An Interview with
Md. Sabur Khan
Daffodil Internationa University & Daffodil Family
Daffodil Family was founded with a vision to lead the ICT Sector and contribute in the Education turf of the country. The history of Daffodil Family began in the year 1990.Since then we took the stand by our philosophy to provide the best services and also take pride ourselves on providing excellent professionalism. Gradually, the company has evolved to become the largest Education Network and one of the leading ICT companies of the country. We have a very complimentary product & service ranges. We provide a portfolio of IT services, software, and technology that solves critical problems for clients and also brought quality education from PG to PG level in the commitment of developing the future generation. In the ICT sector our deep technology expertise, comprehensive portfolio of services, a vertically aligned business model and ‘Centers of Excellence’ enable us to name as different from other organizations and helps to harness the latest technology for delivering business capability to our clients. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Daffodil Family collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. Also, contributing in educating the next generation focusing on the challenges of job market and industries of their times. In the development of skilled human resources we have set the strategies and already we succeeded in our plan and solved unemployment problem.
Tell us about your background, and what are you most passionate about?
It is a story exactly 30 years back, in 1990, when I started my business career as a Startup. It is true that after completing my higher education from a Public University, I came into the business arena, yet the motivation behind the start came from my childhood, from my father. I cherished the passion and it sparked when I initiated Daffodil Computers Ltd., 1st public listed IT company in Dhaka Stock Exchange and Chattogram Stock Exchange in 2003. Entrepreneurship is my passion. I have established different wings like University, College, Technical Training Institute, School, Hospital, Venture Capital, Pharmaceutical Company, Job Portal, and many more one by one, under the large shade of Daffodil Family. I introduced 1st local assembled PCs in 1991, the country's first Super Store idea in 1995, IT education institute- Daffodil Institute of IT in 1996, first brand PC- daffodil-PC in 1997. Also initiated an online job portal called skill.jobs, first ISP- Daffodil Online Ltd, fully digitized Private University- Daffodil International University, Computer Clinic, among others for the first time in Bangladesh. My honorary Doctorates, as well as attachments with several foreign universities as the Visiting Professor, has supported me to disseminate my experience to inspire the young people to be entrepreneurs. I have written several books on Entrepreneurship. With my background locally as the President of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI); President of the Bangladesh Computer Samity (BCS); Member of Prime Minister ICT Task Force; 'Commercially Important Person’ (CIP) by Bangladesh Government; Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS); Chairman, Standing Committee on Industrialization in 64 Districts, FBCCI, as well as internationally, as the Vice President of the Association of Universities of Asia and the Pacific (AUAP), High-Commissioner for World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF), and the Director of WITSA & elected Chairman of Global Trade Committee of WITSA as well as the Honorary Consul of Burkina Faso, I am continuously focused to my effort in education, IT and entrepreneurship industry. I am trying to contribute through the Daffodil Foundation (A trust funded by Daffodil) and the Daffodil Institute of Social Sciences (DISS) to eradicate poverty.
How has your industry been changing in recent years? What are the biggest challenges you think your industry will face in the next 3-5 years?
Industry’s biggest change in recent years is walking towards the tech-driven industry. And “Industry 4.0” has come to light in the process. Many have already moved towards the tech-driven operations and some are in the process of it. New and innovative ideas implemented by young startups are really praiseworthy in our country. The pandemic has also pointed out to us clearly that this is inevitable to train and equip our people and organization with the best technology solutions and practices. Challenges we may face in the next 3-5 years- Firstly, it will be a challenge to introduce and implement the tech-driven working environment as we have human resources of different levels of technological understanding, but it’s not impossible if anyone has the eagerness to learn and adapt. It is the time to utilize each and every person's strength with proper Uberization according to merit so that the entire workforce can feel confident and be involved in economic growth to move forward. Secondly, the expected outcome may have slow growth as all are in a new environment (which we are calling new normal too) and fighting to sustain with it. So the organizations will face economic challenges along with their employees. Some drastic changes and decisions have to be made which will slow down operations for a while.
What personality traits make you such an effective or influential leader? In a few words, how would you describe your leadership philosophy?
Personality traits make me such an effective or influential leader: An organization's success always depends on good leaders. The following traits should be visible in a successful leader - Always think new area rather follow traditional way Always focus on Blue Ocean Strategy Always respect my employees as my team member that’s way I love to call my Group of companies as Daffodil Family Always love to tell my people that we will do any job one time and make it as a model and replicate it as and when necessary. Self Management/ Self Discipline Effective Communicator Set goals and anyhow achieve them Managing Complexity Creativity & Innovation Team build & Teamwork Motivation & Commitment Expertise Problem Solving Skills Networking & relationship building Integrity and respect My Leadership Philosophy: My leadership is based on democratic, strategic, and transformed philosophies. Because I always prefer team decisions first then I provide my inputs or guide them as per their plan. Besides, I try to maximize the productivity of everyone on the team. I think constant change is the only pathway to future success. I always try to motivate my team to the goal set and overcome the challenges. I stand beside them to guide and improve their performance constantly. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd staff who joined with me in 1990 in my company are still with me which means staff turnover in my companies is below 5%.
How would others define your communication style? Do you prefer to be close to your employees or maintain a healthy distance, and why?
