FE Today Logo

ACI now plans home plant to feed US drug market

Conglomerate chief eyes big boost to pharmaceuticals export

Mehdi Musharraf Bhuiyan | April 01, 2018 00:00:00

M Anis Ud Dowla, Chairman, ACI — FE Photo

Local conglomerate ACI is setting up a state-of-the-art pharmaceutical plant at Sonargaon near the capital city of Dhaka to churn out high quality medicine with the US market in sight.

"The plant will be ready within a year and will be geared for exporting pharmaceuticals to the US market", ACI Chairman M Anis Ud Dowla said in an exclusive interview with the FE recently.

"The plant will be compliant with the standard set by the Food and Drug Administration of the USA and it will take up 60 thousand square feet of floor space", Mr Dowla said.

Currently the ACI is producing pharmaceutical products like pain killers for the US market from its plant located in India. However, the same products will be manufactured from Bangladesh, once the plant is ready and approved by the FDA.

The total cost of building this avant-garde facility will be around Tk 4.5 billion (450 crore), the ACI Chairman said.

Pharmaceutical products are often cited as a highly potential export item for Bangladesh. The country has exported pharmaceuticals worth US$ 89.17 million worldwide in the fiscal year 2016-17.

The US, however, is relatively a new market for Bangladesh. Starting from late 2016, a few other Bangladeshi conglomerates have started shipping pharmaceutical products to the US market. Pharmaceuticals shipments from Bangladesh to the US amounted to US$ 563,651 in the last fiscal year.

"The new FDA-approved plant that we are planning to set up in Sonargaon will be a big boost to the country's pharmaceuticals export to the US", Anis Ud Dowla said.

Originally a subsidiary of Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), ACI got its new identity when the ICI plc divested 70 per cent of its stake to the local management in 1992.

Dowla, who was the group managing director of ICI in Bangladesh at the time of the divestment, took over the new company as its Chairman.

Since then, ACI has expanded to areas spanning from pharmaceuticals to consumer goods, agri-business and farm machinery and organised retailing.

Today, the company runs 14 subsidiaries and three joint ventures with 8,364 people working for the conglomerate.

The company is a market leader in various consumer products like aerosol, antiseptic liquid, salt, mosquito coil while it also operates the country's largest retail chain super shop Shwapno.

ACI is also the first company in Bangladesh to attain the ISO 9001 certification for Quality Management System and ISO 14001 for Environmental Management System.

"Currently, all of our businesses are growing at an optimum rate- whether it is pharmaceuticals or agri-business or consumer brands or retail", Dowla told FE.

"Our net turnover during the last fiscal year was Tk. 47.66 billion while we are expecting it to grow by around 30 per cent this fiscal year", he added.

"Over the years, we have gone for new innovative delivery systems like sustained release. We have also gone into insulin, anti cancer etc", Dowla said while reflecting on his company's pharmaceuticals business which accounted for 46 per cent of ACI's total turnover last fiscal.

When it comes to agri-business, the ACI chairman said that his company is trying to integrate the entire value chain- from soil testing and preparation to harvesting or storage.

"We are also ensuring that the farmers are getting fair prices for their produce by procuring directly from them and thus eliminating the role of middle men", he added.

Dowla was also enthusiastic about the success of Shwapno, which, in the last 10 years, grew into the largest retail chain in the country with 63 outlets set up across Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet and Comilla.

"Retail chain is one of our innovative pursuits", he said. "So, wherever you are, you would be able to go to a nearby Shwapno store- and Shwapno is geared up to provide you with your daily necessities in a wonderful environment".

When asked about the prevailing business environment in the country, the veteran corporate boss, however, terms it 'difficult'.

"There are infrastructure deficiencies which increase the cost of business. But we have enthusiasm. We work very hard to make things happen", said Dowla, who has the experience of working in the corporate field at home and abroad for more than five decades.

"Despite the impediments, the economy is performing well. With good leadership, persistent effort and political stability, Bangladesh should be able to achieve its long term economic goals", the ACI Chairman added.

[email protected]

Share if you like