How Epyllion Group Has Built A Culture of Human Spirit With Mohammed Showket Iqbal, DGM, HR, Epyllion Group

How Epyllion Group Has Built A Culture of Human Spirit With Mohammed Showket Iqbal, DGM, HR, Epyllion Group

Bdjobs credit banner

HR was a relatively obscure discipline, particularly in the context of Bangladesh, just 20 to 25 years ago. Things have significantly changed over the past several years. Today, not having an HR Department in your organization tells a lot about what kind of organization yours is. Of course, we have a long way to go where organizations will truly realize that investing in their people is the best form of investment they could make, but the progress we have made in the last two decades is in no way insignificant.

Mohammed Showket Iqbal is the Deputy General Manager, HR, at Epyllion Group, one of the fast growing and most important conglomerates in the country. Over the past years, Epyllion has been able to build a reputation in the market for being a pro-people and pro-planet company which is an absolutely tremendous feat for a garment manufacturer in Bangladesh.

Mr. Iqbal has over 18 years of experience in the field of human resources management, mostly in RMG sector. Prior to joining Epyllion, he worked at Youngone Group and Palmal Group in various important HR roles.

Since joining Epyllion Group in 2008, Mohammed Mr. Iqbal has been instrumental in building a culture that cultivates human spirit, experimenting with new ideas to build better teams, design better policies, improve productivity to identifying better ways to help people find fulfillment at work and creating an environment of continuous learning and growth.

In this insightful and intellectually inspiring interview, Future Startup’s Ruhul Kader sits down with Mr. Iqbal to explore his personal journey to what he is doing today, his work at Epyllion Group as Deputy General Manager of HR, how people work at Epyllion and values and culture that drive people, designing HR policies that work, how you build a culture and why it is important for an organization to build one, what he looks for in a candidate, history of HR in Bangladesh, the most sought after skills in the market, his take on the future of work and workplace, what you need to do today to prepare yourself for the future of work and how Epyllion is cultivating a culture human spirit.

Future Startup

First off, where did you start your career?

Mohammed Showket Iqbal

I started my professional career at Youngone Corporation, a South Korean company having operations in many countries, after completing my bachelor’s and master’s in business administration from the University of Chittagong. I worked there for five years.

Later, I came to Dhaka and joined BRB Knitwear, a concern of BRB group of companies. I served there for around 2 years then I moved to Savar and joined an accessories manufacturer. After three years of working there, I joined Palmal Group of Industries.

Afterward, in June 2008, I resigned from Palmal and joined Epyllion Group in HR, Administration & CSR Department where my core responsibility lay in the HR wing. From then till now, I have been working at Epyllion Group. It has been an extremely rewarding journey.

Meanwhile, I have attained a bachelor’s degree in law, Diploma in Management consulting and been Qualified Chartered Secretary from the Institute of Chartered Secretaries in 2014. Epyllion has also allowed me to participate several international and local training programs and workshops in my field.

During my tenure here, I have visited different universities to motivate graduate students to join in the RMG sector. Since we have a lofty target of reaching $50 billion export milestone by 2021, we need to work hard and attract new faces to join the apparel industry.

Many universities in the country have already launched Industrial Production Engineering, Textile Engineering, Apparel Merchandising discipline.

Add to that, many ready-made garments company are offering short technical training courses on issues like textile manufacturing and apparel merchandising. These are the signs of the rapid growth in Human Resources of our RMG industry.

If I am to choose some lessons, the first one would be that you need to acknowledge whenever you make a mistake. It is essential, a must, to face up to your blunders in order to improve yourself and your team. You can’t expect to go far if you keep scapegoating and blaming others for your own mistakes. Own your mistakes like a badge and never stop learning. You need to hunt newness continuously.

A Message From Bdjobs.com

Bdjobs Native banner

Bdjobs.com introduces Employability Certification Test for recruiters.

The Employability Certification Test is a computer adaptive test which measures job applicants in critical areas like communication skills, logical reasoning, quantitative skills and job-specific domain skills thus helping recruiters identify the suitability of a candidate. By adding this test to the Job Ad, you will be able to significantly cut your recruitment lead time and effort. Learn more here.

Future Startup

I have a few more questions related to garment industry and career opportunity in the sector. Before that, we want to know more about your journey and how has your upbringing contributed to your career choices and the person you are today?

