GLOBATT, from a company in a small country, is now present in many first world countries. Today we are known as a reputed battery company to almost all the major players of the lead acid battery industry in this region and across the globe.
Photograph by Kazi Mukul
Born in a family of businessmen and brought up in an environment which demanded creativity, Faraaz Abdur Rahim now spearheads GLOBATT. The company which is a concern of Rahimafrooz Group is now Bangladesh’s largest manufacturer and supplier of automotive and industrial batteries. Having equaled global standards, GLOBATT is also exporting its products to 58 countries,which is helping to enhance the overall image of our country. Faraaz is a third generation entrepreneur and the grandson of A. C.Abdur Rahim and the son of Niaz Rahim. His grandfather took over Lucas and Dunlop and established Rahimafrooz in 1954 and his father is awell-known figure in the business community for his innovative thinking, CSR & retail activities.
At present, Faraaz Abdur Rahim is the Head of Business Development at Rahimafrooz Storage Power Division. He completed hisdegrees from Boston University, School Of Management and joined Rahimafrooz Bangladesh Limited as a management intern. He has worked in Rahimafrooz Superstores Limited (Agora) from July 2008 to March 2009 after which he joined Brummer & Partners Asset Management from March 2009 to May 2010. However, his real chance to shine arrived when he joined Rahimafrooz GLOBATT Limited, where he worked from June 2010 to December 2014 as the Manager of International Marketing. GLOBATT is known for delving into various markets with their automotive batteries, with reportedly the first exports of any engineered goods from Bangladesh to China in November 2010. He has also pioneered exports in European and Australian markets and doubled orders from the SAARC regionswithin a year. Mr. Faraaz managed conferences & trade fairs, vendor & market development activities in international markets and became instrumental in helping market this Bangladeshi born Global battery brand.
You are exporting GLOBATT, a Bangladeshi born Global battery brand to 58 countries. What is recipe of this success?
Rahimafrooz as a battery manufacturer in Bangladesh made its entry into the global market in 1992. It started GLOBATT in 2009, after which the management decided to have a dedicated factory just for exports. The factory is situated in Ishwardi Export Processing Zone (IEPZ). The difference of this new plant is that it is a state of the art facility that makes Sealed Maintenance Free (SMF) batteries, whereas others are still producing the conventional dry charge batteries only. After inaugurating the plant, Rahimafrooz started with exports to Sri Lanka, Singapore and India. This is how the journey had started.
We are currently exporting to 58 countries and in 2012-2013 we received a trophy in recognition of our export achievements. We are the second leading battery brand in Singapore and among the top in Sri Lankan imported brands with monthly exports to Japan. We are prominent in Nepal and sell good volumes in the Middle Eastern region also. In terms of automotive battery volumes, we can say that our revenue comprises about 60-65% from exports and 35-40% from the local market.
GLOBATT, from a company in a small country, is now present in many first world countries. Today we are known as a reputed battery company to almost all the major players of the lead acid battery industry in this regain and across the globe. We have taken part in many fairs& conferences and utilized our previous global networks. What has worked in our favor was our confidence and delivery of quality when we were tested. In our country, GLOBATT was sold selectively due to Export Processing Zone (EPZ) limitations, but from mid-2015 we have fully equipped ourselves to sell this global standard battery to its home country citizens as well. We are now selling GLOBATT through our distribution network in the local market.
However, since most people in Bangladesh are unaware of the benefits and characteristics of a Maintenance Free battery, the local market is still dominated by the conventional dry charge batteries. Now 0we have to create awareness among the people and make them understand the difference and benefits of this upgraded product technology. Once they understand how their battery and car-cranking worries can be eliminated using our batteries, I don’t think they will look back at a dry charge battery again.
What is the story regarding your venture into the Chinese market?
