Top News
Check latest news Read →

In conversation with CEO BATB Shehzad Munim

  • Posted On: 2nd December 2013
  • By:
In conversation with  CEO BATB Shehzad Munim

Please share a brief account of your educational background.

 Shehzad Munim: “I received my entire education from the finest institutions in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Completed my matriculation in 1990 from one of the most reputed schools, St. Joseph High School then completed my intermediate in 1992 from Dhaka College. I was to pursue my higher studies in the USA but my parents could not afford while I also missed out on the scholarships by marginal points. In retrospect, I think this was a blessing in disguise because I got lucky and got admission in Dhaka University. This was 1993, the first year Dhaka University Institute of Business Administration started offering Bachelors program. Therefore, I am from the so called renowned first batch of IBA BBA, the proud alumni you can say.”

Please share a brief account of your entire professional journey and some personal background

SM: “My professional journey started from BAT Bangladesh in the field working as Territory Officer, then I moved to Brand Marketing in 1998 and continued in Brand Marketing department in Bangladesh till 2002. In 2003 I got the biggest break in my career and got promoted as Group Brand Manager and also got transferred to BAT New Zealand. In my last year in New Zealand in 2005 I got promoted as Head of Brand Marketing and joined the Top team of BAT NZ. In 2006 I worked in BAT Australia as Product and Packaging innovations manager before returning back to BAT Bangladesh as Head of Marketing in 2007. 3 years later got promoted as Area Head of Marketing South Asia and was based in Islamabad.

As far as my personal background is concerned, my dad was a government servant and my mother was a teacher at a very renowned girls high school in Bangladesh. We are four brothers and I’m the youngest of the four. My eldest brother is a professor of Economics and resides in Utah, USA. My second brother is works for Mitsubishi Corporation in Bangladesh while the third one is a Doctor and also resides in Mississippi, USA. My parents never imposed a profession on their children. They raised us quite independently and ensured that we find our way of doing things and do as we desired. I got married in 2003 and have a 7 year old son. The year 2003 happens to be very significant one in my life as I got promoted and transferred to New Zealand, 5 days later my father passed away and in the middle of the same year I got married too!”

Marketing must be challenging given the restrictions on tobacco promotion, how have you been able to tackle the limitations?

 SM: “In a competitive industry, when you have a level playing field, everybody is playing by the same rules, so you have to be innovative to win consumers’ confidence. So you have to be more precise in what you do because your opportunities are far less in a year, you have to be most impactful in that one or two opportunities that you get. It’s like playing test cricket. Test cricket is all about patience, knowing the moment and making the best use of the conditions. Similarly, in a restricted industry, as long as there is a level playing field, you can be still impactful if you have the right team and right strategy.”

Congratulations on your recent promotion as CEO BATB – what does this position mean to you?

 SM: “It means a lot. It’s a huge thing for me to become the Managing Director of the very company I joined as a fresh graduate. To be the first Bangladeshi in Bangladesh to reach this position, is a big honor and a moment of pride, not only for me but I believe for my entire Bangladeshi management, my colleagues, my peers and even for my University. When I shared this news on my Facebook account, I received tremendous response – felicitations and congratulatory messages from one and all. This just shows the genuine love of people, I must say that everybody is happy at my achievement. Again I take it very humbly that this is the kindness and the love of people that I have known all around me throughout my journey and this keeps me going to be honest.”


At such a young age you have achieved what many can only dream of, did BAT play a significant role in where you are today?

 SM: “Yes exactly, I am what I am because of BAT, I’ve never worked for any other company so anything that I have learnt in my professional life is through BAT. I truly believe in the BAT’s training principle which says that 70% of everything you learn is through the job. In BAT, careers are managed in such a way that basically you acquire practical experience of the areas where you need to improve, where you don’t have previous experience. BAT is a multinational that is never shy of taking chances, it is perhaps one of the very few MNC that takes the risk of placing someone from the 3rd world into key positions in a developed country and placing someone with only Trade Marketing experience in charge of the largest brand of a country because BAT believes in talent development.

