An Interview With AKM Moinul Islam Moin, Chief Operating Officer, PRAN RFL Group

An Interview With AKM Moinul Islam Moin, Chief Operating Officer, PRAN RFL Group

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AKM Moinul Islam Moin is a Chief Operating Officer at PRAN RFL Group, one of the leading homegrown conglomerates in Dhaka. Mr. Moin, in his 40s, has a diverse career having experience of working in wide-ranging markets in FMCG industry starting from carbonated soft drinks, beverage, juice, confectionery, frozen food, biscuits, snacks, chocolate and more. He has been instrumental in growing PRAN’s PRAN Sweets and Confectionery (PSC) business. And he leads PRAN’s effort into the frozen food business. He has won multiple local and international awards for his work. In 2014, he was named as one of the 100 most talented Global Marketing Leaders by World Marketing Congress(WMC).

In this excellent interview, Mr. Moin walks us through his journey from a passionate cultural activist to what he is doing today, talks about his work at PRAN RFL Group as a COO, how he approaches his work, and shares overview of two growing SBUs that he leads at PRAN, gives insight into how PRAN’s confectionary business has grown to a significant market share over the years, PRAN’s frozen food strategy, how PRAN operates as a company and innovates in one of the most competitive industries, reflects on his management philosophy and his take on leadership, lessons he has learned so far, and much more.

Future Startup

Thank you for agreeing to do this interview. What is your background? Could you please tell us about your journey to what you are doing today?

AKM Moinul Islam Moin

My parents, who originally came from Madaripur, started living in Dhaka before the liberation war. My father used to work at the Australian High Commission while my mother managed the home. I’m the youngest among the four children of my parents. I was born in Moghbazar, Dhaka. I came to this Badda neighborhood when I was two and have been living here since. I’m happily married and have three lovely kids.

I began my education at Kalachandpur High School near Baridhara where I read till matriculation exam. I passed SSC from the science discipline. Then I went to Tejgaon College where I completed my intermediate education.

Quite normally, my parents wanted me to be a doctor since I was in the science discipline during my secondary and higher secondary stage. But it was pretty tough to get into the medical colleges back then. The ratio of aspiring students to the ones who actually got into the medical school used to hover around 68 to 1. I sat for the written examination and passed. Eventually, I made it to the waiting list after the viva voce test. Things were fairly slow back then. So, I got a little restless while waiting for the final result.

After a few months, the final result came in and I didn’t make it to any medical college. I was understandably heartbroken. At first, I wanted to try it once again. My parents advised me to do the same. But my brother told me that it’d be pragmatic of me if I keep myself enrolled in a university or college at the same time while preparing for the medical exam.

I agreed to my brother’s proposal but unfortunately, by this time all university admission tests were completed, so I couldn’t try for any university admission. So I got enrolled in a B.Sc. program at Tejgaon College. I was an old student there since I did my HSC from the same college and I already had a circle of friends and familiar people in the adjacent area. The autonomous college and university student unions were still active during that period. Among all these, I soon began to enjoy this life.

I had always been very interested in extra-curricular activities since my school days. I learned martial art when I was in high school. I also used to play volleyball at national-level Under 18 contests for the Dhaka division. And obviously books. Sheba Prokashoni (a popular publishing house in Bangladesh during the 90s) was a craze in our time. I started reading Sheba books from class eight. Tin Goyenda series was my favorite. As I grew older, Masud Rana, Humayun Ahmed, Sunil, Buddhobed Guho, and the like started to join my booklist.

So evidently, when I got into Tejgaon College for the second time in such a vibrant and cultural environment, I began to overlook my medical test preparation. Ultimately what happened was that I sat neither for any medical college nor for any university exam later. I continued at Tejgaon College and finally passed my B.Sc. from there. In the meantime, I had joined a Dhaka University-based recital/choir group. I was very active with them. My family wasn’t happy with my activities. Hearing their complaints, I said to my brother at one point that upon completing my graduation from Tejgaon I would go for M.Sc. at Dhaka University. Dhaka University used to allow outside students to pursue masters at that time.

I completed my B.Sc. with a first-class result. But unlucky as I was, from our batch Dhaka University stopped allowing students to their master’s program who didn’t study the bachelor’s there. I finally went to Jagannath College (the present-day Jagannath University) for my M.Sc.

