AKM Zabed, Chief Marketing Officer of Anwar Group of Industries, is a firm believer in the versatile changes in different industries and the hard work that follows to ensure success, AKM Zabed is the Chief Marketing Officer at Anwar Group of Industries.

Throughout his illustrious career, Mr. Zabed has worked in sales, marketing, advertising in retail, consumer goods, foods & beverages, and real estate. He served brands like Heinz, Colgate, Savlon, Candarel, Equal, Tetley, ACI Salt, Uro-Cola, Fizz-Up, Tiger, Acme, Keya and many more. Prior to joining Anwar Group, Mr. Zabed worked for The McKinney Partnership Architects & SUBWAY (USA), Keya Cosmetics Ltd, Building Technology & Ideas Ltd., ACME Agrovet & Beverage Ltd., Globe Foods & Beverage Ltd., and ACI Ltd.

Always looking for a way to do something new and challenging and growing profoundly in the process, Mr. Zabed walked us through his journey and shared insights on marketing.

BBF: Tell us about your career journey briefly. What made you shift from FMCG industry to Building Materials, Real Estate and Automobiles?

AKM Zabed: FMCG is slowly moving towards saturation, although category expansion is expected in this sector. However, the latter industries that you mentioned in your question, are the booming industries. Bangladesh is just stepping into the developing country status and only 34% people have a 2nd home right now. So, huge progress is yet to be made, which motivated me to move to this industry. I believed that the experiences gathered from the fast-paced nature of a mature industry like FMCG would add value here and make visible shifts and changes. When I shifted, I tried to convert it into one like an FMCG operation – made it more analytical, data-driven, fast-paced and aggressive which helped us grow last year at around 40%. Moreover, these heavy industries contribute hugely to the country’s GDP, which was another motivation for me. So, being a part of this industry gives me the feeling that I am playing my part in helping the country grow.

As a CMO, you are involved with a versatile set of work starting from the grassroots level to the very top. What is that like?

I enjoy this. In my previous roles, I worked on products from salt to tea to flour and more. As a brand development guy, I had to work on different categories. So, I had exposure to different industries from the very beginning. So the versatility was never tiring, rather it was very enjoyable. Being a Gemini, I don’t like to stick to just one thing, I like to move around and do different things, especially professionally. And during my holidays I spent time working for the advertising industry as a strategic planner for multiple brands. This helped me learn about markets and products and expanding my knowledge on strategies. And it’s the very same here with the products being for the rural, suburban and urban areas. The products range from polymer to ispat to motors which require different studies and strategies and I enjoy doing that. Everything is different, from raw materials to production to distribution to sales operation to brand communication, my involvement has always been with the whole value chain. Which basically brought me up a business executive when I started out, as opposed to a brand or communications executive. This involvement with all the modules of the value chain is something I genuinely enjoy. Wherever I went, be it Uro- Cola or ACME or BTI or Keya Cosmetics it was always the same – starting from the bottom, starting at the factories. It was always about looking into ways of making the most out of everything, making things cost effective. I learned how doing production during the day was more expensive than doing it at night, so I changed that. You need to go out and get completely dissolved with the customers, with trade, with the suppliers, with the production and distribution process, with the sales process. Only then you can properly understand the business and guide with the proper strategy.

It’s quite evident that there has been a lot of relearning and unlearning for you working for Anwar Group, what was that experience like? And how big a role has innovation played here?

My experiences from the FMCG industry helped me immensely, especially when I initially moved here. When I went for my higher studies in the US, I was involved with a few part-time jobs that helped me gain a lot of modern learning. I learned there that for decisions involving market analysis, potential derivation, market allocation, choosing channel partner, formulating strategies. The process was more analytical and data-driven. And it wasn’t just limited to sales. It expanded to communication and even budgeting. All of these that I learned during my stay in the United States help me even to this day. A lot of practices we have in Anwar Group, which some of the biggest companies in the country yet to do. We’re extremely driven by innovation and data analytics here, something that I learned initially from my work in America.

Do you face any challenges in terms of marketing for automobiles in Bangladesh?

The budget that is required for the communication of automobile in the country, I feel is withheld by the margin. This is a significant challenge here. Another challenge is that by the time a new brand or model is brought in, the older ones become obsolete outside making it difficult for us to provide spare parts. And lastly, the gradual shift of the industry in spaces like solar energy or electricity usage isn’t supported by the country’s infrastructure. We’re not moving at the same pace as Europe or America and so the eco-friendly models from those regions aren’t suitable for us yet, which is causing a scarcity for us.

How do you work on channel management for Anwar Group?

Consumers aren’t quite aware of all the available product’s quality since these are technical products. Engineers and experts understand these better than the common people. So, we depend a lot on this group of influential people. So, they’re required to be educated first instead of being convinced seeing beautiful ads only, since they educate the consumers and it can sometimes be a challenge.

Is there anything you’d like to suggest to the young and aspiring marketers?

After my undergrads, I taught business courses in quite a few private universities across the city and I’ve seen the state of the students. And based on that, my suggestion is that they become more serious and studious. You need to study rigorously to know the basics and then move on to the practical implementation. Those who want to start their own businesses should definitely gather some experience, that teaches you the practical elements you need for your own work.


Transcribed by Arshae Ahmed

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