Habibur Rahman, supply chain director at Marico Bangladesh,discusses redefining the supply chain in the consumer products industry
Marico Bangladesh is one of the fastest growing fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies in the country. A subsidiary of Marico Limited – a multinational firm currently doing business in 26 countries across emerging markets in Asia and Africa – Marico Bangladesh has grown from strength to strength.
Its flagship brand Parachute is a beloved household name. Today, the company boasts a successful portfolio of multi-category brands across: haircare, skincare, baby care, male grooming, hygiene, and edible oil.
One of the people who has been instrumental to this expansion and has led the company from the front is Supply Chain Director Habibur Rahman. Habib Bhai, as he is fondly called, has been working at Marico Bangladesh for almost six years. The company was recently awarded the Bangladesh Supply Chain Excellence Award for 2019 in the category of logistics and transportation management.
In an interview with Sukanta Halder of The Business Standard, Habibur talked about redefining the supply chain in the consumer products industry, the importance of logistics and transportation management as well as other issues concerning Marico Bangladesh.
The Business Standard (TBS): In a country like Bangladesh, many large companies struggle to manage their logistics and transportation management departments. How did you succeed here?
Habibur Rahman (HR): While leading a supply chain function, the key to success is ownership of business and partnership. Logistics is all about supplying products to consumers on time and in full. Logistics also has an important role to play in product integrity and traceability.
At Marico, one of our core values is innovation and we leverage technology to modernise logistics and transportation management. In the case of secondary transportation, we implemented freight management automation so that there was real time data on supplies to the market.
TBS: How effective was your transportation and logistics management system during general holidays announced to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic?
HR: The pandemic presented unprecedented challenges to supply chain operations. As an FMCG company, we had to ensure the supply of essential, day-to-day products to consumers. We planned ahead and worked with our transportation partners, and law enforcement authorities, to ensure supplies maintaining all health and precautionary measures.
To maintain health measures during the general holidays, we provided safety equipment to those who were involved in our transportation system – especially drivers and their assistants – free of charge. Although restrictions on movement have eased, we are still observing health rules and will continue to do so till the pandemic subsides.
TBS: What do you think transportation and logistics management should be if such a pandemic-like situation arises again in the future?
HR: We need a change in perspective. This pandemic has shown us how critical efficient supply chain management is to ensuring access to essential products and supplies. Many in Bangladesh see logistics and transportation management as a small department. But from a professional perspective, logistics and transportation management must be taken seriously because it plays a big role in keeping the entire supply chain functional.
Having a proper management plan ahead of time, business contingency planning and executing the plan are crucial. We need to recognise and reward employees as well as motivate them to bring their ideas to the table. If you put people first, even in functions such as transportation and logistics – the way we do at Marico – they are enabled to realise their potential and contribute their best. People are the changemakers of the process and they need to be empowered to drive business and provide solutions.
TBS: How friendly is the environment of infrastructure and logistical support in Bangladesh for a multinational company like Marico?
HR: We have seen great strides in infrastructure over the last couple of years and the government has undertaken projects which will transform the landscape of our country. However, currently the condition of most roads outside Dhaka is not good. Added to that is traffic jams which eat into a lot of transportation efficiency.
We have been a key partner with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the government in the supply chain restoration initiative led by Salman F Rahman, advisor to the prime minister on private industry and investment. As part of that workstream, we are exploring novel, horizontal and vertical collaboration to facilitate logistics management in the country. The models that we are piloting can then be leveraged by all other companies or industries.
TBS: Ordinary people know Marico as a producer of Parachute coconut oil. You are trying to get out of that by diversifying your products. How successful have you been?
HR: Parachute is the largest coconut oil brand – not just in Bangladesh but also in the world. So, it is natural that our flagship brand is known to and loved by all. However, Marico has a rich history of innovation and disruption. Given our distribution and logistics strength and winning brands, our foray into other categories was a natural extension of our existing coconut oil and hair oil business.
We now have 39 brands in: hair care, skincare, baby care, male grooming and food. It is a journey of unleashing our potential to bring consumers the best-in-class products. Our products – like Parachute Just for Baby, Parachute Naturale Shampoo, Parachute SkinPure lotions, soaps and petroleum jelly, Saffola Honey, and Saffola Active – have received a great response from consumers and are performing well. We hope to continue to innovate and build within these categories to serve the consumers of Bangladesh.