Hafizur Rahman Khan is the chairman of Runner Group of Companies. He is one of the most experienced industrialists in the automobile sector of Bangladesh who established Runner Automobiles Limited. Also, the President of “Bangladesh Automobiles Assemblers and Manufacturers Association” (BAAMA), Mr. Rahman shared his experience of establishing the first-ever two-wheeler manufacturing technology in Bangladesh.
Runner Group of Companies were the first to start manufacturing motorcycles in Bangladesh. Would you like to share those experiences?
A: Yes, we were the first to manufacture motorcycles in Bangladesh and we feel proud of it. Our primary objective is to reach every customer segment by providing their required motorcycles at an affordable price. According to their choice, we aim to manufacture those motorcycles.
What challenges did you face when starting manufacturing?
When we started manufacturing, there was no law on motorcycle manufacturing. We had to move many authorities and associates of the govt to solve our issues. Formulating a manufacturing law was challenging at that time as the country had no such industrial infrastructure.
Our first concern was who would test the quality of our manufactured product. There was no institute to check the quality. We talked with the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority. With their help, we tested the quality of the products at the engineering institute. After the certifications on the materials we imported, we got the permission of manufacturing.
When we started exporting, as per requirement, the importing country asked for govt certified quality assurance certifications from us. Then, we applied for that certificate to the BRTA. But they don’t have such authority to give certifications on the locally-produced finished product.
These were the challenges we faced.
Still, there is no certification authority in our country that can give certificate mentioning your vehicle is up to a specific standard.
Even, Our BSTI has no automobile testing facilities. However, we have such testing equipment in our factory. But we got all kind of support from the government.
Earlier, you were talking about the customer segments. Would you like to specify those?
I mentioned about affordable pricing. Our key objective is to give personal transport to those who are low income people, those who have no access to public transport. That is why we started manufacturing sub-100 cc motorcycles first.
Now, we are the market leader of sub-100cc motorcycle segment. We think 80% of its market share is ours. Users prefer our product.
Later, we shifted our focus to the 100 cc motorcycle segment. We introduced a few models in the market and tried to take some market share. Afterwards, we moved to other segments like 125cc, 150cc. Now we introduced a few noted brands from America using their technical support in our manufacturing plants.
Motorcycle market is growing. What steps have you taken towards this growth?
A: You are right. It’s a huge market. Every market has its segment. Users have their requirements in terms of price, mileage, technical specifications, etc. More than 2 crore motorcycles are being sold now. That is why we have chosen those regular segments and we got success.
Runner Motorcycle has already started exporting. How is it doing there?
We have already started exporting our products to our neighboring counties. We are trying to understand their choice and requirements. If we can afford a motorcycle based on their requirements, we will be successful.
Ride-sharing has had a greater impact on the motorcycle market. How do you see it?
Definitely, the motorcycle market has received tremendous growth. If we analyse the last two years of data, the market has got around 50% growth, which was projected to be around 15%. Ride-sharing helps those people who want to save time in this congested city. Now, moving quickly from one place to another place has become easier. Overall, it has built a community to serve the transport industry by bringing mobility. It will increase the number of motorcyclists to some extent. And it is an overall growth of the motorcycles.
To boost the motorcycle industry, current budget has cut the pricing of raw materials. Is it really helpful the industry?
It has been highlighted that the pricing of raw materials has been increased. But the imposition of advance tax on the raw materials we import for manufacturing has impacted the trade. This advance tax is also applicable to the retail price of dealers which has to be borne by the customers. That means the price may hike. But it has the manufacturers mostly. Those who are importing bikes only are not eventually affected.
Why Runner is not focusing on sports bikes in our country?
In the sports segment, you cannot satisfy customers until you are equipped with racing technology. However, we have introduced two 150cc models in the market. We are getting good response from our customers. People are accepting our products.
What are the other commercial vehicles and automotive products that Runner have?
We are mainly doing business in the automobile sector. Besides motorcycles, we market Eicher commercial vehicles in Bangladesh. Eicher is doing well in the commercial vehicle segment, especially in that category of regular product transportation.
To do a nation-wide business, we rely on the networks that we have. We have expanded our business a lot to serve our customers. We have lubricating oils of Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. Recently we have entered into LPG. Hopefully, we will establish the biggest distribution channel of LPG with this project. We have other businesses too.
What initiatives have you taken for the safety issues of the motorcyclists?
As a responsible business entity, we are aware of the safety of the motorcycle riders. We think riders should be responsible too. When we sell any runner motorbikes, we provide them with a traffic rule book that they can learn the traffic rules properly. We have opened driving training institute in 16 districts so that the young riders can learn driving. We also help them getting a driving license after training with BRTA. Even in customer meet, mechanic meet, we make our customers aware of traffic rules.
Lastly, we want to hear more about the dream you have for Runner.
We started with a vision to give our product at a very affordable price. Customer satisfaction is a priority. If we can satisfy our customers, that will be our success. We want to walk more along with this continuous success by ensuring that satisfaction.