A beacon for entrepreneurs
When West Pakistan-based businesses dominated trade and investment in the 1950s and 60s of the country, very few Bangladeshis could dare to take risk of chasing their dream to become industrialists.
But Harunar Rashid Khan Monno took that risk in the early 60s.
“I had just completed my chartered accountancy course and was offered a job with monthly salary of Tk 1,200-1,500,” recollects Monno in his book 'My Life History', which was published in February this year.
But he turned it down, a decision that greatly disappointed his wife and parents.
“It was inconceivable for many that I would walk away from such a lucrative offer.”
With Tk 350 in pocket, he set out to pursue his childhood dream, which began after he could manage an appointment of Noor Mohammad Adamjee at his office in Dhaka.
Adamjee, also known as Sheth, offered Monno a job, but the 26-year-old expressed a desire to do business.
“Noor Mohammad looked at me carefully. He inquired how much money I had and I admitted that I had none. After sharing this I became afraid as I thought he would send me away,” Monno went on.
Adamjee did not rebuff. He called the head of the mills purchase department and directed him to give Monno some orders.
Minutes later, Monno left the Adamjee office to find out the costing for making a register book.
He submitted a quotation by consulting with one of his relatives, who had printing press. His quotation satisfied Adamjee Jute Mills' head of purchase, who asked him to make 25 register books.
Monno made a profit of Tk 75 from the contract. “This way, my business started,” he recalled.
As the quality of works supplied by Monno started getting acclamation at Adamjee, one of the officials of the jute mills suggested him to supply spare parts of machinery used by the factories.
To do the job, Monno opened a firm named Rashid Trading and started supplying spare parts.
“This initiative marked the beginning of my business independently in real sense, and also sowed the seed for what I am today,” said Monno, who was born in 1933 in Nababganj under Dhaka district.
He went on to found 19 entities, including the flagship Monno Ceramic Industries Ltd.
He set up Monno Ceramic Industries in 1984, encouraged by high demand for the products at home and abroad. A year later, he started exporting ceramics to Europe and the US.
Today, the company's annual turnover stands at Tk 100 crore and its wares found in about 100 countries.
The company branched out into jute products, textile, readymade garments and power generation.
But he did not confine himself only to the business world.
Monno set up a medical college, a nursing college, a nursing institute and a school and college.
He also established a charity to carry out social development works. He helped set up many schools, madrasas, mosques, graveyards and temples.
Apart from engaging in activities for social welfare, Monno also joined politics.
He was elected as lawmaker from Manikganj thrice: in 1991, 1996 and 2001. He became a minister during the BNP's last tenure.
On May 5, Monno won the DHL-Daily Star's Bangladesh Business Awards in the lifetime achievement category.
He said he took the risk to become an entrepreneur in order to benefit more people through job creation and industrialisation.
“My success in business is the result of my hard work, integrity, devotion and commitment,” Monno told The Daily Star in an interview, sitting on a wheel chair at his residence in Manikganj last month.
The 84-year-old, who suffers from age-related illness, has handed over the task of running the business empire to his daughter Afroza Khan Rita.
Now, he aspires to set up a technical university to develop human resources, the application for which has already been filed.
In his preface of the book My Life History, Monno said he has no lack of fulfilment. “What I have got is more than what I had wanted.”
“If my life history inspires anyone to love his own work and makes his position stronger, that would be my achievement.”
Monno has prepared Rita in a way that she can emulate him while running the group's companies and other activities.
“She will keep them fully functional and will also take them to new heights.”
Rita has learnt the various aspects of businesses soon after completing her education.
“I have noticed a passion in her to work for the welfare of the people. So, I am convinced.”
Rita is now the managing director of Monno Group of Industries.