Corporate Genius: Rony Riad Rashid

Corporate Genius: Rony Riad Rashid - The InCAP

We, the people are always looking for the impulse in real life to encourage our thought process and seek inspiration from ingenious individuals. Almost every day we cross paths with many individuals, but we find inspiration from only a few of them. From a corporate point of view, stories and experiences of a consistently progressive career journey invoke profound respect and separate one from the crowd. Expert opinions and research reveals that such inspirational stories have positive impacts on our professional psyche; which in turn help us become more enthusiastic, modest, and steady performers.

In the context of this phenomenon, we would like to introduce you with Mr. Rony Riad Rashid, a young, talented, successful and a well-known figure in the corporate world of Bangladesh who is marked with exceptional achievements. Yet he introduces himself as a timid, care-free guy, who is comfortable to break the conventional rules to follow his hearts calling. His childhood and past life is a reflection of colorful adventure, tenacity, and inquisitiveness. Amidst a one on one candid discussion, it is naturally understood how he has made a name as a charismatic leader who continues to inspire young minds today.

Although relatively quite young in comparison to his contemporaries, Mr. Rashid is a man of wisdom, prowess, and compassion. He has already reached the peak of success by any; and all matrix of measurement. His professional journey is marked with struggle and achievements in Juxtapose. Starting his career as a car salesman in USA, he has an enchanting career journey across American and European large enterprises, across industry disciplines; home and abroad.

The InCAP team indeed had an interesting tête-à-tête with him about his life’s journey and career experiences.

The InCAP: You are one of the most prominent figures in Bangladesh corporate world. But we think we’d start talking about your childhood. How were you as a child?

Rony Riad Rashid: Memories of my childhood are illustrious and blissful. My loving parents always allowed me to pursue my inquisitive nature and delve into my curiosity where ever they may lead me to. I think this attribute has helped me to develop interests in multiple aspects of life and academic disciplines; while simultaneously building confidence in myself.

The InCAP: We have heard from your father that you were not a quiet boy at all! Once in your childhood, you went missing in a hotel! Please share the story with us.

Rony Riad Rashid: (He laughs) Aaaa! The Magic Box! Let me tell you about that. It’s one of my earliest memories of when I was five or six. I remember we went to the (the then) Hotel Intercontinental in Dhaka to see a friend of my father who was visiting from abroad. At the hotel lobby, I remember it was the first time I saw an elevator. In close observation, it was a mysterious phenomenon to me. On the press of a button a double door opens up, a group of people walks in; the door closes; and when the doors re-open again moments later; the people; their appearances change, size, clothes, and height; everything changes. A magic box which changes the people entirely. I wonder what it would do to me. A most intriguing curiosity which must be experienced first-hand.

So, I managed to find an escape from boring adults in busy conversation and somehow without their notice managed to sneak in and enter into an elevator. What a wonderful magic box! (He laughs) The doors open to a different view every time. This was great. I walk out to a different layout every time, and when I want to go back in, I press a blinking button. Yay! I can do this forever and ever. As time flew by with my new-found adventure I failed to realize that an hour had passed, my parents especially my mom went into a frenzied panic and thought I was lost or kidnapped, you know me being a good-looking chubby kid (He smirks). By that time; my father had triggered all security protocols of the hotel, and the whole five-star facility was under the complete shutdown. The pool was checked, a security detail was dispatched to locate me, hotel staff was questioned, and even the hotel guests’ started to look for this missing boy in shorts and a shirt.

Finally, I believe about more half hours past, and I finally walked out of the elevator at the hotel lobby with a big smile on my face having conquered this magic box and all the different places it takes me. I clearly remember the warm embrace of a traumatized mother being reunited with her only son. As I was describing my adventure to my father on the way home, he didn’t scold me at all; rather he shared my enthusiasm and was comforting. He was encouraging of such future escapades but only with granted permission first. So; there you go! This is one of the very few precious memories of my childhood adventures which I remember in full clarity. Others include burning down a flat at a similar age and trying to smoke all cigarettes of a box, all at once under my parent’s bed. I’ll tell you about them another time. (He laughs loudly)

The InCAP: Let’s talk about your school life; we know that your school life is geographically quite elaborate. How delightful was it to you?

Rony Riad Rashid: Yes. Belonging to a military family we had to travel a lot.  Ten schools across three countries until university. Well, it had both; pros and cons. I made friends across countries; some of whom; I still maintain ties with. I studied in different systems of education and language mediums of instruction; which was definitely an enriching and diversified experience. It has also helped me to be adaptive to new environments at an early age. On the flip side, I suffered in subjects like math as I could not establish strong foundations in basics as a result of frequent movements and shifts in school. However, I’m a fortunate individual to have had the opportunity of such diversity in the academic experience.

The InCAP: You have an exceptional educational peregrination. We love to know the details.

