ICE Business Times sits in conversation with Maimun Ur Rashid Mustafa and discusses with the young Global Group CEO of Amzo Global Enterprises about his entrepreneurial journey and his future plans for creating impactful social change through global commerce.
Tell us about the turning point of your entrepreneurial journey to where it stands today?
I would not say there was any one thing but a multitude of dominoes that fell in place for better or worse for entrepreneurship to kick in. A ‘chance meet’ as told in one of my favourite novels, the Lord of the Rings. Firstly, through a lot of right alignment of the stars, I got into the Bangladesh national debate team and when I went to Seoul, Korea to participate in the World Schools Debate Championship 2007, I met some of the most brilliant minds from 33 different nations. Where some went to just compete in a debate tournament I went to make human connections. Not only did I find that I could relate on an intellectual level with these individuals but they were humane just like you or me. I can proudly say I am in touch with many of these friends of mine whether it was Ieva from Lithuania who is now the Internal Communications Manager of Revolut, Kithmina who is an amazing economist in Sri Lanka or Ignacio from Argentina who was involved in the law firm that recently concluded the Uber and Soft bank deal. However, we were still kids then and I realized that our horizons could be so much more than just trying to do something within the boundaries of my nation. Upon coming back I participated in 2 back to back Model UN conferences in Sri Lanka and India respectively, receiving special mentions awards in both. I thus knew we, as Bangladeshis, could compete globally. I applied abroad and got accepted into Monash University and Willamette University. As luck would have it the Grim Reamer known as finance hit our family again and those dreams that were 12 years in the making was crushed. That disgruntled 19 years then decided if money was all that was required, then earning money is what he should do. I started working in one of the top lifestyle magazines in Bangladesh, was organizing top-notch sport events, launching the first internet radio in Bangladesh and working with some of the biggest players in the world of commerce both locally and internationally. In other words, I was not focused and tried to do too much. Eventually, it all stacked up and I crumbled. I fell into depression when I saw my friends join their university campuses and I realized the ‘high’ had come to an end. This ‘failure’ was my first true learning on the responsibilities of entrepreneurship. I was lucky when I joined the university to have 4 mentors who were my guides to recovery. My faculty Dr Ishraque Osman, my Dean Dr Tazul Islam, my Head of Department, Ms. Simin Seury and my Director of OSA, Mr. Manzur H Khan who supported me with my endeavours within and outside the classroom. My university, American International University- Bangladesh heavily invested in me and not only was I able to graduate with a 3.97 in Economics and a Chairman’s Leadership medal but I was rewarded via extracurriculars so that I could debate in the prestigious Oxford, Cambridge and World Universities Debating Championships for the first time in AIUB’s history. I met my best friend and future business partner during this time, Sahel Md Fardeen Faez with whom I started the foundations of Movementum Consultancy and Facilitation Group and we worked with IGLOO ICE Cream, Mi Amore, Nandos Bangladesh, Intraco Group among others. All this while, I went to the top and fell to the bottom 8 times as I learned the virtues of grit, mental stamina and resilience. It was in 2019 finally, that my cousins and I discussed with our uncle in the US to amalgamate our family businesses and give birth to the conglomerate brand, Amzo Global Enterprises as it is known today.
What are the fundamental key strategies of your business operations?
As a family group of enterprises, we have developed our growth strategies based on the core human necessities. As such our business value propositions will always revolve around providing farm to table solutions across the supply chain for the basic need commodities namely: food (organic agriculture, agrotech, commodity trading and FNB), educations & skills (educational institutions, soft skills & technical skills development), health (wellness, health tech & mental health promotion), clothing (RMG) and energy (energy distribution and sustainable energy solutions). This would be augmented by technology (relevant 4IR B2B and B2C solutions), communication (social impact and sports activations) and media (entertainment, digital media, new media, games, sports and infotainment). Our group motto is to ‘disrupt everything possible’ and we intend to stay true to it.
What is your career objective?
