Shafiat Shoban Sanvir: The Leader who is Transforming the World into a Better Business Ecosystem
Peoples Time Desk
30 years ago, when Bangladesh was talking baby steps towards becoming a developing nation, it has many visions and actions to consider. One of them was having such leaders who can work towards achieving those visions through their actions and unsurmountable grit & foresightedness. Shafiat Shoban Sanvir is one of such leaders who have been instrumental in creating an ecosystem that plays an important role in putting Bangladesh on the global business map.
Under his leadership, Bashundhara Group has emerged as one of the most trustworthy conglomerate that offers a vast range of products and services to its customers. a visionary leader in the true sense, he has invested heavily in various sectors and has created a work culture that is truly humane. In an Interview with Shafiat to learn more about his leadership skills and get his piece of advice for the young & emerging leaders.
Retail is a growing, competitive market. It needs constant innovation to succeed. How did you manage to make your organization, Bashundhara Group, a global conglomerate?
The Bashundhara Group believes in the creation of opportunities for the nation, and that innovation is the key to make that happen. The Group as a whole makes an effort to modify itself on a regular basis in order to stay consistent with the times and remain competitive in the commercial world.
We always look for import-substitutes, whenever we consider a new venture. We analyze the industry, and our R&D department is constantly developing import-alternative products, as our vision is “For the People, For the Country”.
Bashundhara Group provides consumers with high-quality products at extremely competitive fair price. To provide high-quality products to regular and future customers, we have ensured an effective procurement, production and distribution network in an effective supply chain module.
People and packaging are essential marketing strategies that we examine as part of the 7P’s. After 20 years, a new generation will emerge, demand high-quality products that meet international standards. Local businesses must adapt to the global value chain (sourcing to reaching customer) in order to survive in the global marketplace. This is how we are transforming ourselves into a worldwide corporation.
Your journey is a life lesson for many emerging and current leaders in the retail sector. Tell us some important aspects of your journey that others can learn from.
We believe to lead an organization is nearly impossible to bear by unattended any supporting industries. Bashundhara is not only concerned with machine output, but also with man behind the machine. Within our team, we maintain a harmonic management style. According to me, if people are set free to work, it creates a sense of responsibility and ownership among them to do the job sincerely. I only give directions to my employees instead of micro managing them. It gives them space to think freely and utilize their potential to achieve.
Another important aspect behind the rapid expansion of Bashundhara Group is that it provides a 360-degree solution, including both forward and backward linkage. For example, while purchasing raw materials, Bashundhara does not limit itself to gathering simply raw materials, but also focuses on guiding growers.
Later, in order to set the trend for finished goods, we strive toward generic demand, just as Bashundhara doing these things 30 years to now with generic demand for LPG. Our country relied solely on imports in the cement and bitumen industries. Bashundhara was the only one who thought of doing bulk business in these categories. It has invested huge in upstream logistics, which escalated our retail concerns, like LPG, Cement, Bitumen and F&B.
These are the distinct working styles that I believe are vital in my journey.
You have been a part of the retail industry since its brick-and-mortar days to going online. What are some of your crucial observations and learnings that still are relevant?
Globally, a seismic shift has been noticed. Thanks to E-commerce platforms such as Amazon and Alibaba. Our country has caught up in the flood of that change. Conversion does not happen quickly in Bangladesh because it is a developing economy and a developing country. In our country, people’s purchasing power and the expense of meeting networking are inconvenient. E-commerce is highly used in urban and suburban areas, whereas access to online platforms is still unavailable in the periphery and rural areas.
In my opinion, it will take some time. We already have tie up to some established E-commerce firms, as launching our own online platform is not our plan now because it is not the right time, but we are keeping an eye on the topic. If the majority of the population uses the internet to make purchases, we will attend.
We are already taking LPG orders from our online platform, besides we have several order points across the country. Moreover, we have set up few display & sales centers for our food items in pilot basis to make our products price more convenient to the end users.
Customer service & experience are two crucial elements of a successful business. How do you use technologies like AI, ML, robotics, digital payments and others to the fullest to serve your customers better?
The hotline number was used to manage client comments in the not-too-distant past. We do have our own survey program, which is run in a secure, customized style. We also have a media business that is monitored on a daily basis by our own monitoring system. Though we have not yet launched any AI technology, still we are continually listening to user feedback through other module. We began this one-of-a-kind system long before the other local giants.
In some ways, we supply our products at a modest price; thanks to an effective internal financial management system. A high-quality product at a reasonable price. We use our MIS to forecast orders to maintain our product prices competitive and increase brand equity. Bashundhara is entirely focused on the consumer, and we make the most of our interactions with them.
What would be your piece of advice for the emerging retail entrepreneurs and leaders?
Retail provides a window into the behavior of hundreds of thousands of customers. Customers’ feedback, movement, and altered demand must be channeled through the sales team, from sales representative to management level. Within no time, we receive input from customers on product compatibility, quality, and packaging via CRM.
Those who want to succeed in the retail industry, whether now or later, must be prepared to face the initial hurdle of networking. The ability to obtain information from end customers. To set up this networking, sufficient funds must be available; else, survival will be impossible.
To be a successful entrepreneur, one must have to understand the business dynamics, take decision as quickly as possible, hungry to invest, uncompromising on product quality. Last but not the least, possessing integrity and ethics are must.