Rayana likes to take on challenges and turn them into opportunities.
Even when she had job opportunities abroad, she chose to return home and take over responsibilities of her family business – DEKKO ISHO Group. Rayana believed Bangladesh is "at the cusp of change" and ample windows of opportunities exist here.
And like her father, she was not satisfied with just inheriting the responsibilities of the family business, and took the initiative to go out and do something on her own.
This led her to launch the Japanese restaurant Izakaya and clothing line Klubhaus in 2018. Soon after, she introduced a furniture and lifestyle brand – ISHO, known for its unique designs.
Rayana thinks an enabling environment is imperative to bring about a positive change in Bangladesh, especially for young girls.
"Many people around me still do not have that privilege. Unfortunately, it is a privilege but it should not be one," she said.
Growing up among three brothers, Rayana was never treated differently. "There is no difference between male and female in my family. We follow similar norms across all of our ventures as well," she said.
Rayana believes an empowering atmosphere, with no gender and experience bias, can enhance any entity's work culture.
"We have that space where an IT executive can share a marketing idea; we listen to everyone's viewpoint. I like to constantly learn and want to know about different perspectives. It is really important.
I think a lot of leaders fall into that trap where they prefer listening to themselves only," she said.
Besides having an effective work culture, keeping up with the fast-moving world of Industry 4.0 is of equal importance in today's time.
"The change is slowly coming but it requires more technology-integrated processes, be it at the manufacturing hub, office, warehouse, or storefront. The most influential and desirable opportunity lies within young leadership," said Rayana, when asked how traditional conglomerates can adapt to the latest industrial revolution.
"At DEKKO ISHO, we are actively bringing in a lot of younger minds to fulfil leadership roles. They basically take charge and start that change. Gradually, operations become tech-enabled and that is happening in our case as well," she added.
Young minds, indeed, are the changemakers of any society, however, countries like Bangladesh, for long, have been victims of brain drain; able citizens moving abroad for better opportunities.
Though it is a vital concern, Rayana thinks we can turn the tables on this issue. "We need to work on how we are projecting Bangladesh on a global level. I think it definitely needs a lot of work; how we brand our country is really important. We also need to focus on the changes happening across the nation right now" she said.
"I think if young people are aware of the opportunities here, they will realise the potential and possibility of doing something in this country. Young minds are better equipped to come back, make a difference, and get proper exposure, rather than just doing a nine-five job abroad," added Rayana.
The sudden boost in digitisation followed by the Covid-19 pandemic has opened avenues for Bangladesh's next generation to pursue better opportunities from home. Besides, the pandemic also favoured entities that were already digitised prior to Covid-19.
Rayana's furniture and lifestyle brand – ISHO, began its journey as an online platform prior to Covid-19. Amid the pandemic, ISHO achieved a 450 percent growth; "the company would have grown eventually but not as rapidly as it did during Covid-19," she said.
"The pandemic has, very drastically and overnight, changed a lot of things in terms of people's buying patterns, consumer behaviour, and tastes. However, it brought about a positive impact for ISHO," added Rayana.
Though the pandemic had a lot to do with ISHO's runaway success, being a data-driven company also enabled the furniture brand to understand and connect with its consumers better. Perhaps it is one of the primary factors, along with its distinctive design, that separates ISHO from any other furniture brand in Bangladesh
"Data is extremely important for me. We are constantly researching and looking into what people are looking for on social media, we have a lot of data collection points as well. For brands to succeed, understanding data is very important, otherwise, it is going to be very hard to compete," said Rayana, when asked how ISHO stands out from other furniture brands.
The pandemic also favoured Izakaya; "it is doing significantly better now than it did pre-COVID. The pandemic introduced Izakaya to a larger audience. We came up with some interesting products, a sushi-making kit, for example, and activities that people could do at home. I think that amplified the brand awareness," said Rayana.
Klubhaus, being a clothing brand, was impacted by the pandemic as buying clothes was less of a priority for people. However, Rayana's team came up with products like sleepwear that did significantly well amid the global pandemic.
When asked for a piece of advice she would like to give to young professionals, Rayana said, "In Bangladesh, we tend to talk more about our work than actually doing it. People rely on a lot of external validation. I would suggest young people keep working their way forward, the rest of it is just noise."
"At the end of the day, it does not really matter how many likes you have on your Facebook status or LinkedIn page or how many people reacted to what, which alien organisation gave you what award. I think that is something that needs to change in young minds in order for us to be more innovative and move forward," she concluded.