Two things. First, it is to be the highest taxpayer of Bangladesh, a title held by my cousin’s father-in-law the legendary Kaus Mia. Second, to be the largest private-sector job provider of Bangladesh.
Tell us a little bit about your events “Let’s Disrupt” and LEAD4IR
Let’s Disrupt is a panel event that we hope to launch as a ‘Made in Bangladesh’ platform across the globe. The inaugural event “Let’s Disrupt: Conversation Among Stakeholders of the Job Market” hopes to explore the root causes of lack of access to jobs and the resulting social disharmony due to barriers to decent employment and income by placing stakeholders across the job market spectrum on a single platform.
Concurrently, LEAD4IR Summit 2020 will bring together delegates from business, STEM, development, communication and media backgrounds who can lead positive change in the 4th Industrial Revolution. Not only does the Summit hope to explore emerging and disruptive ideas in order for individuals and nations to be leaders in Industry 4.0, but it also hopes to discover the synergy between Globalization and Business 4.0. Delegates can benefit from engaging with international and Bangladeshi experts to explore key people, process and progress strategies to augment the human potential. The event target for the middle of the calendar year hopes to initiate disruptive conversations among global and local stakeholders with a mix of young global leaders and cross-industry veterans to solve these issues in a multi-fold solution. It is being primarily organized by Movementum Consultancy and Facilitation Group (MCFG) with our strategic partnership and we hope this will be an annual event we can hold as per the needs of the day.
What are the primary projects of your principal company MCFG now?
MCFG is a concern of the sub-group, Meta Enterprises under our parent brand, Amzo Global Enterprises. In addition to the “Let’s Disrupt” and “LEAD4IR” activations, we aim to launch a full-fledged series of infotainment events as per part of our activation wing that complements the ‘Digital Bangladesh’ vision of our government. Additionally, as a licensee to the Global Chamber ® Barisal chapter, I hope to leverage the network as a Director of Bangladesh to connect Barisal and Bangladeshi businesses with the other metros of the Global Chamber dedicated to growing business from anywhere to everywhere with chapters located in 525 metros across 195 countries. With our technology wing Prottech, we hope to develop a PASS (platform as a service) based retails scheme for mass markets with special emphasis on retail, financial, healthcare and agro-industries. With our partnership with quality US-based vendors we hope to provide hard skills training such as Data Visualization and Forensic Accounting for the much needed emerging data analytics and complementary skills market.
What are your future prospects?
We are proud to announce that we have successfully reached an understanding with the US-based Cali Group to promote the master franchises of their burger chain, Caliburger in New York, USA and for the ASEAN Region in Bangkok, Thailand. We also hope to promote their products such as facial recognition payments, robotics and e-gaming in strategic North American, South Asian and ASEAN markets. We are also heavily invested in sourcing fintech solutions and blockchain-based power distribution systems.
In your opinion what is the greatest economic problem you see in society today?
Primarily, I believe it is the lack of decent jobs which gives rise to a vicious cycle. Due to lack of employment opportunities in the private sector, students who have been told that all they need is a good education to get work with good pay to realize they were told a lie after spending millions on education. They do not have hands-on experience in addition to the academics so they resort to low paying jobs. Moreover, this gives way to a greater problem: social disharmony. A national mentality shift needs to occur in addition to a shift to skills-based training which the Government is currently promoting. Sadly, we give so much negative energy to young people around us saying that they ‘cannot do it’. The paradigms of baby boomers and millennials are different but there is much that each can learn from the another. I am not that old myself but I try to learn from my 5-year-old nephew too. Having said that, we must also learn from previous generations because their knowledge is tantamount. Many things are changing in the 4IR but some aspects of human nature do not. These management and soft skills we can learn from our seniors and they have this in abundance. We need to find common ground among the seniors and youngsters where we use younger people’s intuitive ingenuity along with the experience of elders to take the earth forward sustainably. A team effort needs to be taken by the private, not-for-profit, government and development sectors. Although I believe everyone is trying their best, a more cohesive effort needs to be undertaken to ensure that people, process and the environment are leveraged for local and global development.