Two enterprises and two individuals were honoured with the prestigious Bangladesh Business Awards yesterday for standing out among their peers for their contribution to the economy that came through hard work, ethics and governance.
Muhammed Aziz Khan, chairman of Summit Industrial and Mercantile Corporation Ltd (SIMCL), won the coveted award in the Business Person of the Year category, while Walton Hi-tech Industries in the Business Enterprise category, Mutual Trust Bank in the Best Financial Institution category and Rubana Huq, managing director of Mohammadi Group, in the Outstanding Woman in Business category.
They accepted the awards from Finance Minister AMA Muhith at the awards ceremony attended by nearly 300 guests, including diplomats, politicians, industrialists, corporate heads, economists, civil society members and celebrities in the evening at Sonargaon hotel in Dhaka.
DHL Express, the world’s leading logistics company, in association with The Daily Star, the leading English daily in Bangladesh, hosted the awards night, which has been recognising and celebrating excellence in business leadership in Bangladesh since 2000.
Aziz Khan was crowned with the award for the success of SIMCL, which is helping build the country’s infrastructure that Bangladesh and its entrepreneurs and 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 so far invested $1.2 billion in the country. Its revenue income was Tk 5,000 crore last year, up 64 percent over 2013, due to the commissioning of 350-megawatt Summit Meghnaghat power plant. It employs about 5,000 people.
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, 0.3 million motorcycles, 0.3 million air conditioners and 1 million television sets.
Its products are exported to 19 countries including the UAE, Myanmar, Sudan, Qatar, Nepal, Bhutan, India (seven sisters), Ghana, Afghanistan, South Africa, Uganda, Oman, Iraq, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Walton employs around 14,000 people.
Mutual Trust Bank was picked for being one of the best-run banks in the country 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. Its nonperforming loan was 2.67 percent last year, against the sector’s double digit average.
This year’s Outstanding Woman in Business of the Year winner Rubana Huq leads one of the leading and pioneering garment companies in Bangladesh. She was picked for excelling in her professional life both as a leader and role model.
She faced numerous challenges in her life but every time she came out victorious.
A brilliant student, Rubana had to give up study despite recording her name in the national merit list in her HSC. But apart from successfully managing family and the growing business, she also came back to university after a gap. Now she is doing her PhD at an Indian university to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher.
Her group also grew: it 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, the group employs 9,000 workers in its eight garment factories.
A trailblazer, Rubana is setting up a new woven garment 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.
Currently, the group is running two primary schools at the factory level for the children of garment workers, and plans to do the same in all its garment factories.
Rubana also takes care of those who don’t want to give up. For example, the Asian University for Women in Chittagong has enrolled five workers of the group so they can pursue higher studies. The entrepreneur will pay the fees for the next five years.
The awards night started with a dance performance by a group of artistes to the tune of popular song “Mora Jhornar Moto Ujjol” (we are bright like a cascade) written by national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam.
At the presentation ceremony of the 15th edition of the awards, all the speakers extolled the winners who made the cut for their outstanding contributions.
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.
Yasmin added respects had to be paid to the women workforce as they are contributing to the economic development.
Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, said the awards celebrate the greatest achievement of the businesses for their contribution to the economic growth and taking Bangladeshi brands to the international level.
Mahfuz Anam said the awards honour the success of the enterprises and individuals who had made the country successful.
He said much of the business community’s energy is absorbed by the political chaos and regulatory impediments among other challenges.
“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 in the world stage. “The enterprises should be given environment so they can upscale their business.”
The finance minister said the country 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 its citizens. The government and the private sector, which comprised 80 percent of the country’s economic activities, also played a key role.
He added the businesses and businessmen should work in a belief that pursuit of excellence was an award in itself. “If you have that excellence you will be awarded one day.”
The minister said the winners of the awards, past and present, gave the much needed spark that took the country forward.
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.
SM Mahbubul Alam, a director of Walton Group, said this was a big achievement for the group as the awards have honoured major successful companies in the past.
“This will encourage us in our journey to the future.”
He added instead of importing, the company would set up a manufacturing plant for compressor for refrigerator and air-conditioners by the middle of next year. “We also plan to set up a smartphone factory.”
Rubana Huq said the women workforce is the deciding factor behind a garment factory’s success. “So, all entrepreneurs should invest in developing human resources.”
She said as she took her businesses forward she would maintain the best possible socially responsible practices. “Our entrepreneurs also need to take a hard look at the people working in the factories.”
Anis A Khan, managing director of Mutual Trust Bank, said his bank was different from others 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.”
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.
It was created to 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 economic growth.
Anjan Chowdhury, deputy managing director of Square Group and whose father Samson H Chowdhury won the award in its inaugural edition, said it was absolutely a prestigious award as winners were picked through strict criteria. “It encourages existing and new businesses.”
Rokia Afzal Rahman, former president of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Latifur Rahman, chief executive officer of Transcom Group, Annisul Huq, mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation, were also present among the attendees.