''OUR LOVE FOR CARS IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT, IT IS OUR WAY OF LIFE": HOSSAIN KHALED, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF ANWAR GROUP

Published on 8 November, 2021

Journey of your family business stretches to 184 years, one of the oldest in our Country that we are aware of. It will be only fair to learn from of this journey to fourth generation in business.

I was born into the Anwar Group. My father inherited entrepreneurship from his great grandfather.

From the records available to us, our family business stretches back to 1834. When our great grandfather - Laik Mohammad, who was a muazzin in a masjid, started his business in Chawkbazar, as a tradesman. My grandfather - Rahim Baksh, was the one who transitioned into manufacturing back in late 1800s to early 1900s. He was one of the most renowned businessman and manufacturer of buttons and combs from bullhorn during that era. In 1920, he was awarded as one of the highest taxpayers and exporters from this region. He had a manufacturing base in Dhaka and another in Kolkata, and he was exporting to Rangoon, Madras, Karachi, also other parts of India. After his demise from sudden illness, unfortunately, business was mismanaged and mishandled by employees, and everything was lost. Somehow, after decade or so of very hard work and perseverance, his heirs managed their way back into business from a very tiny initiative, and that was the sapling of Anwar Group.

Your father - Mr. Anwar Hossain is regarded as one of the most respected business personalities of our Country. What were some of his strong traits and attributes?

My father was a very disciplined, intelligent, farsighted, hardworking, fun loving, and caring person. Having lost everything at a very early age, and having lived through the struggles of life from riches to rags, he always felt the pain and suffering of others who were not so fortunate; and always believed it was his responsibility to help others. He loved and respected people from every walks of life. His vision and ambition were always to create jobs; he never valued his company by the amount of money he made or amount of investments he made, his valued his success by the number of jobs he created, how many people was he able to help them become self-sufficient. He taught us that profit was natural and a logical driver in business, but planning to give back to the community and to the people of Bangladesh was more important, especially through education and healthcare. He had a very different take on life, and that’s what made him ANWAR HOSSAIN - a shining star.

Anwar Group has taken notice of the potential in the automotive sector in Bangladesh and incorporated AG Automobiles. Kindly share AG Autos Journey with us.

One of my father’s vision was to reach every family of the country with at least one our products, and with the opportunity of CNG becoming available for public transport, he felt we could help commuters of Dhaka with low fares and better buses, and at the same reduce emission. Hence, our journey began in the automotive industry during the year 2005. Since then, we have bestowed with Dealership of several globally acclaimed automobile brands. One synergy you will notice among most these brands are their heritage, history, impact in society, innovation, people centric, high quality, customer satisfaction, and best at what they do; and all of that resonate with what ANWAR stands for.

Having said, my father enjoyed his life, enjoyed the good things in life, and wanted people to enjoy the same. He was always very fond of cars, but understood at a very young age, how to profit or benefit from investments in a depreciating asset while still enjoying his fondness and passion. This passion and fondness now runs in our blood. Our love for cars is just not a passion - it is our way of life.

Automotive as an Industry was envisioned long ago during East Pakistan era, and had continued its journey under the leader of Bangabandhu. However, later in the decades, it had fallen off the list of opportune import substitute industries and has become an import based trading economy. It is presently estimated to be a $2 billion industry in Bangladesh, and has potentials to contribute a lot more socio politically to the Country as an import substitute manufacturing / assembling and export industry. Automotive is presently one of our smallest division in the Group, but we believe in its potential and plan to assemble vehicles, parts, and accessories in Bangladesh. At present, approximately 300 white collar or highly skilled people are employed in this division.

Besides automotive, you are also heavily involved in Financial Services and Real Estate Industry, how do you manage?