Rony Riad Rashid: It was definitely an evocative journey. My academia started with Torch Kindergarten which was a nursery school at Mirpur Cantonment. By age ten I had experienced both Bangla and English medium of instruction at school. First English medium experience was at Indian Embassy School in Riyadh. My family was in Saudi Arabia at the time, and I studied in the same school till Grade Five. You know, I have a good working knowledge of Indian geography, history, and culture. I was double promoted to Grade Nine from Seven at Hollyfield School in London, England. This was also a rewarding experience which gave me a western outlook on modern education. I completed grade Ten from Hollyfield, London, and Grade Twelve from Mastermind, Dhaka under University of London Curriculum. I remember my Head Teacher at Hollyfield, Mr. Stephen Carlistle making earnest requests to my father for his consideration of allowing me to complete my O’Levels at Hollyfield since I was doing well. Later on, I qualified for a full scholarship to Louisiana State University, USA, a global top 50 ranked school.  I earned my Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems from LSU which is my alma mater in terms of education. My last academic pursuit was a Post Graduate Diploma from Harvard Business School.

Engraved Harvard University Ring – The InCAP

The InCAP: Mr. Rashid, you have an exemplary career journey. Tell us something about this.

Rony Riad Rashid: Career-wise I switched six jobs across four industries. Automotive Sales with General Motors, to Down Stream Oil and Gas with ExxonMobil; to Telecommunications with Grameenphone (Telenor); IT and Consulting with Accenture; and finally to Telecom/IT Infrastructure with Summit Communications Ltd.

The InCAP: Would you please share some details with us.

Rony Riad Rashid: Let’s see, my first job out of University was as a car salesman at a General Motors dealership in Arlington, Texas.  It was truly a fun addictive job where I made the most money till date. As a veteran salesman, I could pick my own work hours and had a reserved parking spot at the dealership. However, it was a casual front and a less reputable job in society. I want to thank my the then Boss and fierce leader Mr. Michael W. Deal who had literally forced me to move to a more formal space and take a managerial position in General Motors Finance. He was the toughest Boss I have had so far who was equally considerate of every individual learning need. His personality was headstrong and affectionate put together. I know that’s a strange contradiction. I remember him violently throwing out a customer out of the Car Showroom floor for a mild disrespectful behavior towards me. I cannot count the number of times where I had made huge blunders and he had saved me from the wrath of management. He always saw more in me than I did myself at the time and if it was not for him; then I would probably; still be selling cars at some dealership and would have become a wasted goner long time ago. I later came back home for family reasons in 2008.

In Bangladesh, I worked for a short time with ExxonMobil as a Finance Manager. Later, I successfully lead the largest unit of Grameenphone (GP) Finance Division through a challenging transition in 2009. As Head of Fund Management and Collections, I also tried to lead a group of 140 creative and talented folks through a very complex portfolio. However, we as a team have never backed down from a challenge and our achievements were always higher than set parameters. Interesting project-wise, I was an executive committee member of the GP IPO project, which was the largest listing in DSE and CSE at the time.

The InCAP:  We want to know more! At what age did you become a CXO?

Rony Riad Rashid: I was twenty-nine. I was recruited by Mr. Peter Dindial to lead the newly formed Commercial Division of GrameenphoneIT (GPIT) as Chief Commercial Officer with direct responsibility of maximizing revenue and profit potential of the Company. Peter is a very charismatic leader who handheld me through my first steps in a Corporate Board Room and taught me different approaches to sales. Later I served as Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Accenture Infrastructure and Communications limited with the responsibility of Regulatory Affairs and Branding initiatives up until 2015.

After that, I joined Summit Communications Limited (SCL) as the Chief Marketing Officer of Summit Communications Limited with the lead of special projects and in search of new business opportunities. At SCL I was recruited by Mr. Arif Al Islam who is by far; one of the most intelligent Individuals I have ever known. He has been a mentor and a coach who taught me to simplify complex problems in large corporate organizations. He was also my direct reporting boss in GP. He has been an instrumental source for the success on my corporate journey. He has encouraged my every indulgence, been tolerant to my curiosity, and on many occasions, he has counseled me through professional and personal struggles.

I must say I have been blessed with affectionate and caring bosses in my career that helped me develop and prosper both professionally and personally. I must pay tribute to all my bosses through you; with my most sincere gratitude.

CMO of the year 2017

The InCAP: What a diverse journey! Okay, now let me ask you a typical question – was there a turning point in your life? There must have been some trigger for this consistency in success!

Rony Riad Rashid: There was. (He pauses) Being quite a naughty and somewhat unruly teenager, right after my tenth grade O’levels results, which were somewhat below the average of expectation; my father and I had an intense heart to heart; His words; It shook me to my core and somehow worked as an awakening.  In my true hearts calling I wanted to make a name for myself. I guess I was challenged to realize my true potential.

