Syed Iqbal Ali Shimul
CEO of MGH Logistics - Bangladesh & Sri Lanka, and Managing, Director - Liner Agencies Bangladesh and Cambodia
A competent leader who understands the business and the market very well, Syed Iqbal Ali embodies all the traits of a progressive authority such as open-minded learning, realistic optimism, thinking out of the box, fast decision making, leading by example, and more. Moreover, as a successful modern-day leader, he goes beyond the convictions and showcases mastery in various aspects of the business while being positive and empathetic. At the end of the day, the quintessence of business operations lies in Customers, Employees, and Profits. Such a maven, who can spin the logistics business in the right trajectory and truly represents shining set attributes as The Coolest Guy awarded by Maersk Line.
A visionary in its true sense, Syed is leveraging all his remarkable expertise in various verticals such as P&L Management, Strategies, Operations, Business Development, Sales, Marketing, Administration, Management, and more to propel business growth. Particularly amidst the pandemic difficulties, he is paving the road to progress by keeping up with all the changes. The impressive story of this industry leader takes us through a ride where he showcases the importance of being an open-minded learner and putting the employees first. Syed’s immense capacity to be available for the team at any time and any day while creating a human-first culture is truly inspirational. The following excerpt is an exclusive conversation between Syed and CEO Insights that briefs his journey, leadership role, and his strategies that drive the business.
Give a brief account of your professional background and experience?
Fresh out of University, the journey started with Maersk in 1990 in Chittagong under the mentorship of Anis Ahmed, the then Director of Maersk Bangladesh. Later in 1994, parted ways with Maersk, and joined P&O to become ‘The Superstar Employee’ in 1999. In 2001, I was reconnected by my mentor Anis Ahmed, who by then opted out of Maersk Bangladesh and established his own Brand in Logistics ‘MGH’. He offered me a leadership role in the Conglomerate-to-be, to take the challenge of coming out of the box and take the Logistics startup to intended heights. While MGH grew exponentially from vertical to vertical, I also climbed up the organizational ladder to become Executive Director in 2007 and to the rank of CEO by 2013. As of date, I represent MGH as the Managing Director & CEO of Portfolios I was assigned with.
What's been your journey so far with MGH group and what drives you today?
I must acknowledge that it has been a fantastic journey of 22 years with MGH. My experience in various operational roles at MGH has helped me better understand the business functions and make way for new leaders by delegating my experience and responsibility on their way to ranks. The thing that got me engaged in this sector initially was the fact that the logistics business is all about helping to fulfil the dreams of every person involved in making their business successful. In the beginning, I led multiple projects including spearheading the Feeder Agency development & formation of Port link Logistics Centre, the Largest Container Depot in South Asia – 54 acres of land area. A few years later, I gradually took over the vertical of Liner Agency as well to work with Global brands like Yang Ming, China Shipping, CSAV- Norasia & UASC to name a few. Based on our performance in building these brands under the MGH umbrella, we were awarded multiple agencies overseas and I am humbled to lead the way. MGH is my second home and the respect, motivation, and appreciation I receive from everyone keep me going.
How do you remain aligned with the ongoing trends of the logistics segment to guide your organization seamlessly?
Whatever I am today is because of my mentor Anis Ahmed, our Group CEO. He's always very active to get into the insights of any project in depth, identify the pain points, and bring solutions accordingly for the business. This is something I have learned from him. Actually, our customers and partners provide the best insights into the current and future of the logistics industry. We are guided to understand the customer's pain point and deliver solutions according to their demands. All our developments are focused on fulfilling the requirements of the customers.
Besides that, I'm an active member of several influential logistics forums, wherein I discuss and take insights about the problems and work with industry experts in the market to offer a seamless experience. I also bring in my decades of experience in this field to responsibly handle the overall leadership role to guide my organization. I continuously follow up with the key account managers and unit heads to get insights on the dynamic logistic trends and make decisions accordingly to ensure success.
Empowering my colleagues to create a stronger business ecosystem
Empowering my colleagues to create a stronger business ecosystem
Reflect on some of the major challenges you have experienced in your journey so far. How did you overcome them and what did you learn from them?
In my 33 years of experience, I never said no to taking up any challenges. Every opportunity has given me some new and valuable learning. Looking back, if I have to identify a few of the major challenges I encountered in my journey, I would say “Adaptability” to keep up with the ever-evolving Logistics industry.
At the beginning of my career, I tried to learn as much, or even extra out of my work scope, from experience campaigners of the trade, which gave me an edge to tackle problems in a decent but efficient manner. As I grew with my roles, I started to work closely with different generations, from the most veteran campaigner to the youngest graduate, I opted to pick the best of both ends to find the best-suited solution.
To sum up, collecting information, processing it, and channelizing it in the right direction helped me overcome different challenges all the way. In recent times, our challenge was to navigate the business through the COVID-19 pandemic in territories where automation still needs time to reach its full potential, while many went in dismay, me and my team walked the talk to pass the tough time and deliver industry top results, this was only possible as we were prompt to listen to the suffering of stakeholder and quick to adjust to new normal and respond to them with heart instead of mere brains at times.
How do you maintain the perfect balance between your personal and professional life? What is your success mantra?
My success mantra is to stay positive and not say no to challenges. I always welcome challenges because I thrive on them. In terms of balancing life, I prefer to be prepared with tasks for today and also reflect on the rights and wrongs of yesterday. I jot down everything and proceed with the day. In the evening, I will set all prerequisites for the next day.
What will be your advice for budding professionals in this domain?
The logistics forwarding industry is not the same as it used to be, it is constantly evolving and ever so demanding, providing strategic and unique propositions and delivering to expectations has become a necessity for CEOs across the globe and one alone can’t deliver everything on its own. Therefore, the way is to develop competent people, motivate them to achieve and exceed, delegate them and guide at periodic intervals, however, don’t forget to touch base, that is to keep yourself in reach of all your customers.