Ashraf Bin Taj is one of the leading business professional who turned into an entrepreneur with a unique blend of working experience in multinational and large local corporate organizations. He is specialized in leading and managing multi-business portfolio with large teams. You can click here to learn about some of the key concepts behind best business practice when it comes to simplifying such a mammoth task.
Mr. Taj has taken up the role as President of the Marketing Society of Bangladesh (MSB). Previously he was the Director – Business Development of MSB.
In his 22 year long career, Ashraf Bin Taj excelled in many important roles in different organizations. After doing his MBA from IBA of Dhaka University, he started his career at Berger Paints BD. Ltd. in 1995. After two years, with a short stint in M. M. Ispahani Ltd., he moved to Nestle Bangladesh Ltd. And worked there for 9 years. Prior to starting his own company in August 2013, Mr. Taj worked for ACI Limited for 8 years where he worked as Business Director for Consumer Brands.
He is currently the co-owner and Managing Director of International Distribution Company Bangladesh (Pvt) Ltd., which is representing world renowned companies like FERRERO, NIVEA, AMUL and Unilever International as Distributor in Bangladesh. Mr. Taj is the Board Director of Tetley ACI Bangladesh Limited and also the Advisor of T.K. Group of Industries (Consumer Division). As an industry expert, he is invited to different seminars and workshops as speaker & resource person and by different business schools as guest lecturer.
New MSB President, Ashraf Bin Taj shares about the upcoming chapters of MSB exclusively with Bangladesh Brand Forum (BBF).
BBF: Congratulations on being the new President for Marketing Society of Bangladesh). How do you feel about taking on this responsibility?
Ashraf Bin Taj: Thank you very much. I feel really humbled and greatly honoured for bestowing this huge responsibility on me by the Board of MSB. Especially, I am grateful to our immediate past President, my Teacher, Prof. Syed Ferhat Anwar and General Secretary, Shariful Islam who supported me throughout my association with MSB as a board member for last two and half years and encouraged me to take on this responsibility. It gives me the opportunity to lead MSB as the catalyst for enhancing the knowledge on Marketing and Branding and promote application among the Marketing fraternity of Bangladesh which includes marketers, students, marketing enthusiasts, corporates and also the professional bodies who can transform the society, country and the world at large through responsible use of Marketing. It certainly gives me a great sense of accomplishment as a marketing professional to take on this role at this stage of my career.
BBF: Could you please share what MSB is and what it does?
Ashraf Bin Taj: Marketing Society of Bangladesh (MSB) is a non-profit, non-government and non-political organization which was established on 3rd January 2013 to be the strongest platform for Marketing and Sales professionals of the country. It was founded by our respected teacher of Institute of Business Administration, Dhaka University Prof. Syed Ferhat Anwar. Currently the Executive Committee has 12 members, represented by renowned academicians, professionals and entrepreneurs.
MSB is the member of Asia Marketing Federation (AMF), the apex networking body of all the marketing associations in Asia. There are 16 member countries in AMF, which include Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
MSB actively promotes Bangladesh to the world through the network of AMF. Last year it participated in the Asia Marketing Excellence Award competition for the ‘Marketing 3.0 Company of the Year’ with the case of BRAC Aarong, and it won! This enhanced the image of Bangladeshi organizations big time at Asian level. Nowadays we get lot of queries from different countries to learn more about Bangladeshi companies and about their businesses and marketing practices, which I consider to be a big achievement.
Besides AMF, MSB also works as the strategic partner of Bangladesh Brand Forum (BBF) where it actively provides thought leadership in many of BBF’s projects and events at local and international level.
As I mentioned in the earlier answer, the idea of MSB is to be the platform to play the role of catalyst in the industry for enhancing the knowledge on Marketing and branding and promote application of responsible Marketing practices which can transform the society, country and the world at large.
BBF: You have a successful career spanning over 20 years as a professional, and you have recently joined the Entrepreneur league. How has the journey from being a professional to an entrepreneur been?
Ashraf Bin Taj: Transition from being a professional to an entrepreneur had been the most fascinating journey in my professional life so far. I believe the journey of an entrepreneur is never very smooth. And, the real entrepreneurs do not expect a very smooth path as well. It is the challenges and the uncertainties that makes the life of an entrepreneur more rewarding and fulfilling.
This had been a key question that I faced from many of my friends and family members as to whether I was making a mistake and taking too much of a risk by leaving a very successful corporate professional career and starting something of my own. I believe that was one of the best decisions that I could take to leave behind the glamour of top level corporate executive’s life and start from scratch. I did not believe it was too late even after working for almost 20 years as corporate executive. If you have a great idea, supported by very clear strategy and action plans, then all you need is to recognize the right opportunity to capitalize on for implementation. In my case, I just waited for that one. When Almighty gave me the right opportunity, then I just jumped in to it. I got tremendous support from my immediate family members and a few real friends which was the key for me to stick to my decision of changing the career path.
