Latifur Rahman, chairman and managing director of Transcom Group, would like to see his company as a Bangladeshi multinational in the next 10 years.
Rahman spoke at the EBL Leadership Lecture Series at The Westin in Dhaka on Tuesday, Eastern Bank said in a statement. Ali Reza Iftekhar, managing director and CEO of EBL, moderated the session.
Rahman began his speech by narrating events of his life that shaped him most and made him look at life from the right perspective.
W Rahman Jute Mills, the major earning source for the Rahman family, was one of the privately-owned industries that the government nationalised after independence, he said.
From a life of comfort, the family fell into hardship, as his father—the head of the family—was not well, and his daughter was a university student and her expenses had to be met, Rahman said.
Rahman himself, who was driving his own Fiat 500 only a few years ago, had to worry about the family's day-to-day expenses. Sometimes they did not have even Tk 100 to Tk 200 at home, he said. But he was no stranger to business. His family has been dealing in tea since 1885. So, when things fell apart and became tough, he never lost hope.
“What gets me going was my self belief. You have to believe in yourself. This is not overconfidence, nor arrogance, but some kind of faith in yourself that you can do it. In other words, you have to remain positive while in crisis.”
In the 1980s, Rahman became the sole importer and distributor of Nestlé products. There was no turning back after that.
In the 1990s, he bought Smith, Kline and French, a US-based pharmaceuticals which had just merged into Beecham, a British company, and renamed it Eskayef.
It became the first Bangladeshi company to buy a multinational. But in the first year, business was not good.
The entire sales of Eskayef were Tk 1.3 crore and the loss was Tk 1.29 crore. For every lakh sold, there was an equal amount of loss.
He kept the management as it was, and did not change the management practices that Smith, Kline and French used to follow.
Describing his management philosophy, Rahman said: “Respect to colleagues and co-workers is crucially important. Trust is the backbone of good management. Either you trust your colleague or you don't. There cannot be anything called half trust.”
Eskayef did not break even in the next five years. But slowly but surely his policy bore its fruit.
Responding to a question where he would like to see Transcom in the next 10 years, he said: “We are running a successful group only with local professionals. I firmly believe our professional are on par with best international professionals. Ten years down the line I would like to see Transcom emerging as a Bangladeshi multinational.”