Mr. Akbar Ali – Country Manager – Reckitt Benckiser (Pakistan) Ltd
Our outperformance culture is our single biggest differentiation factor. We strive to outperform whatever we do. Talent acquisition at Reckitt Benckiser is a very rigorous process. We look for cultural fits through massive on campus drive every year across key business & engineering schools in Pakistan
EVOLVE: Kindly let our readers know about the road map of your career path up till here?
Mr. Akbar Ali: It had been a very exciting journey. I had always liked FMCGs because of their pace & dynamism. I started my career sixteen (16) years back with Unilever, right after graduating from IBA. I moved to Reckitt Benckiser Pakistan in 2005. My career with RB took me to 5 different countries in 13 years. It introduced me to various cultures, empowered me to grow businesses and embrace challenges. It inspired me through diversity, authentic leadership & above all through an outperformance culture. After spending a decade outside, I moved back to RB Pakistan last year.
EVOLVE: How Reckitt Benckiser Pakistanis aligned with its vision of a world wherepeople are healthier and live better?
Mr. Akbar Ali: RB is a purpose driven business. We take a lot of pride in our vision of creating a cleaner world. According to UNICEF, in Pakistan more than 40 million people do not have access to clean toilet, forcing them
to defecate openly which in turn is the major contributor to stunting. Stunted children are more at risk of disease, dont do well in school and dont grow as tall as they would otherwise. Thats why we got to do what we can to stop it.
At RB Pakistan we have taken an initiative called Hoga Saaf Pakistan to create awareness around the health & hygiene issues on the subject. With our purpose driven brands like Harpic and Mortein, we are not only working
with various communities to educate masses around better hygiene practices but also building toilets. In Pakistan, every year more than 56,000 children die from diarrhea, thousands suffer from Malaria & many lose their lives to Dengue. These are all preventable diseases. In todays world no one should suffer from them. At RB Pakistan, we believe in providing innovative solutions to create a cleaner world where people could live healthy & happy.
EVOLVE: Your brands are available innearly 200 countries and theyre trusted bythe people all over the world. What recipe,Reckitt Benckiser applies to win the trust ofthe families?
Mr. Akbar Ali: Trust is built over years of continuous delivery. Our brands had been delivering on their promises year on year across the globe. We learn from our experiences from various markets. We try to replicate the key success factors & further improve upon developmental areas based on the local insights. We strive for best in class product quality, efficacy as well as in use experience. Its the last moment of truth that translates into the repeat purchase and then become part of the monthly grocery cycle. The consumers today are very savvy. They continuously look for better solutions & they are vocal. They tell us what they like and what they dont instantly weather its through in store feedback or through social media or a consumer toll free number. We keep our consumers first & continuously look for insights to innovate.
EVOLVE: Quick relief from pain, to helplooking awesome, protection from germsmeans Reckitt Benckiser is part of everyfamily. How do you prepare your human resourceto make part of this process of maintainingthe relationship? In other wordshow much of your success is due to your
unique business culture?
Mr. Akbar Ali: Our outperformance culture is our single biggest differentiation factor. We strive to outperform whatever we do. Talent acquisition at RB is a very rigorous process. We look for cultural fits through massive on
campus drive every year across key business & engineering schools in Pakistan. Besides many other things we look for mental & cultural agility and bias for action. In simple words, how quickly one can create a big impact by culturally & mentally adjusting to the new norms. We provide a very engaging environment to our people where on day 1 they feel fully empowered & accountable on meaningful projects. We call it the RB Magic Culture.
EVOLVE: The Pakistani market is veryprice-oriented /conscious. How do you manageit?
Mr. Akbar Ali: This is partially true. Though we feel health & happiness are priceless. As the education & awareness levels improve, the consumers are willing to find & pay for the right products which are authentic & deliver on what they promise. However, a large segment of our society is price conscious who are looking for a
value for money. For them, we have introduced low unit price SKUs like Harpic Chotu, a Rs. 70 product, which are making our international brands accessible to all socio-economic classes & giving them the same in use experience.
EVOLVE: Kindly share some of your innovativemoves creating impact on peoplesbehaviors because at the day end yourproducts are related to peoples habits andbehavioral practices?