Mohammed Showket Iqbal

There’s a misconception held by many that people who are from Chittagong do not care for education and go into businesses as soon as possible. But that’s not true. In our family, my father influenced us on studies. As a result all of my siblings have finished post-graduation.

As a matter of fact, my father wanted me to be a doctor. But I didn’t follow that path. I finished my SSC exam with a first-division from Humanities Group in 1989. Then, I shifted to Commerce and got admitted into Chittagong Government Commerce College. It was my father who convinced me to go to the city and attend Commerce College for my higher secondary. And when I scored another first-division in HSC examination, I realized that I wouldn’t have got such a score should I had stayed in my community college.

After finishing my higher secondary, I sat for the admission test to University of Chittagong (CU). I was dubious at first about my chances of getting in. But I passed the test and went through the interview and chose to study business.

There were two core departments in CU at that time: Accounting and Management. I chose Accounting because I wanted to be a banker early on. But I couldn’t pursue that dream and had to accept what came instead. In fact, whenever fresh graduates join at Epyllion Group now, I share this story with them and advise them to endure whatever may come.

Immediately after my graduation, I joined Youngone Corporation. Many of my friends who graduated from the same class with me had also joined the company. It was such a well-structured organization and its operation so tactically streamlined that we have gathered a great deal of practical experience in how to run a company efficiently.

Youngone is a multinational company with employees from many different countries. It provided us with an exposure to a cross-cultural environment. That was the beginning of my career where I worked for five years. Those five years literally flew. As I mentioned, a bunch of us joined Youngone together right out of CU and we had a wonderful fun time. And before realizing, we passed five years at the company and there was not much to explore afterward.

Future Startup

You majored in accounting but you are now working in human resources. Was it a contemplated transition?

Mohammed Showket Iqbal

It was an interesting turn in my life. When I sat for the written test for Youngone, I found that the invigilators were particularly lively, talking to everyone, motivating aspiring candidates, and resolving issues. They were quite powerful and I was drawn by that. I later discovered they worked in administration/personnel department.

I had already canceled accounting as a career choice and after discovering about the invigilators I decided to work in human resources.

Later when I started the real work, I was intrigued by the scope of HR management. It motivated me how HRM helps employees to grow themselves and organizations to harness the potential of its workers. That’s at the end of the day what an organization is, it is all about people.

And working at HR means you are dealing with the most important resources of a company. That feeling continues to inspire me even these days.

I have learned that you can’t get people to do things for you through intimidation. If they fear you, they would do just as much as they are required to and not a bit more. Fear and intimidation can’t command commitment. Be compassionate towards your people. Build a team and work as a team and make sure that your people feel at home when they are working with you and lead with a vision. The best team does not work for money; they work for realizing a vision.

Future Startup

You have been in this field for a long time now, you have helped people to grow personally and companies to grow as organizations, if you look back, what are some of the important lessons from your journey so far?

Mohammed Showket Iqbal

There is no doubt that everyone should learn at every step of their life for the purpose of self-development. Believing in that, I have been an avid learner all my life. Becoming a relentless learner always helps.

If I am to choose some lessons, the first one would be that you need to acknowledge whenever you make a mistake. It is essential, a must, to face up to your blunders in order to improve yourself and your team. You can’t expect to go far if you keep scapegoating and blaming others for your own mistakes.

Own your mistakes like a badge and never stop learning. You need to hunt newness continuously.

Second, a leader should focus on continuous human development because every member of a team is important. If any of them remains incompetent, the team will falter sooner or later.

If you are running an organization, one of the best things you may do is investing in your people. I try best to create successors. There is no success without successor. You need to choose best talents for the team.

Working on a more personal level with employees, I have learned that you can’t get people to do things for you through intimidation. If they fear you, they would do just as much as they are required to and not a bit more. Fear and intimidation can’t command commitment.

Be compassionate towards your people. Build a team and work as a team and make sure that your people feel at home when they are working with you and lead with a vision. The best team does not work for money; they work for realizing a vision.

Third, you need to provide quick and right decision in time. Otherwise, your team members could not move forward. They waste time due to lack of decision.

