Expanding The Legacy

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“When I first started my work I didn’t know much about the plastic market so I had to do a lot of research and through that research, I came up with the name of the company, Parkesine, which is a plastic component, discovered by a famous scientist named Alexander Parkes.”

DILRUBA CHOWDHURY is the Managing Director of Parkesine Products Ltd, a company that specializes in the manufacture of plastic goods. She also serves as a Director of Corporate Planning as well as the Head of HR & Administration of East Coast Group of Companies, a diversified conglomerate with primary focus on Oil and Energy. Dilruba completed her Honors in International Business (Finance & French), from European Business School, Regents’ College, under University of London. She is also a Director of Tiger Tours Ltd, a joint venture company that is committed to the development of sustainable river tourism and hospitality management in Bangladesh. Since 2011, she has been serving as a Director and currently as the Chairman of Executive Committee of Green Delta Insurance Company Limited.

What are the key components required for maintaining a successful business?
I would say one of the key elements when it comes to the maintenance of any successful business, or even a startup is patience. In any line of work, you are bound to come across roadblocks. To get past these obstacles, you will require patience. Also, you have to eliminate the option of quitting from your mind. Whenever the issue of giving up comes to mind, you just have to ignore it and power through. If we ever stopped trying because of a few failures, it would be nearly impossible to be where we are right now.

How did you get involved in the plastic manufacturing business?
When I came back to Bangladesh after finishing my education in the UK, I wanted to start my dream job of becoming a chef because I was passionate about cooking and baking. However, I was asked to initiate my own startup business by my father, which would involve manufacturing plastic containers. Initially, this seemed tedious to me but after getting involved in the work, I got attached to it. For me, it was important that I get to see the end result of my hard work. That gave me the drive for working in a sector I had zero experience in. Once involved fully in a project, you involuntarily feel the urge to nurture it and see what can be done to improve its growth over the course of time. I wasn’t passionate about industrial operations and manufacturing, but now I’m obsessed with it. I try to attend as many seminars and conferences as I can, both here and abroad, so I can learn even more about new machines and innovative technologies.

What new ideas have you introduced for your business so far? How important is it to keep coming up with new ideas for your business?
Parkesine Products Ltd. is a subsidiary of the East Coast Group family. When I first started my work I didn’t know much about the plastic market so I had to do a lot of research and through that research, I came up with the name of the company, Parkesine, which is a plastic component, discovered by a famous scientist named Alexander Parkes. After that, I started researching machinery, met with experts, traveled back and forth between Singapore and Bangladesh and even sent our representatives to Taiwan and China to make sure the machinery we were acquiring would meet our expectations. During this time, I faced opposition from the top management when it came to buying automated machinery. They insisted that I stay economical to keep costs down. However, I stuck to my decision, and I can proudly say that it has paid off. From my perspective, I wanted to accomplish two things. Firstly, I wanted a manufacturing plant which was green as I wanted zero wastage and pollution. Secondly, I wanted to create more jobs. Even though we were buying automated machinery, jobs would still be created as we would need people for assembling, docking, stacking, packaging, supervising, etc. These people would also receive training regarding the machines as well. We bought our machinery from a Taiwanese company named Full Shine Plastic Machinery Co. Ltd. Not only were they cooperative and accommodating when we approached them, but they also sent their engineers to our country so that they could train our employees when the machines were being assembled, on demand.
The people we hired to work on these machines showed a level of excitement and enthusiasm which I had not expected. It was the first time they would be dealing with a brand new machine, instead of something old or reconditioned. I found this hugely encouraging, and it made me realize that I need to come up with new ideas and innovations to always keep them interested in their work.

How do you define success? What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Never stop learning. You are always a student. Sometimes after gaining a degree of experience, people think they have learned all they can. However, I consider that a wrong move. Most people are constantly resistant to change, but people should know that there is always a scope for improvement in every stage. You keep learning every step of the way.

What is your vision regarding the expansion of your business?
My development plan is to delve further into plastic. Currently, I am looking for a place which is convenient to our customer and factory needs for our expansion. I already have a few places scoped out, but the difficulty is to get the owners to sell the property. We believe we are more compliant regarding environmental issues than other factories around us so it would benefit the environment if we took charge of their operations and reduced plastic and garbage wastage.
A lot of companies in Bangladesh are not conscious about the environment. Especially when you have those kinds of industrial machinery, there will be incidents like oil spillage and other forms of wastage which are difficult to clean and recycle. At Parkesine, we make sure that our employees are aware and actively respond to these issues. We even make frequent surprise visits to the factories to make sure they are always on their toes.
Another idea I have for the future is to move from manufacturing plastic bottles to manufacturing recycling containers, that is, separate boxes for paper, plastic and glass. If things progress as well as they have so far, I will be able to initiate this venture soon. I will start by distributing free sample boxes to all plastic manufacturers to make them aware that we have to prioritize the safety and protection of the environment.

What was the best advice you ever received?
The best advice I ever got was from a school teacher who told me that no question is a stupid question. Through this advice, he taught me that even if we don’t understand something at first, we should never give up on trying to understand it.

WHICH BUSINESS ICON(S) DO YOU FOLLOW?
Sir Richard Branson, Alan Sugar and Azam J Chowdhury

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS?
My favorite books are by the Brontë sisters like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I also used to read up on a lot of Humayun Ahmed novels.

FAVORITE HOBBY?
Cooking and baking. One day in the future I’d like to open up my own bistro or pub somewhere.

WHEN WAS YOUR COMPANY ESTABLISHED?
Our first company was East Coast Trading Pvt. Ltd. which was started by my father in 1977. I started working on Parkesine Products in 2009 but operations started in 2011

HOW MANY EMPLOYEES DO YOU HAVE IN YOUR COMPANY?
In Parkesine we have around 50 to 60 people. If we look at East Coast Group, I would say we have more than 2,000 people.

 

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