A BIOGRAPHY OF SAMSON H. CHOWDHURY
Samson H. Chowdhury was one of the most successful Industrialist and business magnate of Bangladeshi history. He was the chairman of Square Pharmaceuticals. He was a paramount personality of his time in gumptious drive, unprecedented ideas, business management and human resource development.
Samson H Chowdhury was a legendary entrepreneur in Bangladesh. He was more of an entrepreneur than a capitalist. With his innovation, leadership and perseverance, he built a business empire from scratch. He started his business with a small village pharmacy in Pabna in 1952 and then in a span of five decades built Square Group, one of the largest and most diversified conglomerates of the country. Square Group currently employs around 36,000 people and annually generates a turnover of more than $800 million on average.
SQUARE is now not just a name, it is also a synonym of quality – be it pharmaceuticals, hospitals, textiles, toiletries, consumer goods, herbal medicine, agro vet products, information technology, television channel, advertising agency and a few more. When asked why the name Square was chosen, Samson H Chowdhury had said, “We named it Square because it was started by four friends and also because it signifies accuracy and perfection meaning quality.” All that he achieved was due to his innovative ideas, tireless efforts, perseverance and dedication, of course with self-confidence.
Mr. Samson Chowdhury was associated with so many industrial organizations as well as business associations. He served as the president of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), chairman of Micro Industries Development Assistance and Services (MIDAS), founder president of Bangladesh Association of Publicly Listed Companies, chairman of Transparency International Bangladesh (2004-2007), vice-president of International Chamber of Commerce Bangladesh, chairman of Central Depository Bangladesh Ltd and chairman of Mutual Trust Bank Limited etc.
He was one of the highest taxpayers of the country for a long period of time. Samson H Chowdhury symbolizes hard work, vision, transparency and foresightedness, a combination very rare in the developing world. The sad demise of Mr Chowdhury on 5 January 2012 at the age of 86 is truly an end of an era.
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Life of “Samson H. Chowdhury” At a Glance:
⊛ Real Name: Samson H. Chowdhury
✔ Business Magnet
✔ Chairman of Square Pharmaceuticals
⊛ Date of Birth: September 25, 1925
⊛ Place of Birth: Aruakandi in Gopalganj, British India
⊛ Nationality: Bangladeshi
⊛ Religion: Christian
⊛ Education: Scottish Church College, Harvard University, University of Dhaka
⊛ Father: Eakub Hussain Chowdhury
⊛ Mother: Latika Chowdhury
⊛ Siblings: Samar Chowdhury, Sotyen Chowdhury
⊛ Spouse: Anita Biswas
⊛ Children: Three (Tapan Chowdhury, Anjan Chowdhury, Ratna Chowdhury)
⊛ Years active: 1925-2012
⊛ Died: January 5, 2012
⊛ Dying Age: 86 years
⊛ Dying Place: Singapore
⊛ Notabe Ventures:
✔ Square Pharmaceuticals
✔ Square Toiletries Limited
✔ Square Textiles Limited
✔ Square Spinning Limited
✔ Square Knit Fabric Limited
✔ Square Fashions Limited
✔ Square Hospitals Limited
✔ Square Agro Development and Processing Limited
✔ Square Informatix Limited
✔ Square Health Products Limited
✔ Square Herbal and Nutraceuticals Limited
✔ Square Consumer Products Limited
✔ Pharma Packages Pvt Limited
✔ Astras Limited
✔ Barnali Printers Limited
✔ Aegis Services Limited
✔ Square Securities Management Limited
✔ Sabazpur Tea Estate.
Early Life of “Samson H. Chowdhury” :
Samson H Chowdhury was born on 25 September 1925 at Aruakandi in Gopalganj, then British India. He was the eldest son of Eakub Hussain Chowdhury and Latika Chowdhury. His father was a medical officer.
As his father was posted as a medical officer at the Chandpur Mission Hospital, Samson started his schooling in a mission school in Chandpur. He moved to Pabna with his father in 1932 and was admitted to a village school in Ataikula. Later, in 1933, his father sent him to Mymensingh for better education. Samson got admitted to the Victoria Mission School in class IV.
After studying in Mymensingh for two years, he moved to West Bengal in 1935 and got admitted in Siksha Sangha High School in Bishnupur, which was around 15 miles from Kolkata. But he had to leave the institute before completing his schooling when World War II broke out. His family felt that it was unsafe to be away from home during the war. Responding to his father’s concern, Samson returned to his village home in 1942. He began a new academic life at the Ataikula High School in Pabna. Samson took the Matriculation Examination from this school in 1943 and passed successfully.
At the very young age of 17 Samson left his home at Ataikula for Kolkata with a few friends, without informing his family. He first took shelter at his uncle’s house in Kolkata. Later, he left for Mumbai with his friends in search of a fortune. Samson looked for jobs at different places in the port city, and finally, he faced an interview at the naval recruiting section and got selected.
Life in Navy:
Samson always had a craze for new technology. After being recruited by the Navy, he was appointed in the signaling section but he refused to join. As he was keen to learn about radar, he applied for the position of a radar operator. The radar was a new invention at that time and was being used secretly against enemies during World War II. As an obvious consequence of disobedience in a force, Samson was sent to prison.