In the meantime, I kept my choir activities going. I had also joined a theatre group by then. I finished the first year of my master’s program without any significant trouble. But I could only make halfway through the final exam. I participated in the written exam but didn’t appear for the practical tests.

At that time, it took more than four years to do a post-grad due to session blocks. But for some personal reasons I had to take up a job as soon as I could. To increase my possibility of getting a job, I decided to opt for an MBA qualification as well. I was doing my M.Sc. at Jagannath and, at the same time, studying for my master’s in business administration from the Asian University of Bangladesh. When I finished my MBA, I thought that I should rather forego my M.Sc. studies and so I did.

Upon my graduation, I started my first at job Bombay Sweets. Before that, I worked as an intern for a short period at Novartis Pharmaceuticals (Bangladesh) Ltd. I joined the sales division at Bombay Sweets.

It’s not like I started my career with a conscious decision. In fact, my involvement in the cultural space made me a bit of a bohemian. I hadn’t yet become really serious about my career. So, when my post-grad was over I applied to be in the Bombay Sweet’s sales team because I knew that a traditional job wouldn’t cut it for me. It also helped that I majored in marketing.

Working in the brand building offers some room for creativity, of course. That, in turn, agreed with my cultural past. I was responsible for the Dhaka chapter in the beginning. The then head of marketing and sales helped me to understand the know-how of the job.

After a while, I moved to Jamuna Group, as the Assistant Brand Manager. We were the first company to bring energy drink brands in the local market, Crown and Hunter. They were later banned by the government on the grounds of a legal violation. Jamuna also brought a popular brand of bathing soap called Aromatic, while I was there. It was the first soap in Bangladesh that claimed 100% halal soap.

Later on, I left Jamuna and joined at National Beverage Ltd (Bottler of Monarch Int Beverage, Atlanta, USA). Although not hugely, but it was still a public-favorite brand in the country. As its brand manager, I was part of the re-launch of several brands like Sun Crest and Bubble Up.

From Sun Crest I came here to Pran. I began working as a brand manager and rose to the upper level subsequently: from senior brand manager to category manager to assistant general manager. After working for a few years at PRAN, I moved to Partex Group where I stayed for a short period before returning to PRAN. I started my second episode at PRAN as the deputy general manager (marketing) and was soon promoted to head of marketing. Next, a little more than two years ago, I left the field of marketing and assumed the position of general manager (operation) for Pran. And I finally became the COO a few months ago. I wanted to understand the business better and realized that while dealing with marketing I would only be working on marketing related activities and if I want to go deeper in understanding business, I have to work on the business side. That made me go from pure marketing to the business side of things.

I have a post-graduate diploma degree in brand management from Corporate Education College (UK). Moreover, in order to progress in my career and to move beyond the field of marketing, I also did an MBA from North South University with a major in finance and learning remains my lifelong passion.

Can’t resist sharing that I have been awarded in 2014 as “Global Marketing Leader” by World Marketing Congress (WMC) as 100 most talented Global Marketing Leaders. I was the World Marketing Congress’s advisory council member in 2014-15. I’m a judge of American Business Award (USA) and Festival of Media (APAC).

Everything changed when our first baby came into the world. I left everything other than my career.

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Future Startup

In your youth, you were actively involved in cultural activities. From there you have moved to the world of business. That’s an interesting transition. How did that happen?

Moin

An important point in my life was the birth of my first child. Before that, I took my career casually. My wife used to work for a multinational company. And she was culturally active too. We held that we should manage both sides of our life – professional and personal/cultural. Although, to be fair, my priority was always the latter one.

But everything changed when our first baby came into the world. I left everything other than my career. I stopped going to the rehearsals and choir groups. In fact, most of the professional development training that I took, I took after that. Previously I used to take part in programs like study circles, film appreciation courses, and photography training. The learning continues but the emphasis has changed. Slowly my absenteeism began to go away and I become more determined.

I had no specific plans but I wanted to get to the top of my game. I used to work in sales before, as I mentioned earlier. But I wanted to work in brand management because it matches well with my cultural past. I aimed at the highest position in marketing–chief marketing officer. It was an attractive position which offered fair compensations. I was actually successful in realizing that plan. Gradually, I become the head of marketing. Afterward, I figured out that I have to broaden my scope. I took up some training, with an especial focus on finance and effective decision-making. Eventually, I decided to learn more about the business side of things, which eventually led to the decision to move to the operation side of the business. That has been the second major transition for me. And I’m happy that I made that decision.

