Please say few words about you and your career.
Farzana Khan is one of those rare creatures: a highly motivated woman who has proved herself as an automobile spokesperson, can communicate her inspiration and attitudes to others. Farzana refers to it as a “spark.” In her own words, “spark creates fire.” Her first spark came when she started to drive at an early age of 14; she wanted to build her career in automobiles. After completing her O level and A level from Dhanmondi Tutorial, she graduated from NSU and flew off to UK for MBA. Despite of having a great job and a life there, she returned back with 5 years of work experience and joined Hyundai Motors Bangladesh Ltd.; it has been a good 7 years since then.
While conversing with her, we felt the need of people for a true guidance towards the right car purchase and she seemed to be giving out neutral information, irrespective of the brand she sells. “I believe most car brands exist and sell in Bangladesh, because of their worldwide popularity and established brand value. I don’t sell Hyundai criticizing others, I sell this brand highlighting the USPs and it is upon the customer’s good judgement, which one they will settle for.”
Have you always wanted to work with Millennium?
While all girls use to play with Barbie dolls and cook with their play utensils, Farzana would play with cars, break them and engineer them back in place. So, it all started when she was a baby girl and the passion continued all the way turning into a profession for her. Returning from UK in 2011, after completing her MBA, she was determined in working for an automobile company and God willing, Millennium offered her a sales position which seemed a perfect suit for her.
The brand new car market is starting to get crowded. How are you looking at this?
We find this competition extremely healthy and general people of our society have started to realize the huge advantages of owning a brand new over recon/used vehicles; which is great for our environment as well. Within the brand new industry, we maintain a very healthy relationship, share our sales strategies and help each other sell. Our main motto is to ensure proper communication with customers to literate them on why they should choose brand new and how they benefit from it.
If you had to pick one brand & model for your daily use, which brand & model would you choose & why?
I would choose SsangYong Rexton any day. The new Rexton is one of the most handsome cars in the SsangYong line-up, which a few years ago wouldn’t have meant much. Nowadays this counts for something, because the Rexton is a striking and attractive proposition, with a genuinely premium feel and road presence to match. The new Rexton has been designed to deliver more in every respect. More presence. More prestige. More strength. More safety. More style. More space. Styled inside and out with graceful detailing that compliments its rugged off-road capability, it looks and feels like a game-changer. I currently drive a SsangYong Korando, but owning a Rexton would be like a dream come true to me.
With the upcoming Hybrid and Electric car driven future, how prepared is Millennium?
Although, we have not imported any Hybrid or Electric car yet, we are heavily working on the R&D part of it and getting our after-sales ready to cope with all situation that arises after the sale. We believe it’s more important to ensure after-sales service along with parts availability all throughout the country, just not in Dhaka or Chattogram. So we have already initiated our process of training authorized parts dealers and small workshops on hybrid vehicles.
What is new for Millennium next?
Digitization, increasing automation, and new business models have revolutionized other industries, and automotive will be no exception. These forces are giving rise to four disruptive technology-driven trends in the automotive sector: diverse mobility, autonomous driving, electrification, and connectivity. In line with that, Millennium is working towards introducing new brands and models for BD market, with attractive features and prices.
What brands & models have hit the Millennium showroom in recent times?
We are concentrating more on Nissan and SsangYong at the moment. All our Nissan models come directly from Japan as a CBU unit while SsangYong units come from Korea. Under SsangYong, we have recently started to import Korando, 1500cc, Turbo Engine, 5 seats SUV in 2 variants: Luxury and Semi-Luxury Rexton, 2000cc, Turbo Engine, 7 seats SUV, Grand Musso, 2000cc, Double Cabin Pickup.
Korando: In 2019, SsangYong has returned with a completely reinvented All-new Korando with an entirely new, stylish and luxurious quality, contemporary exterior design, spacious interior, enhanced driver assistance and safety systems.