At Epyllion, we are constantly trying to implement these learnings into action and develop our human resources accordingly. We understand that if we want our company to sustain for the times to come we have to invest in our employees to enable to carry on with our legacy.

Future Startup

As DGM of HR, can you please tell us about role and responsibilities you assume?

Mohammed Showket Iqbal

Well, at Epyllion, each of our factories has HR, Admin and CSR Department. These departments or sub-departments, in turn, report to the corporate HR department.

The principal department is vested with the responsibility to formulate organizational policies and design operational procedures and orient the sub-departmental teams to implement the adopted regulations in their respective departments.

We put special emphasis on orienting teams because we understand the need to involve each of our internal stakeholders (i.e. employees) in the policy formulation and implementation process in order to drive the company to its goals.

To elaborate more on our organogram, our HR department has several different wings: we have a talent management wing that oversees talent sourcing & identifying from existence & nurture for their retention. There is training and learning wing which identifies learning needs and arranges training, workshops, seminars programs to cater their needs.

Moreover, we have a compensation & benefit wing and an industrial relations wing.

If you look at the training programs we arrange for the new-entrants, you’ll see that Epyllion takes human resource development very seriously.

Whenever a person joins our organization, we introduce him to the workplace through an induction program where he gets an overview of the scope of his position, his responsibilities, and benefits, COC of the company and many more. We try to plug in new entrants with the philosophy of Epyllion. This orientation process has proved to be very effective in guiding our large community of employees toward one single direction.

Besides the induction program, we have other developmental programs such as unit-wise supervisory skill development training program, understanding business operation (UBO) program, which we organize throughout the year.

There is an especial Leadership development program called Development Squad at Epyllion which works with a view to creating future leaders from employees. Those who get qualified at the end of the program will be leading the organization in the future.

We pick people from our management trainee program and train them on a regular basis to prepare them to take over leadership roles in the organization.

Let me tell you about a paradox that we often experience in the business. You’ll often see people complaining about unavailability of jobs. Contrary to that, as employers, we often don’t get to recruit enough competent people. We are always looking for right people and there is a scarcity of talents in the market.

This gap, in my opinion, is created due to differences that exist between the expectation of the job seekers and the employers. Our fresh graduates, particularly the young people, have somewhat failed to cater to the market demands.

There is a huge pool of talented youth ready to enter the market now, but their skills fall short as a result of overemphasizing theoretical knowledge rather than real life experience. If we want people from textile engineering or industrial production engineering, you can easily recruit them from Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (KUET), Bangladesh University of Textile Engineering (BUTEX), Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST), Ahsanullah University of Science & Technology and many others. But there is a shortage of general talents.

When selecting fresh graduate, we focus on positive attitude besides educational qualification. We assess whether an aspirant exhibits flexibility, potentiality and the ability to adapt to changing situation.

If you look at the training programs we arrange for the new-entrants, you’ll see that Epyllion takes human resource development very seriously. Whenever a person joins our organization, we introduce him to the workplace through an induction program where he gets an overview of the scope of his position, his responsibilities, and benefits, COC of the company & many more. We try to plug in new entrants with the philosophy of Epyllion. This orientation process has proved to be very effective in guiding our large community of employees toward one single direction.

Future Startup

Please tell us about the HR practices, values, and the overall organizational culture at Epyllion.

Mohammed Showket Iqbal

As an organization, we are always sincere in adhering to corporate ethics, values, and philosophy. We think that human resources are our most prized assets.

A company may have huge factories and hi-end machines, but they won’t worth a dime if you don’t have anyone to operate them. Consequently, you need to shape up your human resources to run the organization and tend to their shortcomings to avoid future obstacles. This is exactly what we try to do at Epyllion.

We actively encourage a learning culture here. Because of these practices, I have seen Epyllion to continuously reach new levels from the time I joined in 2008. For our commitment & best practices of HR Management, we won the Best Employer Award in RMG and textile industry in 2014.

At Epyllion, we want to tend to the human spirit among our employees. This sense of community is one of our core values. This camaraderie is rather implicit which our employees consciously feel once they leave us.

On the operational side, we are 100% complaint company and responsibility towards the earth is one of our priorities. Our principle is that not one bit of our water will come out without the ETP assessment. We practice compliance for our own good. We are a value chain driven company.

