Remembering a great father and a trailblazer | The Daily Star
09:36 PM, December 24, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:03 PM, December 25, 2020


Remembering a great father and a trailblazer

MA Hashem, my beloved father, founder chairman of Partex group, succumbed yesterday to Covid-19. 

He was 77. But looking at him, no one could guess his age because he always beamed and radiated with energy and vibrancy. He was a man full of life.

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He left behind an unmatched legacy of entrepreneurship and industrialisation. Brick by brick, he built this humble conglomerate called Partex. Spanning almost six decades now, Partex was built at a time when Bangladesh itself as a nation was new. Partex was built literally from scratch out of the ruins left by the occupying force of the Pakistan era. He was one of the true pioneers in ushering private sector business and industrialisation in this country. 

My father was endowed with a special business acumen, a knack for knowing what will click in business and what will not. On top of that, he always had this special eye for knowing who needs his help. For him, it was always more than making money. He used to take pride in creating jobs, and that is where he is different from the 'return on equity', 'payback period' driven concept of modern businesses. Business must help people -- that was his motto and that's  what he used to teach us, his five sons, of whom I am the oldest. 

I know this note is supposed to be a personal one since in it an eldest son of a family is reminiscing about his father's demise just a day ago. It was always personal with MA Hashem, my father. For all my brothers and for all his 15 grandchildren, he was always a personal man, never the big boss of Partex Group or City Bank or UCBL Bank or North South University or Janata Insurance Ltd, all of which he founded along with a handful of other brave entrepreneurs at a time when risk-taking of that magnitude was not really in the nature of our country's businesspeople. To us, he was always a fun-loving human being who, above all else, was a simple and humble soul. 

His biggest strength was courage, his grandest happiness was in seeing others laughing, and his greatest pride was in seeing all his five sons educated enough to take on the challenges of the fast changing times. 

Besides being happy with, say, the performances of City Bank, UCBL or IDLC, where City Bank is a major shareholder, he used to feel especially proud and happy about his contribution in the education sector. He used to look forward to that day when the young graduates passing out of the colleges and the North South University he established would fill up the vacancies in the corporate sector and also push young minds to set up and run new businesses successfully. 

This man started modestly with tobacco trading business in 1962 in the port city of Chattogram. Over time he started importing many of the commodities and necessary raw materials for different industries -- things like iron, steel, cement, sugar, rice, spices, wheat, salt, milk and so on -- which a new nation of 70 million people needed at a time of crisis and scarcity right after the country's independence.  

Later Partex Group was built and then he wholeheartedly embraced manufacturing as his core area of business so that many thousands of unemployed people could be meaningfully employed. Thus came in the production of furniture, particle boards, food items, beverages, plastics, paper, cotton, yarn, jute, textile, agro products, garments, etc., which was later followed by real estate and shipping. 

All this created many friends for him and many adversaries too, because he challenged the trends of the day, the run-of-the-mill ideas and the established practices of the time. But even his worst enemies could never look him eye to eye and then call him an enemy, because he didn't have it in him to become anyone's enemy for more than a day perhaps. 

His passion for happiness and peace in personal life used to always outshine his business calculations. In his lifetime he lost innumerable amounts of money due to this trait, yet he never regretted. He lived life to its fullest. 

He was by nature a people's person, which ultimately led to his winning the Noakhali-2 constituency in the national parliamentary election in 2001. He became an MP. But politics wasn't his forte. He was a man to unite groups, not divide them. He was rarely, if ever, critical of people. So he had to leave politics and again become the simple man looking after people, which he always had been.

My father was a true icon of many aspects like entrepreneurship, creativity, courage and simplicity. He was a family man who would feel the richest happiness in a simple Bangalee beef curry dish cooked nicely, which, as a matter of rule, must be eaten along with his friends and the entire family. He never forgot his roots, and this one exceptional trait was what made him a good human soul loved by all.


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