Our organization, International Distribution Company Bangladesh (Pvt) Ltd. started its journey in August 2013 with only 26 people, representing Ferrero chocolate company in Bangladesh. Today, after little more than three and a half years, our company has more than 310 people under our direct employment and proudly represents global companies like Ferrero, Nivea, Amul and Unilever International. Few more international brands will be added to this list soon.
The knowledge and skills which I acquired in the previous two decades as a business professional was very instrumental in establishing the new company. Today our company is a very good example of co-creation of value and strategic partnerships.
BBF: And, how will this additional responsibility affect you?
Ashraf Bin Taj: I can only see positive impact! I do not see any negative effect at all in my business! I always had the commitment towards development of the knowledge and skills in the industry. I used to spend good amount of time in training, coaching and mentoring Marketing and Sales professionals. I used to take classes at different business schools as guest lecturer. Helping the industry through spreading knowledge and developing skills is my personal commitment. I am very passionate about it. My role in MSB and my close association with BBF gives me the opportunity to work towards my commitments. And, if you are passionate about something, you can always manage quality time for that. Moreover, MSB gives me the opportunity to connect with the network of AMF, which keeps me updated on the best practices in business all across Asia. That in fact is a big gain in my entrepreneurial journey.
BBF: There’s a debate about Marketing & Sales being Complimentary or Contradictory. What’s your opinion on the issue?
Ashraf Bin Taj: It is certainly Complimentary. Job of Marketing is to create, communicate and deliver value to a target market at a profit for the organization for sustainability. In order to deliver that value, you need to develop the value delivery network through which you can reach the target customers. That is where the role of Sales function comes in to play. Therefore, it is obviously Complimentary.
BBF: Your own organization International Distribution Company Bangladesh (Pvt.) Ltd. is a supply chain centric organization. How does your expertise of marketing come into play in the activities of IDC?
Ashraf Bin Taj: We are not only a distribution company where you focus on the front end of the supply chain. We are a sales and distribution company where I have a big opportunity to apply my expertise as a Marketing and Sales professional. The bigger role I get to play for my company is with my Principals. I work closely with them in deciding on the products and SKUs for our market and provide active support to develop the marketing plan for those products. The knowledge of the local market is invaluable to all the international companies who want to do business in Bangladesh.
BBF: What are your thoughts regarding the transition from Marketing 3.0 to Marketing 4.0?
Ashraf Bin Taj: The fundamentals of Marketing 3.0 will not change while transitioning to the Marketing 4.0. It is like the Human Values. Regardless of which stage of development you are in, the fundamental values remain the same. So will be the case for Marketing. Brands will still have to connect to the Mind, Heart and Spirit of the consumers to be able to deliver business objectives, which are the core of Marketing 3.0. The change will come in how brands will communicate effectively to establish the engagement with the consumers in the era of digital and social media where attention span is very low. Designing the right content will be the key for the brands to ensure effective communication and stay relevant in the lives of the consumers. Organizations will have lesser and lesser control over media. In one hand positive and engaging works complimented by good user experience will generate individual brand advocates; at the same time, any negative brand experience will have the potential danger to generate uncontrollable negative PR. Ensuring transparency for the brands will no longer be a choice, but a fact that organizations will have to live with. Organizations will need to build the digital capability within the Marketing function to stay in tune with the digital consumers. In my opinion, these are the key points for consideration in the transition towards Marketing 4.0.
BBF: What are the initiatives MSB plans to take in the near future?
Ashraf Bin Taj: There are number of initiatives which I can mention quickly at this point in time:
- Presently the works of at least two Bangladeshi organizations to Asia Marketing Federation board to compete for Asia Marketing Excellence Award (AMEA) in 2017.
- Collaborate with Marketing Institute of Singapore (MIS) to offer their flagship product “Certified Professional Marketer (CPM)” which is recognized by AMF to Bangladeshi professionals and students.
- Play the lead role as AMF member in promoting World Marketing Community (WMC), the online collaborating and knowledge platform for global marketers, which was launched from Dhaka in last March 2017 after the AMF Board Meeting.
- Collaborate more with AMF member bodies and bring in appropriate contents and expertise to Bangladesh for executive development programmes.
- Collaborate with AMF members to facilitate promotion of international trade and knowledge sharing among the member countries
- Designing and driving the Membership programme to enhance the strength of MSB.
There will be many other initiatives which will be communicated in due time with approval of the Board.