People generally appreciate my communication style with my team members because I always give them priority & flexibility in work, I just give them my requirements & deadlines. They also complete their task within the deadline. It's good to work closely with the team so that as a leader I can direct the team and get updated time to tie which helps to close work within the deadline with work standards. But I can run my big team from a remote distance because I communicate with the team through our developed system SaaS (Software as a Service) & SmartEdu by which I can track all of the work from one platform and helps me to guide them till the closing of the work. My team & I also enjoy this style because we all can evaluate our progress & contribution through this system.
Can you describe a time when you had to make a tough decision (e.g. budget cuts, organizational restructuring, market withdrawal, etc.)? What did you do and what was the result?
Since the beginning of my business, I incorporated Technology and Systems in business processes and developed my people in such a way so that their working station doesn’t leave any impact in the organization and they can serve from anywhere. It was not so easy to make people familiar with technology and its practices. I had to convince them and start the process from my side first. I may add here the recent pandemic time example. I took the decision to start a virtual office for my people considering safety and security because I believe 50% of the merit-based works can be performed from home utilizing the low cost and no-cost technology. I also restructured the HR strategy in the same way. Firstly, my people are always my priority. My first bold decision was to save my people during this pandemic and to save their job. Based on the decision, I sketched all the operational strategies. As a safeguard tool, I selected technology. Secondly, I restructured my organization in such a way that a minimum of 30% cost can be saved in the new Normal situations. For example: In the new normal office culture helping the organization save the cost in external communication, travel, office maintenance, maintaining external affairs, utility, and many other ways. Thirdly, I have also taken strategic decision consulting with my peoples. Such as, I changed the financing strategy (Financing more on Essential Aspects rather than Optional Effort) promotional strategy (initiated Digital Marketing Approach) which I had to do considering the pandemic situation and cost minimization. We are fully on a digitization approach and moving forward accordingly. We are more focused on Virtual Presence rather than physical and investing more to equip my people so that they can ensure services from home. The result has been outstanding. The productivity of Human Resources has been increased and all the organizations are operational. We could ensure smooth operation in this pandemic situation. My people have adopted new normal working cultures very easily. As a businessman whenever I find that my business may loss my prestige i.e., it may hamper my reputation, I always try to make very quick decisions like I sold one of my companies in 2002 which was involved in Travel and Manpower business but due to negligence of my people I found that it will be tough for me to keep my reputation. In 2002, I sold my Directorship of a large Insurance company when I found that I need to focus on my University and this financial support will help to develop my University and in 2020 I realize that I took the right decision bcz my University is now one of the top universities. In 2006, I sold my Membership in Dhaka Stock Exchange when I realized that these sorts of money making business I myself need to involve directly which is really tough for me otherwise a lot of malpractice can happen so instantly I sold that company though I lost a lot of money but I didn’t lose my reputation. I sold another large Fiber Optic Service Company called Metronet in 2006 when my CEO whom I gave a voluntary 20% share but his strategy and management was very controversial and I was worried about my reputation and I sold my share to another party. I have developed a lot of companies and I always emphasize transparency, commitment, reputation and sustainability because I trust that once upon a time I did business for money but now I am doing business for contribution to our beloved society. I did a joint venture with jobstreet.com and my job portal called jobsbd.com but suddenly I found that jobsbdtret.com is not moving well as per market demand of our country though they are very successful in other countries. I instantly purchased their shares and ran my company and kept my market value rather than closing the company which is now running as http://skill.jobs.
What does the future hold for your company after the COVID-19 pandemic? How will the “new normal” look like in the next 1-2 years?
COVID-19 has reinforced our conviction that human concerns are not separate from technological advances at all, but integral for organizations looking to capture the full value of the technologies they’ve put in place. As organizations looked to adapt their ways of working in response to the crisis, they found that in many—though not all—parts of the world, technology was not the greatest challenge. In those where it was, the crisis highlighted the digital divide within countries, across regions, and in rural communities and urban digital deserts. COVID-19 caused people to adapt to working from home and in isolation. By forcing our collective hand to find digital solutions to keep meetings, lessons, workouts, and more going when sheltering in our homes, it allowed many of us to see the possibilities for continuing some of these practices in a post-COVID-19 world. For me, I realized that traveling to other countries/cities just for a meeting isn't always essential, and I have learned that video calls for all kinds of meetings (yes, even board meetings) can be equally effective.
What is your advice to other leaders on how to ‘thrive, not just survive” in the face of economic difficulties and tough business environment?
Growing businesses face a range of challenges. As a business grows, different problems and opportunities demand different solutions - what worked a year ago might now be not the best approach. All too often, avoidable mistakes turn what could have been a great business into an also-ran. Recognizing and overcoming the common pitfalls associated with growth is essential if our business is to continue to grow and thrive. Crucially, we need to ensure that the steps we take today don't themselves create additional problems for the future. Effective leadership will help us to make the most of the opportunities, creating sustainable growth for the future. These following guidelines highlight the particular risks and mistakes that most commonly affect growing businesses and outlines what we can do about them. Utilize people’s strength properly Outsourcing which area we are not strong Keeping up with the market Planning ahead Cash flow and financial management Problem-solving The right systems Skills and attitudes Welcoming any change/ better scope