28 Jul,2018


Two companies and two individuals were honoured yesterday at the 17th edition of the Bangladesh Business Awards for their extraordinary success and contribution to the economy.

M Anis Ud Dowla, chairman of ACI Limited, was crowned the Business Person of the Year for outstanding corporate success, integrity, leadership qualities and business acumen.

Renata, one of the country's leading pharmaceuticals companies, took home the Enterprise of the Year award for its remarkable entrepreneurial spirit and innovations.

Pioneer Insurance Company Limited won the accolade in the Best Financial Institution category.

Afsana Asif Shoma, managing partner of Asix, a local producer of jute goods, won the award in the Outstanding Woman in Business category

Finance Minister AMA Muhith handed over the trophies to the winners at a grand ceremony at the capital's Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden last night.

Politicians and eminent personalities from the corporate world graced the event organised by DHL Express, the world's leading logistics company, and The Daily Star, Bangladesh's leading English newspaper.

Speaking as the chief guest, Muhith said, “The award is not only honouring the businesspeople, it is also recognising the contribution of the business community as a whole.”

Md Miarul Haque, country manager of DHL Express Bangladesh, called for collaboration between experts, entrepreneurs and policymakers to get prepared for a new e-commerce era.

There is an emergence of a huge global e-commerce market with around 160 crore online shoppers. The size of the market will be $3.4 trillion by 2019, he mentioned.

In Bangladesh, thousands are selling products online and focusing entirely on the local market estimated at about $25 million, said Miarul.

“You have the opportunity to reach all the seven billion people in the world instead of only 165 million in Bangladesh right from your garage or bedroom.”

But these sellers are struggling in terms of expertise and technical know-how to move to the global platform, said the DHL country head.

“It is time to think and act on how we can capitalise on our strength to penetrate this global e-commerce market with our own brands.

“We need to work hand in hand with different industry experts, entrepreneurs, and policymakers to support favourable policies, regulatory reforms or simplifications at a speed that is timely and relevant,” he  added.

“The award recognises your [winners] good work and gives the credits you deserve. I hope DHL and The Daily Star will continue the awards in the future as it will encourage businesses, women entrepreneurs and financial institutions.”

About M Anis Ud Dowla, Muhith said, “He is an icon in Bangladesh.”

The minister also pointed out that it is important for Bangladesh to add value to its goods.

“This is an area where Bangladesh has special excellence. We should continue to add value to our products and send them to global consumers,” he added.

Tapan Chowdhury said Pioneer Insurance started its journey with the aim of bringing back people's confidence to the insurance industry.

“So, from day one, we have been rule-based and transparent. That is why we are successful,” he added.

Kaiser Kabir said all the credit for Renata's success goes to its young team that has been given a lot of responsibilities.

M Anis Ud Dowla said, “This award is something the business community in Bangladesh looks forward to. This gives us tremendous encouragement to do even better.”

When ACI was established, its vision was to make quality products even if the approach didn't bring a lot of money, he mentioned.

“We wanted to do good for people, and we have stuck to it. As a result, our company has become the first company in Bangladesh to have the ISO 9001 standards.”

Afsana Asif Shoma said Bangladesh is the best in producing jute. But if the products are not well-designed and aesthetic, people will not accept them.

“So, I want to take attractive jute products to the global stage,” she added.

The Bangladesh Business Awards was introduced in 2000 with the specific objective of creating an environment of excellence and competitiveness, one that would drive the members of the business community to scale greater heights of productivity, efficiency, financial discipline and modern management. 

Over the years, the awards shaped up into the most prestigious, credible and sought after recognition for Bangladesh's business community.

Muhammad A (Rumee) Ali, chief executive officer of the Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre and a former deputy governor of the central bank, lauded the Bangladesh Business Awards.

“The award is given to individuals and companies for their business excellence and corporate governance. This encourages the winners to do more,” he added.

Michael Patrick Foley, chief executive officer of Grameenphone, said rewarding excellence is necessary for encouraging innovation and performance.

“The Bangladesh Business Awards, in their 17th year, represent the pinnacle of business achievement.”

Peers recognising peers is one of the most important forms of validation one can receive. “As businesspeople, we seek to make contributions not only to our businesses and shareholders but to the communities and the nation that we serve,” he added.

Five construction workers, who were winners of the “Nirmaner Taroka”, a reality TV show of Shah Cement to promote the country's construction workers, performed at the programme alongside artistes Sandhi and Swagata.

When the group sang “Dhono Dhanno Pushpa Bhora”, the entire audience, including Muhith and Rokia Afzal Rahman, former adviser to a caretaker government, joined in the chorus. The band received a standing ovation from the guests.

The programme was attended by, among others, Mahbubur Rahman, president of the International Chamber of Commerce Bangladesh; M Matiul Islam, the country's first finance secretary; Geeteara Safiya Choudhury, former adviser to a caretaker government; ATM Shamsul Huda, former chief election commissioner; Latifur Rahman, chairman and managing director of Transcom Group; Anis A Khan, managing director of Mutual Trust Bank; Syed Mahbubur Rahman, chairman of the Association of Bankers, Bangladesh; Francois de Maricourt, CEO of HSBC Bangladesh; Debapriya Bhattacharya and Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellows of Centre for Policy Dialogue; and Rubana Huq, managing director of Mohammadi Group. 