Before I joined GLOBATT in 2010, I was with Brummer & Partners Asset Management. I was told that GLOBATT wanted to export to China. I knew it would be a challenging project and I decided to take the challenge. I was selected as the export manager for China at that point.When I joined, Chinese was all Greek to us and we had no clue about the market. I had never been in China before. That was the scenario at 2010. Just visiting China was an eye-opener in itself. It is the biggest automotive battery market and we wanted to export our battery to“the” country that exports to the rest of the world. So we started with identifying people who were interested to import batteries and paid many visits to them, travelled across the Chinese land, got used to their food, culture and habits, made friends with people in the industry, acquired the habit of sipping on green tea for no reason at all, among so many other things. This was a slow start and in China we had exported two of our brands: GLOBATT and ALEPH. We also held conferences and did many trade fairs. There were over 300 battery manufacturers in China. One has to have a good quality product, competitive prices, and the ability to prove its worthiness to be able to enter this market.
The biggest impediment was the import duty on batteries and to increase consistency and volume of exports, we have approached the government authorities in both countries to allow duty free entry for batteries into China from Bangladesh. Then the commercial secretary, Mr. Ruhidas Jodder, had helped us with some guidance and follow ups. The Chinese have appreciated our product and have full trust on our capacity to cater to their market; we are just waiting for the inter-country relations to further strengthen our business initiatives.
What role can our Government play in this area?
In exports, of course the first thing is to improve our trade relations with different countries, where large potential markets exist. We also need to improve the infrastructural and bureaucratic systems and work on some policy supports as well, which is needed for seamless operations. Battery is a techno-chemically engineered product, and requires travelingto Chittagong portvia trucks on broken, unfit roads. The rail line is also not fit for battery transport and containers are not permitted on Jamuna Bridge. The resources are scarce, options limited andfar below standard.
Though we are an import dependent country, there lies a vast opportunity in exports outside the garments sector also. The government should realize that and facilitate the endeavors of those sectors as well. Of course Garments earns the highest revenue because of low cost; nevertheless, there are other products like pharmaceuticals, batteries, plastics goods, food items, etc. The government gives incentives to garments and they should consider doing the same for other industries, especially for high end or engineered goods that are capable of establishing the image of the country positively in the world.
Governments in China and Korea focuses on engineered goods and are supporting their businesses with good trade relations, tax incentives, disruption-free power supply, deep sea ports with excellent facilities, and of course well-paved and managed roads.
The ground rule is to first produce locally then journey globally but in your case, the opposite happened.
We are a value driven company and our values are Integrity, Excellence, Customer Delight, Innovation and Inspiring people. We established GLOBATT with innovation and of course a dream to have our own brand prominence in various parts of the world with a product that will ensure customer delight.
We have a strong team of R&D that was further strengthened through our technical collaboration with a German technical consulting company, headed by the ex R&D chief of Jonson Control, the largest battery company in the world. The consultant visits our factories every quarter, audits the processes and practices, prescribes what needs to be done to further improve product performance,etc. Basically, we aimed for a product with globally sustainable standardsthat is accepted by customers wherever it is sold. This is how we came up with our Maintenance Free battery range, with a completely global approach to it.
While gaining momentum in the global markets, we felt the desire to make this superior quality product available for its own people in Bangladesh. That is when we began giving efforts to make the Bangladeshi born Global brand enter its home market. GLOBATT focus into the local market will be unique and with separate attention on the brand and related services as well. Today, we are the only company in Bangladesh that produces Maintenance Free batteries and one of the very few in the SAARC region.
How do you rope in new customers?
Firstly, we create awareness among the final users on the actual benefits of the battery. We also try to educate the dealers about environmental safety features that come from a Maintenance Free battery. The strategy is to establish a few key markets, which eventually have ripple effects across. We keep upgrading our services, extend benefits, and engage mobile service teamswhere needed to ensure our customers are always attended.
We are also providing training to the trade and equipping our field technicians with better and more capable equipment.
We believe that awareness of the product benefits, consciousness of quality and environment, and product availability are the key tools to increase the number of customers using GLOBATT.