As an HR manager, it’s my view that you shouldn’t constantly monitor your employee. If you can choose the right people and delegate properly, people will do as they need to. An employee needs to own the organization s/he works for. Otherwise, s/he can’t be expected to rise above triviality.

Organizationally, we try to invoke a culture of humbleness & respect to others opinion. Everyone in our company, from the top-level executives to the linesmen, is encouraged to express their opinion. An open workplace environment brings forth creativity among employees on every level of the organization, which ultimately helps it grow.

At this point, Epyllion is in such a stage where continuous innovation has become our highest priority. By innovation, I don’t only mean bringing technical changes, but introducing new strategies and approaches to other segments of the company as well.

It might seem like a daunting task to inspire all of our employees to believe in the values given their number. But as I was describing earlier, whenever we make a new policy, our sub-HR department at each of our factories assumes the responsibility to spread it and create awareness among the employees they work with.

Moreover, our policy-making process is also very democratic. We start from the bottom by taking feedback from our people and then finally formulate the policies. Besides we often centrally arrange workshops for employees and allocate a certain portion of their work hour for training.

As an organization, we are always sincere in adhering to corporate ethics, values, and philosophy. We think that human resources are our most prized assets. A company may have huge factories and hi-end machines, but they won’t worth a dime if you don’t have anyone to operate them. Consequently, you need to shape up your human resources to run the organization and tend to their shortcomings to avoid future obstacles. This is exactly what we try to do at Epyllion.

Future Startup

Given your years of experience, how do you think an effective people management strategy should be designed?

Mohammed Showket Iqbal

It’s obvious that leaving policies to mere formulation defeats their key purpose. There’s no point in policy-making if employees don’t adhere to it. For this reason, you need to engage people in the policy-making process to make it effective.

Employees are empowered when they feel that they are part of the developmental process. And, you can expect a high-level of implementation when you ensure that involvement.

Future Startup

As a DGM of the HR, what challenges do you face in your job?

Mohammed Showket Iqbal

The first and foremost challenge that I face in my job at present is to find and recruit the right kind of people. As I have mentioned earlier, there’s an increasing gap between the expectation of the employers and that of the job-seekers. We have a lack of competent people in the market.

But to reach our $50 billion milestones the entire RMG industry of Bangladesh needs to focus on turning its human resources into assets. At Epyllion, we are trying to do that as well.

our policy-making process is also very democratic. We start from the bottom by taking feedback from our people and then finally formulate the policies. Besides we often centrally arrange workshops for employees and allocate a certain portion of their work hour for training.

Future Startup

What qualities do you look for when you recruit a new person?

Mohammed Showket Iqbal

We look out for a host of qualities in an aspirant. For example, while recruiting a Management Trainee (MT), which is one of our most important groups, we focus on her/his discipline of study and institution, and then we try to understand whether the person maintains a growth mindset, is adaptable, and take challenges.

On the other hand, when we try to hire somebody for an executive position we assess her/his expertise on the subject of potentiality.

In general, to work in our organization, a person needs to go through two phases: a written test, and an interview where we assess the individual under our competency framework.

The competency framework is designed to assess the interviewee from a number of aspects: depth of functional understanding, leadership, potentiality, positive attitude, communicability and overall personalities.

Among the aforementioned aspects, we put special emphasis on the positivity of the person, Leadership to run the sail for the achievement of a business goal. The positive attitude helps people to learn and adapt to changing situations which is an important skill in an organizational setup.

We believe our 60 to 70 percent achievement will be ensured if we can appoint right players.

Future Startup

You have been talking about the gap that exists between the expectation of the employers and job-seekers. Tell us more about it. What are some of the skills most lacking in our young people?

Mohammed Showket Iqbal

In my experience with young graduates, I have seen that most of them suffer from a lack of focus. They are often confused about their career choices. But, in order to advance in life, there’s no alternative to focus on what you do.

I have also observed a lack of communication skill among young people. Despite having a good knowledge base, they often fail to show their potential due to poor communication skills.

We look out for a host of qualities in an aspirant. For example, while recruiting a Management Trainee (MT), which is one of our most important group, we focus on her/his discipline of study and institution, then we try to understand whether the person maintains a growth mindset, is adaptable, and take challenges.