There are many dimensions to creating a social impact, especially in the context of Pakistan. Be it human rights, gender equality or creating a cleaner neighborhood, there is so much that needs to happen here
Mr. Akbar Ali:There are numerous examples. For decades consumers were using coils as mosquito repellents which emanate smoke. We introduced Mortein liquid electrical devices which are smoke free, very convenient to use,
environment friendly and provides continuous protection throughout the night. The best part is its cheaper than the coil on per night usage basis. Similarly, for many years people were using phenyl to clean their toilets. We upgraded
them to the usage of acid based Harpic Toilet Cleaner which is far superior proposition. Last year we went one step ahead and launched Harpic Bathroom Cleaner which is a specialized surface cleaning solution with the equity of Harpic. This year we have introduced In the Bowl fragrances, which are not only the cleaning agents but kill odor.
EVOLVE: Are you planning to introducenew brands and categories, in Pakistan especially?
Mr. Akbar Ali: Pakistan is a growing market with massive potential. We are looking at a number of new brands as well as categories to be introduced in the next few years. Its just matter of time.
Teams that follow an inclusive process make decisions 2X faster than others. Sometimes, companies can simply capitalize on the diversity they already have
EVOLVE: What is Reckitt Benckiser approachto research and development? Howyour R&D team operates from idea to execution?
Mr. Akbar Ali: I will not go into specifics. We have a number of functions & teams that work on innovations, These teams are based across the globe in various innovation centers & are subject matter experts. Our innovation process
starts by building concepts based on consumer insights. These concepts are tested through focus groups, consumer studies & validated for their scalability. Once validated, a prototype is created which then goes through various stability & product superiority tests etc. After few iterations we engage our category, R&D, quality, safety, health and environment as well as regulatory and legal functions to ensure numerous compliances. Bring a true meaningful
innovation requires a lot of hard work.
EVOLVE: How do you opine that a diversebusiness is a better business?
Mr. Akbar Ali: Imagine a workplace where everyone seems to be taking the same actions for the same reasons because of the same perspective. There will be hardly any debate & hence no breakthrough innovation. Diversity
& inclusion need to go hand in hand to drive results. In a number of recent studies its proven that inclusive teams make better business decisions 87% of the time. Teams that follow an inclusive process make decisions 2X faster
than others. Sometimes, companies can simply capitalize on the diversity they already have by including them in their decision making. At RB we encourage conflicting ideas. It generates productive debate and in the end it improves our decision quality.
EVOLVE: How do you see the companychanging in five years from now, and howdo you see yourself creating that change?
Mr. Akbar Ali: There are quite a few changes on the cards. We are in the process of splitting into two business units across the globe. One focusing on health while the other focusing on hygiene & home portfolio. This will allow us to integrate some of our recently acquired businesses with health while unleashing the potential of our brands on hygiene & home. This change will not only bring more investment in the country but will also bring innovation much faster versus previous years. I also see ourselves reorganizing to adjust to new market realities in terms of go to market strategies for ecommerce, organized trade as well as rural expansion. Besides, I see the technology will continue to provide us with new & efficient ways of looking at businesses. We will be at forefront in embracing & learning from it. Lastly, I see we can develop, grow and export a lot of talent from RB Pakistan to other RB businesses around the world. This is something we take a lot of pride on historically as well.
EVOLVE: What is that one goal which is leftunaccomplished in your personal or professionallife that you wish to accomplish?
Mr. Akbar Ali: Creating a social impact is very close to my heart. There are many dimensions to it, especially in the context of Pakistan. Be it human rights, gender equality or creating a cleaner neighborhood, there is so much that
needs to happen here. While I would like to make a difference across all but the one I would really like to make an impact on is the inclusive culture. I have a personal ambition of creating an inclusive work place for women not only at RB offices but also in the field offices of our distributors. My goal is to have 25% women in our outperforming work force in the next 2 to 3 years. The day we deliver this, we will change the industry.
EVOLVE: Your message for our readers EVOLVE Publication.
Mr. Akbar Ali: Improve everything that you touch. If something has your finger prints on it, it has to be better than before. Its all about the deltas we can create in the shortest span of time.