“15 years ago when government gave recognition to the top 10 taxpayers I was one of them. I am one of the highest taxpayers even now. My sons, daughter is also highest taxpayers. But it doesn’t mean that I am the richest person in Bangladesh. The riches lead their life differently. If they want it they can do. But I can sleep peacefully.”
This is Samson H. Chowdhury, founder of the no. 1 Bangladeshi industrial conglomerate “Square”. He started his journey in 1952 establishing a small Pharmacy in Ataikula village of Pabna and ended in January 05,2012 with a gigantic industrial empire. Starting with Square Pharmaceuticals he expanded his empire by establishing Square Informatix Ltd. Square Textiles Ltd, Square Spinnings Ltd, Square Toiletries Ltd, Square Consumer Products Ltd, Square Knit fabrics Ltd, Square Fashion Ltd, Square Agro Development and Processing Ltd, Square Hospitals Ltd and Square Herbal & Nutraceuticals Ltd. At present its annual turnover is $781 million (2009-10) or over Tk 6,000 crore, according to Dun and Bradstreet Rating Agency Bangladesh. The group employs over 33,000 people. How did he make this?
From childhood he cherished to be a businessman. After passing seven years in Mymensing Victoria Missionary school he went to Bishtupur Missionary School at Pearl Herbour, 24 Parganas, West Bengal. He learned how to adapt changing situations and how to keep patience facing difficulties there. In 1942-43 He studied at Missionary College in Hugli district. Beside this, in different times he secured business knowledge from different institutions.He is a Senior Cambridge and has participated in numerous executive training courses around the world, including a Management Training Course, jointly conducted by the University of Dhaka and Harvard University.
While studying in West Bengal He decided to join Navy and once he participated in Royal Indian Navy Mutiny against British. As the Mutiny got failure he got punished and had to admit in concentration camp for 1 month. Then he refused to take back the job. After that within 6 month of his job in Post office India & Pakistan got independence .He had posting in Pabna but didn’t enjoy the job. Then he came back to his father and expressed his desire to form a Pharmacy shop in Ataikula village of Pabna. That was the start of something great!
In that time there was a Hindu pharmacist who made and sold the medicine of Malaria in Pabna. In 1947 Partition the pharmacist left Pabna to India. The man who bought his Lab established Edruc Company, the first ever commercial Pharmaceutical Company in Bangladesh. Inspired by such initiative, in 1958, Mr. Samson established a Pharmaceutical company with three of his friends. The company was named Square. He was to explain the genesis of the name of the firm thus, “It was started by four friends and also because it signifies accuracy and perfection, meaning quality”.
They started this partnership company investing BDT 80000.He was so passionate to his newly formed business. It was his dream and the same time his reality. He poured all his effort to make it profitable and developed. At the same time he was the cleaner, gatekeeper, clerk and marketer of that factory. It was not a matter of self-admiration rather devotion to dream. After four consecutive years of loss they had seen the face of profit. They never feel giving it up. When two Hindu partners left Pabna to West Bengal he felt something lost. But he didn’t get frustrated and started again by reforming Square as a Private limited Company.Square Pharmaceuticals Ltd is now holding the strong leadership position in the pharmaceutical industry of Bangladesh since 1985 and is now on its way to becoming a high performance global player.
Businesspeople always say that it is tough to be honest in Business. It turns tougher if government & administration is corrupted. Mr. Chowdhury had done all tougher jobs and practiced honesty in every deal of Business. Sometimes he got frustrated keeping honesty but never given up, he tried to overcome that. Sometimes he managed all things to do something but can’t take it to the end as it needs graft. He never gave graft to open the closed door of administration. For this reason he had to wait for longtime to accomplish his tasks but he never did compromise with honesty. It’s so rare in business practice of the world.
Mr. Chowdhury was really great in managing people, his employees; his laborers. He was so proactive to manage their issues. He met with the labor union once a year and listened to their claim carefully. The interesting fact is that his offerings always surpassed laborer’s claims. He never gave people opportunity to make conflict. He believed in simple universal truth “If you are careful to someone, they will also be careful to you”. When the relation between the owners and laborers of garment industry is a matter of regular clash regarding the compensation in Bangladesh, he was totally different in this fact. He says “I know how much impact inflation has in the market; I know the price of daily necessaries .I relaxes the extra pressure of price hike for my employees. I solve the issues proactively that can arise conflict.” Inside his factory all foods, Tiffin and other services are totally free this is also rare in Bangladesh. Here lies the value of Bengalism in Business. If we recall Ranada Prashad Shaha,his Kumudini Welfare Trust we can understand how business culture of Bengal closely related with the greater welfare of the society.
In Personal life he was so happy with his wife Anita Chowdhury, Three sons Swapan Chowdhury , Tapan Chowdhury, Anjan Chowdhury and one daughter Ratna Chowdhury.He was an arty photographer. He visited around the world for business purposes and captured the moments of significance.
When he talked about his dream to a national weekly in May, 2011 he says “I have the dream to go ahead in hand with the world. Before some days we inaugurated the insulin manufacturing factory that is no less than international standard.”
Throughout his illustrious career, he has won several accolades including "Business Executive of the Year" by the American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh in 1998 and the "Business Person of the Year 2000" by the Daily Star and DHL Worldwide Express. He has been recognized Commercially Important Person (CIP) by the National Board of Revenue (NBR) and awarded for being one of the Highest Tax-Payers in the year when it was first introduced and also in 2007-08 & 2008-2009.
He advised the young generation to be ambitious, to set vision and mission of life. He wants young people to study and secure knowledge. He believed a knowledgeable generation can change the whole perspective of Bangladesh.
Great write up.
Thanks to Julfikar Islam for this analytic write up, I hope it will inspire both the young learners & young entrepreneurs...