Liberating Passion at Agora – Leadership lessons Learnt as CEO of Agora over the last 3 years!

ImageLeaving the Agora team was one of the toughest things I had to do. The words, tears, flowers and gifts from the teams in various outlets, office, warehouse and distribution centre was simply heart-warming. I never realized I had made such an impact in the hearts and minds of over 700 team members over the 3 years I led them as their CEO.

After being in Team and Leadership Excellence consulting for 10 years, subsequent to 16 years in corporate life for 16 years as Director for Keells Foods and Keells Super, I took on a new interesting challenge as the CEO of the Agora Supermarket Chain [owned by the highly diversified Rahimafrooz Group] in Bangladesh in July 2009. This was a secondment from Sensei International where I continued to remain as a Partner and Senior Management Consultant.

This was a 3 year assignment to prepare the company for Rapid expansion. I took over this assignment for 3 reasons; Firstly because Agora was close to my heart as I helped start it as a consultant in 2001 and hence  I considered Agora my own baby and I wanted it to be successful. Secondly because I wanted to validate the guidance I give so many companies around the world as a consultant, by being in the hot seat for a while. And thirdly because I respect the Rahimafrooz Group and the family that owns it for running a company driven by ‘Values’ using ‘world-class’ management methods.

My dream was to make Agora a world-class company, the pride of Bangladesh and I write this blog with a mix of emotions that include happiness, sadness, fear, pride and hope.

Firstly I am extremely happy that we together created a company with a positive work culture that was built on the ‘Ultimate Aspiration’, ‘Values’, ‘Agora Aponjon Promise’ [Aponjon is the Bangla word for ‘dear one’ or ‘near one’ and this is the promise we deliver to our ‘guests’ or ‘Aponjon’], quality policy, good leadership, supportive team work and passionate team members. We also made the company profitable building on this culture and taking measures to improve the brand image, value to our guests, business knowledge, planning and execution. We also invested in a brand new state of the art distribution centre, new outlets and a new ERP system [SAP and WINCOR NIXDOEF]. All this helped the company to become profitable for the first time in my first year in office and become a leading revenue and profit contributor of the Rahimafrooz Group [the group that owns Agora an many other companies] providing better benefits and promotional opportunities to Agora’s team members.

All above steps and more has helped me ‘Liberate the Passion’ that was within the ‘Agora’ team members that has led to this spectacular success. A video of a presentation I made regarding the Agora Success Story, after 2 years in office can be watched on: This presentation that was made at the Bangalore HR summit gives more information on how this was achieved.

Secondly this is a time of great sadness as I will miss interacting with my dear team members, seeing their smiling faces, hearing their passionate achievements & ideas and working together to face the various challenges and opportunities which is part and parcel of business.

Thirdly I do have a slight fear about the future of the company if the team decide to forget all the positive attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that led us to our success. While the new CEO will bring in a lot of new thinking and strategies to take us forward, he alone can’t do it without the support of the rest of the team who needs to sustain and build on the winning culture we have created.

Fourthly, I feel a sense of pride with regard to the fighting spirit and resilience of the Agora team members. This is a trait I see in Bangladeshi’s in general with their ability to withstand and bounce back after so many calamities such as wars, floods, poverty, earth quakes, power failures, hartals [general strikes], regulatory challenges etc. but I see more of this quality in the Agora team that makes me feel proud to have had the privilege of leading them.

Finally, I have a lot of hope for Agora’s future to not only be a leading retail chain in Bangladesh but also a formidable player in the world retail scene given the strength of our brand, the quality of our team, the resources at our disposal and the foresight of our board of directors.

This success was possible due to various individuals from within the Rahimafrooz Group and external consultants who guided and supported us in our journey.

I would have liked to have stayed on with Agora to see the rapid expansion, but it was important for me to decide to move on after doing the work I came to do, within the agreed tenure of my assignment. However as I always say, Agora is my baby as I helped start it, Agora will always be close to my heart, I will continue to follow Agora’s progress and cheer for their success from far.

Achieving my dream for Agora and the dreams of each and every team member will take time, there will be challenges on the way, there will be disappointments to face, but we need to be patient and keep at it. The breaks will come at the right time. It will come not on our time frame but the time frame of the almighty who is the architect of the master plan.

We can’t rush a sunrise, a journey of a thousand miles starts with one baby step, we can climb the highest mountain one step at a time and God’s delays are not God’s denials’. Delays and challenges are provided to us for us to get stronger and only when we are fully prepared we are given the fruits of our labour.

So to the Agora team members reading this and everyone else, who want to learn from my experience; go on face those challenges, respond positively, enjoy the journey, Liberate the Passion within you and savour the success!

To view pictures from my farewell at Agora click here

To download the article ‘Unleashing the Tiger – The Agora Success Story’ click here

4 thoughts on “Liberating Passion at Agora – Leadership lessons Learnt as CEO of Agora over the last 3 years!

  1. Mohamed Riaz Usoof

    Congratulations and well done Ranjan….
    Very well written …straight from the heart…
    Having read it, I found it very inspiring ….
    Once again …Well done…Great job…


  2. After reading your write-up and being a current team member of Agora….I was wondering why the team members has forgotten what you taught, and why what you have feared the most came true…..I was an intern of Agora’s HR team after you left…and after two years later I joined here as a team member of HR…since then and till now the old team members keep telling me about you , your work….I go through the work you have done, training you have designed and wonder …..where this company went wrong….what happened to those wonderful dreams… I wish if I were at that time while you were CEO of Agora…I wish if could see those miracle happen before my eyes….I wonder will I ever be !!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment Sumaiya. Its heartening to know that some of the learnings and practices are still around, at least in the hearts and minds of a few. I hope you can pick them up, gather those who still cherish the practices introduced and give life to the winning culture we created while i was at the helm. To answer your question; why the team members have forgotten what was taught – i think it needs to be reframed as; why the practices are not continuing. Because many team members had left the organisation for various reasons and i think there are more new members than those who were with me now. Further the philosophy of the new leadership may not have been in sync with my philosophy. This is a case for home-grown leadership. While there was a leader groomed to take forward my work, the board felt he was not ready, at the point i was leaving, and a leader from outside was appointed. Anyway these are realities of business and the best we can do is to take the learnings and do our best for the organisation we work in.


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