Latifur Rahman

An exemplar of ethical and patriotic businesses

Latifur Rahman, Chairman of Transcom Group was the founding member and Vice President of ICC Bangladesh and founding Vice President of Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre until his sad demise on 1 July. He also served as a Member of the Executive Board of ICC, Paris for two consecutive three-year terms from July 2011 to June 2017. His unqualified support, contribution, guidance and active participation, since ICC Bangladesh started its journey in the 90’s, are remembrance with gratitude, according to the editorial of the current News Bulletin (July-Sept’ 2020) of International Chamber of Commerce-Bangladesh (ICCB) released today.

Transcom Group, which originated with family tea plantations in 1885, became one of the fastest growing and diversified business houses in Bangladesh over a period of around 47 years. Latifur Rahman, who started his career as a trainee in 1966 in his family-owned W Rahman Jute Mills and was an executive until 1971, established Transcom Group in 1973. Gradually he has spread his excellence of entrepreneurship to various fields. He has diversified his businesses and institutions. Latifur Rahman believed in corporate culture. He took over the operations of two big multinationals in 1980s, Eskayef and Philips and kept the old management intact. He believed that the professional management should be left to do what it can or is supposed to do.

Today, Transcom has 16 operational entities from medicine, foods, lighting, electronics to media. It is the local business partner of international brands Pizza Hut, KFC, PepsiCo and Philips. It employs more than 17,000 people and the Group’s annual turnover is Tk.80,000 million.

Although the business of the Group suffered tremendously due to Covid-19, it did not lay off any of its employee as it believes that all the employees are part of bigger family.

Latfiur Rahman’s reputation for honesty and integrity were unrivalled and he was universally respected for upholding the highest ethical standards in business.  He is one of the few entrepreneurs who have contributed in the economic and social advancement of the country by setting up business houses. He showed that it is possible to do business here and take the nation forward by maintaining a high ethical standard.

As a superior, says Latifur’s eldest daughter Simeen Rahman, now MD and CEO of Transcom Distribution Company Ltd. that her father was  an entirely different person. “When we first joined work he told us in very clear terms that we would not get any extra favours just because we were the chairman’s children; we would get a salary and the ground rules would be the same as for any other employee of the company and we would be rewarded only if we deserved it.”

He believed and was committed to the ideal that a democracy needs a free and independent press. This led to his very critical role in the creation of the two newspapers The Daily Star and Prothom Alo, both recognized universally as the most independent newspapers in the country. He was uncompromising in principles, ideals and integrity, even if this would go against his own interest. He had been harassed many times for being the owner of the country’s leading English and Bangla dailies; but he never gave into any kind of pressure.

Unlike many industrialists in the country, Rahman believed that all industries should have labour unions. He thinks it is important that every industry has an elected Collective Bargaining Association (CBA).

He was awarded the “Oslo Business for Peace Award” by the Business for Peace Foundation, Oslo in 2012 as a mark of his highest distinction for outstanding accomplishments in the area of ethical business. He was also awarded Business Executive of the year 2001 by the AmCham in Bangladesh; The Daily Star-DHL Special Award in 2012; the SAARC Outstanding Leader Award in 2017 and Lifetime Achievement Award by the UK Bangladesh Catalysts of Commerce & Industry in 2017.

Mr. Rahman believed that in the next decade Bangladesh’s economy will grow significantly and Bangladeshi companies should be playing roles not only in the country, but also beyond that. Just need to get our act together and set our management practices right.