It’s been nearly 39 years since Madad Ali Virani joined Olympic Industries, first as an account executive. Then, step by step, he made his way up to Executive Director, Operations. "We started manufacturing dry cell batteries and we moved onto developing subsidiary companies in the food business," he recalls.
"We saw an opportunity in the biscuit industry and diversified." Today, the company is Bangladesh’s largest manufacturer and distributor of biscuits.
Olympic Industries has two departments with four manufacturing units, and Madad’s goal is to utilise resources like workforce, machinery, land and buildings in the best possible manner.
The company continually evaluates and works on each product, through its quality, packaging, customer needs, consistency and how to offer the best product at the cheapest rate in the mass market.
"Our expertise is in the mass market, not the mixed markets," Madad says. "We export to around 28 countries and we are looking for other markets to export to. We started exporting only three years ago, and the plan is that 20% of our sales will be from exports."
Of course, there are always competitors in the market, and Olympic Industries’ greatest is the Indian marketplace. "In Bangladesh, we must import our raw materials like wheat, flour, vegetable oil and sugar," Madad explains.
"There are many other things too, like certain plastics for the packaging materials. But thankfully the government is giving us support to increase our exports and there are financial benefits from the government to continue our exports and grow."
There is an increase of Bangladeshi people moving worldwide who want these biscuits, so the demand for export is high. "There are many Bangladeshis working abroad and they love to have their Bangladeshi food, which is a great support for us," Madad says.
"And we are also working on the individual requirements of different markets like Africa, Arabia and the Middle East." The company works closely with its suppliers, whom Madad calls "partners", to keep up with the market demand.
"Often, they are part of our development activities and help us improve the quality and reduce costs," he explains.
There are many Bangladeshis working abroad and they love to have their Bangladeshi food, which is a great support for us.
"They give us ideas on different developments around the world and we have regular meetings, especially with our flavour suppliers who work with numerous companies. They demonstrate what they are working with and what’s happening around the world and in the region, discuss how we’re working and which products are finding success or failing. We learn from the experience of others."
Some of the company’s big suppliers even advise on retail quality, targeting retail costs and the type of packaging. "They are part of our team," Madad assures.
"They are, in fact, our partners. They bring ideas to the table about new products and help us develop these. They all have their own investigation labs with experts on their payrolls. They carry out their ideas in their labs, and the experts share the results and experience with us.
"We are thankful that they are helping us develop our products and the company." Olympic Industries has gone through many periods of disruption and its partners have helped guide it during these times of change and maintain the same quality over time.
"They’ve advised us on long-term bookings," Madad reflects. "They’ve also advised us on changing some parameters for development. Our company policy is that once you start producing something, you must continue producing it at the same quality, with the same parameters and taste. It must maintain a high standard over the decades."
The company is most concerned with quality and consistency, with both its products and customer service. "We take care of our customers because they are the key to our success," Madad states.
"And we have to understand their needs. The requirements are constantly changing, so we reassess and keep up to date. Purchasing power is not that big in this part of the world, so we have to consider that as well. But if you concentrate on your customers, their requirements and cater to their needs, you can be successful."
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