I have been personally involved in the financial services industry for the last twenty years from my service days at Merrill Lynch in the US, and then an investor in City Bank, City Insurance, BD Finance, and City Brokerage. By far, financial services industry is our Group’s largest strategic investment - contributing immensely to creation of employment and growth of our economy; and picking up from my father, all three of us brothers take a lot of passion in this sector. Similarly, Real Estate is another billion-dollar industry of the Country, is another sector where my father found an avenue to serve the people of Bangladesh with affordable and better housing. He wanted every employee of ANWAR GROUP to be able to their own homes - and I am again passionately working towards his goal. In order for us entrepreneurs to materialize our vision and goals, we have reply on good corporate culture, people, process, and good governance. I am blessed with a good team who help me focus on collectively achieving our goals. I focus on my 80:20 and plan my time and effort accordingly. I work with small core groups within the SBUs, who report to me directly on a weekly basis. Similar to our father, while we personally know and talk to most of our employees, we do NOT micromanage our businesses. We remain involved in developing strategies to help all our heads of divisions achieve the goals of the Company.Time management between work, family, friends, and community remains the most important and at the core of a good manager; accordingly, I allocate the most of my time on businesses that bring in higher contribution.

How many Automobile brands you are representing in Bangladesh?

We are blessed to be one of the few companies representing multiple top automobile brands in the world. Since starting our journey with Ford in August 2009, we now also represent Peugeot, Jeep, Volvo, and soon to launch Alfa Romeo.

Tell us your future plans for AG Auto Division. Will you take more brands dealership?

AG Auto was created with much bigger ambitions. Our goal is to create at least 1200 white collar jobs by the year 2025. AG Auto is currently working to set up its world class assembly plant preferably on joint venture basis. Goal would be to produce vehicles for local market and try to cater to demands internationally. More importantly, we plan to create an ecosystem for the automotive industry within our own SEZ. As global needs are changing, besides internal combustion engines, we plan to produce EV vehicles as well. However, in order to attract higher investments in this sector, Government must facilitate with long term (10 to 20 years) policy to create another import substitute engineering sector.At this point, Bangladesh needs to plan a long term road map to develop its own model / brand under the flagship of a major automobile brand. We want to establish and create our own brand of cars in Bangladesh, and that is the underlying vision of AG - a model / brand that is purely 100% Bangladeshi, and not just namesake.

What about Jeep and the potential of the brand here?

SUVs are gradually becoming preferred passenger vehicles in Bangladesh also, and JEEP as a brand only produces SUVs which is core to its heart. We intend to position JEEP as a premium brand SUV in Bangladesh, catering to all walks of life, and offering compact to full size SUV from 1000cc to 6000 cc, all produced by Jeep. Given opportunity and market potentials, we may consider to assemble a few models in Bangladesh.

Do you think, Bangladesh has full potential to contribute to the global market for automotive electronic components?

Global automotive industry is presently a $6 trillion economy, and is projected to grow to $9 trillion by the year 2020. Sales of passenger vehicles alone is said to be 70 million units annually, which requires thousands of components, parts, accessories, electronics, microchips to come together to assemble a vehicle. Even if we target basic consumables, we are looking at a billion-dollar industry. We don’t have to look too far - Thailand can be the role model for us to plan this ecosystem. We can try to learn, adapt, and leap frog to Industry 4.0 and become the next global manufacturing hub for automobile.

For a stronger car market, a practical combination of both brand new and reconditioned cars would be better, what is your opinion about this?

Regretfully, we are missing out the bigger picture. Honourable Prime Minister had declared 2021 as the year of light engineering industry, of which automobile is inclusive. She envisioned of developing the next import substitute industry. Unfortunately, we are still discussing and fighting over whether import of new and reconditioned cars, instead our discussion should be on laying out the roadmap to achieve Prime Minister’s vision.

As for discussions sake, average annual import stands at approximately 35000 vehicles, of which 85% are reconditioned/used car imports. However, their contribution to total tax index is much less than that of new car imports (15% market share). So from simple math perspective, NBR will earn more revenue from import of new cars. On the other hand, opening up this opportunity to some of the big automobile brands to produce and sell at least 10,000 vehicles per year locally, will create a much bigger net impact from job creation to increasing purchasing power to strengthening our GDP, which will have an immense positive impact on the economy.

I am not in favour of reconditioned cars nor against it; I am in favour of developing Bangladesh as the next automotive manufacturing hub in Asia.

What is limiting the automobile manufacturing industry's development in Bangladesh? Talk a bit about it from your point of view?

