Muhammad Abul Hashem

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How tycoons from Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka built thriving business empires

Moinak Mitra, ET Bureau | Mar 14, 2014

The Times of India

Bangladesh's big bull

South Asia's tycoons on tackling turbulence & thriving in volatile markets Bangladesh hasn't seen a war in decades, but its politically volatile atmosphere has created inefficient state-owned enterprises and its own share of corruption.

Amid such chaos, Muhammad Abul Hashem, founder and chairman of Partex Group, stands out. Hashem started out 50 years ago as a tobacco trader.

"When Bangladesh was formed in 1971, his tobacco warehouse in Chowmuhoni was packed full, thereby placing him in an excellent position to grow his business exponentially. Then he moved to Chittagong, the commercial capital of Bangladesh, bringing him greater success with subsequent diversification into imports of various consumer items and building materials — the much sought-after products in the newly formed nation," says Sanjay Saldanha, executive director, Planning & Development, Partex Group.

After having established himself as a trading tycoon, Hashem decided to make the switch to manufacturing.

In the 1980s, he moved his business to Dhaka and purchased Star Particle Board Mills from the government through auction, which he turned into a profitable company. This was how Partex Group came into being.

There was no looking back. Hashem began setting up new industrial units and diversified his business across sectors both at home and abroad. He founded two new banks—City Bank and the United Commercial Bank—and Janata Insurance and Phoenix Insurance.

Partex's other companies are market leaders in nearly all sectors in Bangladesh, including food and beverages, plastics, fabrics, yarn, cotton, sugar, paper, jute, shipping, furniture, real estate, media, education, services, and IT. At one point in time, Hashem was also lawmaker in Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party having been elected from his hometown of Noakhali.

But he had to step down owing to corruption charges, though he steadfastly denied his involvement in a business syndicate that manipulated commodity prices. "Ours is a free market economy and the private sector as the engine of growth plays a key role in establishing the basic industrial base. We have been trying to play the role and contribute to the making of our GDP," says Hashem.

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