Haroon Ar Rashid, Managing Director, TRZ Garments Industry Ltd, elaborates on his journey from humble beginnings to becoming one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country.
Please tell us about your journey thus far. What motivated you to start the business?
I was born in Agailjhara, Barisal in 1955 in a modest household. My father was a school teacher and raised his ten children instilling (in them) a deep sense of honesty and humility. It was not always easy, we often struggled to make ends meet. Despite all the challenges, the values we inherited from our family taught us to be generous. Our father motivated us to excel academically and live a life of honor.
After graduating from Jagannath College, I started my career at a trading company in 1978. Interestingly, they set up a jute mill in Barisal two years after that, and my contributions there led me to become the manager. I worked there from 1980-1985. Later, the same company set up a garment factory in Dhaka and shut down the mill as it was underperforming. The factory was located in Chairman Bari.
That was the beginning of my journey. I believe that I’m a self-made man. When I started my journey, I was alone, but I was extremely motivated to make a difference. I believe that I was always a hardworking person. My main incentive, however, was never money. It was to achieve greatness and take responsibility. I worked till 1995. I started my own buying house right after and started my own factory later in 1999. My life was always immensely simple. All in all, I believe that I have always had an honest, hardworking approach to life.
What is your leadership style? How do you ensure productivity in a team that consists of many employees?
Having self-confidence is pivotal to becoming a successful leader. It is necessary for leaders to take risks and accomplish high goals. Leadership involves influencing others and self-confidence allows the leader to feel assured. More importantly, you must have the intention to help others through your actions. True and authentic leaders know how to inspire their employees. This is because leadership isn’t all about you, but about helping others to become successful. Throughout my career, I devoted myself to helping my employees, the industry, family and became successful in the process. Throughout my tenure as the Vice President of BGMEA, I strived to lead our industry towards robust growth and prosperity.
Taking good care of human resources is crucial to maintaining productivity. RMG is a labour-intensive industry and an overwhelming number of workers in our country are women. It is our responsibility to ensure their proper care. The RMG sector has significantly contributed to women’s empowerment by creating employment opportunities for them. Consequently, we have a strong female workforce which has been the core strength of the sector in maintaining productivity.
What is the state of our garments sector right now? COVID has left a big dent. But are you hopeful that we can turn around?
The current situation is challenging, however, I am hopeful for the future. The COVID-19 crisis has been an unprecedented event for all the stakeholders in the industry. At the height of the pandemic, the industry was faced with a virtual freeze on new business and mass cancellation of existing orders. Concurrently, to stop the virus from spreading, factories across the country had to be kept closed. The threat to our sector appeared to be existential including the livelihood of millions of people working in the sector.
Thankfully, the worst is behind us and we are hoping the industry will experience robust growth in the coming years. This exemplary turnaround has been made possible due to the valorous leadership of our honourable Prime Minister.
To fight COVID-19’s unfolding fallouts, the government announced a stimulus package of Tk956 billion ($11.2 billion), or 3.3% of GDP to revive the economy. The package allocated Tk50 billion for RMG and other export-oriented industries which could only be used for paying salaries and allowances to workers and employees. The size of the Export Development Fund was increased from $3.5 billion to $5.0 billion to provide short-term facilities for importing raw materials for export-oriented industries. Out of this package, the central bank instituted a $600 million Pre-Shipment Credit Refinance Scheme for RMG and other export-oriented industries. The government support throughout the pandemic has been the lifeline for the RMG sector. The stakeholders of the industry are constantly working with the government to enhance its prospects and achieve the target of $50 billion worth of exports by 2050.
Despite the rollout of the vaccines, the pandemic still poses a threat to the global economy. The situation has improved greatly, however, the threat is not eliminated. Therefore, we need to focus on vaccinating the global population before making any assumptions on the recovery.
In the upcoming BGMEA election, you are also participating. What agenda are you vouching for? What do you think are the pressing needs of the industry that BGMEA should fulfil?
In my humble opinion, BGMEA is not a political institution rather, a trade body. The sole purpose of this is to protect our sector. I want to play an active role in solving the problems as I am well aware of the dynamics of the industry and the constraints that are holding us back. I am well aware of the contributions that I can make for the stakeholders of the industry. There are various issues of the sector including labor law, NBR, banking, customs and logistics. I hope to assist the upcoming president of the BGMEA election as a senior member with solving these issues. Over the years, BGMEA has actively solved many pressing issues, like eliminating child labor in the garment industry. I intend to continue the great work our organization is doing. Also, we will focus on the branding of the country and work on developing the labor area as much as we can. We will also try and find new markets and introduce product diversification to further enhance the chances of achieving our goals.
Have you ever experienced failure?
Never! I have faced challenges, but I overcame them, mainly because I never gave up. I’m also extremely proud of my children because they seem to have the same trait. One of my daughters went for studying in Canada. She could’ve stayed there, but she came back, and now she’s working in my company and is the Head of the Department of R&D. I’m very happy that they’re like me and that they never back down. If I’m being extremely honest, at times they’re even better than me. However, if they ever need guidance, they know that I’ll always be there for them. Also, I have a relatively active lifestyle. I always wake up early and pray; I try to play golf; go to the gym. I also visit my friends every now and then. Living a healthy life is very important. Spending quality time with family is also a necessity. If the business is facing an issue that needs to be solved, I’m fully aware that I can come up with a solution. Having said that, protecting myself and my family is my biggest priority. I am grateful to Almighty Allah for everything that I have today. Everything that I was given in life, came gradually, but I am immensely grateful regardless. If I could give one piece of advice to people, it would be this: If you want to achieve something, just stay lowkey about it and work hard. Not only will you achieve your goal, but also you’ll attain happiness.
You are an avid golfer. Please share some details about your passion for golf with our readers.
Interestingly, I was introduced to golfing through a friend and now it has become an integral part of my life. In 2005, when I was visiting Taiwan, a friend of mine took me to night-golfing. I was mesmerised by the lights and aesthetic of the place and after some persuasion, I tried my hand with the sport and enjoyed it.
Later, after coming back to Bangladesh, one of my friends who was a Brigadier General took me to Army Golf Club and made every arrangement possible to help me learn the game. The same year, the Chief of Army Staff Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury, treated me like a younger brother and encouraged me to master the game. Therefore, I have had a lot of support over the years which helped to ace my game.
Golf is a great game. Over the years, it has helped me remain physically fit and active. The benefits aren’t only limited to physical health either, the psychological benefits include improved mood, reduced anxiety and increased confidence. Golfing is a crucial part of my life, after morning prayers, my first task is to go golfing.
Over the years, I have won over thirty trophies at various professional golf tournaments. I am representing Bangladesh as a senior amateur and have participated in three international tournaments of Asia-Pacific Senior Amateur Championship. The first one was held in Adelaide, Australia followed by Miyazaki, Japan and the third tournament was held in Kuala Lumpur. I am so fond of the game that despite not being a member of any social clubs, I am a life-time member of three golf clubs. I intend to continue golfing and represent Bangladesh in future tournaments.
Do you have a message for aspiring entrepreneurs or people who have just started their business in this country?
This message is for future generations. Make contributions to the country. Work with what your parents have and protect them. Whatever we couldn’t do, we expect you to achieve them. And if you ever need assistance, we have always got you covered. Stay devoted to this country and find new ways to help it prosper.