Samson spent four days in custody. Every morning the higher official used to come and asked him if he had changed his mind. But Samson adhered to his decision. Finally, on the fifth day, the officer succumbed to his unwavering will and decided to appoint Samson in the radar unit.
Samson served in the Royal Indian Navy for around three years. When World War II ended, Samson along with his colleagues retuned to Visakhapatnam Port in Madras. There he joined a naval mutiny against the then British ruler in February, 1946, and ultimately got caught.
After five days in prison, the mutineers were taken to Talwar, the then headquarters of the naval forces. They were put into a castle barrack. The rebels, however, received clemency and were given a choice – whether they wanted to continue in the force or wanted to quit the job. Samson opted for the second. Surprisingly, he was given a clean certificate of discharge and a recommendation for a government job in any administrative position, or in the law and order agency.
In 1954, Abed left home at the age of 18 to attend University of Glasgow After passing intermediate from Dhaka College, where he studied naval architecture. There he started an effort to break away from tradition and do something radically different. He realized there was little work in ship building in East Pakistan and a career in Naval Architecture would make returning home difficult. With that in mind, Abed joined the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants in London, completing his professional education in 1962.
Job at Post Office:
After returning home, Samson joined the postal department in Pabna in 1947. On the same year, he got married to Anita Biswas.
He worked for the postal department for several years. His duty was to make correspondence. But just-back-from-war Samson did not confine himself to day-to-day clerical work; he got involved with the trade union movement of the postal department workers. In 1952, Samson quit the job and returned home.
New Venture in Pabna :
In 1952, on the advice of his father, Samson started running a medicine shop called ‘Hossain Pharmacy’, which was actually owned by his father. When Samson took over the pharmacy, it was already doing good business. Eakub Hossain Chowdhury owned a lot of properties, including farm land. With all the earnings, they were a well-to-do family. But ambitious Samson was not satisfied with that. He started looking for new opportunities. He finally decided to set up a medicine factory.
In 1956, Samson approached his father and borrowed 5000 taka from him for the factory. He named the company ‘Esons’, means Eakub Hossain and sons. He began with manufacturing syrups. Samson used to manufacture these syrups at home. He was the owner, the worker, the distributor and also the marketing officer of his new company. The only assistant at his factory was his wife Anita.
Establishment of Square :
Mr. Samson H Chowdhury then ventured into a partnership pharmaceutical company with three of his friends (Dr Kazi Harunar Rashid, Dr PK Saha and Radha Binod Roy) in 1958. Samson named its Square. The name has a philosophical significance for him. In his words, “We named it Square, cause we, four friends, built the company. The other significance of the name to me is that the four sides have to be equal to make it a square that symbolizes accuracy and perfection.”
In 1958, Square started its journey with just Rs 17000. Samson rented a small tin-shed house in Pabna town and converted it into a factory. He recruited 12 workers. The first medicine they manufactured was blood purifier ‘Easton Syrup’. During the first three years, Square could not make any profit. As a consequence, the four partners had to invest more money, and in the third year the total investment increased to Tk 80,000. In the fourth year, Square managed to generate some profit, and that was the beginning. It has never looked back.
In 1962, the company opened a branch office at Hatkhola in Dhaka. In 1964, it was converted into a private limited company with an authorized capital of Tk 500,000 and a paid up capital of Tk 400,000. The turning point for Square was in 1974 when the company became a licensee of Janssen Pharmaceutica, Belgium, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson International, USA. The agreement with Janssen Pharmaceutica motivated Square to modernize their manufacturing plant and to adopt international standards in manufacturing medicines. Under the deal, Square started manufacturing anti-worm medicine Virmox and Imodium, a medicine for diarrhea patients. The new drug policy formulated in 1982 came up as a real blessing for Square. The 1982 drug policy restricted manufacturing of 1,700 medicines by multinational companies as part of a plan to provide opportunity for local pharmaceutical companies to flourish. Square took full advantage of this, and within three years, it became the market leader among all national and multinational companies in 1985. Square has successfully retained the same top position since then. In 1987, Square became the first Bangladeshi pharmaceutical company to export products abroad.
Consistent Growth of Square:
In 1991, when Square became a public limited company people showed their confidence by vastly oversubscribing the initial offer and by paying Tk 900 for shares which had a face value of Tk 100. In 1995 the company reached a new height, as it started producing pharmaceuticals in bulk, commonly known as API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient). In 1997 Square received the National Export Trophy in recognition of its contribution to exports in Bangladesh. In 1998 Square obtained ISO 9001 certification. In 2010 Square Pharmaceuticals received the ‘Best Enterprise’ award given by the Daily Star and the DHL Worldwide Express.
In 1988, Square Toiletries started its operation as a separate division of Square Pharmaceuticals. In 1994 Square Textiles Ltd started its journey and one year later the second textile unit was set up. Square Textiles was listed on the capital market in 2002. In 1998, the Agro-chemicals and Veterinary Products Division of Square Pharmaceuticals started its operation. Square Spinning Ltd started its journey in 2000, while Square Knit Fabrics Ltd was set up in 2001. In the same year, Square Fashions Ltd and Square Consumers Products Ltd commenced their operations, while Square Informatix and Square Hospitals Ltd were also incorporated.
