12:00 AM, January 06, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 06, 2012

In his passing, a business icon touches souls

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Sohel Parvez

In the corporate world, Bangladesh will rarely see someone who has the same impact on people as Samson H Chowdhury.
Samson will inspire people for generations -- to build a business empire from scratch, to innovate and change the world for the better.
Samson set an example that “Made in Bangladesh” can be something to be proud of. That is his legacy.
Samson, chairman of Square Group that generates more than
Tk 6,000 crore in annual turnover and employs around 33,000 people, passed away at a hospital in Singapore yesterday. He was 86.
“His passing is a huge loss to Bangladesh and he will be sorely missed by many of us," said Latifur Rahman, former president of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI).
“He was a principled gentleman who believed in values. At the same time, he was a very warm and friendly person,” said Latifur Rahman, who had worked with Samson in MCCI and International Chamber of Commerce Bangladesh (ICC-B) for years.
"He was an icon in the Bangladesh pharmaceutical industry and built Square into the foremost pharmaceutical company in the country," said Latifur , also chairman and managing director of Transcom Group.
Samson was a great human being, a business leader and nationalist. That was the reaction of a second-generation businessman Syed Nasim Manzur after the death of the iconic entrepreneur, who has turned Square into a giant enterprise that began its journey in the northern district of Pabna five decades ago.
The death of the industrialist, who had combined his vision to succeed with the principles of integrity and honesty, spread a pall of gloom over the business community. Many of his friends described his departure as 'a great loss' to the nation.
For Nasim, Samson was a 'living example in every aspect' of his business and personal life.
“Bangladesh has lost a role model of integrity and vision which can take a person to the highest level of success," said Nasim, managing director of ApexAdelchi Footwear Ltd, where Samson was an independent director.
Samson's friends in business community, who had worked with him for the cause of developing entrepreneurship in Bangladesh, expressed almost the same reactions.
For many, Samson was an example of honesty in business and a role model for young entrepreneurs that integrity and vision can take a person to the highest echelon of success in business.
Samson was an outspoken but polite man, who believed that Bangladeshi companies can compete globally by making quality products.
"He (Samson) had unwavering commitment to quality," said Nasim, recalling a board meeting with Samson. At the meeting, Samson suggested buying a better quality machine even after the price of the machine was four times higher than the inferior one.
Above all these, one of the biggest contributions of Samson is the courage he showed to inspire his predecessors to invest and build a vibrant pharmaceutical industry, ruled by local firms.
Anis Ud Dowla, chairman of ACI Group, said the man behind Square helped the government frame the Drugs (control) Ordinance, which supported manufacturing of generic products by local entrepreneurs.
The law enabled Bangladeshi companies to create a strong foothold in the domestic pharmaceutical market which was earlier dominated by foreign companies, said Anis, a close friend of Samson.
Now, Bangladesh meets 95 percent of its medicine requirement through domestic production with firms, including Square, he said.
"The country has lost a great entrepreneur."
Recalling his memories with Samson, Anis said, "Whenever we sat with the top policymakers in the government, he argued boldly with them because he had honesty as his strength to speak out."
The ACI chairman, whose firm also competes with Samson's Square on many fronts such as medicine, praised fair business practices of the industrialist.
“He is a role model for the young entrepreneurs who can see in him the innovative leadership and perseverance to create a market, and by sheer hard work to make it a success," he said.
Mahbubur Rahman, president of ICC-B, said: "We consider him as the only business legend of our time. He has performed with full honour and dignity throughout his career.”
"In his success, he was ethical and uncompromising about the principles of business."
"He was down to earth in his own business and asked the young generation to be down to earth to achieve success and glory in life," said the ICC-B president.
"Samson was one of those very rare individuals who touched many hearts and souls,” he said.
“Among his friends and colleagues that he came across, they may not find a replacement for him.”
He was involved in various other social organisations. Many of his social contributions are unknown even to his family members, said the ICC-B president.
“More importantly, he was a great human being," said Mahbubur, wishing his sons to carry on his mantle and take Square to the next level.
Former caretaker government adviser Akbar Ali Khan said the departure of Samson is a national loss.
"He was very sensible and always considered the interest of the nation rather than personal business interest," said Akbar, sharing his past experience as the chairman of the National Board of Revenue.
"Whenever we took any decision, we had to convince him that the decision was taken considering national interest," said the former bureaucrat.
"There is a lot to learn from Samson Chowdhury who has turned a micro-enterprise into an empire. He has shown ways on how to do business without compromising.”
Amjad Khan Chowdhury, managing director and chief executive of Pran-RFL Group, honoured Samson as a great entrepreneur.
"He had created many industries in the country. His foremost and most significant contribution was to the pharmaceutical industry and employment generation.”
"I note especially that he had made his succession plan in such a way that his business will only flourish under the able leadership of his sons," said Amjad, also president of MCCI.
Amjad said Samson was hard working, focused and a good organiser. "I always admire his ability to lead his group by setting a personal example," Amjad said, referring to Samson's punctuality.
The companies that he led are best managed in the country, he said.
"I had learnt a lot from him. I am indebted to him.”

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