Mirza Ali Behrouze Ispahani, chairperson of Ispahani Group, belonged to a rare group: industrialists who commanded respect across the society.
And with his passing yesterday at the age of 67 that group became smaller.
“We have lost a good soul,” said NUM Humayun, chief operating officer of Ispahani, who has been with the corporate giant for 42 years now.
He was a man of commitment, with hardly any record of reneging on a commitment, he added.
“His politeness and generosity can hardly be expressed in words,” said Ashraf Uddin Ahmed, deputy general manager of Ispahani Agro Ltd, who has been working at the group for the last 10 years.
Ahmed said he had worked in many organisations prior to joining Ispahani but has never come across a leader like Behrouze, who has been leading Ispahani Group since 2004.
He never asked his employees to see him in his chamber. Rather, he would walk to their desks, Ahmed said.
“This is a rare human quality.”
It is not just the group's employees who have been paying their tributes to Behrouze; Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina did so as well -- a testament to the impact he had.
Behrouze belonged to a Perso-Bengali business family whose roots spread from Isfahan, Persia in 1820.
Ispahani Group's founder Haji Mohammed Hashem moved from Isfahan, Persia to Bombay and started a business that soon expanded phenomenally.
His grandson Haji Mirza Mehdy Ispahani shifted the corporate headquarters to Madras. In 1888, he opened a branch office in Dhaka. His son Mirza Mohamed Ispahani established the Calcutta office of MM Ispahani & Sons in 1900, when a branch office was also established in London.
Mirza Ahmad Ispahani, the eldest son of Mirza Mohamed Ispahani, joined the business in 1918 and established the private limited company MM Ispahani Ltd in 1934 in Kolkata along with his younger brothers Mirza Abol Hassan Ispahani and Haji Mirza Mahmood Ispahani.
The final move was made in 1947 with the shifting of the corporate headquarters to Chittagong in the newly created East Pakistan.
The company continued to operate as a foreign company in Calcutta until 1965 when its operations in India were taken over by the Indian government.
By 1947, MM Ispahani Ltd was a large exporter of shellac, kapok, hessian, jute bags, tea and chemicals.
Mirza Mehdy Ispahani was made the chairman of MM Ispahani in 1949 and remained in that post until he died in 2004, when his son Mirza Ali Behrouze Ispahani was elected chairperson.
The company now has corporate offices in Chittagong, Dhaka and Khulna, employing over 20,000 people in many sectors such as tea, textile, real estate, crisps, poultry, shipping and internet services.
The group has been the forerunner in numerous fields and has achieved noteworthy success in its many endeavours. But Ispahani Tea is a household name and is the largest tea trading company in the country.
It dominates the domestic tea market by capturing about 50 percent of the national branded tea market and 80 percent of the branded tea-bag segment.
Pahartali Textile and Hosiery Mills, established in 1954 with 18,000 spindles, is one of the pioneers in local textile manufacturing.
The shipping division has been representing many world-renowned shipping lines and non-vessel operating common carriers in Bangladesh for more than 60 years.
Ispahani Group is a pioneer in power generation. Its Pahartali Power House in Chittagong supplied electricity to the neighbouring industries in 1951, prior to the formation of Power Development Board.