When the 'Aromatic Halal Soap' was launched back in the 1990s, it upended everything for others. The halal soap from Jamuna Group was an immediate sensation that saw its sales soar and competitors found themselves out of breath.
In the end, the brand changed hands for hefty amounts but nobody could make it as successful as Syed Alamgir could for Jamuna. Ultimately, the most sensational soap brand quietly died in the wrong hands. But the 'halal marketing concept' has made its way as a case study into marketing guru Philip Kotler's book: Principle of Marketing– A South Asian Perspective [13th edition].
The story does not end here for Alamgir. He joined the ACI and worked to make its food and consumer items among the best-selling brands. The big story is how ACI's disinfectant Savlon outpaced the once undeniable market leader Dettol.
That marketing genius Syed Alamgir has now joined Akij Venture with an unwavering eye on another growth dream. He wants to disrupt the market one more time.
The Business Standard had a talk with Alamgir and explored his inner motivation and his future dreams.
Why did you leave ACI?
I was in ACI for 22 years. I started working there as an executive. I later became the managing director there. In the beginning, the scope of work in ACI was limited. It was a small company. There were only two products then – Savlon and an aerosol. The company had an annual turnover of Tk8 crore. But when I left that company, its annual turnover reached Tk3,000 crore.
All ACI subsidiaries involved in the commodity food business were founded by me. Then, as I saw the company (ACI) had become matured, I created leadership in the company.
I took the company to a better position. I was involved with the company in such a way that people thought that I was the owner of it. That is why no one offered me any job. Then one day I got an offer from Jamuna Group. I joined because they also offered me some share of the company.
At last, on one Friday, I visited the food factories of Akij out of curiosity at the request of the owner of the company. I saw that the company was huge with big fields, the machines were of very high quality and imported from Germany, China, etc. No other company in the country has such machines. In Akij, there are some machines, only four of which exist in the world and three of them are in Asia.
Then I saw that the company was making some good things that the owner himself did not know. For example, their juice Fruitica does not have any kind of preservative.
Other companies generally use that in their products. Fruitica is made in an aseptic manner. On the other hand, other companies usually make their products and generally heat them.
But our products are automatically made by machines which kill bacteria. Fruitica is made without any touch of the hand. The oranges are brought from Brazil and milk is used without mixing anything. The machine we use costs Tk450 crore, while other companies are making this product with machines worth Tk20-30 crore. The sons of the owner of the company are ensuring the quality of the products according to the morality of their father.
After I visited their factories, the owner of Akij offered me respectfully to join them. I joined the company six months ago.
Akij was supposed to make a huge investment. What investments have you brought after joining the company? What are the updates of the projects such as Akij food, dairy, electronics, economic zone, agro and livestock, chemical, healthcare, life insurance, fair value, aladin.com and commodity training?
Around 7,000 people are already working on these projects. There are plans to employ another 5,000-6,000. Food, dairy and life insurance projects have already been introduced. Agro and livestock, chemical, healthcare, traders, fair value projects are set to hit the market very soon.
What do you want to do in healthcare, agro and livestock, and electronics projects?
In healthcare, we will bring various products related to health to the market.
Also, we will have big cattle farms. We already have cattle farms, but the new ones will be much bigger.
We will bring various electronics products to the market, such as light, switches, boards, sockets etc. We have the opportunity to make big investments in electronics, because a large number of low-income people in the country have not yet come under the service of electronics products.
What is the amount that you have invested in these ventures?
I cannot say right now about the investment, and I don't want to say it as per the company policy. Moreover, as I have been here only for six months, it won't be possible for me to say everything correctly. But I can say, for sure, many big projects will be initiated out of these projects.
The expansion plans of Akij involve some markets that are already very competitive, such as the electronics market. What are your plans to deal with this competition?
There is no market without competition. No one will leave room for you.
We are already competing in the market with companies like Coca-Cola, Pran etc. We think Akij is a big company, it must survive in a competitive market with its quality products.
Because low-income people of the country have not yet come under the electronics market, we have a good potential in this sector if we target them.
You have a big CSR sector like schools, dairy foundations, etc. What are their functions?
First of all, we have a separate trust for CSR. We help helpless people from this fund. Besides, we run schools in Dhaka and Dhamrai with CSR funds. Akij has already built 250 mosques across the country. We spend the annual zakat money according to Islamic Shariah for the social sector and for the poor and helpless people.
What is your vision?
Our goal is to make Akij one of the largest companies in the country. We want to provide pure and healthy products for the nation according to the morality of Mr Akij. We will bring to market 8-10 daily products for the people of Bangladesh. These products will maintain the standard of Akij. By the standard of Akij I mean that we produce drinks and juices with German machines, not with Chinese machineries. However, you can say that we have not yet reached the target compared to other companies. Hopefully, in the next five years we will be able to reach that goal.
Thank you very much for giving us time.
Many thanks to The Business Standard too.