At BAT, the Line Managers are actually our coaches and guides. It is an MNC where we respect and celebrate each other’s differences and enjoy working together. We value what makes each of us unique. That is why over the years your colleagues from different parts of the world become a part of your life. Even the people who leave BAT, they are part of the BAT Club because there’s something about this company due to which you always want to stay part of it.  BAT is about nurturing relationships, a personal bondage and the camaraderie you have with each other.”

How do you intend to differentiate your company/products from the competition? What is your mantra?

 SM: “As I mentioned our products are restricted, opportunities are less to communicate that is why research and consumer understanding becomes quite important and a successful marketers in any restricted industry, need to have a lot of command on research and its understanding and the interpretation of it. You need to better understand what are the changes and transformations in the market and once you have decoded that, you have to be as methodical in execution as well if you are able to do that, you can make the best of the opportunities that arise from time to time.”

How many countries have you worked in?

 SM: “I have worked in New Zealand, I loved that country and I still do. I have worked in Australia and Pakistan, which me and my family would call closest to my home, probably second home. I really enjoyed our stay in Pakistan, specially Islamabad.  I have a personal hobby of visiting new places every year, it may be a new country, or a new place within a country but we rigorously do it as a family.  Sometimes work also takes me to new places.”

How would you describe culture of PTC?

 SM: “The culture of PTC is very similar to that of BAT Bangladesh. It is a large extended family. People are very much connected. There is lot of pride and a lot of great talent. It’s an organization of gentlemen and ladies – a great place to work with very talented people, where you actually have challenges. It’s a growing and a learning organization, and the best thing about this organization is resilience. This market itself is not a place where a faint hearted person can operate. The external environment is very challenging and seriously competitive. I see the best of PTC coming out when this organization is challenged significantly in times of natural calamities, political turmoil or through market forces. We have done amazingly well during the floods of 2010, I’ve personally seen how this organization reaches out not only to its own people, to its extended partners and also to general public. I feel immense pride in being associated with a company like this.”

What is mentoring culture at PTC?

 SM: “PTC has a culture that extends beyond the work hours of professional career, people here do take personal interest in your development. They are not shy of giving you even personal advice, colleagues are generally nice and you can open your heart out to majority of the people and I believe that now when I return to Bangladesh, I’ll have plenty of friends in Pakistan like I do in New Zealand and Australia.”

How does PTC differ from other BAT companies you have worked in?

 SM: “I think there is consistency throughout. I only know about Australasia. There are certain differences between New Zealand and Australia but overall the same broad family feel you find prevalent. As a multinational, you find lot of nationalities in this company. The difference in PTC is that it is more engrained and interconnected. So broadly speaking, I’d say very similar BAT global culture, underneath, there is a personal local touch in PTC, that is reflected in many ways.”

Is the education system these days globally equipped with the right structure for the students 

SM: “Our Education system is very much skewed towards classroom education, focused on papers and grades. It is less focused on the overall development of an individual. You can be a great talent intellect wise but if your skill set is narrowed towards one thing, you’d be a specialist. The mainstream career path in BAT is a generalist, who can manage the big picture, provide leadership and direction. In my view, our education systems teach us to be specialists, where as in the business world, you are looking for leaders and such leadership qualities and traits are very difficult to find or develop if you don’t have practical experience, if you are not good at human interaction then how do you energize, motivate your people in your team to deliver the most. In pursuit of grades, we lose the human side of leadership and knowing how to touch the pulses of people. Where ever you find success, it is because we have been able to touch the pulses of our people and appoint the right people at the right jobs and they have delivered. You have to know the business overall. Yes, specialists are also needed so that when a critical problem comes, you have someone in your team who has the specialization in that area to solve it.”

Leave A Reply