Be responsible towards society Latifur Rahman, Transcom chairman, tells young entrepreneurs

Bangladesh requires the practice of being responsible towards businesses and societies to ensure better development, said Latifur Rahman, chairman and CEO of Transcom Group.

“Today Bangladesh is not isolated. It is now part of a global platform. So our standard will have to be in line with the rest of the world and that requires governance, due diligence and discipline,” he said.

Latifur Rahman was inspiring young entrepreneurs through a keynote speech at The Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) South Asia Final 2018, organised by Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO) Bangladesh at GP House in the capital on Saturday.

With Tofail Ahmed, commerce minister, as chief guest, the regional finale saw Jahangir Alam of ALO from Bangladesh become the champion beating 16 student entrepreneurs from a total of four countries.

Now he will go on to compete against top student entrepreneurs from around the world for over $400,000 in cash and prizes at EO GSEA Global Finals 2018 in Toronto, Canada.

The contestants have to be undergraduate students owning a for-profit/social enterprise structured business operational for at least six consecutive months.  The GSEA represents over 1,700 prominent student entrepreneurs from over 60 countries.

During his speech, Rahman spoke of businesses as a whole being criticised for the faults of a few.

Being irresponsible in financial dealings and taking the banking system for a ride are not good for entrepreneurship and will not come to aid a country’s development, he said.

Responsible and ethical business practices are needed for economic development, said Rahman, adding, “I believe the majority of our entrepreneurs are in the right direction.”

He said entrepreneurs help, shape and make a country’s economy. When the country started a new journey in 1971-72, the economy was in a dire situation with no culture of entrepreneurship prevalent among Bangladeshis, said Rahman.

Even the political leaders were young during this journey towards the unknown but the government’s commitment and supportive policy shaped the country’s economy, he said.

The government and entrepreneurs have been working together since independence to rapidly develop the economy, he said.

Sharing experience of his own journey in business, Rahman said his family was involved with the tea and jute industry before the 1971 Liberation War.

But the businesses faced serious difficulties after independence for changes in the economy, he said, adding that the tea industry in particular went through a difficult period for the loss of the Pakistani market.

There is no entrepreneur who did not face challenges in business, reminded Rahman.

He advised entrepreneurs not to surrender when faced with challenges or difficulties and make a difference to become successful businesspersons. “You have to learn from your mistakes,” he urged.

With the supportive business policy of the government, Transcom Group has become the champion business in the private sector, he said.

“We need the government to be supportive, not to bail us out or prop up us artificially,” he said.

Tofail Ahmed said Bangladesh was now ahead of Pakistan with respect to business and in some cases ahead of India, all because of youths who played a large role.

“We are proud of our young entrepreneurs,” he said.

After independence, the export basket comprised just three items — jute, tea and leather — but now it encompasses 744 items reaching 199 countries, he said.

There are many developing countries like Kenya, Sri Lanka and Pakistan but Bangladesh exports more goods than them, said the minister.

“We provide facilities, mentorship, opportunities and sometimes financing for the entrepreneurship,” said Michael Foley, CEO of Grameenphone.

Entrepreneurs create ideas, they put their hearts in businesses, they invest themselves deeply in what they do, they engage their families and then they are able to attain success, he said.

A big company cannot create lots of employment, entrepreneurs can create the employment, he said.

He called upon entrepreneurs to bring in innovative and viable business ideas to become successful businesspersons.

“EO Bangladesh hosted the GSEA regional competition for the first time and we are immensely honoured to get this opportunity to welcome the participants and delegates of EO South Asia and create a platform for commercial harmony,” said Zareen Mahmud Hosein, GSEA co-chair.