Savrina Arifin: Success is at the intersection of passion and creativity

June 16, 2022

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As the head of retail business at IPDC, Savrina witnessed the organisation’s journey to becoming the most compassionate financial brand in Bangladesh

Savrina Arifin’s professional success can be attributed to her proclivity for self-improvement and a ceaseless desire for learning. The head of retail business at IPDC since last year, Savrina has been working in the retail segment for the last 16 years.

IPDC as a financial institution offers a lot of scope for innovation and product expansion. This was the aspect of this non-banking financial institution which encouraged Savrina to join in 2008 after her first job in priority banking at Standard Chartered Bank.

“IPDC offered the scope to expand the retail segment, which aligned with my passion. I have always aspired to work with the common folk to fulfill their dreams,” Savrina shared with us. In 2016, IPDC realigned its strategic focus to prioritise working for women, youth and the underserved community. This also called for realignment of the organisation’s internal and external communications and values.

Savrina Afrin. Illustration: TBS

“IPDC began to touch upon the lives of the customers in many ways, boosting our retail portfolio. We came up with out-of-the box ideas, were bold enough to introduce new products to solve problems that are usually ignored,” she stated with pride.

With a vision to be recognised as the most compassionate financial brand in Bangladesh, the shift in strategic mindset successfully infused the workforce with renewed dynamism and sense of purpose.

The importance of innovation was highlighted. Communication became more relevant and youthful. Everyone began to believe they were there to accomplish something significant.

Savrina said, “That belief required a solid basis, which we were able to achieve as we improved our ‘customer first’ approach.”

The results were phenomenal. IPDC started launching interesting product campaigns on special days which were appreciated by all quarters. The organisation moved beyond the urban hubs to distribute home loans.

This special home loan product of IPDC launched in 2021 was named ‘Bhalo Basha’ loan. Even the launching communication of ‘Bhalo Basha’ loan was striking and caught the attention of audiences.

“Another key factor to our growth is agility. Staying respectful to compliance, we also take swift decisions to stay ahead,” she said. 

Harnessing the potential of the retail segment

In the first two decades, IPDC’s industrial development was largely focused on structure and corporate financing, which makes up their legacy. But the challenges they were facing were mainly funding related. To reduce their dependence on the treasury, and after BRAC’s shareholder restructuring, effort was made to create a Retail and SME segment.

When Savrina joined the retail segment at IPDC in 2008, the plan was to build up the priority wing to fund their retail segment. “That is really where my journey begins. Slowly but surely we expanded our loan products.”

Over the years, IPDC has introduced many industry-first products into the financial market with technological innovation being the organisation’s driving force.

In 2020, during the countrywide lockdown triggered by a global pandemic, IPDC immediately enabled employees to work from home.

Photo: Noor-A-Alam

“We came up with a new product, ‘Manobota Deposit’, enabling customers to contribute to society while keeping their own future safe with savings,” Savrina said.

In 2019, IPDC launched the country’s first blockchain-based supply chain financing platform ‘Orjon’, which enables the lender to process supply chain loan applications within half an hour.

“Our supply chain platform is a pioneering product in the financial industry,” said Savrina.

Orjon’s mission is to establish a comprehensive supply chain financing eco-system in Bangladesh, which is the first of its type in the country.

Orjon helped streamline the process of loan application, relevant documents submission by clients, verification of those by bankers and loan disbursement letter dissemination to the client.

The platform provides easy and low-cost credit facilities and support to over 25,000 small enterprises, to be carried over the next five years, for improved supply chain management.

It also launched ‘IPDC Dana’, the country’s only retail finance platform, to provide working capital to retailers in an effort to make borrowing simple, low-cost, collateral-free, and structured.

Cottage, micro, small, and medium-sized businesses benefit from the company’s technology-based and socially responsible business methods. Outside of Dhaka and Chattogram, the models also target women and young entrepreneurs, as well as lower-middle-income people. Savrina said IPDC Joyee and IPDC Priti are specifically designed to cater to women’s financial needs. “We say women are brave and independent.

Photo: Noor-A-Alam

Based on these values we incorporated women rights into our priority strategy,” she said. IPDC Joyee is for women entrepreneurs. Launched in 2018, this SME product is a collateral free loan which is given to women entrepreneurs at a minimum interest.

IPDC Priti embodies revolutionary Pritilata’s all-conquering battling spirit. Women are given unique perks in all of IPDC’s retail products. Priti’s mission is to improve the economic success, financial security, lifestyle, and medical care of women through a variety of value-added services.

“Through this product we offer discounts on processing fee and rate. The registration for the loan has to be under a woman’s name, and if a deposit is made in a woman’s name, we also provide more interest.”

IPDC has also introduced ‘IPDC Shubodh’, country’s first ever interest free loan product to purchase books.

At present IPDC, is working on a newly launched product ‘IPDC EZ’, the first ever card-less EMI product for purchasing consumer goods through app based digital financing.

The company maintains its strategic focus, while the management culture encourages people to go above and beyond. This is why IPDC has had such a great deal of success. Savrina said, “I am lucky that I have been a part of this extraordinary transformation and growth.”

Creating leaders and a motivated workforce

Savrina shares that the secret ingredient to any corporate success is a motivated and inspired workforce hungry for excellence.

Unlike many other businesses, IPDC has had capable executives at the helm who have kept a motivated workforce focused on their goals while also promoting initiative and creativity from the bottom up.

She said, “Success is at the intersection of passion and creativity. We encourage employees to suggest and implement their own solutions to reach their objective.”

Employees have the flexibility to express themselves and to implement their own ideas. Although the work is demanding, it is also gratifying due to the pleasant working environment.

“Ideas are always encouraged and never undermined. We want our employees to overcome the fear of sharing their schemes and methods,” she said.

They also have team building sessions with tasks outside business. Leadership qualities, wit, problem-solving skills etc are tested here through entertainment.

In 2008, IPDC launched the Employee Recreation Club (ERC). Sometimes in organisations inter-departmental bonding is strong while intra-departmental bonding might have room for improvement.

To encourage this bonding, IPDC’s ERC platform designs team building activities every year.

Along with keeping its workforce motivated, IPDC also works relentlessly towards gender diversity. To ensure the growth of female employees, IPDC created a platform called ‘Shushoma’.

Shushoma allows female employees to contact IPDC’s female leaders to discuss personal or professional difficulties. They can also receive general advice in a relaxed setting where they are not intimidated or obligated in any manner.

However, IPDC is not just another gender inclusive company. It believes in providing leadership opportunities to the right candidates regardless of who they are.

“Nothing comes between performance and evaluation here. I believe this has led the company to produce many women leaders over the last few years,” Savrina said.

Women leaders make up 40% of IPDC’s management team with women leading four of the most important departments – Chief Financial Officer, Head of IT & Business Transformation, Head of Corporate and Savrina – Head of Retail Business.

IPDC’s faith in the youth is one of the main reasons for its continual agility. The management believes in the potential of youth, and the company employs a youthful, tech-savvy workforce with new ideas.

“The scope to work with young executives where we can mentor them and help them grow and to generate ideas is unlike in other financial institutions,” she concluded.

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