Sayem Sobhan Anvir: Unique general business icon
Few men have the power to uplift and lead their countrymen towards greatness and there are fewer men who will take the challenge. Sayem Sobhan, Managing Director of Bashundhara Group, is one such man. His limitless regard for community welfare and inventiveness to promote upgradation and refined technologies in all his ventures makes him stand out as an entrepreneur par excellence in Bangladesh and the rest of the world. After the successful completion of Bachelor of Business Administration from The American International University in London, Sayem took over as managing director of Bashundhara Group in 2001. Within a short span of time, he has proved his mettle as a leading industrialist.
Under his leadership, Bashundhara Group was launched to become one of the country’s top corporate houses. All the products of the company have found niches in markets in Bangladesh. Sayem is an economic catalyst, working relentlessly and silently to accelerate growth in the fields of trade, manufacturing, sports and journalism by virtue of his ingenuity and dynamism. The undertone of Bashundhara’s busiåness is that advancement of the society across the globe is never confined to any geographical, religious or caste identity.
History of Bashundhara Group
Bashundhara Group, one of the largest business conglomerates in Bangladesh, was a vision of his father, Ahmed Akbar Sobhan, and was established in 1987 with the slogan ‘For the People, For the Country’. It began its journey with a flagship real estate business named East West Property Development (Pvt) Ltd. The company is one of the pioneers of the country’s planned urbanisation and is currently the leader in the sector. The Group expanded into other divisions in the early 1990s. Its cement, paper and pulp, various types of tissue, steel, LP gas bottles, food and beverage, shipping, ship building, dredging, trading companies and media are giants dominating their markets. Most of the mills and factories owned by the company are ISO and BSTI-certified. Though its headquarters are in the capital city, Dhaka, the Bashundhara Group has decentralised its industries and has branches all over the country creating employment for over 50,000 people. Offering shopping and amusement opportunities for the customers under a single roof, Bashundhara City Development Ltd is a third generation shopping complex of the group located in Dhaka.
It is one of the largest shopping malls enriched with cineplex, indoor amusement park, food complex and other world-class services. The latest addition to their achievements is the setting up of a Bitumen Plant in 2019. It is the largest and the only one in the private sector in Bangladesh. Sayem is also the Managing Director of the East West Media Group Ltd, a media concern of the corporate family. East West Media Group Ltd is the largest media hub in Bangladesh. The concern runs three dailies – Bangladesh Pratidin, Daily Sun and Kaler Kantho – an online news portal (www.banglanews24.com), FM Radio Capital 94.8 and TV channel News 24. Titas sports 24/7 is a new member of the group and is currently under test transmission. Sayem’s commitment and admiration towards portrayal of issues and events in a neutral and unbiased manner has led to the evolution of objective journalism and the largest media hub in the country. He is the chairman of Sheikh Russel Krira Chakra, a leading sports club known to produce national cricket and football players. Bashundhara Group is presently building the the largest sports complex in Bangladesh on 50 acres of land. Bashundhara Sports Complex is being constructed in Dhaka to provide modern indoor and outdoor sporting facilities for the people.
The complex will have gymnasiums, training facilities and tournament arenas. His zestful contribution towards sports comes from his belief that sports is a significant component for the socio-economic development of a country and that active participation in sports improves community health, productivity and enhances social cohesion. His exceptional mastery of the art of entrepreneurship has made the impossible possible. What started as a dream is now a reality because of his apt leadership and innovative strategies. Domestically and internationally, he has become a well-respected and admired personality. He has been accorded several national and international awards for his contribution in the fields of corporate, sports, media and community service. He has been identified by the National Board of Revenue (NBR) as a commercial important person from the year of 2016. Under his dynamic leadership, East West Media Group Limited was recognised by the NBR as the highest tax-payer media group since the year 2016.
Charity and Welfare Services
Sayem Sobhan has always stood solidly behind charitable causes. He not only provides financial aid, but also invests his time and creative energy in bringing about a more permanent change. He donated 100 million taka (Dh4.32 million) to the Prime Minister’s Welfare Fund for the response against the global Covid-19 pandemic. Apart from this, Bashundhara Group runs many charitable activities throughout the year. The Group has always come forward and stood by the government during its national crises.
The Group’s slogan ‘For the People, For the Country’ has bearings on its CSR activities. It has established various institutes and hospitals for the welfare of the poor and destitute. Bashundhara-Addin Medical College and Hospital and Advocate Atamia Free Friday Clinic provide medical education and treatment to people in need. Bashundhara Eye Hospital and Research Institute provides the poor and the elderly with eye treatments and surgeries free of cost. Bashundhara Technical Institute provides vocational education and training to underprivileged youths. Bashundhara Special Children Foundation is dedicated to the education and rehabilitation of children living with autism. An interest-free micro credit programme is run for economic emancipation of widows and members of the marginal class.
Aid for Covid-19
Sayem is at the forefront in the battle against the spread of Covid-19 with his proposal to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to help establish a 5,000-bed temporary hospital for treatment of the afflicted patients. The Group has temporarily offered a 240,000sqft area of the International Convention City Bashundhara (ICCB), which is to be turned into a makeshift hospital. As soon as the proposal was accepted by the Prime Minister, high officials of the Health Ministry and armed forces visited the site and expressed satisfaction with the facilities and implementation has begun.
The officials are working with a targeted date of May 1, 2020, to start the operation of the temporary hospital. In a recent interview, Sayem said that the Bashundhara Group is always with the government in any critical juncture of the country. Terming the present situation as being the worst ever, he said his countrymen have never had such a terrible experience since the liberation war in 1971. “Bashundhara Group has extended its helping hand to the government in tackling the national crisis. The country needs such a timely response from us. Tackling any disaster largely depends on a good communication system,” he said.
He also mentioned that ICCB is a perfect place as a temporary treatment centre, since it has dependable water, power, kitchen, firefighting, central air conditioning and air lifting facilities. Amidst the crisis, Sayem has personally distributed a total of 500,000 facial protective masks and 5,000 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) amongst various government bodies such as police, navy, army and rapid action battalion.
As of now, 25,000 pieces of bags consisting of everyday essential consumables has been already distributed and, currently, 3,000 bags are distributed daily to the poor and needy. Bangladesh as a young nation has its challenges.
The political, corporate and social leadership of this great culture has overcome these hurdles and today its GDP growth makes it one of the fastest-growing nations in the developing world. This reveals the effectiveness of the leadership of Bangladesh’s corporate world. There is no doubt that Bashundhara Group, with Sayem at its helm, will serve the nation and its people in its transformation into a noteworthy developed nation. “Sometimes, history conspires with good fortune to give a nation an outstanding leader, born of powerful ideas, to steer its corporate world and make the world a better place.”