April , 2009


Enterprise of the Year
Meghna rides high on bike

Sarwar A Chowdhury

Enterprise of the Year
Chairman and Managing Director of Meghna Group

A flashback to the 1960s.
The late Mohabbat Ali had been involved in medicines business at Mitford Hospital area in Dhaka. His son, Abdul Khaleque, a doctor, had inherited the businesses from his father. But Khaleque's mother advised him to shift to another area, as a question mark surfaced over honesty in medicine sales.

Inspired by his mother, Khaleque started trading in bicycles and parts in the late 1960s in Old Dhaka. Years went by. But Khaleque's dream had still remained unfulfilled. It was a long way for Khaleque to go. For a step forward, he set up his own plant to make bicycle spokes in the early 1970s.

That was the beginning of today's $200 million Meghna Group with a wade array of activities, including production and marketing of bicycles and accessories at home and abroad.

Khaleque sought to strengthen his foothold in the bicycle and parts market through his Meghna Cycle Ltd. The man died in 1986, passing the mantle on to son Mizanur Rahman Bhuiyan.

"When I took charge, only 3,000 pieces of bicycle spoke worth Tk 3 lakh had been manufactured," recalls Bhuiyan, now chairman of the conglomerate.

For Bhuiyan, business was far from an easy task. But he expanded and diversified his business after years of consolidation.

"I aspired to be the best in what I was doing. To develop the quality of spokes, I imported modern technology and raw materials from Taiwan," says Bhuiyan, who travelled to Taiwan in 1987.

A year later, his products soared to popularity. "And we became the best spoke maker in Bangladesh," Bhuiyan says.

Taiwan is known as one of the best bicycle makers in the world. "My experience in Taiwan made me believe that we are also able to export bicycles to European market," he says.

Bhuiyan acquired the state-run bicycle maker, Bangladesh Cycle Industries Ltd, from the government through an open bidding. With the help of the unit, a massive BMRE (balancing, modernisation, rehabilitation and expansion) was done to turn the sick factory into a modern operative factory. It was renamed "Meghna Bangladesh Ltd".

Prior to the changeover, 192 bicycles had been produced in the factory a day. After the start of bicycle manufacture under Meghna in 1997, the daily production capacity rose to 300 bicycles. All were sold in the local market.

Sales of bicycles in the local market were so tough for the company, as low-priced bicycles imported from China and India dominated the local market. Meghna then set its sights on the international market.

"I had a dream of exporting bicycles and it came true in 1997," says Bhuiyan.

Meghna that has clinched the Daily Star-DHL award for the Enterprise of the Year, exports bicycles through its three assembling factories -- Meghna Bangladesh Ltd, Transworld Bicycle Co Ltd and M & U Cycles Ltd -- mainly to European markets.

The export markets include the UK, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Canada, Italy, Greece, Denmark and Finland.

Meghna's portfolio comprises mountain-trekking, city, free-style, folded and kids bicycles.

The company exported 403,000 pieces of bicycles worth $45 million in 2008 against 327,896 pieces a year ago. It also exports different types of bicycle parts such as tyre, tube, saddle and grip.

Meghna is also setting up a new unit named Meghna Aluminium Ltd, where aluminium pipes for bicycle's alloy extrusion will be produced.

The group is also active in distributing famous international brands in Bangladesh, such as BIC of France, Phoenix Bicycle of China and Inco-Europe and Raleigh of the UK.

The core business of Meghna is bicycle manufacture and export. From the year 2000, the group focused on diversifying its business portfolio by investing in white cement, table fan and ceiling fan, electric iron, corrugated board and box and composite knitting garments.

Meghna has been active in the automobile market since 1996. Meghna Automobiles Ltd, a unit of Meghna Group, is the sole distributor of KIA Motors of South Korea. In 1999, Meghna Automobiles was adjudged the "Best Distributor of the Year in Asia Region" by KIA.

Another entity, Executive Motors Ltd, has been representing the prestigious premium brand BMW since 2002. It is the sole distributor of BMW cars in Bangladesh. The company received the "BMW Best Facility in the Region Award" in 2005 from BMW Asia Ltd.

The group has three trading units that include Prince Marketing Ltd, Meghna Associates Ltd and Executive Technologies Ltd.