Abdul Monem, a revered constructor who rose from humble beginnings

  • Senior Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2020-06-02 02:27:04 BdST

bdnews24
File Photo: Abdul Monem receiving the President’s Award for Industrial Development 2014 from President Md Abdul Hamid in 2016.

From humble beginnings, revered industrialist Abdul Monem forged his way to the very top of his trade by dint of a steely resolve, unbridled determination and a penchant for organisation.

The founder of the conglomerate Abdul Monem Ltd, the pioneer of the construction industry in Bangladesh, died in hospital care on Sunday after suffering a stroke at the age of 86.

His passing has prompted an outpouring of grief and tributes from all echelons of society.

He left behind his wife, three daughters, two sons and a host of mourning relatives, friends and admirers.

A business leader, shedding a light on Monem's personality, praised him as the epitome of a successful businessman.

“He was never in favour of involving himself in politics or supporting a particular political ideology. The one thing he would always speak about was how to generate more employment opportunities for people,” said the businessman wishing to remain anonymous.

A civil engineer by profession, Brahmanbaria-native Monem arrived in Dhaka in the early 1950s with a secondary school certificate and barely enough money to sustain himself.

After starting out as a construction contractor in a partnership business, he later established his own business, Abdul Monem Ltd, with a working capital of Tk 20,000 only in 1956.

He catapulted the company to the forefront of the infrastructure development business through its AML Construction Unit.

Widely considered the market leader in its field with over 60 years of experience under its belt, the construction unit of AML has contributed to some of the biggest and most challenging projects in the country, including runway overlays for Dhaka's Shahjalal International Airport and Sylhet's Osmani International Airport, the Padma Multipurpose Bridge project and the Metro Rail project.

FBCCI President Sheikh Fazle Fahim paid special tribute to Monem not just for his achievements as a business leader, but as a human being in general.

"He was our elder not just in terms of age but in every sense of the word. He was our guardian. He was truly a great man," he said.

"Truth be told, he occupied a special place in my heart. I remember his firm, which is under his own name, had constructed a highway next to our village. It was beautifully constructed and people would say it was only so because Abdul Monem had built it," Fahim said.

Monem also oversaw the company's transformation into one of the country's most diversified entities employing over 10,000 people, with its operations now spanning across an array of industries, including food, beverages, pharmaceuticals and energy, to name a few.

Among its portfolio of businesses is AM Beverages, the authorised bottler of Coca-Cola, Igloo, one of the country's top ice-cream brands, Danish Bangla Emulsion, Abdul Momen Sugar Refinery, AM Bran Oil, Novus Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Servicengine BPO and AM Securities & Financial Services Ltd.

It is also a maker of milk and dairy products, food items and snacks and a manufacturer of pharmaceuticals, auto-bricks, bitumen and other selected construction materials. It also established AM Sugar Refinery Ltd, AM Rice Bran Oil, ServicEngine BPO and AM Securities and Financial Services Ltd.

In 2015, Monem established one of the country's first private economic zones, Abdul Monem Economic Zone, in Munshiganj's Daudkandi, housing the industrial units of his company's business concerns.

While his two sons, Mainuddin Monem and Mohiuddin Monem took over the reins of the company in the capacity of deputy managing directors, Monem still took a hands-on approach to the business in his later years.

Recounting a visit to his residence in Gulshan, a family friend said, "I was at his home one day and found him signing several cheques while conversing with me at the same time. It wasn't just one or two cheques but around 200 to 300!"

"I jokingly asked him why he doesn't just divide the cheques up between his two sons and ask them to sign those. And he responded with a smile, 'Will they understand how I've built these institutions up from scratch with my own hands?’”

Anwar-ul Alam Chowdhury, chairman of Evince Group and president of Bangladesh Chamber of Industries, said Monem, a polite man, always prioritised his work over everything else.

“I’ve never seen such a good person among the businessmen and industrial entrepreneurs in my life. And I salute him for another reason – he has never revealed his political belief when many of the businessmen are becoming MPs and ministers after achieving a little success.”    

SPORTS ENTHUSIAST

Aside from his standing as a pioneering businessman, Momen was also keenly felt by the country's football fraternity. He maintained an avid interest in sports, played a key role as an organiser of Dhaka's Mohammedan Sporting Club during football's heydays in Bangladesh.

He served as the club's president as well as actively taking part in its management committees over the years.

"At the height of the Abahani-Mohammedan rivalry in the 1980s, the matches would be played at Dhaka Stadium, Monem bhai would always be there to boost the players' morale. He would have breakfast with the players on match day and would always motivate us by telling us not to lose courage," a former Mohammedan footballer recalled.

Regardless of the results, he would always reward the players for a good performance with goalscorers getting a separate prize from him, he added.