Future Startup

Could you please tell us more about your work as the COO at Pran RFL? What does your daily to-do-list look?

Moin

Pran RFL has a number of strategic business units (SBU). One of them is Pran Sweets and Confectionary (PSC), which is basically a confectionery business. PSC is a self-sufficient business unit. It has two sales channels spread throughout the country. From the Head of Sales to the Sales representatives, the sales force working in this unit is 1000-men strong. We have separate accounts, marketing, supply chain management and other divisions in PSC. It used to operate only in Bangladesh before. But now we have expanded the business to India. So I look after Bangladesh and India operation of PSC.

Recently, I have been assigned another business unit: Pran Frozen Food (PFF). It has a separate set up. So, altogether, I look after these two SBUs at Pran RFL.

I attend to the production, sales, marketing, supply chain, and other similar activities of these units. In a big picture level, my main job is to ensure the sustainable growth of these two businesses with significant bottom lines and market share.

AKM Moinul Islam Moin

AKM Moinul Islam Moin

Future Startup

Clearly, your job requires you to manage different types of affairs on a daily basis. You must have to juggle between your priorities. How do you do that? How do you approach your job?

Moin

To answer that, first, let me tell you something that our founder CEO Major Amzad Chowdhury taught us. He used to say: know your job; do your job; apply common sense, and set a personal example. People who work at Pran RFL and are committed to their responsibilities carry this motto in their heart. It has become sort of a rule in my life. I can do any job, no matter how tough, if I follow this instruction. I need to understand my work, do it methodically, and be pragmatic.

In terms of leadership, I believe that I need to be the most responsible one in the team. I think I need to set examples of how to do things by fulfilling my duties properly. I never tell my teammates how they must work and behave. I do not think it is effective to always tell others what to do. If the objectives are clear, the employees can find their own way of doing things. I give them flexibility. And I try to set a personal example.

I want this flexibility to permeate throughout the organization. But it’s still not possible because I interact directly with a handful of people. But I believe that such a culture will enormously help our cause. A person can’t do everything. Everyone has their own capabilities as well as limitations. I promote individual capabilities. I try to understand my people and help them to play to their strength.

Say, I have two operational managers. One of them approaches his job analytically, and the other is good at quick decision-making but likes to get off early. I won’t manage these two persons in the same way. Rather I’d create such an environment for them and assign tasks in such a way that their potentials are fully realized.

If I can set the right kind of goals for my team and establish them as collective and organizational, rather than personal, the employees feel committed to their work.

Every SBU at Pran RFL has a core team. I always try to help the people who are on these teams so that they can have a clear understanding of their responsibilities and set their targets. I set a common goal for everyone and then the employees break it down according to their respective jobs. In this way, everyone works in a harmonious manner which makes the job of management easy for me.

Future Startup

Could you tell us more about PSC?

Moin

We produce confectionery products in our factories and sell nationally and internationally. If we talk about production, PSC holds around a 55% share of the confectionery items market.

We have been the recipient of the best brand award in the confectionery category given by the Bangladesh Brand Forum and Millward Brown Bangladesh consecutively for the last five years. This is noteworthy because we have some strong international competitors like Nestle and Perfetti Van Melle in the segment.

Moreover, among tough competition with the big brands in the country including the telecom operators, we received the Best Com award for Pran Choco Choco two years ago. These awards have been a great source of inspiration for all of us.

PSC has quite a large team. About 1000 sales representatives work in this unit, as I have mentioned before. The unit headquarters is run by 30 executive officers. We have three factories in Narsingdi and Kaliganj where we produce the confectionary items. Around 450 people are employed there.

To answer that, first, let me tell you something that our founder CEO Major Amzad Chowdhury taught us. He used to say: know your job; do your job; apply common sense, and set a personal example. People who work at Pran RFL and are committed to their responsibilities carry this motto in their heart. It has become sort of a rule in my life. I can do any job, no matter how tough, if I follow this instruction. I need to understand my work, do it methodically, and be pragmatic.

Future Startup

How does the operation work?

