After graduating from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Mohammed Zia Uddin began building a career in logistics. A couple of years down the road, he was working in a large cement company's logistics department, but he could not handle issues of logistics as well as he had expected. He realised he had the manufacturing knowledge, but did not have enough exposure to planning, sourcing and procurement.
So in 2010, he took a course on Certified Supply Chain Manager (CSCM) from International Supply Chain Education Alliance (ISCEA).
"Through this course, I came to learn about how procurement works, the theoretical aspects of the supply chain and built an excellent network with the people of my target market," Zia Uddin told The Business Standard.
After the CSCM course, he aced in the field, and he is now doing a PhD in IBA, Dhaka University. Zia Uddin applied his knowledge of supply chain in practice. And in a couple of years, he secured the head of supply position of Reckitt Benckiser's Bangladesh and Sri Lanka chapter, where he is currently employed.
Supply chain education in Bangladesh is comparatively a new concept as none of our universities had a supply chain major even a decade ago.
However, in the last decade, many of our top educational institutes have taken this subject seriously and there is one particular supply chain coach – Ejazur Rahman, the CEO of ISCEA Asia – who contributed to the expansion of supply chain education in Bangladesh.
The Business Standard recently interviewed the coach to learn about supply chain education, its importance and his journey in regards to this field in Bangladesh.
"A business has two sides," Ejaz said. "Generating demands – which is the work of sales and marketing, and demand fulfilment – that deals with the rest of the work – is called supply chain management."
The demand fulfilment largely covers five specific tasks – planning, sourcing, making, delivering and managing returns. "So after receiving the work order, all work, no matter which department does it, is in the supply chain periphery."
'Supply chain is a culture'
Ejaz said supply chain has not come to Bangladesh in a full-fledged way yet. "The supply chain does not have to be one department. The supply chain is a culture," he added.
At business schools, we are taught that there are a few core functions in business – sales marketing, HR, IT, operations etc. Then the world realised that you can have the best resources in each of these functions, but if they do not work in an integrated manner, having a superman or superwoman in a particular department would not help as an integrated service is not available to keep the company's promise to the customers.
"The supply chain is the management of the chain of supplies. Whatever is supplied to keep the promise to the customers is called supply chain," Ejaz explained. "Even the finance division of a company falls under the supply chain
So, you need resources who can run the business as a single integrated platform – instead of an individual part of a chain – and they can optimise the whole chain. That is the whole concept of the supply chain.
"In a family situation, where you want to manage something in an integrated manner, what happens? You accommodate. The supply chain is like this. I cannot have an individual agenda in HR that will hinder my overall operations," Ejaz added. "For example, HR wants to lay off, whereas marketing is supporting a 15% sales growth. What the supply chain does is an end to end optimisation. It optimises in a way to ensure the overall objectives on time at the lowest possible cost," he further added.
There are two dimensions in the supply chain – efficiency and responsiveness. Efficiency is about reducing the entire cost of the whole chain from order handling to delivery; responsiveness is to deliver the customer the quality you promised on time.
"What we do in the supply chain is we integrate two major things - demand management and supply management. By integrating these two, we operate to ensure cost-effectiveness and keep the promises of quality, variety and timeliness. This is the supply chain game," the coach and CEO explained further.
The supply chain game-changer in Bangladesh
Coach Ejazur Rahman had an excellent corporate career before he initiated his supply chain education journey with ISCEA.
A Chittagong University BBA and an MBA graduate, Ejazur Rahman began his career at Coats (a British multinational company, best known as the world's largest manufacturer and distributor of sewing threads and supplies) as a management trainee in 1994.
"Then I was posted at a supply chain function, known as logistics. In roughly three years, I was picked up as an international assignee, in 1997. I had accelerated growth after this. I became a division head before my five years in the job. I was below 29. And still, then, the department was known as logistics," he said.
Later, Ejaz was part of the regional supply chain review team for Coats where he visited different countries and assessed their supply chain based on global supply chain standards before he was appointed head of the supply chain in Sri Lanka.
"I was head of supply chain in Sri Lanka for four years. By the time I returned to Bangladesh as supply chain director, the logistics department here was already renamed as supply chain department," he said.
So, by now, Ejaz had an excellent career in an international company in the supply chain division where he managed thousands of Stock Keeping Units (SKU), whereas most larger companies handle a few hundred SKUs in an entire year.
However, in mid 2009, Ejaz quit Coats.
He joined another local company with a high salary but could not continue for long because by then, he had developed a fascination with teaching. After a few guest classes in different universities on the supply chain, he realised that he loved teaching, and the students loved his teaching methods.
So in 2010, he built a company of his own and brought the International Supply Chain Education Alliance to Bangladesh.
The first course of ISCEA Bangladesh was Certified Supply Chain Manager (CSCM) that Mohammed Zia Uddin attended. Ever since, the ISCEA has had many more courses, and besides, ISCEA is no longer the only player in the supply chain education game in Bangladesh.
Supply chain education in Bangladesh
Ejaz admitted that Bangladesh is still behind when compared to the progress made by the rest of the world. However, when it comes to supply chain education, it has a noteworthy presence here.
Before ISCEA's journey began in Bangladesh, a Chittagong-based university called East Delta University first launched a major in the supply chain IN 2009. Rahman said he used to take the flights to Chittagong to attend his weekly classes on weekends.
Then in 2013, Bangladesh University of Professional (BUP) launched supply chain majors. By that time, the ISCEA initiated a scholarship program where each year around 400 students could get a course for free or at a discounted price.
"I provided various soft and technical skills training to around 22,000 people. More than 5,500 of them are supply chain certificate holders. Beginning with CSCM, CSCA, we have launched the first post-graduate diploma in supply chain. We have more than 1,000 postgraduate diplomas in Bangladesh," Ejaz said. "Our latest project is a postgraduate diploma in the apparel supply chain."
Ejazur Rahman's passionate work to popularise supply chain education, supply chain conferences, supply chain awards, supply chain case competition, creating the supply chain professionals network has been impactful.
The supply chain education journey today is not only limited to ISCEA. Many public and private universities including Dhaka University's IBA, North South University etc now have supply chain majors.
Zia Uddin said, "The supply chain courses could be a big help for those who are at entry to mid phases of their career."