Even a lucrative career path cannot impede the spirit of entrepreneurship, and Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed, chairman of Standard Bank, a local private bank, has proved this as he groomed himself as an entrepreneur in banking, coming from another sector.
The journey of Ahmed is an interesting one. Upon graduation in physics from the University of Dhaka, a young Ahmed started his career as a teacher at the then Jagannath College in Dhaka in 1963.
But later, he switched his career path to become a manager of Mohammadi Iron Works Ltd in Chittagong in 1964, and continued until 1971.
After the country's independence in 1971, he joined Bangladesh Steel and Engineering Corporation, until he retired as the general manager in the early 1980s.
He later began his own venture, Eastern Engineering Works Ltd, a company that produces railways spare parts.
“Starting a company was the real test for me as an entrepreneur,” Ahmed told The Daily Star in an interview at his bank office in Dhaka on Sunday.
The company based in Chittagong currently supplies spare parts to Bangladesh Railway. He went on to start up several other companies in the areas of steel and iron.
“But in 1997, I started thinking about setting up a bank,” Ahmed said. After a lot of scrutiny, the government allowed him to set up Standard Bank.
“So this is the long journey of an entrepreneur in brief," said Ahmed who is now 74 years old.
The bank is going to open its 100th branch tomorrow on the occasion of its 16th founding anniversary.
“I have a target to open 50 more branches in the next five years. We are performing well as our client base is strong and has confidence on us.”
Operating profit of the bank that employs 2,000 people grew 21 percent in 2014 from the previous year.
The asset value of Standard Bank, a listed company in both the Dhaka and Chittagong bourses, was Tk 205 crore in 1999 and rose to Tk 11,993 crore in 2015.
In addition to conventional products, the bank also offers Islamic banking products, special loans for the garment sector, school loans, SME loans, agriculture loans and project financing.
Ahmed, who is also the immediate past president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, talked about some of the challenges the country's economy is facing.
On regional trade and connectivity, he said the time has come to increase trade among the Asian nations.
Ahmed, who is the incumbent chairman of the regional trade bloc BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar), said they are trying to revive the old Chinese Silk Route for greater regional trade.
“If we can increase trade among the BCIM nations through the Silk Route, Bangladesh would be the business hub for Asia.”
“We want to increase connectivity among the BCIM nations through railways, roads, water and air,” he said.