Zeba Samiha: The young supply chain professional who balanced out a crisis

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December 19, 2021

TBS sat down with the winner of the IPDC Young Supply Chain Talent award to know about what it takes to be a supply chain professional and handle supply shocks with grace. 

Zeba Samiha, a Category Demand Planner (Manager) at Berger Paints Bangladesh Ltd, has a career span of only five years. But years of experience cannot always reflect a person’s capacity of being a leader and Samiha is a testimony to that.

Within a short period of time, Samiha became adept at the corporate game, demonstrating essential skills, communicating efficiently with the stakeholders, adapting in the face of adversity, and being consistent in making positive changes. 

And these qualities earned Samiha the IPDC Young Supply Chain Talent award for the year. She has achieved the title particularly by submitting a project case paper on ‘Streamlining the demand planning process of Berger Bangladesh’.

Samiha completed her BBA from the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka and joined Nestlé Bangladesh Limited as a Category Planner immediately after her graduation in 2015. 

She said, “In 2018, I moved to my current role in Berger and have been gaining a deeper sense of satisfaction in applying my knowledge and experience for the growth of the company and myself.” Even though she majored in Marketing, with genuine interest, she learned about supply chain management during her bachelor’s and realised that the supply chain networks hold the world economy together.

Zeba Samiha. Illustration: TBS

Her interest in the field grew after completing the Supply Chain Analyst Certification from the ISCEA through MindMapper Bangladesh before her graduation. 

“After joining the supply chain department of Nestle Bangladesh Limited, and being mentored by some of the most brilliant minds both in my professional and academic life, I was motivated to learn more about supply chains as well,” said Samiha. 

“That helped me to realise my passion to become a supply chain professional, not only by securing a job in the supply chain sector in a particular company but also by gaining a deeper knowledge and understanding of the field,” she added.

Samiha believes that supply chain management as a discipline is still new in this part of the world, except for a few multinational companies that maintain this as a separate function. Most local companies are embracing the idea at a slow pace.

“Most universities are yet to set a curriculum where supply chain management can be taken as a major. This does create challenges for supply chain enthusiasts in the country. I have been lucky to have had mentors who have guided me in my journey to overcome the challenges,” said Samiha. 

The pandemic has created a global supply chain crunch which slowed down international trade. Samiha as a manager faced the disruption as well. However, through articulate planning, she handled the situation well.

Zeba Samiha won the IPDC Young Supply Chain Talent award

“The supply chain was interrupted last year due to the pandemic and the quarantine measures. It is still struggling to recover despite booming demand aided by mass vaccination and the ease of measures. For Berger paints Bangladesh Ltd. it has been about striking the correct balance between the changing dynamics of the market demand and ensuring the delivery of the right product at the right time by maintaining supplies,” Samiha said. 

“Yes, we have experienced shortages in our raw materials supply, a decreased demand in popular products and other common disparities that other companies faced as well. What we did was that we selected particular products that had significantly high demand among different products from our profile and ensured smooth supply chain functions for that product to fight the crisis by balancing off the changing market dynamic with just the right products to ensure high-quality customer service,” she added.

An interesting fact about Samiha’s professional life is that in addition to her functional role, she tries to be involved in creative work as well.

She said, “Being part of the organising team of programmes, creating functional newsletters or presentations, etc. not only helps me to get exposure to the other teams and their works but also helps me to connect with my peers better. I truly believe having a strong network both inside the organisation and outside is key to a successful career.”

When asked about her motivation, she said that the need to achieve success and to make herself better from what she already is are the two things that motivate her the most to move forward.

Women in leadership roles often have to face different unwanted challenges, for instance, workplace gender discrimination. However, Samiha said that in the organisations that she works and has worked, there are many women in leadership roles. Thus she was fortunate to have mentors and role models who have given her guidance to not struggle with such challenges.

“Our MD, Ms Rupali Chowdhury is a strong and knowledgeable leader in the industry and is admired by many. It would be extremely hard to experience any workplace gender discrimination in a company under her leadership,” said Samiha.

“Many local companies in our country have yet to provide their female employees with an environment where they are encouraged to take up leadership roles. Only a discrimination-free environment can create strong and diverse leaders that are beneficial for the companies,” she added.

We then asked Samiha on how one can begin a career in the field of supply chain management. In response, she said that the most important things to consider are the passion to gain knowledge about the field, the determination to work hard and the perseverance to embrace and overcome challenges faced initially.

“Along with this, for supply chain management there are organisations such as Bangladesh Supply Chain Management and MindMapper Bangladesh who provide ample opportunities to learn the basics and help connect with peers and mentors within the field,” she added.

Samiha then shared her feelings regarding being the IPDC Young Supply Chain Talent of the year.

She said, “It has been an honour to have been awarded the IPDC Young Supply Chain Talent of the year. Contributing to strengthening this process [supply chain] in the organisation I am working at has given me a sense of satisfaction and this has been converted to immense joy as my work gets recognised in the supply chain society thanks to IPDC.”

Berger Paints Bangladesh Ltd. has grown to become the country’s leading paint solutions provider, diversifying into every sphere of the industry from decorative paints to industrial, marine, and powder coatings.

To conclude, Samiha spoke about the vision of Berger Bangladesh and her role in making that vision a reality.

“The vision of this company has always been to be the most preferred brand in the industry that ensures consumer satisfaction. It has invested more in technology and research and development (R&D) than any other manufacturer in this market. I think it is one of the crucial elements for growth,” she said.

“I try to stay updated with the latest trends and findings of my field. I always prefer researching and taking necessary online courses to contribute positively to tackling any new situation and work harder to make Berger’s vision a reality,” she concluded.

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