Proactive initiative, and selfless act of compromise for the greater interest of the country is what lacks in us towards establishing a automobile manufacturing industry. Since there are multiple business trade bodies involved in this “trade”, Government needs to bring some of these important stakeholders on board, learn from countries like Thailand, adapt a very pro-active policy to become to produce at least one-third of total requirement within the next 5 years, and then look to become a net exporter of parts and accessories by the year 2030.

Separate Automobile Zones and Joint Ventures for parts manufacturing to create local experts would be a milestone for our automobile industry sector, share your ideas for the venture.

Similar to Motorcycle industry, Automobile is also a new high tech industry which requires knowledge transfer from manufacturers, hence Joint Ventures are highly encouraged. Secondly, as government has already announced 150+ economic zones nationwide, clusters or particular zone(s) need to be identified to develop an ecosystem for automotive industry. This industry is comprised of hundreds of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) who will collectively complete the assembly of a vehicle. Assembling company should specialize in their task of assembling, and these OEMs will produce and supply different parts, components, accessories, to the assembler. In order for this to be successful, a smooth supply chain from port to factory will also be essential. Al of this must be incorporated in the upcoming Automobile Policy.

We have noticed that you have a fascination with diecast cars. Can you please tell us more about this hobby of yours?

Fascination for cars possibly runs in our blood. My father was also fond of cars, and at a young age would change his cars almost every year, even before they deprecated. I believe I inherited a bit of his fondness. As a child, I was quite a bit of a headache to my mother. My blackmailing habit was she would have to buy me a matchbox (small Diecast cars in 1:64 scale) or I would not eat anything.  Back in the days, thesewere tk5 - tk10 each, and soon turned into a hobby. I was then collecting stamps, currency notes, coins, and cars. That hobby turned into a passion, got into the automobile trade with a dream to produce our own car someday, and continued to collect larger scale Diecasts. Interestingly i have connected with a genre of people from Bangladesh to far across from the other parts of the world who share the same passion. I now have a quite a variation of collection of models from 1910 classics, F1s, LeMans, Concepts, Cars in Movies, Sports cars, Supercars, etc. Diecast Collectors from Bangladesh helped me a lot in fulfilling my shelves, unfortunately, i still have 6 boxes of diecasts eagerly awaiting shelving space. While it may be toy car or decoration to some, it is an investment for the rest of us. I love that my family enjoys and shares my hobby as well, and more so when my daughter helps me clean and maintain them.

If you could tell your customers anything, what would it be?

Customer’ holistic perception of their experience with our brands or our service is now our most important selling and customer retention attribute, and we are relentlessly working towards establishing customer satisfaction at every touch point. And this is a continuous process. We sincerely appreciate all our customers and well wishers, who believe in us, and have over the last 12 years been our pillar of strength and success. We will continue to introduce unique, niche, new energy, innovative, and safe vehicles for our customers, cause we believe that Bangladeshis deserve better. We want our customers to have better ownership experience. Drive safe, drive responsibly, be respectful on the road, be patient, and obey traffic laws.

Do you have any childhood or school/college/university memory associated with the brands which AG Auto Division represents in Bangladesh now?

Most of the brands I represent right now have had some kind of an impact towards my passion for cars.I was always had a fondness for American muscle, Italian designing and engineering. Besides all the supercars that we all love, I particularly was always fond of 1968 Ford Mustang, 1965 Alfa Romeo GTA, and Jeep Willys. I was always fascinated by sports cars and off-roaders, and had the luxury of owning a few so far. Its not just the brand or design or engineering, but its history, its achievements have always been equally intriguing to me.

To conclude do you have any words of wisdom towards our audience on how to achieve their dreams?

Its good to dream, but when you do, dream big. And when you wake up, make sure you draw up your execution plan on how to achieve your dream. Otherwise, you will end up working on someone else’s dream. Chase your dreams with passion, with hunger, with fire in your stomach, and be passionate with what you do. Only then you will learn to love what you do. There are no shortcuts in life or to success, be patient, work hard, work diligently, work smart … success is bound to follow.

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