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The Daily Star – AkijBashir Group aims to set new standards

Sheikh Bashir Uddin, former managing director of Akij Group, has begun a new journey in the name of Akij Bashir Group targeting to deliver products of impeccable quality, upholding the high standards associated with the legacy of the Akij name.

“I aim to trailblaze new standards,” he said while talking to The Daily Star in an interview.

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Akij Group has been split into five portions. One of the portions has been named Akij Bashir Group and is led by Bashir, son of the group’s founder Sheikh Akij Uddin and a long-time managing director of Akij Group.

In 1952, Akij’s business started with jute and later turned into a conglomerate with diverse interests ranging from textiles, cement, ceramics, pharmaceuticals, printing and packaging to tobacco, consumer products, food and beverages.

“My father has 10 sons and everyone has the right to use his father’s brand name. When my father was alive, the group was split into two,” said Bashir, now managing director of Akij Bashir Group.

The group has been continuing to run business for more than 70 years while growing in the perspective of diversity and size. On the other hand, a second generation is running the business while a third generation is also joining the business.

“In this situation, the brothers decided to split the business among the respective shareholders. It was an amicable decision within the families though no division is painless,” he added.

For the division, the group employed four professional audit houses of the world — PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Grant Thornton and KPMG.

“After the split, there was an identity issue so I felt the necessity to make it clear that who won what as I do not belong to the Akij Group,” Bashir said.

“But people commonly refer to my name in Akij Group as I was the managing director since 2006m making it confusing for customers. So, we decided to come up with our own identity with the name Akij Bashir Group,” he added.

Akij Bashir Group owns 16 companies concerning ceramics, particle board, biax films, tableware, bathware, glass, tea and so on. Some of the firms are inherited while others were built the brothers themselves.

Four other brothers own Akij Venture, Akij Resource, Akij Insaf and Akij Assets.

“Akij Group has a social capital, a legacy capital and they want to hold it. There is nothing wrong in doing that but I want to come up with a new name which is more challenging,” Bashir said.

The consumers may become confused initially with the new name but it will try to overcome the challenge by giving the assurance that the quality of products will keep rising.

“After the demise of my father, we tried to uphold the same legacy of offering quality products that made the group grow to its present position,” he said.

“I worked with my father for 17 years and was completely trained by him. So, I believe I have the lessons on how he captured consumers’ trust. With these lessons, I think I will be able to navigate various challenges,” he added.

At present, the turnover of Akij Bashir Group is around Tk 4,000 crore and it employs around 24,000 people.

Among the 16 companies, the one dealing with jute at present is the largest and bears the most potential.

It is a sustainable business, with two jute companies acquired in the past two years.

The export-based diversified jute factory is giving good benefits as it is using no import-based raw materials while producing products of high value and drawing in dollars.

Akij Bashir Group, with the DNA of Akij Group, will try to expand its business but needs to look inward and then outward given the current economic situation and the group’s identity issues, according to Bashir.

Regarding the Malaysian business, he said it faced with tough restrictions amid the pandemic and the factory was closed for many days.

Despite the challenges, the company is doing good in repaying associated loans and the wages of its 700 to 800 employees in Malaysia.

Hopefully, the loan will be repaid within the next three years and then the venture will start to pay dividends, Bashir added.

Regarding the impact of the recent economic situation, he said the pandemic and ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, two unexpected global shocks, created some challenges for almost all businesses.

The pandemic created problems by disrupting supply chains while the war impacted the world through energy and food crises, so these compounded the problems.

Afterwards, almost all the global central banks took up expansionary monetary policies that induced inflationary pressure on the whole world, Bashir said.

Current account deficits and challenges in opening letters of credit ultimately affected the supply end and Akij Bashir Group has not been left unaffected.

It is also facing those challenges, so some of its businesses incurred losses while some saw lower profits. In an overall assessment, it is in a good position, he added.

Akij Bashir Group is targeting to run its business using at least 25 per cent of the energy from renewable sources. It has already launched a three-megawatt solar plant and signed a contract to set up a 12-megawatt solar power plant, Bashir informed.

In the current year, the group aims to use a 40-megawatt solar power plant for operations. Within three years, it targets to reduce heat emissions by 20 per cent and bring down waste discharge and groundwater usage.

“Already, it has turned two of its factories into zero discharge units,” he said.

Regarding business potential, Bashir said agriculture and manufacturing were the sectors bearing the most potential in the country considering the large size of the population.

A huge amount of money is also being spent on shipping freight and aviation, so investment in these sectors can save money if aided by policy support and efficient plans, he added.

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