All-new Korando features a high-performance power train, SsangYong’s smart AWD and compact NVH design that provide outstanding driving performance and silence. It also employed state-of-the-art vehicle control technology, achieving the highest commercialization standard of Level 2.5 while increasing affordability and safety.
In addition, it has adopted top-notch seating space, creative storage space, and luxurious interior design, adding values as a family car with a sophisticated touch. It is designed for young families who are pursuing a vibrant lifestyle and will appeal to people in need of a larger interior space for growing children and generous trunk space for their leisure equipment and daily chores.
With its unique and strong 4WD, Korando has been strengthening its identity as ‘the will of Korea’ and ‘the 4WD of Korea’. And Korando proved its potential as an ideal family SUV. From a four-wheel drive for on and off-road to a tailor-made SUV for leisure activities, Korando has evolved over 30 years in history as an SUV that is built with drivers in mind, an SUV that represents Korea.
Rexton: Inheriting the brand value of Rexton as an iconic authentic SUV, the 4th generation of Rexton was introduced in 2017.As the flagship SUV of SsangYong, the size of the 2020 Rexton has been enlarged compared to previous models, and has been greatly enhanced with a blend of off-road capability, on-road comfort, and refined interior. Along with its majestic look, Rexton offers a powerful driving performance based on the combination of 2.0 litre Turbo & gasoline engine, a 6-speed automatic transmission and 4 wheel drive system. Particularly, Rexton is applied with Quad Frame using Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) to offer reliable safety to all occupants while minimizing weight of the vehicle.
Grand Musso: The Grand Musso is fun and easy to drive; the tilt-adjustable steering wheel and telescopic steering column ensure the proper position for individual body types. The remote and cruise control switches are mounted on the steering wheel for instant access.
Exterior surroundings always in view. Cameras mounted on the outside of the vehicle provide a real-world view of the immediate areas on all sides of the vehicle, making low-speed driving or parking safer and easier.
The Grand Musso’s infotainment system is equipped with a high-definition touchscreen, which supports Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto. A radio, MP3 player, real-time broadcast recording, and USB port are built into the system. The Grand Musso comes with automated systems that alert the driver to potential problems or take control of vehicular operation to avoid collisions and other kinds of accidents. As a result both vehicular and road safety are enhanced.
How important is Bangladeshi market for SsangYong?
Very Important, since they are expanding globally and find Bangladesh to be a market full of opportunities. SsangYong Motor Company, Korea CEO: Yea Byung-tae, announced that the company sold a total of 10,181 units in June 2020 – 9,746 units in domestic sales and 435 in exports. SsangYong posted its best monthly sales in June with an increase of 22.9 percent from the previous month helped by the strong recovery of the domestic market.
The company saw a sales uptrend for two consecutive months since April when it posted its lowest sales this year at 6,813 units amid the coronavirus pandemic. In particular, SsangYong reported its highest domestic sales this year with an increase of 28.7 percent month- on-month and 18.6 percent year-on-year, respectively, as each model posted the best sales as well. SsangYong’s June domestic sales exceeded last year’s average domestic monthly sales of 8,982 units, and furthermore, its sales rapidly grew from the early stages of the coronavirus breakout since February. Such performance resulted from its successful Sales Programs. The company has provided various benefits and easy access for consumers by diversifying purchasing channels such as online e-commerce and home shopping in keeping up with the new buying trend referring to non-face-to-face services amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
SsangYong has pushed its efforts to launch new models in Bangladesh, including the face-lifted G4 Rexton and Korando in preparation for the post-coronavirus era, and will invest in product development for the future, including Korea’s first mid-sized electric SUV to be released in early next year in BD.
It must be hard sometimes to pitch Nissan and SsangYong instead of other makers to prospective clients. In short, why would you say someone should choose SsangYong over competition?
