Local production is the future

Abdul Motaleb Ahmed is the founder of Nitol-Niloy group. Through his hard worked and dedication company has become the market leader in the commercial vehicle sector. The Turbine sat down with him to bring some insight into his life and his life and his dedication to developing our auto industry.

What is your success story?

Well is has not been a smooth road. My father was a Justice, and my entire family had a long history working in the service sector. So I was the first to start a business. And since I was always attracted to mobility, I started my business in the auto industries. I noticed that there was a profound lack of commercial vehicles in our country. People would wait for months for Progti to put together a vehicle and more often than not, that said vehicles would be handed over to someone else with more money and influence. I hoped to remedy this. Initially, I started importing re-conditioned vehicles from Japan. While doing this, I realized there is a huge demand for the public bus in Bangladesh. Thus I applied for a dealership of Hindustan Motors and begun importing the HT-120 bus which proved to be widely successful. In 1986, Hindustan motors pulled out of Bangladesh so I applied for a dealership of Eitcher-Mitsubishi. This also proved to be very successful, as we soon became the market leader by selling the highest number of units. In 1989-90, we were approached by TATA with a proposal to become their local distributor. I agreed on two conditions, the first was that it has to be a joint partnership and the second one was they have to set up a local assembly plant. The second condition proved problematic because back then, foreign assembly plants were banned by the government. However, a new government came to power soon afterward and changed the law. So we entered a partnership with TATA and within three to four years we became market leaders in the commercial vehicle sectors. Less than 30 years ago, the market was dominated by vehicles of Japanese and British makes, with Indian only making up 5-10% of the total market share. Now the situation is reversed, with Indian makers dominating the commercial vehicle sectors.

What is your view of the current car industry in Bangladesh?

The demand for commercial vehicles has now gone up dramatically. We used to sell around 2,000 vehicles a year but now sell the same amount in a month. However, the market now demands not only affordable prices but environmentally-friendly vehicles.  We initially tied to meet this demand by importing CNG powered trucks and buses but consumers now wants LPG vehicles so we are thinking about importing those. But, we can only import so much. It is now time for us to start making them on our own. We need to set up our own assembly plant, build our own parts and start exporting them to other countries. Nitol have taken several steps to that direction, we are soon to sell locally made Hero motorcycle in Northwest parts of India. These bikes will be marked “Made in Bangladesh”. We have also imported a Tata Xenon plant, which we will set it up soon for local automobile manufacturing.  Soon I hope we can provide good vehicles to consumers at a reasonable price.

What is your view of the overall economy of our country?

We are fortunate to have a government with strong leadership skills. Under them, our economy has evolved from poor to a rapidly developing state. And very soon, we will go further. And thus it is the duty of people like us to work in such a way that not only benefits us but the country as well.  We should be always in guard for not doing anything that will harm the country’s interest.

What is your view on Electric Vehicles (EV) and their role in Bangladesh? How long do you it will take for the government of Bangladesh to allow EV in our country? Dose companies like yours trying to change their mind?

Nitol have been working on EV for almost two years now. We have imported a number of EV in the past but were unable to register them with BRTA because of the fact they lack an engine. You cannot register a car in BRTA if it lacks a chassis and engine number. We have talked with the government to address this issue and they are currently working to resolve this. I believe there will be some positive changed to our laws by next January and we will be finally being able to register electric cars.  EV provides a huge opportunity for Bangladesh industry as allow us to skip complicated engineering required to build an internal combustion engine. If we can build good quality cars they can become a huge export success. However, this can only be done if the government approved the electrification of our vehicle industry and sets up rule and regulation.

Nitol and Tata has been working together for a long time. What is the future of this relationship, do you plan to bring any TATA EV in the future?

We currently have no plans to import any EV made by TATA. As I said before, we believe it is now time for us to develop and build cars of our own. Thus we are developing our own electric car. We named it Sobar-E, with the E standing for electric.

Can you tell a little more about “Sobar-E”?

Sobar-e will a vehicle for the common people.  We are a poor country; we simply cannot afford to have a car that is too expensive .We hope to reveal this car by the end of the next year. Right now the main problem is government regulation. However as I have said before that is being addressed as we speak.

Can you please talk about Nitol‘s role in the motorcycle industry?

Nitol have been involved in motorcycle industry for the past five years as part of Hero Motor crop. We assemble and produce various parts of their motorcycles. We are hopeful that within three to four months, we will be able produce enough components to have our bikes be stamped with the coveted “made in Bangladesh” seal. And then we will be able to export those bikes to various other countries.

As for making a bike of our own, we have no plan to develop our own petrol bikes. We do have plans to develop our own electric motorcycles and scooters.

What is your view on ride sharing?

I think it is a great concept! Nitol has actually played a role in changing the government mind about it. We have tried organized taxi services before, but crime and other problems made that venture unsuccessful. Ride sharing is a great alternative to a dedicated taxi service as people can be their own master. I also think it will play a positive role in reducing road traffic, at least until proper public transportation infrastructure are developed.

Other than their auto industry, what other ventures dose Nitol have?

We have so far invested in paper, cement and insurance industry. We also have an It and auto tracking system. But the next big step for Nitol will be locally manufacturing export quality radial tires. This project is too grand in scale in for us to do alone, so we’re in talks with a number of other local industry leaders to set up a consortium and peruse this as a joint venture project.

How do you generate new ideas? Have you implemented any new ideas to your company?

I am always innovating. Right we are in the process of moving to a “paper-less” environment by fully digitizing our workplaces.  We have also set up EV development workplace, which will also serve as the hub for our IT sector. We hope to become the first fully digital transformed company.

What is your proudest personal achievement?

That would be my two sons, who are helping me run this company. Also my wife, who is now a member of parliament. And more importantly, the thousands of employees who are working tirelessly to improve the Nitol-Niloy family.

What are the key components for a successful business? What is the best way to achieve long term success?

Well personally I think each and every businessman should be aware of their financial responsibility. They should also keep in mind that it is never a wise to turn you back against a bank you they taken a loan from. And finally, always remember that a part of your income belong to the country, in from of vat and taxes. So do pay them accordingly.

The best way to achieve long term success is be transparent about what you do. Don’t manipulate invoice numbers, don’t lie to your investors etc. They will you will earn peoples respect and that respect is more valuable than gold.