Moin

Our business operations processes are a set of activities that will accomplish the specific organizational goal. There are a number of strategies to execute for achieving the organizational goal.

Our business operations are mainly done in three major parts: (i) Operations part which deals with the core business and value chain. These processes deliver value to the customer by helping to produce a product. (ii) Supporting part which includes accounting, HR, administration, MIS. (iii) Management part which measures, monitors and controls activities related to business procedures and systems. It includes internal communications, strategic planning, budgeting and capacity management.

Future Startup

How do you reach out to your customers? What are the channels and mediums you use regularly?

Moin

Consumers are influenced by deeper frames of mind and metaphors that they are less conscious about. To reach Consumers in the current competitive marketplace is not easy. Only those who adapt and respond to the changes fast are likely to make it in the market. Medium to reach consumers are being disrupted as digital media continues to grow and become ever-more convenient for consumers.

Marketing has been one of the strongest suits of Pran. When we are to design a marketing campaign for a particular product, we do a lot of research beforehand. We have an in-house creative team and a film production team. And when it is ready, we also have our own agency that facilitates the broadcast of a commercial on different mediums (e.g. radio, TV, online).

Although digital media is currently the talk of the town, we are still more focused on traditional channels. Depending upon the nature of the brand, we make changes to our strategy. Take, for instance, Pran Milk Candy. It is a brand for kids that we do not promote it much on the internet. But in the case of Mr. Mango, a brand directed toward the youth, it has a strong online presence. We spend more than 20% of its entire marketing budget on digital marketing.

And the results have been satisfactory. You’d be amazed to know that Mr. Mango is the first FMCG brand in Bangladesh that has 2 million followers on Facebook. Before this, no Bangladesh-based brand has achieved that size of following on social media.

Future Startup

It’s quite an achievement that PSC now possess 55% of the market share. How have you grown so much?

Moin

When I began to work here 12 years back, Pran wasn’t as big as it is now. It has grown mainly over the last five or six years. Product innovation, competitive strategic move, well portfolio management, pricing structure, go-to-market policy, trade and retail marketing and effective media presence – all these things have contributed to this growth.

We have taken some risks to arrive at this point. One of them, I have discussed earlier, was individual product branding. We have built brands like Mr. Mango and a host of others. This was not a common practice at PRAN before. Everything was under one brand. We have made a departure from that strategy to the individual product brand.

Then we have also made some strategic shift in-terms of target customers. There were and are large confectionary brands in Bangladesh such as Alpenliebe, Bingo, Olympic. What they have in common is that all of them target children as their customers. This strategy wasn’t in line with the successful international brands. Cadbury doesn’t appeal to the children alone; they try to lure the adults.

Similarly, not only the children like candies; adults too like to chew them once in a while. This insight made us think whether we can bring a new brand that targets young people rather than toddlers. We thought that while everyone was indulged in a red ocean strategy, it’d be better for us if we adopt a blue ocean strategy and emerge into a market that had since been untapped.

The outcome of that endeavor was Mr. Mango candy. To make it popular among the youth, we chose an amicable, bald person as our brand ambassador. The commercial we aired for Mr. Mango, where our brand ambassador was featured, went viral. For the next five to six months, we were the top spenders on FM radio channels, which was usually ignored by others at that time. Producing RDCs was also not an easy task then. People used to wait around radio offices for long hours to do that.

The success of Mr. Mango confirms the effectiveness of our strategy. These are a few things that have helped us to grow and build a dominant position in the market.

Having said that, we are not complacent. We don’t sit and enjoy on our laurels. We are continuously working on innovation, understanding the new changes in the market and finding new ways of serving our customers.

We are going to launch a new line of products under the brand very soon. Hopefully, we can take it to the next level.

In addition to the above, our distribution strategy is one of the main pillars of success. We have access to every corner in the country. Distribution plans have prepared for the long run.

In terms of leadership, I believe that I need to be the most responsible one in the team. I think I need to set examples of how to do things by fulfilling my duties properly. I never tell my teammates how they must work and behave. I do not think it is effective to always tell others what to do. If the objectives are clear, the employees can find their own way of doing things. I give them flexibility. And I try to set a personal example.

Future Startup

What are the plans for PSC going forward?

