IMTIAZ HUSSAIN, Chief Executive Officer, RAK Ceramics (Bangladesh) Limited

Imtiaz Hussain was appointed as the CEO of RAK Ceramics in 2013. He started his journey with RAK Ceramics in 1999 as a Sales Manager. After working for almost 10 years he was promoted as DGM (Sales & Marketing) in 2009. From there he became GM (Sales & Marketing) and after that he has been promoted as COO before being appointed as the CEO.

Tell us about the mission of your company.
RAK Ceramics was established in 1999 as a joint venture company of RAK Ceramics UAE. We went for commercial production of tiles in 2000 with the capacity of 8000 square meters a day only. After that with the support of our stakeholders, acceptance of our customers and by dint of technology and continuous innovation, we devoted our efforts to enhance the capacity. The 2nd expansion took place in 2004 with the capacity of another 8000 square meters tiles per day. In the same year, we also set up the factory plant for sanitary ware with the production capacity of 1500 pieces a day. The expansion process was repeated in 2007 and 2016. As of today, RAK Ceramics is the largest manufacturer of both tiles and sanitary ware. When it comes to tiles, we have the production capacity of 32000 square meters per day, which is around 11.6 million meters per year. In case of sanitary ware, the production capacity is 4200 pieces per day, around 1.47 million pieces per year. These data show how, from its beginning, the company wanted to become number one in its field in Bangladesh. I along with my colleagues, especially Md. Mahbubur Rahman, GM – HR & Admin, and Md. Jahirull Reza, GM – SCM gave everything to this company for almost 18 years with full dedication, loyalty, and honesty. I must thank our Chairman, Abdallah Massaad and Managing Director, S.A.K. Ekramuzzaman for their vision and guidance. Their experience in this sector helped us immensely.

What is the current status of the company as more and more players are investing in this field?
There is no doubt that this sector has potential, which is why there are new entrants into the market. We appreciate this trend and welcome our competitors. We always welcome and accept challenges and perform accordingly to remain on top of this industry. When this company started its journey, two or three local players were there who had a good grip on the market at that time. For the last 18 years, we have taken effective strategic decisions, focusing not only the growth of the market but also in the enhancement of the technological aspect of production with the support of R&D from RAK UAE which enabled us to emerge as one of the most innovative companies in this sector. We were the first company to launch double charge feeder for making tiles; we also pioneered the launch of bigger sized tiles like 40X40 sq-cm in 2004 and 60X60 sq-cm in 2007. We even have the capacity to produce 60X120 sq-cm or even 1X1 sq-m sized tiles. In sanitary ware segment, we also launched products like single piece rimless water closets, wall-hung water closet, which could only be imported; no one was locally making it when we inaugurated those in the market. Many of our competitors don’t have adequate designers collections; only a few basic designs, combo-sets etc. They’re already exporting to 165 countries and have better knowledge about the taste of the customers and changing trends in the market. With their help, we have managed to introduce more than a thousand designs of tiles and 30 designs of sanitary ware, which has put us ahead of the competition.

What is the market share right at this moment?
As of 2016, our market share is 22% in Tiles and around 34% in Sanitary Ware. I would like to mention here that with 1231 people per square meter, Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries of the world. Our GDP growth is also among the top five countries of the world. One data we have gathered that in China per capita tiles consumption is 0.5 square meter; in India it is 0.2 square meter and in Bangladesh, it is less than that. Besides, in case of purchasing power parity, Bangladesh stands at 32nd position in the world with a continuous increase in per capita income. These all data make me hopeful about a further flourishing market ensuring more business for companies.

What are the challenges of this industry?
The direct consumers of our products are real estate companies. As we all know for the last 4-5 years the slow growth rate in the real estate industry put this sector through a tough time. However, the government has taken few initiatives to make a good number of apartments under RAJUK that has helped us indirectly. Also, some privately owned companies have come up with big projects of constructing a large number apartments. Both of these have enabled good business opportunities; but for small companies, the competition is harsh as their manufacturing capacity is limited just like their designs where they got nothing much to offer for significant clients. Additionally, scarcity of natural gas supply to some areas has been hampering production facility.

How does RAK Ceramics plan on sustaining its large customer base?
It took us almost two decades to build this noteworthy customer base. During the 90s, only two or three local companies stepped into the market with a limited capacity and low ranged products. When RAK Ceramics launched with the greater mission and vision adding innovative and strategic marketing plan it becomes the most popular company from that time only. By visiting every single project with an effective sales and marketing team – we created new era. As a part of our mission, we developed a strong personal rapport with clients and always managed to provide adequate after sales support while required. On occasions, we trained those who were engaged in the activities of fittings tiles and sanitary ware. These people acted as good referral points for us. On top of these, our innovative designs helped quench the customers’ thirst for new tiles to amplify the aesthetics of their abode. Besides, due to technological advancements, people are now more conscious about their health. Previously, people used to use the same sanitary ware for 20 years but that trend is changing. We have seen people are opting for better-designed new sanitary ware in every five years because they were concerned about the health aspects. Even though our sanitary ware have antimicrobial glaze, some clients are interested to change those after short time, as they don’t want to take any chance. There are also instances of people fitting new tiles on the old ones using adhesives, which was quite impossible in the days of mosaic floors. As we are technologically advanced, we have a dream to set up such manufacturing plant which will be run by robots; this will be a value added project. Besides, we are looking for ways to make it more energy-efficient to tackle the lack of natural gas supply in the industry.

How is RAK trying to mitigate the environmental burden of tiles production?
All our factories have ETP plants for recycling the water. We have dust collectors to prevent air pollution. Waste management is a big issue in this industry. To reduce the leftovers, we are crushing them into tiny pieces to reuse in our bigger tiles. We always focus on developing eco-friendly products by maintaining the total compliance.

What about workers’ compliance?
We are one of the highest payers in the market. Besides the regular salary, we offer overtime, bonuses, special rewards, etc. Due to these benefits, whenever there were manpower agitations in the sector, RAK was never affected. As a part of our CSR, we have Workers Profit Participation Fund, from where any worker in need of financial support during emergency can receive alimony.

What has been the recipe for your success inside RAK? What made you stick to this company for two decades?
I started working with S.A.K. Ekramuzzaman back in 1996 while we used to deal with the imported products from RAK Ceramics UAE as we were the only Bangladeshi agent. Later when the joint venture company was set up, they selected me. So starting from there till today, in every sphere of my journey I have enjoyed it as if it was my own company. The dedication, honesty and loyalty eventually paid off. I believe that everything is possible in this world if you have a proper aim and determination to work hard to attain that. My aim was to be on the top of this company and now I am the CEO, in fact the youngest one in the group. For this, only marketing knowledge was not adequate. I had to be familiar with the entire production process. My desire to go into the depth of the know-hows helped me understand the challenges well. I always ask my colleagues to enlighten themselves with as much knowledge as possible. Also, having a dynamic team that understands my visions and work accordingly was very useful.

As a leader, where do you see it in next five years?
My aim is to double the growth in terms of turnover. As of today, we have the turnover of about Tk 1000 crore, which we simply want to double in next five years. Also, we have plans to set up two or more plants for other building materials. We would also like to explore the export opportunities in some neighboring countries and other potential destinations.

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