"Uddome Uddoge Unnoyone: M. A. Kashem" penned by Dr. S.S.M. Sadrul Huda and published by M. Kashem Trust takes you on to the journey of the illustrious life of a prominent entrepreneur and business leader, a notable patron of education, a noble humanitarian, a dynamic social worker and one of the promoters and founding members of North South University, M. A. Kashem. In the 14 chapters of the book, the author highlights his early life, engagement with trade and industry, the establishment of the bank, university and hospital, his religious fever, social contribution, and his love for travelling and sports.
This book did justice in recounting his avid passion and dedication towards developing trade bodies representing different business sectors. He led the apex trade organisation --Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI) for two consecutive years. Impressed by his influential contribution to strengthening the role of FBCCI in developing the trade and business of the country in his first term, the then government extended the term of the president of FBCCI for two years to keep him in the leading position of the organisation. Since then, the tenure of the FBCCI president and all the district chambers has become two years. He even established the central office of FBCCI, currently known as 'Federation Bhaban in his first tenure.
As a business community leader, M. A. Kashem played a major part in building and solidifying the position of our nation to where it is now. He brought revolutionary ideas in higher education and established North South University-- the very first private university of Bangladesh along with other like-minded promoters of education. Back in the late 1980s, the idea of establishing a private university began to get nurtured in the country. As a syndicate member of Jahangirnagar University and Bangladesh Open University for six consecutive years, he already had acquired knowledge of university infrastructure, administration and academics. So, when Muslehuddin Ahmad proposed to help establish a private university in the country, he agreed gladly. He met then-President HM Ershad, who showed a positive attitude to the idea. After getting the initial nod, he and Muslehuddin Ahmad started to explore the regulatory and other academic issues, but the process was not that easy, of course. There was no law to operate universities in the private sector. Left-leaning political quarters vehemently opposed the idea of setting private universities. Amidst the unfavourable conditions, a 30 member organisation: the foundation for 'Promotion of Education and Research, was established. M.A. Kashem was made the Chairman of the endowment committee of the foundation to collect funds for the university project.
The story of setting up the South East Bank is even more interesting. He took the initiative with other entrepreneurs to establish the National Bank - the first-ever private bank of Bangladesh. However, he did not continue his involvement with the bank but didn't discard establishing a bank. At one point, he was even about to get a private banking licence in his name but later on changed his mind; he founded the South East Bank instead in 1995. This bank is now considered one of the country's most successful and modern banks. Along with progressive banking services, it also integrates the CSR motif in its core banking practices, acclaimed by the concerned quarters.
This book on M. A. Kashem is not simply a book of biography; it's the story of the social and business development of the country. He was engaged in indenting business in the pre-liberation period when very few Bengalis were interested in the industry. After the liberation war, he promoted barter trade when the country needed it the most due to foreign currency crisis. He set an example by transforming a loss-making public enterprise, 'Bangladesh Rope Work', which he bought at an auction in 1976 from Bangladesh Sena Kallyan Sangstha, into a profitable company. He renamed it as 'Mutual Jute spinners', and it became a 100 per cent export-oriented industry and got listed in the stock market in 1983. More importantly, he repaid a loan of taka five crores which he took to expand Mutual Spinners in scheduled time, setting an exemplary business practice in the loan default culture of the country.
This book narrated how M.A. Kashem, by dint of his entrepreneurial fervour developed the social organisations like BIRDEM, Hamdard, Anjuman Mofidul Islam, Rotary Bangladesh. M Kashem Trust - a charitable organisation has been established by him to serve the cause of the under-privileged. It renders humanitarian services in the vicinity of the Feni district. He set up a state-of-the-art non-profit 50-bed hospital Tareq Memorial Hospital in the name of his disappeared son Tareq on Dhaka Chittagong area..
He is honored with the "President Export Trophy", "C R Das Gold Medal", and 'Long Term, High Tax Payer-2011 honour and Abu Rushd Memorable award 2020 for his contribution to socio-economic development of the country.
M. A. Kashem was born in 1940 in Feni to a respected Muslim family. He completed his education from University of Dhaka. He was married to Justina Ara. He is a father of two daughters and one son.
It is very heartening to note that three books have been published to narrate the life journey of MA Kashem. The first book 'Sanggrame Shafolley MA KAshem' was published in 2003 in Bengali, the second one, 'MA Kashem - A Living Legend' was published in 2015, and the latest book is "Uddome Uddoge Unnoyone: M. A. Kashem", published in 2021.
Entrepreneurs are the driving forces of national economy. They should be given proper honour and attention. Their achievements and failures are examples for the upcoming generations. The business education curriculum at all levels can also be enriched by incorporating these real-life scenarios of our nation-building entrepreneurs like M. A. Kashem. We hope that the book will be well received by a broad readership.
Syeda Manarat Mowla and Syeda Aida Mowla are freelance writers.