Future Startup

In light of your previous response, how do you think young people should prepare themselves to do better in the corporate world?

Mohammed Showket Iqbal

There are a number of things they should keep a wary eye on. First, they need to acquire an in-depth understanding of the discipline they’re majoring in. A marketing major should know as much as s/he can about marketing; so should a textile engineer.

Next, it is very important for young people to learn to express themselves. If you can’t show others your inner potential, you can’t expect them to believe in your abilities. Communicability, as a result, is a must-have quality.

Positivism is also something that, in my opinion, is a virtue for new-entrants in the professional world. A positive attitude comes to help in every aspect of the career. For example, during an interview, if you can’t provide a reasonable answer to something, avoid beating around the bush and say straight up that you are unable to respond.

There is a quite popular belief that you don’t have a connection, you don’t get a job. This is untrue. People need to understand that lobbying doesn’t work in private companies.

If you don’t have the right qualities, chances are no uncle of yours can get you hired. Because at the end of a company aims to maximize its chance of success and without good people, success is impossible to achieve.

Future Startup

Teams are the driving force of a company. What imperatives do you think influence in building a great team?

Mohammed Showket Iqbal

The first condition to build a great team is sharing, select the best players and distribute responsibilities as per competency. Respect for others opinion and fellowship.

We had a prevalent culture in the past where people in the top-positions remained aloof from their employees, trying to be quintessential bosses. But that kind of attitude is no longer valid in the modern workplace.

Now a team leader needs to be as interactive as possible. You need to be engaging so that your team members do not hesitate to come to you whenever they need support.

A great team is where members (i.e. employees) are emotionally connected, acknowledged and feel a sense of camaraderie. Otherwise, you will be left with an apathetic team with sub-par performance.

There are a number of things they should keep a wary eye on. First, they need to acquire an in-depth understanding of the discipline they’re majoring in. A marketing major should know as much as s/he can about marketing; so should a textile engineer. Next, it is very important for young people to learn to express themselves. If you can’t show others your inner potential, you can’t expect them to believe in your abilities. Communicability, as a result, is a must-have quality.

Future Startup

Tell us about the ways to build an organizational culture.

Mohammed Showket Iqbal

Building a culture that prevails throughout an organization is a complex process, but it is definitely no magic. ‘Tune of the top’ has a great impact to create a culture. If your senior officials are positive thinkers, then junior employees will follow.

To cultivate a certain type of culture in your organization, you need to engage with your employees to the greatest extent possible. You need to infuse a sense of community inside them.

A modern-day workplace shouldn’t have senior-junior disparity either. At Epyllion, we have broken out of hierarchical prejudices.

Every day in the morning, our Managing Director first visits his team members’ in the office before going into his own desk. Similarly, we can approach him anytime we want.

This is a rare practice. He is our boss and it is supposed to be that we go to his desk and meet him. But he does the opposite. This has an impact on the team. They understand that we have to be equally compassionate towards our co-workers.

Future Startup

What advice would you give to people on having a fulfilling career?

Mohammed Showket Iqbal

Given the diversity of career choices, it’s difficult to suggest general advice to everyone. But before starting the career, one needs to find her/his area of expertise. It’s tough to do so because real-life situations can get really complicated, forcing you to change your mind. Here, organizations can help employees to rearrange their career compass.

On a more personal level, as someone climbs up the organizational hierarchy, s/he would need to tap into varying types of skills. You have to know your business operation.

Generally speaking, you can categories an organizational hierarchy in three levels: execution level, that is basically entry-level, mid-level and then top level. Each of the organizational levels requires different skills to prosper.

When you work on the execution level of an organization, you would mostly need technical skills; but, as you are promoted to top management, human skills, such as managing people, navigating complex human situations, dealing with other high-level complexities will become the priority.

People who work on mid and execution level have to focus on their respective jobs only. But those who are high-ups have the additional responsibility to look after others’ who work besides their own.

Consequently, if someone wants to reach a higher position to have a fulfilling career, s/he would have to concentrate on the particular set of human skills that is necessary for the top management.

This set of skills includes a firm personality, steady decision-making capability, strong leadership capacity, gratitude, and humbleness.

There is no alternative to success expect determination and hard working.

