Dr SSM Sadrul Huda
M A Kashem: A living legend
Tale of an entrepreneur…
The book "M.A. Kashem : A Living Legend" was authored by Sameya Priom and published by "Toitomboor" presents illustrious life of a renowned entrepreneur, a well-known patron of education, a noble humanitarian, a dynamic social worker and one of the founding members of North South University, M.A. Kashem.
Mr. Kashem is one of the past Presidents of the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI). The present office of FBCCI was his unique contribution to the history of this apex business body of the country. Before his tenure, FBCCI was suffering from various problems but his business doctrine and able leadership helped develop its' vibrant work environment, name and fame in business world both at home and abroad. His outstanding performance as president of FBCCI was recognized by the Ministry of Industries and Commerce of Bangladesh, which was also not common at all. The then Deputy Prime Minister Moudud Ahmed, in-charge of Ministry of Industries and Commerce, in a personal letter, congratulated Mr. Kashem for his remarkable years as a President of FBCCI.
Nevertheless, Mr. M A Kashem's contribution to nation building is far greater than his role as a leader of business communities. He envisioned something new for the society and something sustainable for the country. His thoughts enlightened the horizons of our present day: education and banking. He was the sole person in bringing up the idea of private banking practice and private higher education system in our country. In fact, he was the founder of North South University- the very first private university of Bangladesh. If one scanned through the pages of history of financial institutions of Bangladesh, one can find the name of National Bank as the first private bank of Bangladesh.
Back in 1983, the then government agreed on principle to operate banking system in private sector. Mr M A Kashem - a far sighted entrepreneur, quickly picked up the idea and with other fellow entrepreneurs established the National Bank - the first ever private bank of Bangladesh. However, he didn't continue with this bank and eventually established the South East Bank in 1990. In fact, he applied for bank after his own name, he even got the nod from Bangladesh Bank but he abandoned the idea and went for a general name.
The story of setting up the North South University is even more interesting. Back in late 1980's, the idea of establishing private university began to get nurtured in the country. As a syndicate member of Jahangir nagar University and Bangladesh Open University for six consecutive years, he already had acquired knowledge of the rudimentary elements of a university infrastructure, along with all the issues and challenges faced by universities in public sector. He started dreaming of a true knowledge bearing higher educational institute in the country.
His eventual visits to various foreign university campuses made him more knowledgeable, inspired and eager to establish an educational endeavor in his own home country. When Muslehuddin Ahmad proposed him to help establish a private university in the country in 1980s, he picked the opportunity. He met with the then President HM Ershad, who showed positive attitude to the idea. Accordingly, he along with Muslehuddin Ahmad started to explore the regulatory and other academic issues but the process was not that easy of course. Other than financial and academic issues, legal and socio-political barriers were also very significant. At that time, there was no law to operate university in private sector. Left leaning political quarters vehemently opposed the idea of setting a private university.
Amidst the unfavorable conditions, a 30 member organization: the foundation for 'Promotion of Education and Research' was established. Muslehuddin Ahmad was elected as the President of North South University and M.A. Kashem was made the Chairman of endowment committee of the foundation to collect fund for the university project. Eventually the university started its operation on January, 1993 with only 60 students who were admitted through a competitive admission test. He was elected the Chairman of the Board of Trustees three times and under his able leadership, North South University bought the land and moved to its present permanent campus at Bashundhara. At present, North South University is considered as a premium higher educational institute of this region.
This book on M A Kashem is not simply a biography; it's actually the story of both social and business development of the country. He was engaged in indenting business in Pakistan period when no other Bengalis were interested in the business.
During the later period of the liberation war, he started barter business, when the country needed it the most due to foreign currency crisis. With the background of trade and commerce, he moved to the industry sector to grab the opportunity of buying a rope making factory, 'Bangladesh Rope Work' which was placed on auction in 1976 as it was remained closed for a longtime. His industrial zeal was revealed - the company renamed as 'Mutual Jute spinners', and became a 100% export oriented industry and eventually listed in the stock market in 1983. He took a loan of Taka five crore from a bank for expansion of Mutual Spinners and repaid the whole loan on time; setting an example of good business practice where loan default culture is well established. This is how the nation got its prominent industrialist M.A. Kashem. In fact, after reading the book, one will find M.A. Kashem as an entrepreneur whose entrepreneurial zeal touched down different aspects of social and business world of the country. His name is associated with BIRDEM, Hamdard, Anjumane Mofidul Islam, Rotary Bangladesh and many other successful enterprises of the country. He founded M Kashem Trust to provide need and merit based scholarship. He set up "Tareque Memorial Hospital" in the name of his disappeared son. He received the "President Export Trophy", "C R Das Gold Medal" and the honor of Long Term and High Tax Payer-2011 in recognition to his contribution to industry and trade.
Mr. M.A. Kashem was born in 1940 in Feni to an aristocratic Muslim family. He graduated from the University of Dhaka. He is married to Mrs. Jusna Ara and the couple was blessed with two daughters and one son.
The stories of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurships is a must read for the business students. However, we do not have adequate local materials and we depend on foreign business cases. We need more research on our nation builder entrepreneurs like M.A. Kashem to fill up the gap.
The writer is an entrepreneur and enterprise Researcher