Unlike most of the companies the Well Group is a business concern that works for the welfare of the country, not solely bent upon self-interest. This is how the businesses should be run, aiming to give something back to the nation and its people. We try our best to do business for the advancement of the company through active participation and cooperation from the employees, their families and common people of the society.
This is how Syed Shirajul Islam, Managing Director of the Well Group, detailed on the group's businesses stretching from readymade garment industries to hospitality business. They started export of apparels to the USA, Europe and Canada in 2002 on a limited scale but now the group's annual turnover has crossed Tk 10 billion.
The Well Group currently runs eight readymade garment factories, two spinning mills, washing plant, fabrics, food items, production of garment accessories and a three star hotel - Well Park Residential. The hotel has already earned reputation for providing hospitality services to the customers and attracts a good number of foreigners every week. Well Group started its journey with only 150 employees in 2001 but the number of employees now stands at over 8,000.
Most of our businesses are located in Kalurghat and Mohra industrial areas. Syed Shirajul Islam's elder brother Abdus Salam has been the Chairman of Chittagong Development Authority since 2010. Abdus Salam started business in sewing thread manufacturing in garment industry in 1976 and in phases, the family got involved with the RMG export, hotel business and food and bakery.
Syed Shirajul Islam told the FE he is going to expand the Group businesses, especially in the readymade garment sector, at the Mirsarai Economic Zone, the country's largest and well-facilitated zone on an area of 22 acres of land. Well Group has leased the land from Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA). Well will initially invest Tk 20 billion in the Mirsarai EZ and the investment will be enhanced in phases. The MEZ is being equipped with all the required facilities including electricity, gas, port jetties and delivery facilities, dormitory for workers, customs and other necessary government offices.
He was honoured with the CIP Award for significant RMG export performance in 2015 and 2016. The Group Chairman Syed Nurul Islam and Director Syed Nazrul Islam are both CIP Award recipients.
Commenting on the transshipment deal signed recently by Bangladesh and India, the Well Group MD said Bangladesh has nothing to gain from the agreement in which India has offered us to use Kolkata and Haldia Ports. He said the handling capacity of Chittagong Port is currently over 70 million tonnes a year. The demand for cargo handling is growing annually at 14-15 per cent and it is estimated that the demand will grow over 150 million after 12 to 14 years.
What we need is the urgent construction of the Bay Container Terminal. The Chattogram Port Authority is all set to start construction of the extended terminal of the port. Besides, the government has to take up the deep sea port construction project at Matarbari or Sonadia, considering the strategic importance of Chattogram and Bangladesh.
Briefing on the coastal belt in the Indian Sub-continent, he said Kolkata and Haldia are the auxiliary ports while Chattogram, Mumbai, Karachi and Yangon are the main ports. Apart from Kolkata and Haldia, there are other auxiliary ports in the region, such as Hyderabad, Bhubaneshar, Chennai, Mongla and Akiab. The auxiliary ports will function when the main ports fail to work. Haldia is an auxiliary and dead port. Why should I go to Haldia leaving Chattogram? Chattogram Port can serve the purpose of 1600 million people of the region if the Matarbari deep sea port and Bay Terminal are built as the 'first track project' of the government.
Bangladesh country owns Chattogram Port and Mongla Port. Due to its geo-political and strategic importance, Chattogram remains a very important location and the port can play a pivotal role in the sea transportation of cargo as a transshipment facility for the northeastern seven states of India, Nepal and Bhutan. The sea transportation of these countries is dependent on Chattogram Port. A cargo-laden truck can reach Agartala from Chattogram Port in four to five hours. So, Chattogram Port's capacity enhancement is necessary for both Bangladesh and India.
Dwelling on the crisis the banking industry in the country is facing, he said the banking sector is not handled by the people involved with the regulatory authorities including the central bank. The number of loan defaulters stood at 230,658 in the country and the amount of classified loans exceeded Tk 1.31 trillion (1, 31,666.16 crores) and the major causes of classified loans in the country are wrong assessment of credit needs and loosely monitoring credit uses. The classified loans are really too high and a matter of concern. In India, the bad loan is 3.0 to 4.0 per cent at a maximum while it is four times higher in percentage in Bangladesh. Sometimes we think whether the country is heading towards a crisis beyond control in the banking industry.
"Whose money is this that the irresponsible persons in the business are eating up? Is it not the money of common people who deposit bit by bit from their heard-earned monthly income? Is it not the national wealth?" he asked. These questions must strike their minds before exploiting the national wealth owned by its people. Some of these borrowers are doing it willingly while some others have been subjected to the situation as their businesses have failed for several reasons, he added.
He said those who are taking bank loan on productive purposes but not using the money in productive or business channels intentionally and those who are involved in the capital flight in guise of business must be brought to book and undergo capital punishment by the proper authorities. They must also be boycotted in the society and the business community. As a huge amount of money has turned to be so-called bad loan or classified, remaining in the hands of the bad people, the honest businesses are not getting money from the banks at low interest rates despite instruction from the central bank and even from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The Well Group managing director said the money lying with the bad borrowers cannot be realised through the Artho Rin Adalat. They are far more cunning than the people in the loan recovery bodies or the banks themselves and outfoxing all concerned by taking shelter of the higher court. Authorities must find out ways and means to realise the money at the cost of anything. "Realisation of the huge loan of the banks and financial institutions must be made successful through easing the related rules and enforcing punishment. Their passports need to be seized, if necessary," he concluded.
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