Adaptability is the key to success

Business students' must-read book "Principles of Marketing: A South Asian Perspective" by marketing legend Philip Kotler cited an immensely successful idea of a Bangladeshi professional as a case study.

The idea of "100 Percent Halal Soap" from Syed Alamgir, considered a superstar in Bangladesh's marketing arena, captured the interest of millions and created a global marketing phenomenon. Many companies adopted the idea.

He was the first Bangladeshi marketeer to be cited in the prestigious book.

"If anyone wishes for success, to become a CEO or MD, he must know how to adapt with new things," Alamgir said.

"During our childhood, there were no calculators for us to compute, and now I have one of the largest computer screens in my room. This is adaptability," he said.

Before beginning his career path as a business executive, Alamgir had aspired to be in the civil service. Later, he changed the decision.

After receiving an MBA degree from the Institute of Business Administration of Dhaka University in 1976, he started with Rhone Poulenc Bangladesh, presently Aventis Pharma.

On his very first day on the job, he faced the then managing director of the multinational company who asked him about his aim in life.

"I replied that I would become the managing director of Rhone Poulenc or any other company someday," he said.

Alamgir was years ahead of his time joining directly as a regional manager Rhone Poulenc, and he was quite sure of his capability.

Someone told him once that even if he could become a director by 40, it would be considered a successful life. He became a director at the age of 38.

A few years later, he became the group marketing director of Jamuna Group and then executive director of ACI. He reached the pinnacle of his career when he became the managing director of ACI Consumer Brands in 2017.

"Becoming a managing director was not a coincidence in my life, but it was the outcome of my plan in the path of my career," he said.

Alamgir also teaches as a faculty in three universities, and he realises that there is a clear gap in academic and real-life job.

"I feel the difference and make students understand that in class. I don't only teach I also learn from the students."

He thinks it is the business leaders' responsibility to build a new generation so that they could become a top leader someday.

"Those who are students, they must learn in each of the stages of life. They must do what they ought to do and learn what they must learn to take over greater responsibility."

Marketing activities kept changing during the coronavirus pandemic, and there's a question of what will happen when it is over.

To Alamgir, the change in marketing communication for health products will sustain for a while. The communication about the necessary commodities will remain the same.

Not just for the Halal marketing plan, Alamgir is also famous for his continuous innovation.

For his lifetime contribution, he was awarded the "Channel i-Bangladesh Brand Forum Marketing Superstar Award" last year as the first Bangladeshi.

"The key goal of marketing is to find people's need and fulfil it," he said, adding that he launched many new products with the goal in mind.

Alamgir followed the goal throughout his career with many companies and in light of it, he introduced 17 new businesses under ACI in the last 20 years.

Citing the example of introducing ACI Pure Salt, he said people were consuming dirty salt before. "I saw the need gap and introduced ACI Pure Salt, which is clean white and properly iodised. Now people will remember me as the introducer of clean white salt."

Alamgir believes that customers are the kings, and every business professional actually works for them and must learn from them.

Every successful business organisation is constantly scanning the ideas of the people—consumers, retailers, wholesalers and distributors, and that's how they analyse the need gap.

During the pandemic, ACI understood that people will not focus on beauty soap but on health soap.

As Savlon holds 80 per cent market share of antiseptic liquid, ACI analysed the need gap and focused on antiseptic soaps.

According to Alamgir, the normalcy from the pandemic might not come too soon, and companies must find the need gap to bring in more innovative products now.

To emphasise the importance of innovation, he stated that the health products of Savlon are not actually new. He analysed and understood the need gap years ago.

Savlon's hand sanitizer was introduced in 2009 and disinfectants spray two years ago, and during the pandemic, their demand skyrocketed.

To Alamgir, business is an excellent profession as it holds the most significant opportunity to help people.

He believes that introducing quality products to weed out the fake ones is a great service to the nation.

Even during the pandemic, ACI had continued regular operations, maintaining health safety protocols to ensure that people can get necessary products in stores.

To Alamgir, that is also a contribution to society.

"It's true that if you're not making a profit, you won't survive. Business means profit, but not all the time."

Alamgir sticks by six values: quality, customer focus, innovation, fairness, transparency and continuous improvement. "These values are followed by all in ACI."

He believes that key performance indicator (KPI) is not necessary for people as every individual has the immense mental power to go beyond imagination.

"That's why I try to say something new every day and to do something new. Everyone should excel in their capacity."

According to Alamgir, personal values are the number one thing in life.

"You have to be a good person first. There's no point of being successful if you're not a good human being."

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