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Samson H Chowdhury On Starting Small, Lean Startup and Doing Business Tick

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Sep 1, 2014
Samson H Chowdhury
Samson H Chowdhury

“If you stop, proclaimed Samson H. Chowdhury (1925 – 2012), you will run over”, thus not stopping for his whole life while building most vibrant and successful conglomerate ‘Square’ of the country. Building a company that of Square size takes more than a life time but when you love what you do and know the tricks of the trade it becomes easy. 

Samson H Chowdhury is an embodiment of hard work, perseverance, farsightedness and ethical business practices. With his indomitable attitude, tireless efforts and dedication he has built one of the most successful conglomerates of the country from scratch. His life is a goldmine for aspiring entrepreneurs to learn about starting small, building slowly, perseverance and staying sane while doing business profitably and more. Here are few lessons from the life of Samson H Chowdhury on starting small, playing it lean and ethical business practices.

On Starting Small

We have a misconception that to start a business you need big capital. Yes, money is important. You would be unable to move ahead without money at times. But still you can start small. You can start with what you have, learn by doing while accumulating experiences and capital both and get into the game full pledge when you are ready. The first business Samson started was a medicine shop named Hossain Pharmacy-an example that calls our attention to the very basic of starting a business-you first job is to learn the rules of the game. And after few years he started Square, along with three of his friends, in a way that can be considered as a best model of starting lean and building on feedback:

On the advice of his father, Samson started running a medicine shop called 'Hossain Pharmacy', which was actually owned by his father. Samson's father was a popular medical officer in the region. When the mission charitable dispensary was shut down, Eakub Hossain Chowdhury opened a medicine shop in his own name 'Hossain Pharmacy'. Because of his reputation, even patients from remote areas used to consult him and buy medicine from his shop. When Samson took over the pharmacy, it was already doing good business. Eakub Hossain Chowdhury owned a lot of properties, including farm land. With all the earnings, they were a well-to-do family. But ambitious Samson was not satisfied with that. He started looking for new opportunities. He finally decided to set up a medicine factory.

In 1956, Samson approached his father and borrowed 5000 taka from him for the factory. He named the company 'Esons', means Eakub Hossain and Sons. He began with manufacturing syrups. Samson used to manufacture these syrups at home. He was the owner, the worker, the distributor and also the marketing officer of his new company. The only assistant at his factory was his wife Anita.

Founding Of Square

In 1958, Square started its journey with just Tk 17000. Samson had an investment of Tk 5000 for “Esons”. He added two thousand more to the total. The three other friends gave two to three thousand taka each, all together the capital stood at Tk 17000. Samson rented a small tin-shed house in Pabna town and converted it into a factory. He recruited 12 workers. The first medicine they manufactured was blood purifier 'Easton Syrup'. During the first three years, Square could not make any profit. As a consequence, the four partners had to invest more money, and in the third year the total investment increased to Tk 80,000. In the fourth year, Square managed to generate some profit, and that was the beginning. It has never looked back.

Success comes at certain cost-this is the response we hear when question the ethical meddling of entrepreneurs. The perpetual crisis of our garment industry steams from this very source of lack of ethical practices in business. Samson H. Chowdhury was an example for the ethical business practices to his contemporaries and also a model to be followed for coming generation of entrepreneurs. You don’t need to compromise with your soul to make profit, to do a good business.

In April 2010 he gave a talk at North South University’s School of Business and talked extensively about the importance of ethical business practices which is very much nonexistent in our businessmen.

Make Ethical Decisions

Business has an ever imposing power and influence over society. Every decision a business makes has a long lasting impact on the society it belongs to. As an entrepreneur you have to keep it in mind when making a decision. Putting pressure on this very notion Samson prescribes:

Entrepreneurs make choice and take actions that affect many, usually without the moral guidance available in established organizations. Their decisions can strengthen or seriously weaken a firm's future business viability. The cases of Enron, WorldCom Anderson and other giants of USA are shining examples of results of unethical decisions by key personnel of those enterprises.

Character As Best Capital

Calling on our attention towards the universal truth of the impermanence of worldly resources, Samson H. Chowdhury asks us to focus more on building a character than assets that deplete. Citing the very old truth that business reputation often overpowers the most expensive marketing Samson asserts:

It is important that we speak of ethics. The capital that we use to build our business depletes, but the capital of our character outlasts all material resources.

On Making The Choice

It seems that Samson H Chowdhury had a very profound understanding about the very nature of human being that we only act when we care. Posing a deep question to our conscience he asks to choose us between the good and evil and between the lasting and impermanence:

Ethics stand as a vital bridge between entrepreneurship and economics. Ethics do not stand as the primary pillar of the house. Ethics do not guarantee material success, but they carve a straight path. No one can force a person to be honest and upright in dealing with others. These internal traits comprise a person's character.

Complement with lessons from Muhammad Yunus on finding a good problem to solve and believing in your capacity, Fazle Hasan Abed on Frugal Innovation and Building a learning organization, and Lessons from Edwin Land on Ten thousands steps of realizing our dreams.

 [su_note note_color="#1d8f0d" text_color="#fdfefe" radius="11"]Credits: This article was written by Moumita Saha and Edited by Ruhul Kader | Info: Samsonchowdhury.com, the Daily Star[/su_note]


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Moumita is an avid reader having deep passion for fiction and horror films! She also loves photography and keeps things undone for the last moment because she thinks she does best when she does things at the last moment. Moumita is working with us as an Intern and doing a very important project titled 'Discovering Chittagong'.

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