When you get married to someone, you look into the probable candidate’s internal characteristics along with outlook and family background. Purchasing a vehicle is very similar to a marriage. We always advise our customers to prioritize their needs over the hundreds of offers in the market, understand what suits them the best and then make a purchase. There are lot of companies offering 1000 specifications and features in their cars, which are practically useless for Bangladesh infrastructure, yet some customers fall for that. What we have in our brands are only essential options along with some luxuries. So, Nissan has its own brand value in the market, and those who know about Nissan or have used one, always opt for another Nissan. As for SsangYong, yes it is a comparatively newer brand for the market, but it sells itself. With the safety and convenience features that it offers, we have rarely lost a walk-in-customer to a competitor; they all fall in love with the beauties.
Any fond memory from your time with Millennium?
Among the 1000 memories I have gathered in my 7 years of experience with Millennium, experiencing the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix (formally known as the 2015 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix) was a Formula One motor race held on 20 September 2015 at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Marina Bay, Singapore was a very big deal for me, at that moment in time. The race was the thirteenth round of the 2015 season. It was the eighth time the race was run as a round of the Formula One World Championship. Defending race winner Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes entered as the leader in the World Drivers’ Championship with 252 points, 53 points ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg and 74 points ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Mercedes came into the race leading the Constructors’ Championship by 181 points ahead of Ferrari, with Williams a further 82 points back in third place.
What other SBUs/Ventures are you currently looking after?
Millennium group owns Bar B Q Tonight and I am in-charge of looking after the local marketing activities of this fine kabab restaurant. Inaugurated on the 10th of November in 1988, Bar.B.Q. Tonight started serving authentic Pakistani dishes and its signature Bar.B.Q dishes in Pakistan. The sincere efforts of their visionary founders made Bar.B.Q Tonight a modern symbol of hygiene & quality, and within months their aspirations yielded fruitful results. Today, Bar B. Q. Tonight is credited as one of the pioneers in true Bar.B.Q dining. It’s operating in Gulshan-1 since July 2018 and has been a favorite dining place for Kabab Lovers.
Recently the Millennium organized vintage expo; why is it so & what are your future plans regarding this event?
Vintage car collectors of Dhaka gathered at Millennium Center at the capital’s Tejgaon area today to showcase the automotive treasures of Bangladesh through immaculately maintained and restored classics. Among the 12 vintage cars on display were a 1989 Ferrari 328 GTS, 1966 Jaguar S-type, 1971 Jaguar E-type, 1961 Austin Mini, several Volkswagens and a pair of Japanese cars in the form of a 1995 Nissan President and a 1960s vintage Toyota Corona RT40. Vintage Expo 2020 is a concept that we initiated to encourage the owners of this vehicles and to display to the future buyers that proper maintenance & post-purchase care can really make a difference when it comes to automobiles. Some of our respected customers think, cars having lower mileage scored on the mile meter means it is in good condition, which is also not true. So basically this expedition helped us change their views about automobiles and we plan to do this every year with bigger arrangements.
As you are one of the key women figures in the automotive scene in our country; say few words to those who are intent to build their career in this sector.
I have been trying to get in more women into automobiles and bring more gender equality in our company but it has been a great struggle. Women mostly think, this is not their cup of tea, may be due to the technicalities involved in automobiles or may be because it requires a lot of passion. But if you ask me, surviving in an automobiles company is not as tough as anyone would think! Anyone who is well-informed with a sound product knowledge, should find this profession inviting in the future. It is actually very rewarding when you count the number of people you get introduced to and learn from them.
And this is for all the parents who are worried about their daughter’s future, if she works for an automobiles company:
“Salespeople make the ideal partner”, and I think these will back up my bold claim:
They know when to talk and when to listen, ask the right questions, aren’t overly sensitive, understand the importance of hard work, won’t keep you waiting, are willing to compromise and know how to make you feel good; or at least my husband would agree to all these. “Arafat has always been very cooperative when it comes to my professional hazards, even when it comes to me answering price queries at 2am in the morning.”