Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders and tomorrow’s leaders must have opportunity to lead today. To provide the future leaders a platform Unilever has been holding Unilever Future Leaders’ League (UFLL) -- a dynamic global competition that brings together students from all over the world who want to experience what tomorrow's leadership is all about. It is an annual global case competition which engages students representing different countries where Unilever operates. Winning the event is all about learning how to become a leader in today’s global world, risks and rewards of finding a path to the top, how to gain a competitive edge and more. The signature leadership development event provides the students a singular opportunity to make an impact on the world. And the team which stands out from the rest wins the title of champion.
This year three Bangladeshi youths -- Sajeed Alam, Ayman Sadiq and Ishmam Chowdhury -- took part in UFLL 2016 in London and emerged as champions. By doing so they held high the name of Bangladesh in front of the world (participants from 30 different countries took part in the final) and proved that Bangladeshis can accomplish anything. This week morning tea brings its readers their story.
For Sajeed Alam, Ayman Sadiq and Ishmam Chowdhury journey to UFLL was not a smooth one. To take part in UFLL they first had to win another contest at home, which according to them was not an easy nut to crack. “It was indeed one of the toughest contests we have taken part till date,” shared Sajeed.
To seek out the top talented individuals in their final year of university Unilever Bangladesh Limited (UBL) has been organising BizMaestros. “We’ve been organizing BizMaestros for 6 years now and every year our objective has been to enhance the development of the youth by providing them with the platform to showcase their talent who would go out to prove themselves as great business leaders” shared Ipshita Fahmin, Leadership Development Manager, UBL.
Hailing from IBA, DU; Sajeed, Ayman and Ishmam took part in BizMaestros as ‘Team Boom Boom’. At the contest the team had to compete against teams from top tier campuses of the country. A total of 12 teams made it to the semi-finals and were given real life business challenges for which they had to find real life solutions. Needless to say ‘Team Boom Boom’ emerged at the top as the champions.
For UFLL Sajeed, Ayman and Ishmam were mentored by MD. Shadman Sadikin and co-mentored by Mahdia Chowdhury at UBL. In 2016, the competition had two rounds, and the focus was on the brand Sunsilk. “The members of the team were made aware of the brand itself -- what the brand talks about, what are the key aspects of the brand and more. As Sunsilk is a brand for the girls we made sure that the boys knew everything what they needed to know to pull it off,” said Sadman Sadikin. Ever since the launch of the global Unilever competition, Future Leaders’ League, the winners of BizMaestros have been representing Bangladesh at the global stage.
(From Left) Ishmam Chowdhury, Md Shadman Sadikin, Mahdia Chowdhury, Ipshita Fahmin, Ayman Sadiq and Sajeed Alam.
Mahdia Chowdhury herself is a UFLL veteran. She took part in UFLL 2014 which was held in Singapore. “We were given a case on Tresemme. We were the only semi-finalist team from South East Asia. Our team became fifth in the contest,” shared Mahdia. The fact that Sajeed, Ayman and Ishmam had already won the 2015 Bizmaestros meant the team were well up to the challenge at UFLL. The 2015 Bizmaestros had three rounds. Round 1 was an online submission about incorporating women and children in rural areas of Bangladesh and developing a marketing communications mix for Lifebuoy soap. This round engaged 159 teams from the top 12 universities all over Bangladesh. The top 12 teams qualified for the semi-finals. At semi-finals the teams were tasked with promoting the fragrance of Lux at the Point of Sales (meaning the outlets at which the product is sold which engage the shopper and the seller). Each team was given a budget from which it had to spend on purchasing the store, creating the object to promote fragrance and paying for design and other expenses. Through a competitive auction-based system, teams were assigned stores (or commonly known Mudi’r dokans) all around Dhaka city. Team Boom Boom was assigned a store in Badda. All the teams had to present their day-long findings in front of the panel of judges. At the finals the top 3 teams from the semi-finals presented on the same topic with extensive feedback from the semi-final judges. Teams from IUT and BUP became the 2nd Runner up and 1st Runner Up respectably, while Team Boom Boom won the title of champion. “We wanted to win back the title of BizMaestros for IBA as our campus wasn’t in the finalist list last year. That is what drove us to get into the competition at the first place,” shared Ishmam Chowdhury. Sharing their experience of BizMaestros 2015 the trio -- Ayman, Sajeed and Ishmam --said, “As we’ve participated as a team in multiple competitions before, this was our last shot at doing a competition together. Furthermore, it was about bringing the title back home to IBA. Fortunately, we succeeded in both, and the experience was great. As for the competition, the hands-on experience with working at a retail store during the semi-finals task, getting to meet the Directors of Unilever Bangladesh Limited and interacting with them, was great overall.” For the team the learning points were -- real life experience of stores and customer engagement and a micro level understanding of customer development by FMCGs in Bangladesh.