Moin

Pran has become quite a large conglomerate over the years. Working at the confectionary and frozen food unit, we get to see only a part of the overall situation. As you may know, Pran exports to more than 130 countries all over the world. On the other end, it exports confectionary items to more than 30 countries including India, Nepal, UK and countries in Europe.

As a result, when we do product development, we not only think of the local market but also for our international markets as well. We have designed different types of products for different regions. Many products that we market in Australia can’t be marketed in Bangladesh because the weather won’t agree.

Here, let me tell you something interesting. You may have noticed that Bangladesh is going through a shift in the use of coin currency. 1-Taka coin has almost become extinct. This would lead to an important change in our industry. Now we are trying to shift our 1-Taka consumer segments to 2-taka. We have been working on it for some time. We are also thinking about bringing a few new brands which will have to wait till winter.

Apart from these, we are adopting a multi-channel sales strategy, re-vitalizing the existing brands and diverse consumptions with new penetration.

AKM Moinul Islam Moin

AKM Moinul Islam Moin

Future Startup

Let’s talk about Pran Frozen Food. How are you doing there? What are the plans?

Moin

It’s an interesting category. Interesting in the sense that it offers a lot of opportunities as well as poses a lot of challenges for us. Although it seems like that it is a small category, but frozen food products can be diverse, such as–samucha, singara, pudding, chicken. We have 28 types of vegetables in this category.

For now, PFF is mainly an export-oriented business. Our significant percentage of business in this category comes from export. There are certain challenges in the Bangladesh market. We have different brands for each country that we export to. We don’t market the same brand in both Canada and Europe. a

However, we have started exploring the local market, which we believe is on an upward trajectory. Our local frozen food brand is Jhotpot. You may have seen or tasted Jhotpot Roti, Paratha, Nuggets, samocha, spring roll etc.

Overseeing the PFF operation entails managing the supply chain. It is particularly important in this category to maintain a cooling chain to keep the products fresh to the point that they are delivered to the customers. Because every product requires to be stored at a certain temperature.

I think that frozen foods hold a great prospect in the future in Bangladesh. The rapid increase of urbanization and our growing busyness are squeezing the time people spent on cooking. As a result, the market will keep getting bigger. Brands like Kazi Farm, Golden Harvest, and BRAC pose good competition.

At this point in time, our local share of the market is not that significant, since we came in a little late. But if we consider both the local supply and exports, we are in good shape.

However, we have plans for the local market and you would see interesting things soon. We have been building our capacity. We plan to bring new products and exciting offers by the end of this year. We are going to introduce innovative new products under the brand, such as frozen pitha and biryani.

We are still not putting any special marketing effort for frozen foods. We have familiar suppliers for our other popular confectionary items. We supply the frozen products mainly to up-market.

We have a huge population and the market for frozen foods is an ever-growing one. So, the possibilities are endless here.

Future Startup

Could you please give us an overview of PRAN RFL Group?

Moin

First off, Pran RFL used to exist as the same entity in the past. But they have been separated for a while now. Now both Pran and RFL have their separate operations. We are still called Pran RFL Group, but the management is different. I should talk about Pran.

Around 115,000 people are currently working here throughout Pran Group. As for products, we have nine major categories, such as–juice, soft drinks, snacks, Bakery, biscuits, confectionery, culinary, dairy, frozen foods. These categories have many sub-categories. We produce most of these products ourselves. We have 13 manufacturing plants and 21 depots throughout the country. We basically supply the goods to our distributor at 700 thanas from these depots. This is how our network works. In fact, we are bringing new products every now and then.

We are proud to say that we are one of the top brands in the FMCG industry. We are present in almost all categories in the market. We do not lead in each of them but overall we are one of the market leaders.

Future Startup

Every month Pran brings new products to the market. How does it happen?

Moin

We are a company with a big vision. We have an insatiable thirst to do better for the consumers. Our significant effort goes into giving better and innovative products to our consumers. This has been one of the reasons why PRAN launches new products every now and then.

Pran is a large organization. There are 12 SBUs which operate independently, have different management, product portfolio, labor variation, and so on. Every SBU has own long-term objective, strategy. So, each SBU has their own plans regarding when and what will be launched. It’s a process, not ad-hoc practice.

Future Startup

So, how do you coordinate among different units? How does the operational process work?

