The il­lus­tri­ous in­fra­struc­ture trail­blazer of Bangladesh

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST -

He ven­tured into busi­nesses in 1973, at a time when there was hardly any track record of the coun­try pro­duc­ing suc­cess­ful en­trepreneurs.

But in the course of the last four decades, Muhammed Aziz Khan has gone on to ce­ment his name among the coun­try’s most il­lus­tri­ous busi­ness­men. “The in­de­pen­dence of Bangladesh pro­vided un­prece­dented op­por­tu­ni­ties to us. There was de­mand for en­trepreneurs.”

Khan’s first steps as an en­tre­pre­neur were taken with a friend, whose fa­ther’s death thrust him into the fam­ily im­port busi­ness. The 18- year- old Khan bor­rowed 30,000 Bangladeshi taka ( US$ 385) from his fa­ther to part­ner in the ven­ture.

With over a decade of solid real- world ex­pe­ri­ence be­hind him, Khan set up Sum­mit In­dus­trial and Mer­can­tile Cor­po­ra­tion in 1985, aim­ing to de­velop the coun­try’s in­fra­struc­ture.

To­day, Sum­mit’s sub­sidiaries are the coun­try’s first pri­vate sec­tor power gen­er­a­tor, a port owner and op­er­a­tor, and provider of in­for­ma­tion com­mu­ni­ca­tion con­nec­tiv­ity via fiber op­tic.

“My broth­ers joined me and we started this amaz­ing jour­ney. We are very for­tu­nate to be known as pioneers of Bangladesh’s in­fra­struc­ture sec­tor.”

Sum­mit Group’s jewel in the crown, Sum­mit Power, gen­er­ates roughly 16 per­cent of the coun­try’s to­tal elec­tric­ity. Khan said the pri­vate sec­tor’s con­tri­bu­tion to the power sec­tor is quite sub­stan­tial.

Bangladesh could not have come out of the sti­fling trap of power short­ages with­out the sup­port and par­tic­i­pa­tion of the pri­vate sec­tor. “The en­trepreneurs showed ex­tra­or­di­nary courage to leapfrog into in­fra­struc­ture in­dus­try. This is un­heard of in an emerg­ing econ­omy.”

About Sum­mit Power’s plan, Khan said the com­pany would like to sup­ply at least 20 per­cent of the na­tional elec­tric­ity de­mand.

The cur­rent trend of low prices of fuel and com­modi­ties has emerged as a boon for Bangladesh, as the coun­try would be able to save up to US$ 7 bil­lion a year on im­ports of petroleum, steel, cot­ton and soy­bean oil.

In four years, the gov­ern­ment would be able to save US$ 28 bil­lion on im­ports. With this sav­ing, the gov­ern­ment can bor­row another US$ 28 bil­lion, and the whole amount can be in­vested in im­prov­ing in­fra­struc­ture, said Khan.

“This sort of op­por­tu­nity does not come all the time — it comes very rarely. We have to seize the mo­ment.”

All that is needed is ca­pac­ity ex­pan­sion, par­tic­u­larly of the gov­ern­ment. The gov­ern­ment needs to award more ten­ders, ap­point more pro­ject man­agers and make bu­reau­cracy more ef­fi­cient, he said.

Be­sides, in the in­ter­na­tional debt mar­ket, the in­ter­est rate is at its low­est — a de­vel­op­ment he has not seen in his life­time. He said pri­vate com­pa­nies such as Sum­mit have re­ceived US$ 500 mil­lion in loans with ten­ure of 15 years and in­ter­est rate of 4.25 per­cent, whereas the gov­ern­ment can bor­row at 1 per­cent.

At present, Bangladesh of­fers huge in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, as the coun­try’s macroe­co­nomic con­di­tions are ex­cel­lent, the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion is more or less sta­ble and the re­serves are in­creas­ing, he said. “This is a great op­por­tu­nity to achieve dou­ble- digit eco­nomic growth.”

The Sum­mit chair­man also said the gov­ern­ment needs to build a com­plete new city as a cap­i­tal, wher­ever it prefers, to pre­vent Dhaka from be­com­ing a com­pletely dys­func­tional city.

Khan, who has an MBA from the In­sti­tute of Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion, has high re­spect for his fel­low en­trepreneurs, as do­ing busi­ness in Bangladesh is dif­fi­cult.” There should be more ac­com­mo­da­tion among peo­ple, re­spect for each other, more dis­ci­pline and ef­fi­ciency and less hypocrisy, and a bet­ter rule of law and elec­toral democ­racy.”

So far, Sum­mit has in­vested US$ 1.2 bil­lion in the coun­try and now pro­vides jobs to 5,000 peo­ple. Its rev­enues last year came to 50 bil­lion taka, up 64 per­cent over 2013, thanks to the com­mis­sion­ing of the 350- megawatt Sum­mit Megh­naghat power plant.

Sum­mit has re­cently been awarded the pres­ti­gious “AAA” long- term rat­ing and “ST- 1” short- term rat­ing by Credit Rat­ing In­for­ma­tion and Ser­vices Ltd, the coun­try’s first credit rat­ing com­pany.

It in­di­cates Sum­mit’s strong eq­uity base, good re­turn on in­vest­ment, earn­ings prospects, op­er­at­ing per­for­mance of the in­vestee com­pa­nies, good debt re­pay­ment ca­pac­ity, a high fran­chise value and an ex­pe­ri­enced top man­age­ment team, ac­cord­ing to the rat­ing agency.

“This is an ex­cel­lent recog­ni­tion for the com­pany’s cor­po­rate gov­er­nance and at­ti­tude to­ward busi­ness, re­main­ing within the rule of law. We are ex­ceed­ingly de- lighted that a pri­vate sec­tor in­dus­trial com­pany in Bangladesh could get ‘ AAA’ rat­ing.”

Look­ing ahead, the com­pany plans to in­vest more — if the gov­ern­ment awards it more con­tracts. “I hope the gov­ern­ment would al­low us to set up plants to gen­er­ate another 1,000 MW of elec­tric­ity, con­struct and op­er­ate ports and lay fiber op­tic in more ar­eas.”

Pro­vided he has time and strength, Khan said he will work di­rectly for an in­clu­sive so­ci­ety.

“It is dis­heart­en­ing and hurt­ful to see dif­fer­en­ti­a­tions in a so­ci­ety,” Khan said, adding that it is morally in­cor­rect.

“We can’t keep the vast ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion less ed­u­cated, re­ceiv­ing less op­por­tu­nity. We have to un­leash the full po­ten­tial of the so­ci­ety.”

The Daily Star/Asia News Net­work

(Top) Muhammed Aziz Khan has suc­cess­fully led Sum­mit Group since 1973. (Above) Sum­mit Group’s jewel in the crown, Sum­mit Power, gen­er­ates 16 per­cent of the coun­try’s to­tal elec­tric­ity. This plant is in Narayan­ganj, near the cap­i­tal, Dhaka.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.