After their grooming at UBL the team went to London in April this year to take part in Unilever Future Leaders’ League. This year a total of 30 countries took part in the event. Locally, each country conducts a competition to select the top 3 individuals or the top team to represent them. The top 90 individuals representing 30 countries from a pool of 4 lakh students qualified for the global competition.
In 2016, the competition had two rounds, and the focus was on the brand Sunsilk. At the semi-finals the participating teams had to creating an online, crowd-sourced platform to invite Sunsilk users to come, interact and share their ideas. They had to develop an innovative idea from the users of Sunsilk via the crowd-sourced platform and do a test run of the platform and present an innovative idea.
Ayman, Sajeed and Ishmam developed a hashtag called #HairGirls and used Facebook as platform. Upon the insight that women like to stick in groups, fraternize and always look out for each other, the platform involved women reaching out to other women using the hashtag. Upon finding the hashtag, women interacted via comments and likes, and organically created a platform for discussion. The top 10 teams from the semi-finals qualified for the finals. They included Indonesia, Canada, Nigera, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Russia, Egypt, Portugal and Italy. Bangladesh was the only country from South East Asia in the finals. At the final the teams had to develop a marketing communications mix to drive behavioural change and induce hair conditioner usage among women in developing countries.
The finals were judged by the Global Vice President of Sunsilk, Global Brand Director of Sunsilk, Global Senior Brand Manager of Sunsilk and Global Vice President of Refreshments at Unilever. They were joined by the Chief Human Resources Officer, Leena Nair and the Co-Founder of One Young World, Kate Robertson.
When asked to share their experience Ayman, Sajeed and Ishmam said, “Firstly, when we introduced ourselves as Bangladeshis, a lot of people seemed to be unfamiliar with our country. But 4 days later, after the results of the finals were announced, we could not hear ourselves as there were 28 other teams who were roaring in celebration. It felt like we had won the hearts of the people from all around the world, and now they finally knew and loved Bangladesh. In terms of the competition, it provided a lot of opportunities to explore Unilever’s Global HQ, how it operates and the level of cutting edge technology it uses. Also, we had the rare opportunity to meet the global CHRO Leena Nair, the Global Controller Steve and the global CEO Paul Polman, who took some incredible sessions.
Lastly, meeting 84 individuals from different parts of the world in a global village, knowing their perspectives and insights on life, were highly inspiring and fun.”
When asked what they have learned so far during their journey, the trio replied, “We had the chance of understanding the power of humility, hard work and perseverance from the likes of global leaders like Leena Nair. We also had the opportunity of understanding competitive mindsets along with the power of empathy from the other participants. They were all so supportive, irrespective of the outcome and cheering on other teams, it only showed how open-minded and caring people can be by setting aside competitiveness and channelling positive energy the right way.”
As UFLL champions Ayman, Sajeed and Ishmam have been selected to participate as delegates at the upcoming One Young World Summit 2016 in Ottawa, Canada. One Young World is a global platform which engages global leaders and youth icons who collaborate to bring positive changes to the world. Its alumni include Kofi Anan, Dr. Md. Yunus and Bill Clinton.
We wish Ayman, Sajeed and Ishmam all the best in their next journey.