Moin

We have sort of a reputation in the market for perpetually launching new products. But the thing is that if you need to sustain in the FMCG industry, you must keep innovating and bringing in new products. Besides we live in a fast-paced world now where you don’t get much time to develop a product. You may remember the long period of time we had to wait to get a new version of a color TV. That’s not the case anymore. Today, we live in a world where today’s hot technology becomes obsolete tomorrow. We are now getting an edition of a SMART TV every other month. SO the time has hanged. The way the market used to work has hanged. So does the way we do business. That’s a demand of the time.

To do such constant innovation, NPD, sales, marketing, we need seamless and effective collaboration which depends on many factors, and require changes at the leadership and cultural level, as well as in the day-to-day execution. At the end of the day, remember that you’re all in it together and that your success depends on everyone doing their job well.

Collaboration between departments is more than simply coordination with other teams. It involves a shared vision, mutual respect, and an in-depth understanding of each other’s role with the goal of achieving excellent business outcomes and outstanding customer experience.

Future Startup

What do you think have contributed to Pran’s growth in the last couple of years?

Moin

Several things have helped. One is diversification and agile execution on. We have expanded our portfolio and brought in many new products. And then we have executed well in all those areas.

Internally, we have strengthened our organizational resource and increase our production capacity. Moreover, we have not tried to be innovative not only in product designing but in transforming the overall way we do business as well.

Our marketing strategies have obviously changed. We have gone to foreign lands. We now communicate with our international customers too. Our sales force is much bigger and stronger now. We provide regular training to our sales representatives. Once our products had poor packaging. Now, we pay special attention to the product appearance, try to make it as attractive as possible.

Growth does not come from one thing. It is a result of many different things that are working in sync. If you diversify but fail to execute properly, you would not go far. If you set ambitious goals but lacks organizational capacity that could support achieving that goal then you would not go there. If you look at PRAN today, you would see that this an organization that is agile and can quickly respond to the changes in the market. We have been able to build organizational capability in these areas over the years. At the same, and most important, people and culture. We have an extremely young team and people love their work at PRAN. Over the years, the mid to senior employee retention has gone significantly higher at PRAN. People truly own the company because the culture is that of performance-driven, anyone who does well, gets rewarded. This has created a virtuous cycle that helps drive the growth.

Most importantly, our present CEO and Chairman Mr.Ahsan Khan Chowdhury, the most workaholic and dynamic person I have ever seen in my whole life. He has a clear and big vision. His leadership ability to transfer to us has been one of the major contributors to Pran’s growth.

Future Startup

From the way you have described the SBUs work at Pran, it seems that you have a built-in capacity to make plans and execute them. Many organizations struggle in this matter. Tell us about it?

Moin

Interestingly, many people think that we do not really plan. They think that we do whatever comes into our mind. Now there is a debate on whether emphasis should put on planning or execution. Harvard Business Review published a piece called How to Excel at Both Strategy and Execution that touches on this issue. So, what is important? ` Should I plan or should I implement?

As a matter of fact, we do both and maintain equal focus. We try to do them as quickly as we can. Although we think that we should think it through before we do something, but time demands a crucial consideration here. Once companies used to design marketing strategies for five years. If you take that much time now, you will fall back. We do yearly planning now and, if required, make quarterly, even monthly, changes. The time overall span of doing things has shrunk and you can not essentially sit idle in the name of the long-term plan. You have to respond to the changes in the market and act accordingly.

Growth does not come from one thing. It is a result of many different things that are working in sync. If you diversify but fail to execute properly, you would not go far. If you set ambitious goals but lacks organizational capacity that could support achieving that goal then you would not go there. If you look at PRAN today, you would see that this an organization that is agile and can quickly respond to the changes in the market. We have been able to build organizational capability in these areas over the years.

Future Startup

How do you exactly do that? I mean, how do you ensure that different layers of the management deal with a particular strategy and implementation method in a prompt manner?

Moin

We have an open book policy here at Pran. We welcome any and every idea, no matter how crude or from what level of the organizational layer it may be. We pay attention to ideas even if they are put forth by our frontline employees. We are aware of the practice that many international companies open up idea box and arrange town hall where they invite ideas from employees at different levels.

