Working in areas including food, health, education, shelter, clothing, entertainment, environment, information technology, and renewable energy, cooperative and social business, Bestway Group started in Bangladesh as a CSR initiative in 1998. It emerged as a private limited company in 2004 and currently has 30 sister concerns.
Md Mizanur Rahman, the Chairman and CEO of Bestway, plays an instrumental role in realising the company’s vision of not just to being a corporate powerhouse “but a harbinger of better living standards by satisfying the needs of human beings in this decaying planet.”
Fintech spoke with Mr Mizanur Rahman to know more about his background, philosophy behind business, future plan and more.
FINTECH: Tell us a little bit about your background.
Mr Mizanur Rahman: I was born in Boroikuri in Rajshahi. It’s under Paba thana. I grew up in Rajshahi, did my SSC and HSC from there. I had quite an unrestrained and free childhood. My father was a very well-known teacher in our locality. My mother was a homemaker and we are seven brothers and sisters.
We struggled in our early life. I was born in 1964, so, I lived through 1971 and 74. Naturally those were tough times. We learned that you have to struggle and sacrifice a lot for freedom. You have to struggle and be patient.
I loved sport as a youth. I still think there is a need to nurture your physical health in addition to gaining knowledge. Now young people sit on the Internet all day and they don’t have that nurturing of their physical health. They are not physically fit.
Anyways, I left Rajshahi after my Intermediate and moved to Dhaka. After finishing my studies I started business.
FINTECH: Tell us about your perspective or philosophy behind how you approach business.
I would say that my studies taught me how to survive and how to carry out a business venture. I am the founding convener of the Commerce Faculty of Dhaka University. I am engaged in various social work. My perspective on life is that you can’t just think and dream about things. You have to put in the work and really make efforts. For business endeavours, I think that you should not pursue businesses which only earn you money and which do not benefit people. I have worked in the field of fundamental needs and I’m still working in this area.
I think to do welfare focused business you have to be conversant with the demands and needs of the contemporary world. You have to know how the business world is transforming and what it is transforming into. For example, we are now active part and participants of what what is called IoT or the Internet of Things. No matter what business you do and where you do it, you have to deal with and make use of technology.
Three things are essential in business. You have to develop a system, no matter what kind of business it is. You have to have internal control over that system, and you have to be able to build up teams. You need IT for system development.
FINTECH: Could you go into more details about when and how did you start business?
That’s an interesting question to answer actually. Frankly, we are very much into working a job. I too started in a job, not as an entrepreneur. My father used to say, “If there is one percent in jobs, then their is nine percent in businesses.” It’s actually a saying of the prophet.
I found a promoter for business. The chairman of NCC Bank Mr Tofazzal Hossain inspired me to get into business. He offered me a platform, from which I started to work in real estate. So, my start in business was through real estate. I soon found out that if I want to seriously continue business, I will have to learn a lot. I then did an MBA. My promoter thought that I will be better at business than in a job. So, he gave me a share.
FINTECH: Tell us about the different businesses you currently run.
Other than real estate, I have business in the pharmaceutical, hospital, education and hotel. We are also working in renewable energy. And we have IT as well. I have been working in the IT sector for a while now actually. We had ‘Bestwaybazaar.com’. That was the first digital marketplace in Bangladesh. We were also the first to bring electric four wheeler cars in Bangladesh.
FINTECH: Bangladesh has developed a lot and there is promise of further development. What are your thoughts on this? Are we on the right track?
For us, we want to reach and connect to the people through our focus on the six fundamental needs. 60 percent of Bangladeshi people are underprivileged. There is a lack of equal distribution. Some people are taking advantage of that. We hope to create significant amount of jobs within this area of basic needs.
For women empowerment, you have to take into consideration that 50 percent of Bangladeshi women are not doing anything professionally. So, if you can provide training and create skills that don’t just help them, but will take the country forward. I think ‘ODesk’ is a big avenue. Outsourcing through ODesk is a great solution and we can really get our students to work through this.
There has to be technical education, alongside conventional education. Everyone doesn’t have to be a university graduate or a PhD. At the same time, someone with only primary education doesn’t have to get into business either. Technical education is a great avenue and it’s worth pursuing. Everyone doesn’t have to be a doctor or an engineer. You have to focus on where your passion is. We have to get out of the traditional ways of thinking. We all should work on our baseline.
FINTECH: How long you plan to work and what’s your plan after that?
I want to work for ten more years. That is to say I want to do business until I’m 65. After that I want to engage in CSR with 50 percent of my income. At that stage I want to be devoted completely to social work.
FINTECH: Thanks very much for speaking to us.
Thank you for talking to me.