✔ President, Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), Dhaka, in 1996 and 1997.
✔ Chairman, Micro Industries Development Assistance & Services (MIDAS).
✔ Member, Advisory Committee of the Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries.
✔ Founder President, Bangladesh Association of Publicly Listed Companies.
✔ Member, Executive Committee of Bangladesh French Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
✔ Chairman, Transparency International, Bangladesh Chapter, 2004 – 2007.
✔ Vice-President: International Chamber of Commerce, Bangladesh
✔ Chairman: Central Depository Bangladesh Ltd.
✔ Life member: The Dhaka Club Limited, Dhaka
✔ Former Director: The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI).
✔ Advisor & Former President: Bangladesh Aushad Shilpa Samity.
✔ President: Bangladesh Herbal Products Manufacturing Association.
✔ Chairman: Mutual Trust Bank Limited.
✔ Chairman & CEO: Sabazpur Tea Estate, Suzaul Madrasha Baralekha, Moulovibazar.
✔ “Business Executive of the Year” by American Chamber in Bangladesh in 1998.
✔ “Best Entrepreneur of the Country for the year 2000 – 2001” by the Daily Star and DHL Worldwide Express.
✔ “Special contribution in country’s industrial and commercial sectors for the year 2003” by “Mercantile Bank Award 2003”
✔ For Uncompromising Business Ethics, Honesty & Transparency of the year 2005 by “Banker’s Forum Award – 2005”.
✔ Recipient of ICAB National Award “Best Published Accounts and Reports 2006 in the Manufacturing Sector”.
✔ Recipient of NBR Award one of the Highest Tax-Payers in 2007-2008.
✔ Recognized by the National Board of Revenue (NBR) as one of the top ten tax payers of the country since 2005.
✔ Recipient of CIP (Industry) 2009-2010 status by the Government of The Peoples Republic of Bangladesh.
Involvement with Church:
Samson H Chowdhury was a ‘born-again’ Christian. During his lifetime, he never had his breakfast without reading the Bible. He introduced a rule in his family – ‘No Bible, No Breakfast.’ Samson believed that it was his obligatory duty as a human being to serve his fellow creatures.
Samson H Chowdhury was deeply involved with the Church ministry and served the churches in different capacities. He showed his prudence when the church faced problems created by the different governments and also by the religious fanatics at different periods. Both the Catholics and the Protestants used to hold him with high esteem and respected him a lot.
Samson represented the BBCF at the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) meeting for many years. He also served as a vice president of BWA for five years between 1985 and 1990. Samson was elected as the President of the Bangladesh Baptist Church Fellowship in the year 1976, 1978, 1980, 1983-85 and also for the period of 1990-93.
amson’s involvement was not confined with the Baptists only. He was the honorary secretary of the East Pakistan Christina Council that was later renamed as the National Council of Churches Bangladesh, for the period of 1961-64 and 1968-72. He also served as the President of the National Council of Churches, Bangladesh in 1975 and 1978. Before the independence of Bangladesh, Samson represented the then East Pakistan Christian Council to the World Council of Churches (WCC) more than once. Through the EPCC and WCC, he was able to tell the world the true story of what was happening in Bangladesh during the 1971 Liberation War.
After the independence of Bangladesh, Samson as the honorary general secretary of National Council of Churches Bangladesh attended a consortium of donors in Stuttgart in 1973. From this consortium, with his initiative, an organization named ‘Christian Commission for Development of Bangladesh (CCDB)’ was formed to carry out relief, rehabilitation and development work in the new-born state.
Samson H Chowdury passed away at the age of 86 on 5 January 2012 Thursday while undergoing treatment at the Raffles Hospital in Singapore. His funeral prayers were held at the Kakrail Catholic Church in the capital around 11pm on 6 Januray 2012.
Ministers, lawmakers of both the ruling and the opposition parties, bureaucrats, business community leaders, bankers, industrialists, media professionals – all joined the sobbing family members at the prayers to say good bye to the legendary industrialist. O
n 7 January 2012 around 2pm Samson H Chowdhury was laid to eternal rest at his Astra Farmhouse in Pabna.
The news of his death brought a pall of gloom at every level of society. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, leader of the opposition Khaleda Zia, Finance Minister AMA Muhith, Industries Minister Dilip Barua, Bangladesh Bank Governor Dr Atiur Rahman and leaders of different business bodies joined the mourners, expressing deep shock at the demise of Samson Chowdhury and prayed for the eternal peace of the departed soul. On 16 January, the cabinet unanimously adopted a condolence motion on the death of Samson H Chowdhury. To pay homage to this business legend, all leading business organizations of the country including Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Bangladesh, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) and Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) held a memorial meeting on 14 January 2012 at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC), Dhaka. The event started with a minute of silence in honour of the iconic businessman.
Samson H Chowdhury is a legendary entrepreneur who will be remembered forever to the people of Bangladesh