We are trying to cultivate a similar type of culture here so that everyone can participate in product development. This is one of the reasons why PRAN is so productive as a company. We launch hundreds of products yearly and these ideas come from every level. PRAN would make an excellent case study material for agility and corporate innovation.

According to Philip Kotler, there are certain ways you can employ innovation in developing a product. One is to emulate the innovation of the leaders in your category. Another is to have a core consumer panel with whom you brainstorm ideas and co-create new products. The thing is that we do not always imitate others, as many people accuse. Often we are the ones who introduce a new type of products. We look out for global trends. We co-create with our customers and teams.

Future Startup

Tell us about your organizational culture at PRAN.

Moin

What’s nice at Pran is that we don’t have a bureaucratic structure. It’s noteworthy because large companies usually have a fair amount of bureaucracy. However, until now PRAN has been able to maintain a fluid organizational culture that suffers from minimum bureaucracy. We maintain a direct relationship among all levels of the organization. Anyone can go up to the chairman’s chamber.

The other component of PRAN culture is performance. This is a very performance-driven organization and if you do well, you will get rewarded. We provide incentives to our employees based on their performance. This applies to all units. The incentive is awarded excess to their basic salary and other conveyance allowances. It motivates employees to go the extra mile. Those of us who work as the COO, we get a bonus on the profit we have contributed to earning every year.

Pran has been operating since 1981. We have succeeded in turning all our units into well-oiled machines. To coordinate between these units, we have department heads who sit together every week and follow up on their records.

We are a performance-based organization. No one at Pran sits around idly and gets paid. You need to be industrious to stay at Pran. And your hard work will be rewarded. We have some other small traits. For instance, everyone, from the chairman to our SRs, has to put on a uniform when s/he comes here to work. Then, we offer the same food for everyone at our canteen. It means that at a given day, a particular meal will be served for everyone at the office. This has helped us create a culture where everyone feels equally important.

We are hard on those who are accused of misconduct. We do not tolerate corruption. But if someone falters at her/his job or her/his performance falls, we do everything to improve that.

Future Startup

What are some lessons you’ve learned from your journey so far?

Moin

Since we only get to live once, I believe that we should drink it to the lees. We should focus on making our lives enjoyable and not being serious all the time. People say everyone needs to plan for the long-term. Yes, one must. But one should not obsessed over it either. I have a lot of disappointments in my life. I couldn’t be a doctor or study at a reputed university. But I didn’t let it ruin my life. So, you need to enjoy your life. This is what you have got. The past has already become irrelevant and the future is yet to come, you have this moment only. Savor it.

Secondly, never give up. When my company assigned PSC to me two years ago, it wasn’t generating any profit. On top of that, I had zero experience managing business. Until that point, I had always worked in the marketing field. The operational area was new to me. I, along with my coworkers, have struggled a lot throughout the first one year or so. But we did not give up. We tussled with it. We struggled but we kept at it. And now PSC is one of the hi-performing SBUs of Pran.

You need to be honest. True, many dishonest people become successful in life. But their success is void and doesn’t fulfill their lives. More importantly, this world needs more honest, good people.

A positive attitude is critical for living a good life. Be positive. Seeing the negative things in life is easy. It is everywhere. Newspapers are always on the lookout for the next tragedy. But there are good things in life as well. It only that we need to train our eyes and work a little hard to see them.

Reading is crucial for personal development. These days, we are so indulged with our smartphones we don’t get enough time to read and think. But we need to make that time. Our schools are producing skilled human resource; but not thinkers. I believe that to be really successful in life, you need to be Jack of all trades and master of one or two.

Future Startup

What does it take to be an effective leader?

Moin

A leader should be active and get his hands dirty. He should get involved in things. As a leader, you should have the ability to help your teammates to unleash their potential. You need to lift focus from the individual to the group. In today’s world, it is all about the team. This is not the age when a team leader becomes the superhero and others receive no appreciation. Now you have to progress as a team. If you can maintain that success and failure both are collective, not personal, you can be an effective leader.

I personally spend a lot of time looking after my team. I never refer to my coworkers as subordinates. I call them teammates, no matter how young they are. I try to keep in touch with all of them.

Future Startup

What advice would you give if you meet your 25-year old self?

Moin

I would tell him to read voraciously and travel to his heart’s content. Believe in your strength and improve. Be a student of the game. Listen to your inner voice. And love deeply.

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