Interviews

Asfar Khair, Vice Chairman, Bengal Group Limited

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A Global Visionary

In conversation with Asfar Khair of Bengal Communications Ltd., the man with the vision who brought digital entertainment to Bangladesh

On 1 May 2019 URS Media Consulting PL and AsiaOne magazine held the 5th edition of its “World’s Greatest Brands & Leaders 2018-19 Asia & GCC” event at the JW Marriot Marquis Hotel, Dubai. This year saw the “Person of the Year” and “Greatest Brand” awards go to Asfar Khair, Executive Chairman, and Bengal Digital respectively, of Bengal Communications Ltd. Khair also received the award for “Best Leader” for his contribution to the Electronic and Digital Media and Entertainment Industry in Bangladesh, the first recognition of its kind for any Bangladeshi in the media sector.

URS Media Consulting PL is an International media house and AsiaOne is the only business and news magazine looking into pan-Asian affairs. They are pioneers in the research-based listing of brands and leaders in Asia, Africa, and the GCC. Till date, they have held ten national and international business and social summits and awards functions.

The 5th Edition of World’s Greatest Brands & Leaders 2018-19 Asia GCC has created a platform of excellence to showcase 100 of Asia’s most “Iconic, Powerful and Emerging” brands and their leaders from 12 countries of Asia and the Middle East, 16 industries and 62 sub-industries.

There were 41 nominees in total from the World’s Greatest Brands and Leaders 2018-19 Asia and GCC category from UAE, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Singapore, and Afghanistan. Dr. Ahmed Al Tigani – General Manager, Al Rawabi Dairy Company UAE; Md. Parvez Rehman – Managing Director, BRB Cables, Bangladesh; Mr. G Ram Reddy – Chairman and Managing Director, ARK Group, India; Mr. Amit Sujan – CEO, ITCAN, Singapore; Mr. Ashok Aggarwal – Chairman, HPM Chemicals and Fertilizers Ltd, India were nominated for the award, to name a few.

At the summit on 1st May, more than 140 awards from 16 different industries won in front of an audience of over 350 attendees from all over the world. The Person of the Year was handed to a leader who has made an indelible mark in their field and country that will go down in history and remembered for generations. 11 exclusive “AsiaOne Person of The Year” awards were felicitated at the event for their special work in the industry and society.

The conference is also instrumental in bringing emerging, powerful brands and leaders of Asia into a common space to discuss challenges and opportunities and fostering mutual learning and growth.

Asfar Khair, winner of this year’s Person of the Year award, started his media journey in 2003. Prior to this, he had worked in many different fields, including as the Head of Canning at Coca-Cola Bangladesh, as a distributor for Hyundai, in the jute and carpet industry, garments trading and various other areas of business. However, the media and entertainment business attracted Khair more than of his other businesses. Bengal Group started a satellite channel distribution business as the pioneer in Bangladesh. Under his able leadership, in 2003, “Nationwide Media Limited” and “Total Entertainment Limited” became the major channel distribution company in Bangladesh and TV Broadcasters giants like Star Sports, Zee, Sony, Discovery, Ten Sports, Turner started to become partners with “Nationwide Media Limited” for exclusive distribution rights in Bangladesh.

Khair’s foresight into the huge potential of the cable TV business and the importance of the development of the ICT infrastructure of Bangladesh lead him to create an award-winning brand like Bengal Digital.

When asked how he got into the digital media business, Khair said “I got involved with the cable business in 2003. At that time, our cable service was limited to Dhaka only. Gradually I expanded the business to Chittagong, Bogra, Satkhira, Rangpur and Cox’s Bazar. Cable business was the most disorganized and unstructured business in Bangladesh. But I had the dream of providing TELCO standard service to the Cable TV viewers. The thing about me is that if I set my mind to do something, whether in my professional or personal life, I try to do it to the best of my ability, and that is what happened with Bengal Digital.”

According to Khair, what makes Bengal Digital a brand deserving of this award is that it dared to do something when no one had done before and carried out its vision to the highest possible standard. “If I didn’t do it, perhaps someone would have later, but now digital entertainment is the norm, the government is going to make it mandatory. I invested a lot into this and people thought it was not worth it, but I could see the future. It was working in countries around me, why wouldn’t it in Bangladesh? He also said that Bengal Digital has already built a platform for providing IPTV and OTT services in the country. Bengal Screen, the brand of Bengal’s OTT service is available at Google Play Store now.

As the winner of two prestigious awards, Khair gave a brief speech at the event regarding his dreams and plans for the future of Bengal Digital. In his address, he expressed his appreciation for advancing technologies and said his dreams are about bringing to Bangladesh the latest digital platforms that are being developed around the world and helping them perform successfully.

“Technology will carry on advancing, but we have to keep up with it and if something is working somewhere else there is no reason we cannot make it work here”. However, he expressed a desire for producers in Bangladesh to realize that no matter the quality of the platform, content is ultimately the king and if they do not rise to the occasion of making higher quality content, we will lose out in the long run.

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