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Get To Know Aftab Mahmud Khurshid, Business Development & Marketing GM at Apollo Hospitals Dhaka

In this digital age, organizations need to focus on three things – brand image, skilled people and modern technology.

Hello Aftab. It’s nice to talk to you today. From venturing your career in the business field to becoming one of the most influential marketing leaders in Bangladesh, your journey is an illustrious one. Can you share with us a bit about yourself?

My professional life has started with ACI Consumer Brand, the largest FMCG company in Bangladesh. Working in diverse industry spectrum from retail to FMCG, financial to electrical and electronics, media to health care I became a brand catalyst in Bangladesh.

With an MBA in Marketing and a Masters in Finance and Banking, I marketed and nurtured more than 15 brands, revamped 4 companies, ranging from private organizations to multi-million dollar corporations. Additionally, I have worked in a variety of leading local and multinational companies, including ACI (formerly ICI), Siemens, Trust Bank, City Bank, NRB Bank, Apollo Hospitals and Standard Chartered Bank.

I have been associated with renowned local and multinational consumer brands like ACI Aerosol, Fly-Ban, Canderel, Duracell, ICI toiletries, Johnson & Johnson, Dabur, OSRAM, American Express Card, Radio Today FM89.6, SSG, Sure Cash, Lexus Biscuits, Linnex and a few others.

I organized the country’s first Digital Marketing Summit in 2012. Also, I am a frequent Author and Speaker on the topic of business marketing.

In my career, I helped companies to achieve their growth goals. I was involved in both the high-level strategies required for long-term sustainability, so as the tactical execution used to accomplish the day-to-day successes. In addition, I appeared in corporate shows on TV channels, featured in national dailies and business magazines.

I was an advisory council member of the World Brand Congress 2011 and Asia Brand Congress 2008 and 2009 from Bangladesh, have received Global Brand Leadership Award in 2007, was amongst the 50 Most Influential Marketing leaders in 2015, recognized as Asia’s Marketing Leader in 2018, recipient of a certificate of excellence in Marketing Communications from Siemens Germany.

Moreover, I have been working as a lyricist and wrote many songs of popular bands Like Miles, Warfaze, Feedback, and other solo artists for the last 30 years.

Now you are working with Apollo Hospitals Dhaka. What is your role in this organization?

The role is marketing, corporate branding, and business development. Delivering profitable growth by designing strategy, service marketing. campaigns development, corporate relations, and marketing communications are part of my responsibilities. The healthcare market is changing dramatically if we are not focused now, anyone can be out of the business as competition is fierce and customers are more cautious.

As it is business of compassion and care we always keep in mind the service quality and the service delivery in every step where we are involved in. Not only service quality, but there are also trust and confidence – the other two aspects we need to consider. Marketing plays a crucial role in this position and brand positioning is a very challenging aspect for any healthcare brand.

Experiential marketing activities and analytics can help and play a vital role in determining the strategy and to take a final move. The overall healthcare industry needs transformation now; transformation cannot happen without innovation. Transformation in service delivery system, business processes, and market strategies should be top priorities for the development of the total healthcare ecosystem.

What are you working on for the rest of 2019?

As I’m in the field of marketing and business so we are looking out the trends and will do some new campaigns for this hospital. And personally, I’m involved with marketing conferences, concentrate more on business writing. Also, I’m trying to finish my books on marketing and song this year.

By the way, this year I am celebrating my 30 years of songwriting!

Wow, congratulations on that! Well, no doubt you are a great example of how a successful brand building looks like. Question, why branding is very important for a business?

Business needs to have a clear vision and organization have to have a proper structure and working culture. For business branding, it is important to look into a few matters e.g. the power of message, paradox of digital era and consistent storytelling. In a deep level, customers’ centricity focus to your customers, their demographics, consistency in messaging, communicate visually, verbally and virtually, and then you can connect the emotional level. An exciting story can take the brand further and content can excite the brand. It can also give the brand life. A brand is a story, whereas marketing is storytelling.

I have focused on brand marketing always. I think only MNCs are practising branding but not locals. Why not? Bangladeshis are also working there. For this very reason, I have started talking about it, writing about it, attending several conferences, seminars, workshops and more. Sharing from my own knowledge, without branding, no business can happen. The simple reason is, a brand is business and business is branding. It’s a continuous creative engineering and strategic business science, whether it’s good or not, depends on the management.

It is not new that the customers are very demanding nowadays. From your experience, what would be ideal ways to deal with this trend?

To me, I must say make it simple, the trustworthy way. Customers want solutions without any hassle. If service basics are served customers are happy. And if we can deliver a bit more they become delighted. That is why companies need to develop a service mindset across the organization where service marketing needs to be prioritized.

Leading companies understand that they are in the customer-experience business and how an organization delivers for customers is the beginning to be as important as what it delivers.

If you have identified and understood the customer’s journey and touched all the touchpoints with care, then you can link customer experience to business outcomes easily. It means paying attention to the details, complete, end-to-end experience.

How do you see the overall marketing sector in Bangladesh? And, what are the strategic areas marketers need to focus on to be part of this new era?

The marketing industry is growing very fast in Bangladesh. To maintain the pace, capture the momentum enterprises or generations need to be more insightful and strategic.

Branding locally must be needed for local companies. In this context, we need to establish our own country brands first. When we will get that position, only then we can think of going to the next level. So, locally making the professional set up is needed first. Then if we hire professionals with a global mindset, they automatically take it to the global level. Therefore, it is time for the company’s heads, owners or entrepreneurs to think about it, create that mindset, establish a forward-looking vision, mission, and values. Time is running very fast in this digital era. We can’t just keep thinking about things in our head sitting at home drinking coffee. Because when you are busy thinking for 3 minutes, there are 3 companies out there achieving growth and flourishing within that time duration.

And remember this, brands are strategic assets. It’s a scientific and creative process. It requires top management’s clear understanding, endorsement, and strong support to develop a long term and long lasting brand. Sustainable and consistent mindset is important for a brand. As we know perception is greater than reality until unless we invest in brand and communication, this could be changed to create a negative perception. So, it is time for the companies to invest and able to understand that until they invest in brand the real value will not be created. That is a return on experience, better and faster value for money, affordable price what is applicable, etc.

Entrepreneurs must build their corporate image first, then go for product branding, service branding and solution branding and then overall employer branding. In this digital age, organizations need to focus on three things – brand image, skilled people and modern technology.

Well, how do you plan to use your experience and position to promote Bangladesh marketing industry globally?

The whole fraternity of marketing has changed meaningfully and improved a lot. With the blessing of internet access to the world, it is just a matter of clicks. In this epoch, I always see myself as a GLOCAL manager in a global perspective. Whenever I participated or was invited in any international level marketing or brand conferences or events I shared our experiences, best practices, bearing in mind the country’s branding aspects as global, modern and digital professional Bangladeshi.

What’s the best way to contact you?

You can reach me through LinkedIn.

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