As I come out of the house and Looked around, I saw Liza Akter Hossain in the driving seat of the car. The previous day when she said she will be sending a car, I didn’t have a clue that Liza herself would come to pick me up.
While travelling to Liza’s office Brandylane, her marketing company in Mirpur, I noted that, like her professional skills, she was quite an expert driver too. She had developed her skills through reading, cultivating knowledge and continuous self-improvement.
In fact it is this competence of hers that is taking her fast growing marketing agency Brandylane forward. The agency provides various services like marketing strategies and planning, promotional branding, printing and packaging, outdoor branding and digital marketing to the multinational companies.
Since its establishment in 2017, the agency has worked for many companies including Dano, Dabur, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Kumarika, Western Union and Meghna Group. In today’s Bangladesh many companies know Liza and her Brandylane well but the journey behind this was not smooth at all.
Liza is the first-born among three of her parents’ daughters. Although she was born in Noakhali, she grew up in Dhaka. During the three-month break after her SSC exams, she thought of doing something. It was tough for a SSC level student to manage a tuition job and after looking around she found that many agencies hire students like her as part-time brand promoters.
She joined a company named Market Access and her career began with a job as a brand promoter for a Unilever brand. Later, she led many projects one after another for brands like Johnson & Johnson, HRC and Teletalk. Her job was marketing of products, going to various markets, superstores and even homes sometimes. The payment was on daily basis and it was not that bad.
In the meantime, her SSC results came out. Liza got admitted to college. At the time, Liza got a job in a Sri Lankan company. The head of that company employed her as a permanent employee, seeing her compassion, commitment and overwhelming enthusiasm for her work.
Liza said, “At that moment I realised that I need to learn about the theoretical issues as well. So, I used to search for marketing and branding related books going to the book market in Dhaka’s Nilkhet area. This way, I found out the name of world-famous American marketing author Philip Kotler one day. I used to buy Philip Kotler’s books from Nilkhet and read them.”
Sitting at her own office Liza continues, “I didn’t have a computer of my own back then. So, I used to surf the internet in search of different work-related topics going to the cyber cafes sometimes. In this way, I grasped many details about marketing on my own. Thus, my skills started improving too.”
After finishing higher secondary studies Liza got herself admitted into Eden Girls College. In her words, “By that time I had already gathered some work experiences. Then I switched two more jobs. Then it seemed to me that it didn’t matter what I was studying but, now I understand study does matter. My grades went lower due to my over-attention to work. I didn't do my exams properly.” So, Liza advises newcomers to acquire academic knowledge alongside work experience.
Even before completing her undergrads, Liza got the responsibility of overseeing the marketing department of country’s famous and established beauty and lifestyle company, Persona. There, she used to employ different agencies for marketing and branding. Being at that job she felt that agency’s job was more “creative, inventive and pleasant”. Besides, oftentimes “one cannot even implement 50 per cent of their creative ideas” while doing a paid job. So, she thought of a startup of her own, quitting her job.
Liza said, “Once I thought, the salary I’m getting every month, I won’t be getting it anymore. At that same time, I was receiving job offers from many multinational companies, that too for handsome salaries. Still, I chose to quit the job.”
She added, “I started only with three people. My journey began on 1 June while my father died on the 15th. I’m the elder child of my family. At that point I had been married for only one year. I have two younger sisters and my mother to look after. My father was sick for quite a long time. I used to contribute to family financially, even back then. My father had many loans that became my responsibility as well. So, what was only my passion before turned into passion, profession, urgency -- everything.”
Thus began Liza’s new life. Roaming around different parts of capital’s Paltan and Fakirapul areas day after day she started learning about issues starting from the GSM of papers, related machineries, which machine prints what to details of design, production quality and more. The search for customers continued alongside. But, who will give her work.
Thinking of those old days she said, “They had to struggle a lot during the initial phase. Everybody just saw a young girl and thought what does she understand? But I never gave up. I knocked on everyone’s door and talked to them. With confidence I tried to convince them that yes, I will give my best.”
“I got my first contract from Orion Footwear. Then a Malaysian company came following. When I got two or three responses, I started adding their references on my profile. As a result, others also got to think of me” she added.
Liza is building her dream company. She’s injecting her own income in the company and investing the profits there as well. This way, her company of three people has expanded. Now, a total of 70 people work there including the project-based employees.
Now, Liza owns three companies. Other than Brandylane, one of those two companies is a digital communication company named Digitent Communication and the other is a trading company, which just got launched. Liza is in United Arab Emirates (UAE) now to organise the work of that company.
About the new initiative Liza said, “During the corona period I found work flow fluctuates a lot for marketing agencies. So, I needed to do something more to secure my employees’ future along with mine.”
Liza’s family includes her husband Kabir Hossain and daughter Inaya. Both her office and her home are in Mirpur DOHS area. Liza wishes to increase women’s participation in the country’s marketing sector. She said she wishes to work towards that end.
*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Nourin Ahmed Monisha