Ashraf Bin Taj is the co-founder and Managing Director of International Distribution Company Bangladesh (IDC), a fast-growing marketing and distribution company based in Dhaka. It started its journey in the middle of 2013 with 26 people and only one brand. Today, IDC is a team of 508 people, works with a long list of international brands, has a growing business and eyeing its next phase of expansion. This is the story of how IDC was founded.
How IDC came into being
Starting an International Distribution Company (IDC) is yet another interesting story. I had been a job-holder throughout my life before starting IDC. Naturally, you could save only so much while doing a job. I did not have a lot of money but I had connections, ideas, and management capabilities gathered through years of experience.
That said, running a business and managing a business are two different things. I nowadays see people arranging entrepreneurship seminars and the likes but unfortunately, many people who speak in these seminars have no experience in building businesses, sorry to criticize, and most people talk about the rosy side of the journey but entrepreneurship is about pain. The share of struggle and hardship easily out-weigh everything else. There are too many things to take care of while running a business.
I have seen both sides of the aisle. I have experience of working in leading corporates in the country. And for the last four years, I have been running this company. I can give you a long list of hurdles one goes through doing business in Bangladesh. Let’s not go there. It would take yet another session!
Let’s return to the IDC story. Since I did not have enough capital, it was a hard call for me to start a business. But then my friend Bashir Ahmad, who is now Chairman and equal shareholder of IDC, came forward. He came from a business family and is a fourth-generation businessman.
In 2013, Bashir proposed me to do something together. He did not explain fully what he wanted to do. He just said I have this passion for building a consumer goods marketing company if you take responsibility for this, I could arrange initial investment and we would have an equal share.
At that time, my wife, who has been working with UNICEF since 1995, got an overseas assignment in East Timor. The situation was that I would have to visit her and my kid every two months.
Making a difficult decision
I was a Business Director at ACI where I was responsible for over a thousand people and business of almost 500 crores. It was a big decision. I was considering each option.
One day while I shared the idea with my friend Sufian, who is the Country Manager of Ferrero, he then informed me that Ferrero was looking for a new distributor in Bangladesh and gave me the idea to pursue distributorship of Ferrero in Bangladesh. He said, with your experience at Nestle and ACI, if you take responsibility, I could make a proposal to my company. I could not guarantee that you would get the business but I will try my best.
After much thought and discussion, I finally decided to move forward. I and Bashir joined hands and IDC came into existence in the middle of 2013. I formally resigned from ACI on 24th March 2013 and was finally released on 6th August.
Later in August, the top management of Ferrero including Sales and Finance Director came to Bangladesh. By that time we took this, current IDC office, facility. They interviewed us along with a few other potential partners. Eventually, we got selected. My previous experience and connections both helped us in winning the business. At that time, Sales Director of Ferrero was an Ex-Nestle who also checked my background through his network which, to some degree, helped us to win the business.
We started with 26 people, for Ferrero. All the initial investment came from Bashir. I had a little bit of savings which I offered but that was nothing compared to the requirement. That’s how we started.
The evolution of IDC
We started with Ferrero, four of Ferrero brands including Kinder Joy.
Then we started working for Amul from December 2013,
In 2014, we launched our trading business. We are a listed supplier to Bata and supply non-shoe items to their non-shoe business unit.
In 2015, Nivea was reviewing its distributorship in Bangladesh. The shortlisted five companies including us. After multiple meetings and through a rigorous process, finally, they decided to award the business to us.
The performance of Nivea and Ferrero chocolates like Kinder Joy that you see in the market today, we are happy to say we have contributed to that.
This year we are working with Unilever Asia, a company of Unilever that deals with brands that are not available through Unilever Bangladesh in our local market but available in other markets. We have already been awarded the distribution rights for Ponds Talcum Powder, Pears Soap, Camay Soap, and Kissan branded food products. There are a few more that will be added to the portfolio. We have dedicated teams for each brand. We currently cover 26 thousand outlets all across the country. We cover all the modern trades.
This story is an excerpt from our interview with IDC Founded Mr. Taj published in 2017. You may read our complete coverage of IDC here.