A relentless dreamer
Nasir Uddin Biswas never kept his dreams in his eyes only. The biggest temptation of his life was to convert the dreams into a masterpiece of reality. The name of such a masterpiece is Nasir Group of Industries.
From a small trader in the 1970s, Biswas now runs a group of nine units, from float glass to energy-saving bulbs, all leaders in the sectors. With nearly Tk 2,000 crore in annual turnover, the conglomerate has set excellent repayment standards over the years and become a preferred client for banks.
His relentless efforts to contribute to the country's economy have earned him a prestigious recognition this year as part of Bangladesh Business Awards.
“I always believe in innovation. I look for products that are not being made in Bangladesh but have huge demand among our people," says 63-year-old Biswas, the chairman of the Group.
He also thinks about import substitutes and, accordingly, takes steps to set up his industries.
“I go for the products that are not available in Bangladesh as those will generate employment and save foreign currencies from import payments,” he says.
Nasir Group now employs more than 23,000 people. The company is also the country's biggest melamine and float glass manufacturer and has a sports shoe plant.
Its philanthropic wing is also quite big. The company has been spending around Tk 5 crore a year for the past four years on social welfare activities through setting up schools and colleges. Nasir Group also has a modern hospital to help the poor.
But the path to his success was not so smooth. He had to go through many upheavals in life to reach the pinnacle. He has spent a lot of money on research and development to diversify products.
Coming from a farmer's family in Kushtia, Biswas, a commerce graduate, struggled to turn his dreams into a reality despite a long spell of failures at the start of his career, but nothing could stop him.
He got a breakthrough in 1975 because of a good connection with Akij Uddin, founder of Akij Group of Industries. Akij asked him 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 a son."
But the business ties with Akij did not last long. A "misunderstanding" with Akij helped him become an industrialist from a mere tobacco trader, Biswas says.
He then set up North Bengal Plastic Industry in Kushtia in 1977. The factory was not so successful at the beginning, but he did not give in. His dedication and patience paid off in 1980-81 when he started getting returns from it.
Later, he realised that all his dreams would not come true in a small town. He bought a piece of land in Kanchpur near Dhaka in 1982 and set up his sports shoe factory (Jump Keds).
Since then he never looked back. Today many dub him as the pioneer of a number of manufactured products in the country.
The visionary businessman says Bangladesh has a huge potential to grow and compete with other countries. But three things -- corruption, energy crisis and high bank interest rate -- are the biggest challenges.
“Corruption is eating into our potential. The energy crisis is also holding us back,” he says.
Biswas set up two factories in Mirzapur under Tangail district to make energy saving bulbs and glassware. He invested nearly Tk 700 crore, including bank loans, in these factories and finished the work in 2009. But he is yet to get gas connections for the plants.
“I am running these factories with alternative energy, which is pushing my production costs up manifold,” he says.
Doing business has become even harder due to high bank interest rates, Biswas says. “It's quite tough to survive with an 18 percent interest rate.”
Even so, he continues to march on with his innovative ideas. Now Biswas is forging ahead with an entirely new project -- very high-grade glass tableware and glass tubing for fluorescent and energy saving lamps -- never made before in Bangladesh.