Sohana Rouf Chowdhury
Sohana Rouf Chowdhury is an entrepreneur with a vast array of businesses under her portfolio. Having started her entrepreneurial journey around 20 years ago with Rangs Motors Ltd., one of the biggest commercial vehicle players in Bangladesh as the Managing Director. RML started its journey in Bangladesh in 1998 when the commercial vehicle business was given renewed focus from parent corporation, Rangs Group, which owns 64 companies across the automobile, electronics, real estate and shipping sectors. RML is now the sole distributor of renowned brands such as Eicher and Mahindra Group. Since then, she has expanded her focus into FMCG (Nabanna), luxury jewellery (Amishee) and even into public transportation services (Dolonchapa).
After graduating from New York University with a BA in Business and Economics Sohana took over the reins of the family business, Rangs Motors Ltd (RML) in 1998. By the time she did, Rangs had a wide portfolio of vehicle distributorships already with the likes of Mitsubishi and Mercedes Benz, but she was given the responsibility to run the part of the business which had only male customers as its base- commercial vehicles. New to business and handed the most difficult portfolio to deal she had to learn the ropes really quickly. “It was like being thrown into the deep end and told to learn to swim,” explains Sohana. “It was also difficult because it’s a very male-dominated business– I’m one of the few women involved in this trade. There is probably no one else like me to be actually leading a business of this nature”.
Acknowledging her unique position in the larger setup, she was ready to listen, act, admit mistakes, learn and move on. In her own words, “There were times when I made mistakes, but I always learnt from them. I fell down but I got back up again. Without those mistakes, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
The company is founded on the belief that the collective contribution of all individuals can propel Bangladesh towards new heights of recognition both locally and globally. The company has put in renewed focus and efforts in hiring change-management experts from across industry and cultural backgrounds to shape the organization for the future. “Competition is fierce so we must do everything we can to stand out. I worked hard to improve the efficiency of my staﬀ and our service to customers. We always look for a third-party point of view, and we had appointed professional consulting firms such as EY to assess and improve our operational efficiency,” says Sohana.
“High-class customer service has been a focus for businesses in the passenger vehicle segment, but not so much in the commercial vehicle segment. I want to change this by making clients feel important and valued.People value the opinions of others and when they hear the name, they know we are someone they can trust.”
The prominence of the Rangs brand combined with the expertise of its staﬀ, allows RML to address the high standards and growing needs of its customers. “Our people set us apart. My father set the standards – he leads by example and has trained his staﬀ using a very holistic approach,” says Sohana.“We have a national presence. When people choose us, they know they are choosing a brand with national capabilities and the potential for even further growth.” Guided by a relentless focus on values, Rangs Motors maintains close relations with its international partners to guarantee quality products and efficient customer service. The company is a direct distributor of Indian multinational vehicle manufacturing giants Mahindra Group and Eicher Motors. “Mahindra is a US$19 billion company and Eicher is growing rapidly. When they innovate new products, we are their distributor of choice because of our close-knit partnerships. We believe that a partnership is like a marriage – there will be ups and downs but you stay together through it all. Hence our relationships with these big brands and companies have stayed strong for over 25 years.,” explains Sohana.
With the Mahindra Bolero pick up truck models successfully leading the market as the highest selling and highest market share in its category, the aim is to continue that drive to drive more such in the market. My dream is to see the words, ‘Made in Bangladesh’ on our vehicles,” says Sohana. A 40-acre facility of RCVL (Ranks Commercial Vehicles Limited) in Narayanganj assembles pick-up and human haulers, which are sourced as completely knocked-down kits from Mahindra’s manufacturing plant. “Bangladesh is a quickly developing country and labour is inexpensive compared to other countries. We want to be known as a region that has the capacity and skills necessary to manufacture automobiles, trucks and buses of the highest quality,” says Sohana. “Every vehicle manufacturer in Bangladesh shares that vision for both the commercial and passenger sectors. Our aim is to look for avenues to increase our footprint in both manufacturing and servicing. This will help develop skills with our country’s workforce which can accelerate our foray into sustainable energy as a country. A business is as good as the social good it can do. That has been how my father had envisioned Rangs and if there is one thing I want to retain as I go along in the journey, that would be it”, concludes Sohana.