The impact of COVID-19 in Bangladesh has been rather significant, to say the least. Economic implications, business losses, factory closures, order cancellations, infection of garment workers and now the increasing number of business leaders contracting the dreaded disease are posing new challenges to the country.
Even as the industry got back to business after being shut for almost a month while also dealing with the large-scale order cancellations by global buyers, the latest reports state that business leaders, including many prominent ones, are now getting infected with the dreaded virus.
These entrepreneurs include Kutubuddin Ahmed, Chairman of Envoy Group; AK Azad, Managing Director of Ha-Meem Group; leading businessman and Chairman of Apex Group, Syed Manzur Elahi and his wife Niloufer Manzur; and Morshedul Alam, Director of S. Alam Group. Unfortunately, Niloufer Manzur and Morshedul Alam could not win their fight against coronavirus and succumbed to the disease.
The 65-year-old Morshedul Alam, who was undergoing treatment at the isolation unit of Chittagong General Hospital in the port city of Chittagong, breathed his last on 22 May at around 10:30 am. According to reports, Morshedul, the elder brother of the company’s Chairman Saiful Alam Masud, had been detected coronavirus positive along with five other family members.
As per Dr. Ashim Kumar Nath, Superintendent of Chittagong General Hospital, Morshedul was admitted to the hospital on the evening of 21 May and was shifted soon to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) after his condition deteriorated. He was also reportedly suffering from cardiac complications.
Alam Group, a renowned conglomerate in Bangladesh, is into food and allied products, steel, banking, consumer products, sugar, cement, power, energy, transportation, shipping, manufacturing, hospitality, financial institution, agro, trading, oil and gas businesses. It also has investments in banking, leasing, insurance, stock broker houses and merchant banking.
While the business fraternity was coming to terms with the loss of Morshedul Alam, Niloufer Manzur, wife of Syed Manzur Elahi of Apex Group, made it to the headlines for breathing her last on 26 May. A renowned educationist and the founder and principal of Sunbeams School, Niloufer was undergoing treatment at Dhaka’s Combined Military Hospital (CMH) after being diagnosed with coronavirus.
As per media reports which cited Syed Manzur Elahi’s son Syed Nasim Manzur, Niloufer had been admitted to the CMH while her husband was undergoing treatment at home.
Born in Kolkata, 78-year-old Syed Manzur Elahi moved to Bangladesh after graduating in Economics from the University of Calcutta and set up Apex Group after working in some entities in Bangladesh for some time. A prominent name in footwear manufacturing, Apex Group started its journey in 1975 in Bangladesh in the leather sector through the birth of Apex Tannery Limited. It went on to diversify into many other businesses over the years.
Meanwhile, as per media reports, Kutubuddin Ahmed of Envoy Group was also diagnosed with COVID-19 and was admitted to Dhaka’s Square Hospital on 23 May. The group’s Managing Director Abdus Salam Murshedy recently informed the media that Kutubuddin is fine now.
Former President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), and Secretary General of Bangladesh Olympic Association (BOA) – Kutubuddin is the Chairman and Founder of Sheltech and Envoy Group that has diverse business interests including readymade garments, textiles and construction.
Another business leader and a prominent name in Bangladesh’s readymade garment sector, AK Azad of Ha-Meem Group has reportedly recovered from the coronavirus infection. “I am doing well and at home now,” AK Azad, also the former president of FBCCI, reportedly informed the media.
Ha-Meem is one of the largest companies in Bangladesh’s apparel industry and its concerns range from RMG to packaging, jute, tea, chemical, transport and several other sectors.
On the economic front, Bangladesh has had to weather severe setbacks in the garment production and export spaces, following the large-scale order cancellations by global buyers, the dearth of new work orders and the extended lockdown that rendered most of the garment factories to remain shut in an effort to prevent further spread of the virus.
This has impacted the country’s overall apparel exports in the month of April and even in May. As per the apex garment makers’ body of the country, the BGMEA, which cited figures from the National Board of Revenue (NBR), RMG export in April 2020 declined by 84.86 per cent, which is US $ 366.58 million over the corresponding month in the last calendar year. And, in the first 29 days of May, garment exports fell by 62.09 per cent to US $ 1.07 billion compared to US $ 2.81 billion in the same period last year.
Quite apparently and unpleasantly so, while the continuing fall in apparel exports has become a major concern for the industry, the recent spate of coronavirus infection amongst the industry leaders has further complicated things.