The first condition to build a great team is sharing, select the best players and distribute responsibilities as per competency. Respect for others opinion and fellowship. A great team is where members (i.e. employees) are emotionally connected, acknowledged and feel a sense of camaraderie. Otherwise, you will be left with an apathetic team with sub-par performance.

Future Startup

How do you stay motivated given the fact that work often comes with challenges?

Mohammed Showket Iqbal

I want to reply to your question from a different perspective. Instead of talking about my stress management strategies, let me describe my source of motivation.

Whenever I feel stressed, I think about others who work in the company. Around 17,000 people work at Epyllion Group and every one of them is contributing to the fulfillment of a common objective.

It is like a relay race where everyone needs to do her/his own part in order to win the race. Otherwise, the entire operation can collapse.

When I consider my work from this perspective and see myself as a link in the chain, I realize that failure on my part would make the entire team suffer. This gives me motivation at the time of distress.

Future Startup

What personal values do you think have contributed to your journey to where you are today?

Mohammed Showket Iqbal

Dedication, loyalty, owning what I do and relentless learning–these are the values that I have nurtured throughout my life.
I have never ignored an opportunity for learning.

I try to keep myself up to date to recent developments in the HR field. Recently I have completed my academic preparation to attend the Senior Professional Human Resource International (SPHRI) certification.

Future Startup

You have been in the field of HR management for years now. What is your take on the overall HR practices in our country?

Mohammed Showket Iqbal

I’m not going comment on other sectors because I have been working in the RMG sector for a while now and whatever understanding I have can be better applied to this industry.

A company mainly comprises of the people who work in it. Great people build great companies and vice versa. With that in mind, I, along with some similar enthusiasts, have founded an association called Bangladesh Society for Apparel Human Resource Professional (BSAHRP). This organization has brought together the human resource professional working in the RMG industry.

But, unfortunately, I have to accept the fact that RMG industry has a long way to go in terms of HR practices. A considerable number of people who work in HRM in our country do not even have a basic understanding of their field. They often lack the professional skills and integrity to be in their position. If the situation persists, the future holds a grim prospect for the RMG industry.

But as young graduates with academic understanding and professional requirements have begun to enter the field, we can hope for a change.

Whenever I feel stressed, I think about others who work in the company. Around 17,000 people work at Epyllion Group and every one of them is contributing to the fulfillment of a common objective. It is like a relay race where everyone needs to do her/his own part in order to win the race. Otherwise, the entire operation can collapse. When I consider my work from this perspective and see myself as a link in the chain, I realize that failure on my part would make the entire team suffer. This gives me motivation at time of distress.

Future Startup

What advice would you give to fresh graduates who want to work in RMG industry?

Mohammed Showket Iqbal

Although the RMG industry has bright prospects, people outside the industry, especially students and job-seekers, have a lack of understanding of what the industry has to offer.

For instance, the rate of salary increments that employees in apparel industries enjoy is much more than that of others. These employees also receive various financial benefits and quick promotions. Taking these into consideration, I think young graduates who want to be a part of a rapid-growth industry should take their chances.

At the same time, RMG is the largest employment generating sector in the country. We bring in the foreign currency for the country and so on. There is a lot of opportunities to make a meaning contribution to the nation working in this sector.

Future Startup

What advice would you give to people who are just starting out?

Mohammed Showket Iqbal

To reiterate, one needs to be focused on what s/he is doing. A personal SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunities, threats) analysis helps to identify one’s plus points and limitations.

We seldom pay enough attention to ourselves and understanding our quirkiness. I think self-awareness is a critical skill that we all should cultivate.

Notes:

1. Interview by Ruhul Kader, Transcription by Rahatil Ashekan

2. Further reading on HRM, Career, and Future of work here.

3. Part of the introduction has been reproduced from this interview here.

_____________

About the sponsor: This story is made possible in part by our friends at Bdjobs.com, whose generosity enables us to publish premium stories online at no cost to our readers.

Bdjobs.com has introduced Employability Certification Test. The Employability Certification Test is a computer adaptive test which measures job applicants in critical areas like communication skills, logical reasoning, quantitative skills and job-specific domain skills thus helping recruiters identify the suitability of a candidate. By adding this test to the Job Ad, you will be able to significantly cut your recruitment lead time and effort. Learn more here.

We Recommend

Type to Search

See all results
Shares