Business Person of the Year is M Anis Ud Dowla, Chairman, ACI Ltd

His journey into the realms of business began nearly 60 years ago.

Starting off as a multinational's branch sales manager in 1960, Dowla gradually made his way to the top of the career ladder, only to sign up as an entrepreneur 32 years later to build an empire, Advanced Chemical Industries  (ACI).

Comprising two publicly listed companies and 12 subsidiaries with diverse interests ranging from pharmaceuticals, consumers goods and agribusiness to the biggest retail chain, the ACI now has a turnover of nearly Tk 5,000 crore and employs over 15,000 people.

The ACI is one of the pioneers of iodised salt production in Bangladesh.

Dowla adopts the work culture of multinationals and always focuses on maintaining quality and hygiene, which led to the attainment of two certifications for the first time in the country: the ISO 9001 on quality management and ISO 14001 on environmental management.

Dowla, now ACI chairman, said he was happy to be recognised. “It gives me a lot of satisfaction,” he added.

Born on March 1, 1937 in Faridpur, Dowla studied physics at the University of Dhaka and later obtained a master's degree in public administration from the University of Karachi. 

Best Financial Institution of the Year is  Pioneer Insurance Company Ltd:

In a country where proactive purchase of policies is non-existent, running an insurance business is undoubtedly a big challenge.

A professional board of directors alongside good governance got the job done for Pioneer Insurance Company Ltd to become one of the sector's best companies, an institution par excellence.

Local conglomerates like Square and Apex have accompanied Pioneer as sponsors in its run to turn up as the country's second largest insurer in terms of profitability.

On receiving the award, Tapan Chowdhury, chairman of Pioneer Insurance, said there are many awards but this one is unique because of its quality and standards as well as the in-depth analysis that is carried out to pick the winners.

“This is a prestigious award and it is already established in society. This inspires businesses and entrepreneurs.”

Established in 1996, the company earned over Tk 266 crore as premium in 2017.

Presently, there are 46 non-life insurance companies in Bangladesh.

Pioneer now has 42 branches and 526 employees.

Sponsors own 45.14 percent share in the company, general investors 31.69 percent and institutions 23.10 percent. It contributed Tk 35.42 crore to the national coffer in 2016.

"We don't run after business. We follow the rules and regulations strictly," said QAFM Serajul Islam, consultant of the insurer. 

Outstanding Woman in Business is Afsana Asif Shoma, Managing Partner, Asix Ltd:

During childhood designing saris with her mother was a cherished activity for Afsana Asif Shoma, managing partner of Asix Limited, a jute goods exporter with shipments of $1.5 million a year.

That hobby turned into a source of pocket money during her university days and now it's a full-blown enterprise that provides livelihood to 50.

It was just three years ago, in 2015, that Asix shipped its first consignment of jute goods overseas: to Malta. Since then, there has been no looking back.

Today, Asix's products, which are made at its factory in the capital's Khilkhet area and also in Narsingdi and Rajshahi, are shipped to Canada, Japan, Italy and France.

Shoma also supplies jute goods to local corporate houses, banks and the Institute of Business Administration of Dhaka University, raking in Tk 5 lakh a month.

Her business journey started in 2000 with a Tk 25 lakh loan from MIDAS Financing. First it was a dressmaking business and later Asix.

It is not capital but the dearth of skilled workers that is the biggest hindrance in doing business, said Shoma.

“I have a dream of making my business bigger not for money only but to enhance my country's image.”

Enterprise of the Year is Renata Ltd:

Renata Ltd is the fourth largest pharmaceutical company in Bangladesh and one of the industry's fastest growing enterprises.

It continues for the past 20 years or so to be the market leader for animal health products, while human medicine is its other core business.

It is also the country's largest manufacturer of oral saline alongside oral contraceptives, two-thirds of which are used in government programmes. It is also one of the world's largest suppliers of micronutrient powders. 

Renata exports to countries such as Afghanistan, Belize, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Guyana, Honduras, Hong Kong, Kenya, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.

Employing about 6,000 people, its turnover was Tk 1,604 crore in 2016-17, registering a 13 percent growth year-on-year. Its profit after tax was Tk 262 crore, up 18.5 percent from that a year ago.

In 2016-17, Renata paid Tk 381 crore to the national exchequer as corporate income tax, import duties and value added tax.

The company started its operations in 1972 as Pfizer (Bangladesh) Ltd. In 1993, Pfizer transferred the ownership of its Bangladesh operations to local shareholders and the name was changed to Renata Ltd.

Syed Humayun Kabir, the first managing director of Pfizer Bangladesh, led from the front as its chairman to turn it into one of the country's top pharmaceutical companies within a short time. 

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