The InCAP: Who or what is the driving force of your life?

Rony Riad Rashid: Without a question; that would be my Father. An Idealist, a philosopher, a chivalrous warrior, a true Knight in shining armor. My very own King Arthur. I really believe in my heart that in his previous life he must have been a King of some great Kingdom. His struggles, life’s philosophy, virtues, and values have helped shape mine. My ideals and patterns of thought come from him. Actually; anything good I have in my character I have from him.

The InCAP: I’m spellbound entirely with respect — such an excellent compliment for a Father.

Rony Riad Rashid: Yeah, to me any worldly compliment won’t do him justice. A man who has risked his life on the alter of our freedom and ultimately swayed us the very independence which gives us a national identity; is beyond any compliment. He is a Warrior of Light. Best leave it at that. (He remained silent for a while)

The InCAP: What was your biggest challenge regarding your corporate life? And how did you overcome this?

Rony Riad Rashid: To me personally, work-life balance has always been a struggling challenge. There are times when business operations get intensely complex, and you must involve yourself with more diligence and spirit in order to draw out the desired outcome. As you climb up the corporate ladder, such days keep increasing in number, and at some point in time, it becomes an everyday issue. There are times I found myself working fourteen-hour days. I struggled all the time in maintaining a good balance. With the consistency of such schedule, I developed high blood pressure; eventually, I never had any time to do anything else, my friends somewhat disowned me and family disappointments escalated; as I couldn’t attend many family occasions due to pre-scheduled official engagements. I sometimes feel that I lost my youth in pursuit of my career ambitions.

However, I’m on full rectification mode now; I try not to overload myself. Sometimes I forcefully distract myself from office as well. I also softly listen to music while working, I take breaks between meetings to talk to friends, disengage immediately if I have headaches, and most importantly I try to sleep well. I have a very liberal boss these days. I’ll tell you about him later on.

The InCAP: You have achieved enormous success in life. How does it feel Mr. Rashid? Also, to what do you attribute your success?

Rony Riad Rashid: Well, success is a relative term. However, it is true that my progression has been faster than average. Corporate achievement wise; it was definitely my team, their skills, and their undeniable faith in my leadership. Personal attribute wise; I believe it is because of my Mothers prayers, her protection, my life’s experiences, my dreams, and my unquenchable stubborn thirst to achieve. I had something to prove to myself.

The InCAP: It is seen these days that many young professionals in Bangladesh are perplexed with their career progression. They are hesitant about their choices. What is your advice for them?

Rony Riad Rashid: I know what you mean; I’ve counseled quite a few myself. I think they shouldn’t look for commercially viable outlets or associations. I mean; don’t just choose a branded MNC for a good salary or social status. Spend time in finding a profession that naturally interests you. There’s no shortcut to success; everyone has to struggle to find their own path. If you strive for something that you enjoy, eventually it will become second nature to you, and you will accelerate and make good progress no matter which organization you belong to; or whichever entrepreneurial endeavor you pursue. On the contrary, if you choose to pursue something that you don’t enjoy; but rather do for a bare necessity then; even though you’re many struggles you may still bear a badge of an average performer.

The InCAP: We know currently you are fully involved in Rashid Krishi Khamar Limited (RKKL). It’s a totally different space than your usual working taste. Why and how did you get involved here? Also, we are very interested to know about RKKL.

Rony Riad Rashid: That would be correct. RKKL is a family owned multi-diversified agro-based business; with a primary focus to Poultry. Our end product is one-day-old broiler chicks; which we sell to farmers. We also have fishery, dairy, fruit & vegetable gardens, which we produce on a limited scale. Our total land mass is approximately forty acres which are currently being run with a crew of one hundred and seventy people. The farm is an hour and thirty minutes’ drive from Dhaka and is located in Trishal, Mymensingh. My Father built this SME from scratch after his retirement from military service.

Yup, you are right. I am now learning to be a farmer (He laughs). Well, there were many considerations for my decision, but mostly I thought it was time that the company experienced growth in a more structured manner. For some time I have been observing that the family business RKKL; was not performing to its full potential due to some operational shortcomings. Plus, my family had been seeking my active involvement for a while now. Also; the growth of poultry and agriculture industry of Bangladesh as a whole is currently higher than ever before. This was also a considerable factor for me. I felt this would be the right time to take the company to the next level through good governance and efficient operations management. In any case, this is my future today or tomorrow so; the sooner I can learn the trade the better. As you know, I am always up for a new challenge, it’s my soul food. So I guess by now you have figured out who is my new liberal boss, right? It is my Father. I finally get a chance to work with the legend and learn from the best.

With his father at RKKL-The InCAP

The InCAP: Does your company help the community where it is located, I mean Trishal, Mymensingh?

