- The Pages:Can you speak a short History about AKK group ? How did AK khan Plywood Co. ltd start in Bangladesh?
The story of one of Bangladesh’s oldest industrial groups, A.K. Khan & Company Ltd., is intimately woven into the nation’s past, present and future. A.K. Khan & Company Ltd. is one of the oldest and most renowned private sector organizations in Bangladesh. Late Mr. Abul Kasem Khan, popularly known as A. K. Khan, established the company after the Second World War in 1945. Mr. Abul Kasem Khan, started his business from Chittagong, and after India and Pakistan separated in 1947, Chittagong emerged as the foremost port city and business center of the country.
Within a decade, A.K. Khan & Company Ltd. became a leading industrial powerhouse and a major contributor to the national economy. In the early 1950s Mr. A. K. Khan established Insurance Company, Financial Institution as well as manufacturing industries in Textiles, Jute, Plywood, Tannery, Heavy Electrical Goods, Shipping and Irrigation. From 1980s the Company started to grow through Joint Ventures (JV) with renowned Multinational Companies in Textile, Telecommunication and Deep Sea Fishing.
A.K. Khan & Company Ltd. (AKK) has been a leader among the ever-growing industry giants of Bangladesh. AKK has played a pioneering and leadership role by establishing Financial Institutions, Deep Sea Fishing and Telecommunication.
A K Khan Plywood was established in 1954 as the pioneer plywood factory of Bangladesh (then East Pakistan). The company relaunched in early 2014 as an environmentally conscious and sustainable bamboo based project. Now the company manufactures forest friendly bamboo flooring, boards and doors for the local market with plans of expanding into bamboo office and home furniture.
- The Pages: Please tell us about yourself? How did you start your journey as a professional?
I started my first company at 17, after I graduated from boarding school. I took a gap year and launched an ice cube production plant in Chittagong, the first one of its kind after realizing that the ice sold in markets were unfit for consumption. It wasn’t a wildly successful venture, but it did teach me a lot about perseverance.
While I was in college I tried my hand at scrap trading with a friend, and that was the first time I felt like I was handling a substantial sum of money, and the fear of failure mixed with adrenaline sparked the drive to be an entrepreneur.
After graduating I moved to New York, and was collaborating with friends to get a real estate project off the ground, but we just couldn’t make the time commitment, given our full time jobs. Since moving back to Bangladesh, I have done a little commodity and livestock trading alongside pursuing a few other things in the pipeline. However, the most prominent project I am involved with is A K Khan Plywood Co Ltd. The work I have done for A K Khan Plywood has been the most challenging and rewarding in my career thus far and is also what I am most proud of. My experience here has single handedly impacted me as an entrepreneur, more than anything I have ever done before.
- The Pages: Tell us about current Plywood / wood / floor tiles market of Bangladesh.
I do not think that there is a sizeable market currently in Bangladesh for wooden flooring, however, I do believe there will be. It is a relatively new market segment, and there is definitely a lot of potential.
- The Pages: AKK Group is leading Business group in Bangladesh. Tell us about the quality of product& Service.
One of the main things that drives AKK is the constant thrive for ethical business operations. So that translates into us valuing our customers and trying to put forth the best product and services possible. Does that mean we always get it right? Absolutely not, but it does mean we will always try and rectify the issues. I think that is something that sets us apart.
- The Pages: How would you assess Bangladesh as a potential economic zone for FDI (Foreign Director investment)?
The potential in Bangladesh is undeniable. The rate at which our economy is growing, despite the political instability just shows the resilience of Bangladeshi entrepreneurs. The UN, IMF and other globally recognized institutions have been naming Bangladesh in the top 10 emerging markets for a few years now. So I think it just boils down to who takes the leap of faith first.
- The Pages:What is export plan outside the country? Which country?
Our sales operations are two pronged. As much as we push to develop the market for bamboo products locally, we are fully aware of the existing demand in foreign markets. We have exported to Japan and Russian and currently exploring the Middle East and other EU nations.
- The Pages: Tell us your opinion about the “ Panda” in building materials product market in Bangladesh & how you give better service to your customers ?
The Panda line of products from A K Khan Plywood is a brand we are trying to establish with sustainability as our main principle. We want to make green substitute products and give customers more options to decide from. Bamboo is grass, not a tree, therefore making it a rapidly renewable resource because of exponentially faster growth cycle in comparison to hardwoods. Bamboo also has greater fiber density in comparison to hardwoods, which makes it sturdier. Therefore, we don’t want our customers to compromise when they switch to a green product, rather we want to provide a better substitute.
- The Pages: Do you think the local furniture sector is booming and how?
The government has named the furniture industry as one its focuses and it has shown a lot of growth consistently. As our populous has a greater disposable income the demand for furniture increase. We already have well established giants such as Hatil and Otobi, and there is room for others.
- The Pages: What’s the secret behind the success of your organization?
I don’t consider A K Khan Plywood a success yet. Yes, we were leading the plywood industry for decades after establishment in the 50’s. However, the re-structuring and complete change of direction that the company has taken in the past two years means that we are operating as a start-up now.
- The Pages: What are its strengths and threats?
Our strengths is undoubtedly the support we have from our parent company and once again we are the pioneer in Bangladesh with our bamboo based products. The threats are the typical threats to any pioneer, it is completely uncharted territory. It is not an established segment, therefore we do not have a lot of market information about the market. We are still heavily focused on R&D to create the best product possible, so there is still a lot of learning ahead of us.
- The Pages: Would you like to tell the reader to your upcoming product for this year 2015 ?
I am really excited about the bamboo doors that we have recently launched. The product tested better that wooden doors in terms of strength, durability, and longevity. We have also been experimenting with different finishes and we have developed a range so that we can emulate wood, or we can really highlight the natural bamboo look.
- The Pages: Where do you see the future presents of the Bangladeshi green product in Global Market?
I think it is safe to say the global movement towards being green has started. I believe the more we learn about the current state of the environment, the more necessary it becomes for us all to act as conscious consumers. We no longer have the luxury to be selfish in the choices that we make. I think Bangladesh is poised to make a positive impact in the global market for green products. We have an abundance of natural resources, if we apply ethical and sustainable practices we can not only meet our local demands, but cater to internationally demand as well.