Interviews

MOHAMMED ABDUR RAHIM, Vice Chairman, DBL Group

With a vision to sustain and grow as a diversified global conglomerate, DBL Group started its journey in 1991 as a single company and has now become a conglomerate of 22 concerns.
Mohammed Abdur Rahim is the Vice Chairman of DBL Group. Dulal, the eldest amongst the brothers, was a martyr in the 1971 Liberation War. The company named after him has now made its name as a renowned sustainable business group in Bangladesh.The four brothers of Dulal are now running the business which has an annual turnover of $365 million and has a workforce of around 30,000 employees. The business has also attained various accolades for its ventures, business ethics, Sustainability, human rights and HR Practices.

Rahim obtained his Master Degree in Management and began his professional career as a banker. His vast working experience in the bank greatly helped him to gain insight into the commercial and financial aspects of businesses. His dynamic leadership also helped the group to pay off all their liabilities and term loans way ahead of schedule. He is currently serving as a Director of BGMEA (Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers & Exporters Association) and has also served as a Director of BTMA (Bangladesh Textile Mills Association).

It is very rare to find businesses that have gone for the sustainable business model in our country, compared to the ones who use the quick business model. DBL Group has been using this model from the very beginning. What motivated you to follow in this direction?
A lot of businesses enter the market with the vision of profit making within a short period but fail to survive in the long run due to improper investments and machinery obsolescence. However, at DBL we believe that ethical business practices and hefty investments are at the heart of long term growth. Therefore, from the very beginning, we have been following the sustainable business model by investing in the best types of machinery and developing ethical ways of working. The machinery inside our spinning mills that we invested on ten years ago is still functioning with 98% efficiency which helps us to deliver goods on time.

Long before compliance issues were raised in the country, DBL was actively complying with standards through its sustainable business model and introduced many innovative work practices. What was the driving force behind this?
The benefits of our workers were considered even when we first built our factory twenty-six years back, which was long before the compliance issues were raised in the country. There was nothing like the green concept back then. However, we always associated worker welfare with better quality production and long-term sustainability. Therefore, the machines brought in our factories had both air and light ventilations and the internal road to our factory entrance was none less than 25 feet to help the larger trucks to pass. We have plans of complying more with the global standards in the future and we hope to have an automated factory within the next 15 years.

DBL Group has achieved a global level of expertise over its years of operations. Now that the business environment in the RMG sector is changing, where do you think businesses should focus more?
The Accord and Alliance are working in Bangladesh since two and half years and has mainly concentrated on safety and security issues. Addressing issues like fire safety, building structure, and electrical safety fall in the operations of Accord as well. The Accord was formed to make a rating based on measures like building capacity, and other compliance issues. It was observed that after the inspection of Accord and Alliance, a number of factories were closed down. It is now assumed that within the next two years more factories will be closed down due to the compliance issues. Therefore, businesses need to be ethical and take the compliance issues into account more seriously.

DBL Group also had their fair share of ups and downs over a decade. How did your company overcome the failures?
If a company has its vision and mission set right then, it doesn’t take much to overcome failures. We four brothers have been working towards sustainable development for a while now and have engaged in CSR activities with different organizations like GIZ, BRAC and other development agencies. We focused on various components ten years back and were already ahead of time. Along with our goodwill, these are the things that enabled us to overcome the failures.

DBL has grown both vertically and horizontally in recent years. Which other sectors do you plan to enter in the future apart from your current investment in DBL Ceramics?
Our plan is to invest in pharmaceuticals. The pharmaceutical sector in Bangladesh has grown rapidly over time with exports being done by some companies. We have engaged many global consultants into the venture. An investment was also made in the tiles factory merely three months ago and our product got widely accepted in the market due to its quality and design. Our designing team for the last two years is backed up by a European who has thirty years of experience. We acquired land in Sylhet SEZ, attached to Hobiganj and we have further plans of making more industries and another unit there.

Tell us something about your CSR policies and the sustainability practices of your company.
We engaged with a lot of partners for our CSR activities and are now working towards the wellbeing of the children of our workers and employees who passed the HSC Examinations. Every year we organize seminar where faculty members from BUET, Dhaka University, Agriculture University and Textile University gives proper guidance to the students. They talk to the students and give them career-related solutions. This has benefitted both the workers and their children vastly.

Our idea regarding sustainability is based on five pillars: People, Process, Product, Community and Environment; thus, integrating a holistic approach towards Sustainability. We are involved with several sustainable action programs in large and small scale and short and long term such as Partnership for Cleaner Textiles with IFC; Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals with H&M, Esprit, Puma, and G-Star; Women Empowerment Program with CARE & so on. Through these programs, we have been able to reduce the impact on the environment, and even contribute to community development.

Through these programs, we have been able to achieve low employee turnover, reduce the impact on the environment and even contribute to community development. Our sustainable approach, energy saving machineries and efficient dyeing process saved 351,118 kWh energy, 22,927 cubic meters of water, 120,754 kg of dyes and chemicals and 8,000 kg less waste in the year 2016. DBL uses rain water in its dyeing process by harvesting during monsoon. We have been able to save more than 1.2 billion liters of water in 2016 from our dyeing processes alone, and this contributes to serving over 13,000 families in the community. By minimizing energy use, adopting waste and water recycling and environment friendly components, we always strive with our R&D capabilities and sustainability efforts to make our offerings innovative and collaborative.

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