Dreams that pay off | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, November 16, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, November 16, 2009

Interview

Dreams that pay off

Nasir Group chairman shares his vision for future with The Daily Star


Nasiruddin Biswas

Innovation has been the name of the game for Nasiruddin Biswas, chairman of Nasir Group of Industries. With an inclination toward introducing diversified products, he has never shied away from a challenge.
In 1982, Nasir planned a visit to Taiwan for business. Since Bangladesh had no diplomatic relationships with Taiwan then, he had to go to Japan to get a Taiwanese visa.
When in Japan, Nasir visited department stores and melamine goods on display caught his attention. Seeing the reasonable prices of the melamine products, he figured it would be within any Bangladeshi's purchasing capacity. He also found out that the machines used to produce the items were Taiwanese.
"I went to Taiwan and talked to the machine suppliers directly. I then carried out a feasibility study and found huge demand for the products," Nasir recalls in a recent interview with The Daily Star.
He was the first to start producing melamine products in Bangladesh in 1985 under the brand name Bangladesh Melamine.
Nasir now runs eight industries -- from 'bidi' (crude cigarettes) to state-of-the-art glass. With Tk 3,000 crore in annual turnover, the group is a preferred client for banks for its excellent repayment practices.
He is famous for undertaking new and innovative ventures. After melamine, he founded a canvas shoe company (Jump Keds) that was also the first of its kind in Bangladesh.
Later, he set up a float glass company and is now pondering over glassware and tube manufacture, which will also be the first of its kind.
“I always believe in innovation. I try to look for products that are not being produced in Bangladesh but for which there is instant market demand,” says a confident Nasir, in his mid-60s.
Coming from a farmer family in Kushtia, Nasir, a commerce graduate, struggled to turn his dreams into a reality. Despite failures on three accounts -- small trading businesses -- nothing stopped him from actualising his dream.
He got a breakthrough in 1975 because of his good ties with Akij Uddin, founder of Akij Group of Industries. Akij gave him work orders to supply tobacco to his Dhaka Tobacco Factory, one of the largest factories at that time.
"I started supplying tobacco in 1975. He (Akij) treated me like his son."
But the business ties with Akij did not last long. “A misunderstanding with Akij Uddin helped me become an industrialist from a mere tobacco trader,” says Nasir.
Nasir then set up North Bengal Plastic Industry on BSCIC premises in Kushtia in 1977. He had to struggle a lot with the industry, but he stuck to it. His dedication and patience paid off in 1980-81 when he started getting returns from it.
Later, he realised that he could not achieve his big dreams by staying in a small town. He bought a piece of land in Kanchpur near Dhaka in 1982 and set up his canvas shoe factory.
“Besides market demand, I always study competitiveness and availability of raw materials before setting up a factory." Before establishing the glass factory, he studied the Indian market also.
“Glass companies in India are located in the western and southern zones, a long way from Bangladesh. So Indian companies did not pose any threat to my business."
Nasir exports float glass worth more than Tk 20 crore a year to the northeastern states of India.
The Tk 650 crore glassware and tube factory, which is expected to hit markets early next year, is keeping Nasir busy these days. He believes there are ready markets for both glassware and tube lights.
“I always think about import substitutes. I pick goods that are not available in Bangladesh as it will generate employment and also save foreign currencies from import payments.”
On prospects for the future of Bangladesh, Nasir says: "Corruption is eating away our potential." The energy crisis has also become a big barrier to business, he adds.

sajjad@thedailystar.net

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