Manwar Hossain is the Group Managing Director of Anwar Group of Industries (AGI), the oldest business entity of Bangladesh.
Born in 1968, Manwar Hossain is the eldest son of Al-Haj Anwar Hossain and Bibi Amena. Anwar Hossain, Chairman of AGI, is a self-made business legend of Bangladesh. Following his father’s death, Anwar Hossain joined the business at a very early age.
Manwar Hossain grew up carrying his father’s attaches in his early childhood and was sent to St. Paul’s School Darjeeling, India under the tutorship of Harry Dang, once teacher to Indian Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Later, he went to the University of New Hampshire, USA and completed his MBA in 1992. Manwar joined the family business in 1993 after his short services with BAY Bank in the USA. Elected as Vice Chairman of the City Bank Limited, Manwar Hossain was one of the youngest persons to hold a position of that stature. Chairman of BD Finance & Investment Company Ltd., Manwar Hossain is also the Director of Modhumoti Bank Ltd., BD Finance Securities Ltd., BD Finance Capital Holdings Ltd., and City General Insurance Company Ltd.
Anwar group has a legacy of 184 years, boasting great entrepreneurial history. The group is also recognized by D&B as the most diversified group in Bangladesh. The business was started by Lat Miah, Anwar Hossain’s grandfather, who was involved in manufacturing ivory combs and buttons and trading them to the distributors in Calcutta. Anwar Hossain’s father, Rahim Buksh, soon took over the business after the death of Lat Miah, and then helped the company to expand to the extent of becoming one of the largest Taxpayers of the undivided Bengal. Manufacturing took place in various places of Dhaka from Rahmatganj to Hazaribagh, and the products were then sold to wholesalers located on and near the then Harrison Road in Calcutta. Manwar’s siblings Hossain Mehmood and Hossain Khaled are also very active in the business of AGI.
The foundation of the present Anwar Group is traced to back 1952 when Al-Haj Anwar Hossain steered the family business entity towards diversification. The group now boasts business divisions like textiles, building materials, polymer, jute, automobile, real-estate, furniture and home decor. Amongst the famous companies of the Group are AG Auto Ltd., Anwar Ispat Ltd., Athena’s Furniture, Anwar Cement Ltd., A-One Polymer Ltd., Anwar Silk Mills Ltd., Anwar Landmark Ltd., Anwar Galvanizing Ltd., Anwar Cement Sheet Ltd., Mehmud Industries (Pvt.) Ltd., Anwar Jute Spinning Mills Ltd., Anwar Integrated Steel Plant Ltd., Hossain Dyeing and Printing Mills Ltd.
“Most importantly we supply our cement, rod and other necessary things for the projects and work with the best architects in the country to deliver the best experience to our customers.”
Your family has been holding a legacy when it comes to business. Do you happen to join the family business by choice or as part of the family tradition?
I would say it’s a combination of both. I knew it from the very early days of my childhood that I’d become a businessman and my father groomed me as such. I always looked at my father as a prodigy and followed his footsteps in the business. That grooming has made me who I am today, “A Businessman.”
The portfolio of your group is increasing rapidly. Considering the growing competition, modern-day compliance issues, and the fast-changing business environment, how does Anwar Group plan to move forward?
Anwar Group has so far introduced thirty-six new products in Bangladesh. My father belonged to the first generation of industrialists so, back then it was his responsibility to bring in as many new technology and products into the market as possible. At this stage of operation, we are going through a consolidation process and trying to give our company a professional, robust structure that can stand the test of time. Our main aim at this moment is not just about doing well but ensuring sustainability to keep doing what we are best at. We are becoming more structured, and people-centric.
Anwar group is escalating on a massive scale today, and more people are being employed by your business. Tell us something about your human resource and succession planning.
Each of our Strategic Business Unit (SBU) is run by professionals, either headed by a Chief Operating Officer(COO) or a Managing Director. However, a little disappointment lies in the quality of fresh graduates we are getting these days. They are not ready for challenges in the industry and lack the sense of passion towards work compared to what used to be back in the 80s or 90s. I feel the education in our country has suffered drastically over the last two decades. We continuously try to improve the skills of our employees through different types of training, but if the foundation is weak, then the molding process takes much longer.
As far as succession planning, we are the fourth generation of the company, and we will soon be in a transition phase from ours to the next generation. I have sent my children abroad for higher studies like my father sent me to the US. I would like my both sons to gather experiences from the international job market before they join the family business. I want to ensure they are familiar with the international standards, develop global connections. Also, I would not place them in my chair right away. I’d rather take professional help in this transitional phase to ensure immaculate succession.
You happened to enter the Real Estate market in 2001. What specialty do you plan to put forward in the market with your Real Estate development wing- Anwar Landmark?
It isn’t a delightful feeling being in this sector, to be honest. I feel we are placing a burden on this city a lot more than it can take. I remember growing up in an environment where there were more greenery and space for the natural habitat to thrive. However, the modern-day residential areas seemed to have lost touch. This greenery and tranquility are precisely what we are trying to bring back into the residential areas through Anwar Landmark. Most of our projects are now focused on building an environment-friendly atmosphere apart from just building some concrete structures.
Dhaka being the central hub for facilities in Bangladesh, a lot more pressure is placed on the city by building infrastructure to support the horde of the migrating population. What can be the possible solution to this?
As I mentioned earlier, unplanned construction is taking a toll on the beauty out of Dhaka and Chittagong city. It cannot be denied that it is now necessary to build new sub-cities and encourage people to move there. I strongly feel it is high time that we start exploring the suburbs and developing on the outskirts of the Dhaka city. The government has highlighted Dhaka as the central hub for every and all our operations. Thus we revolve around its very boundaries. We must not forget that one single catastrophe may bring Dhaka to its knees. A revamp in the policies of the government, and the permission to construct satellite towns in the suburbs can help halting further choking of the city..
As compliance and ethics go hand in hand, it has now become significantly crucial for companies to be ethical to survive. What ethical practices is Anwar Group following at the moment?
Our group follows a very stringent policy. We have been in the construction business for over 50 years now and were only the second ISO certified company in the country. We go through a compliance check at every step of our operation. Besides, we continuously send our materials to BUET for tests and our engineers make sure works are done as per SOP. Most importantly we manufacture construction materials like cement and rods ourselves, besides work with the best architects in the country to deliver a home to our customers.
Considering the situation the country is facing now, what suggestions do you have for the other industrialists?
I think Bangladesh is in a critical situation at the moment. The fundamental problem we have now is the dearth power, gas and the infrastructure as a whole. A lot of established industries await the infrastructural support to start production. We have probably added on quite a few megawatts of power, but quality power is still a far cry. There are a lot of resources yet to be explored. Our cost of production is increasing due to infrastructural weaknesses, and we are becoming less competitive in the world. Thus, We should not only focus on building new infrastructure but also work towards the development of existing ones, increasing current efficiency levels.
According to a Russian research in 1975, Bangladesh was stated to have as much reserves as to be sufficient enough for the next hundred years, then why do we not have gas today? Why does Tripura invite investors to set up gas-based projects where our reserves are feared to be dried out already? I think we are running helter-skelter in trying to focus on too many projects at the same time rather than working on our weaknesses. Trepidation exists that these inefficiencies may someday build up as much to restrict us from becoming an efficient nation. Thus, addressing our present incompetence of inadequacies is of utmost importance now.