tk. 5 lac
(US$ 10,000 Apr.) to new businesses whose proprietor or
director recently graduated. Our organization continues
to push its agenda.
to taking initiative, I managed to lead a group of people
to a collective objective that had previously not been identified.
Through my leadership, I effected change in Bangladesh.
to help an organization change
is a family owned organization run by conventional management
techniques, which include visiting the plant everyday and
solving problems as they occur. As the technical director,
my responsibility, among others, is to maintain product
quality. However, I noticed the company had no communication
with its customers and could not identify the desired quality
of yarns and fabrics in the local market. With management
ignoring dealers' complaints, I and my colleagues in the
technical department decided to establish a system to gather
customer feedback. Our plan ultimately changed our attitude
with our customers, we placed address information forms
in every 50kg carton of finished goods and asked the customers
to fill out and return them for company calendars and diaries.
We collected 267 forms within the first three months and
to my surprise found that those 267 processing mills serve
95% of our customers. A number of complaints required as
little effort as shifting a lever in the winding machine
from one position to another to give a desired winding pattern.
We also followed up on the widespread suggestion to replace
the paper board carton for packing with jute bags which
could be used for other purposes; since jute bags were less
expensive, we were happy to follow this advice. Most importantly,
we established a mechanism whereby we could immediately
and costlessly discover problems with our products.
initially regarded my idea as 'western' and ineffective
in Bangladesh where customers are perceived as being too
concerned with money to answer the questionnaires. While
lobbying constantly, I had to wait a month to get the printing
and stationary bills cleared. Now, our success is obvious
as the attitude towards quality has changed. The biggest
beneficiary of the idea is our cigarette plant. They had
to do lot more groundwork and spend much more money to set
up the system as their customer base is bigger and more
diverse. However, it seems the idea is paying off with increased
demand and customer loyalty. I look forward to devising
more such ideas by leveraging my business education.
has to understand sub-continental culture regarding marriage
in order to understand this particular crisis. Marriages
are classified into two groups: 'settled' marriage and 'affair'
marriage. In a 'settled' marriage, the groom's family chooses
the bride, and if bride's family accepts the groom, the
two families get together and fix the marriage. The bride
and the groom may or may not meet each other before the
marriage. In an 'affair' marriage, two persons fall in love
and get married, with or without the permission of their
families. This is considered a social crime, and the newlyweds
are forced to leave their families.
I came back from the US, I met my sweetheart who was attending
medical school. We courted each other for years, and when
she graduated we figured it was time to marry. I asked my
family to select the woman of my choice so as to marry the
woman I love without upsetting social norms. When my mother
proposed my fiancée's family, her mother wanted to see me
personally. I assumed she would consider me a suitable candidate
for her daughter's husband since I come from a good family
and since I am qualified to maintain a family. However,
rather than looking for qualities in me that might make
her daughter happy, she demanded that I posses an MBA degree
before I marry her daughter. Apparently, all of her relatives'
and friends' daughters got married to either MBAs or Ph.D.'s.
dumbfounded. I would have gladly given the moon to her daughter,
but I was not about to earn an MBA to satisfy this woman's
irrational craving. How would an MBA help me to become a
better husband? Even though I intended to pursue an MBA
anyway, I could not agree to her demand. I told her that
I would never earn an MBA. As a result, I couldn't marry
the woman of my dreams.
true to my personal values, and it cost me the woman I love.
most substantial Accomplishments
trained as an engineer, my most substantial accomplishments
have been in non-engineering sectors since the management
and finance divisions of my company necessitated my involvement
and a change in my career goals.
the early 1990's, after the introduction of the free economy
in Bangladesh, almost all of our companies in our family
owned business began losing money, and I needed to help
save it. There I was, the poor little textile engineer,
answering questions asked by people from Citicorp, the agents
from Soros Funds, and many other local banks. Despite my
lack of business expertise at the time, our issue was overbooked,
and by the following three weeks we collected the money
from the first privately issued bond in Bangladesh. I worked
with a team of highly dedicated and experienced professionals
with degrees from the finest institutions of the world.
Through teamwork, I helped to save my company; I consider
this the biggest achievement in my professional life.
biggest achievement was again saving the company. Our biggest
textile plant, consisting of about seventy percent of our
group's asset, was bought through tender from the government
of Bangladesh under its denationalizing scheme. The payment
was to be made through half-yearly installments, but our
company began defaulting in late 1997. By that time Peregrine
collapsed, and we were on our own. I proposed the board
raise money by offering some of the company's vast vacant
land for joint venture. Although the proposal was believed
impractical and unattainable, I nevertheless contacted a
number of multinationals. Only Cemex Cement of Mexico responded,
but our deal eventually fell through and the government
began preparing for takeover.
last minute resort to save the company, I prepared an attractive
offer and contacted Scancem of Finland and Holderbank of
Switzerland. Holderbank responded and opted for outright
purchase of the land. However, they attached a condition
that we complete all the formalities needed to set up their
plant in Bangladesh before they make any agreement with
us. We agreed and started working on the endless list of
permits, permissions and licenses that one faces by investing
in Bangladesh. I guided the whole process and coordinated
the activities of engineers, lawyers, bureaucrats, financial
advisors, etc. I also was forced to deal with the highest
body of religious law, the Islamic Foundation, since there
was a mosque in the designated plot and the mosque had to
be relocated -- a very rare and sensitive issue in Bangladesh.
I read a number of books to understand Islamic laws, organized
several community meetings, and met the chairman of the
Foundation twice to defend our case; we finally got the
in our mission and on December 17,1998,I signed the Memorandum
of Understanding with Cemcor Ltd., the local subsidiary
of Holderbank. It was a thrilling moment for me to conclude
a deal with the largest cement and clinker producer in the
world. With my signing, Bangladesh received the biggest
foreign investment ever, excluding power generation and
fertilizer sectors. The deal was so complicated that even
the sale price would be paid to us by a letter of credit,
the first such letter of credit in Bangladesh.
most important accomplishment was joining my company as
the deputy technical director and taking charge of 34 technicians
and a number of engineers and assistant engineers. I found
that for every single technical problem at least one engineer
had to be called upon to advise the technicians. However,
I wanted our engineers concentrate on research, and after
interviewing every technician, I realized that they needed
to be educated as to what quality level to maintain. At
the end of the educating process, we gave them decision-making
authority. Contrary to the suspicions of many of my colleagues,
my plan worked, and our technicians are sufficient enough
to handle most problems by themselves. The plant downtime
was reduced, and engineers could focus on more value adding
affairs. Improving employee knowledge and empowerment paid
my father's recent death, I have been serving as a member
of the board of directors of 'The City Bank Limited, ' the
nation's first and largest private sector bank. I have earned
this position not by merit or professional qualities but
by replacing my father who was the founder director of the
bank and was an architect of the debut of private sector
banking in Bangladesh. Other than attending board meetings
once every month or two, I have not taken an active role
in the bank's affairs. I opted not to be member of any executive
committee of the bank because I do not think I am up to
the job yet. But from my little exposure, I try to learn
as much as I can. I want to be more mature and educated
in the field so that I can make a contribution to this sector
which is so vital to the development of the country.
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