Rony Riad Rashid: We run a high school in the area which is named after my Father, inaugurated around the same time as the farm’s beginning. Currently, the school has a student population of 150 students, and the exam results are promising. Other than this most of workers in RKKL are from the area which indicates income opportunity for locals.

The InCAP: Great! Excellent scope for natives. What do you look for in an employee?

Rony Riad Rashid: Integrity, curiosity, basic etiquette, and someone who challenges the status quo.

The InCAP: Are there any particular or specific sector you feel more confident to contribute?

Rony Riad Rashid: I like to find solutions to complex problems. That’s my area of professional expertise. I’m not particularly eager to limit myself to any particular discipline, function, sector, category, or classification. I build sustainable strategies which are modern, progressive, and consistent. I have strived to build myself as a plug and play option who consistently delivers successful results. Over the years I would like to believe I’ve become just that.

The InCAP: There is a gap in the professional-academic linkage in Bangladeshi educational system. For example, a large number of students are studying business-related subjects, and yet the universities barely have any ties to the industry/corporate world. What’s your take on that?

Rony Riad Rashid:  I would agree. I would say that there is much room for improvements in the university education system in our country. To address your question specifically, I wouldn’t say there isn’t a tie between academia and the corporate world, it’s more like the objective and rationale is not made clear between the two. The curriculum in the universities does not really match the requirements expected from an entry-level graduate. To improve this; business applications must be taught with more depth analysis and real-world examples. Interpretation of complex business problems must be understood at least at basic levels. Project work or research must be relevant in recent times. I think as a whole we are improving, but the issue needs to be addressed with more sincerity to fast-track progress and eliminate this gap.

The InCAP: You have been in Bangladesh for quite a long time. You have seen the corporate culture of Bangladesh with your very talented eyes. What do you think about Bangladeshi corporate culture?

Rony Riad Rashid:  You see corporate culture varies from organization to organization. I think we as individuals only try to add value. Overall; as Bangladeshi individuals working at MNC’s in Bangladesh, I think we have demonstrated steady and consistent progress across the board. However, if you want me to pinpoint a particular area of improvement, I would say it is a lack of empowerment.  As I progressed in my career in Bangladesh, I noticed that the folks in leadership capacities are not empowering their subordinates enough; they want to retain all the managerial controls to themselves deliberately. It is still a practice of mostly a conservative leadership style where the boss is always right with little room for others to participate. This never encourages shouldering accountability. It creates confusion, communication gaps, and frustration. As a result, team morale takes a downward curve and achievements suffer.

Modern leadership advocates completely against such practice. We must be more liberal in our thoughts, build trust in our junior colleagues through direct empowerment and effective communication of the desired outcome. We must adjust some milestones and operational detail with feedback from all team members; as they may have a better way than the initial idea. It is my opinion that a strong leader trusts their team members, monitors their progress, and only intervenes in operational detail when there is a necessity.  A project with every one buy-in is a lot more prone to succeed than the ones where they only play an execution role. An emotional ownership is very much required by all team members to ensure the best delivery in their respective tasks. I feel this is an issue that should be looked into.

Furthermore, if we can effectively address issues of social stigma like men woman inequality, workplace harassment; religious bias, and things as such then, one day our professional reputation as a country may become worthy of imitation.

The InCAP: What does “Job Satisfaction” mean to you?

Rony Riad Rashid: That’s simple. A job that has ultimately led me to a better, happier, and fulfilling life.

The InCAP: We are near to end of this glittering discussion. Please give some success tips for entry-level employees.

Rony Riad Rashid: In the short run – don’t be in a hurry. Take time to settle in. Ask for help when you need it. Take time in understanding instructions; ask questions until you are clear on what is expected of you. Then, do the task exactly as asked. At the time of delivery if you have any other opinion on any part of your task, state it, speak out boldly with logic. Support your point of view through research that you have done on the subject matter. Also, do not gossip at the workplace, if you have free time ask someone if they need any help. Develop a genuine interest in progress.

In the long run – find clarity in your professional ambitions, plan for it; don’t just spend your career on a day in day out approach. Monitor your own progress. Be your biggest critic and give your best effort. Be self-inspired and motivate others.

The InCAP: You are an idol to the youth. Many people follow you as an icon of leadership. Say something to them.

Rony Riad Rashid: Really! (He smiles) I love working with young minds, keeps my mind young as well.  I am happy to hear that some of them speak well of me.  Advise wise; learn your role and learn it well. Care for your team and respect the chair you sit on. Don’t try to blend; follow the logic and back it up with instinct. Break the rules to show compassion. Be brave to be a fool. I hope that made some sense.

The InCAP: Thank you so much for your time and precious words.

Rony Riad Rashid: My pleasure. Thanks to all of you.

(Interview has been condensed)

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