Businesses thrive defying odds
Businesses in South Asia face obstacles, so they need to show additional courage, imagination and determination compared to their peers in business-friendly nations to operate and become successful.
The picture is more or less the same in Bangladesh despite recent improvements in the business climate, evidenced by the country's 168th position on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index.
Defying all odds, businesses soldier on, creating jobs for the burgeoning workforce and contributing to society and the economy.
Two such indomitable individuals and two companies won the 19th Bangladesh Business Awards, an initiative of DHL Express and The Daily Star, on December 12.
Rupali Chowdhury, managing director of Berger Paints Bangladesh, received the award in the Outstanding Woman in the Business category.
Abdul Muktadir, chairman and managing director of Incepta Pharmaceuticals, won the award as the Business Person of the Year.
The Best Financial Institution award went to Dutch-Bangla Bank Ltd and the Enterprise of the Year award to apparel manufacturer and exporter Snowtex Group.
They were recognised in the virtual presence of Tipu Munshi, the commerce minister, Binod Chaudhary, the wealthiest and most successful industrialist in Nepal, and Nurhayati Abdullah, managing director of DHL Express Emerging Markets.
The award ceremony had to be moved to the digital platform because of the coronavirus pandemic. It was live-streamed on Facebook.
The event began with a tribute to late Latifur Rahman, one of the founders of The Daily Star and founder chairman of Transcom Group. The successful entrepreneur, known for his ethical business practices, died in July.
During his keynote speech, Binod Chaudhary, an entrepreneur, politician and philanthropist, called Latifur Rahman a great entrepreneur and visionary.
He credited the business community of Bangladesh for the economic performance even during the pandemic when staying afloat is being considered as the biggest dividend.
"I salute all the business leaders of Bangladesh without whom this kind of magnificent performance in terms of what Bangladesh achieved in 2020 would not have been possible."
Bangladesh has clocked more than 3 per cent GDP growth at a time when countries are struggling to preserve what they achieved in the previous years, he said.
Chaudhary is the chairman of CG Corp Global, a Nepalese conglomerate with a portfolio that comprises more than 169 companies.
He said Bangladesh had become a hub for startups, and many of Bangladeshi companies are also active in Nepal.
The billionaire praised the government of Bangladesh for maintaining a higher growth trajectory, reducing poverty, and achieving higher per capita income and literacy.
Also a lawmaker, Chaudhary said businesses in South Asia and emerging economies continued to struggle to keep the operations up and running as business decisions are made based on political considerations.
"That is the single biggest problem we all struggle with although things are changing in Bangladesh. I have seen Bangladesh grew from strength to strength over the last 30 years."
He said he always felt that doing business in the South Asian environment required an extra degree of imagination, courage and humility to withstand completely uncalled-for pressures.
"I think we are today celebrating that courage, imagination, innovation and that extra degree of "never saying no and never giving up."
He said there are many countries where doing business is like a cakewalk – one doesn't even need to look at the administrative and decision-making processes involving licences and approval.
"In most cases, they are arbitrary in our part of the world. Sometimes, these obstacles serve as an entry barrier. So, I often say: if you can do business in South Asia, you can do business anywhere in the world."
In his speech, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said entrepreneurs were taking the economy forward.
"Today, when the global economy has plunged into a recession because of the pandemic shock, Bangladesh stands tall among most of the economies and is going to post the highest."
"This has been possible because of your resilience, dedication, and our hard-working population."
Md Miarul Haque, managing director of DHL Worldwide Express (BD) Pvt Ltd, said despite all the challenges, business leaders had always found ways to reach their dreams.
"No challenge could stop you, and we are always proud of your achievements."
Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, said each of business icons and awardees of the Bangladesh Business Awards was stories of immense creativity, courage and consistent perseverance.
"By telling their stories, we would like to tell the people of the country about what they can do, inspire them, help them get out of their limited visions, and connect them with people who have broken out of their shells and done new things."
Business leaders play a much bigger role than they are appreciated, he said.
"Business leaders are striving forward despite all obstacles, and nothing exemplifies their capacity than what they have done during the pandemic."
In 2000, DHL Express and The Daily Star introduced the awards to recognise the achievements and positive contributions of business houses and individuals who have not only grown but also contributed to the economic prosperity of Bangladesh.