Latifur Rahman had a magic touch. Whatever he touched, it turned gold.
When multinational pharmaceutical company SmithKline & French (SK&F) could not make business in Bangladesh, they sold it and Latifur Rahman acquired it. He renamed it Eskayef Bangladesh, which is now one of the top drug makers in the country with around Tk1,000 crore sales revenue.
Philips and Pepsi are two more such names among some others that became really gold with his touch. If any foreign company wants to come to Bangladesh, they used to look for this man first, then others.
His commitment, integrity, patriotism and respect for the law took him to the highest level of success. His Transcom Group has now business in diversified areas that created employment for 13,500 people. He reached this pinnacle without any affiliation with any political party, which is very rare in this part of the world.
This very successful and hard-core ethical businessman, whom many followed as an icon, died at his paternal home in Cumilla on Wednesday morning. He was 75 and had been suffering from lung-related disease. He left behind his wife, two daughters, a son, grandchildren and many followers to mourn his death.
"The nation lost an honest businessman, and we lost a mentor and role model," said Aftab-ul-Islam, a businessman and a long-time friend of Latifur Rahman.
He was a 100 percent compliant businessman. He never defaulted on bank loans, a thing that is very rare in the country.
"We learned business ethics from him. We will not get anyone like him," Aftab said.
MA Halim Chowdhury, managing director of Pubali Bank, gave an example to let people know about Latifur Rahman's ethical standard. When Transcom became a shareholder of Pubali Bank several years ago, Latifur Rahman had business relations with the bank.
"He paid us Tk82 crore at one go to clear his dues as there will be a director in the bank's board from his group to avoid conflict of interest," remembered Chowdhury.
Anis A Khan, a career banker who had a long experience of dealing in business with Latifur Rahman, said his dealings with banks were impeccable.
"He believed in utmost integrity and the highest ethical standards. His instructions to his teams were that they must honour obligations with banks as they arose. I know of no instance where banks had to suffer in any way in the conduct of their business with his group," remembered Khan who retired a few months ago as managing director of Mutual trust Bank.
Latifur Rahman also showed that what foreign companies can do, Bangladesh also can do, even better. Amongst his many success stories is the acquisition of SK&F, Philips, Pepsi and other global soft drinks brands, said Khan.
Azam J Chowdhury, founder and chairman of East Coast Group, remembered Latifur Rahman as a big contributor to the country's economic development.
"But he never used a connection. He was extremely successful because of his own credentials and neutrality," said Chowdhury.
He said Latifur Rahman will remain an inspiration to businesses who want to be successful with honesty, sincerity, integrity and following compliance.
"His death is a great loss to Bangladesh," mourned Chowdhury.
Latifur Rahman was born on August 28, 1945, in a rich family. His paternal predecessors had a history of business for the last 135 years. Their business originated with tea plantations in Jalpaiguri, now in India's West Bengal, in 1885.
Later, they bought tea gardens in Sylhet region. His father was one of the sponsors of Eastern Mercantile Bank (now Pubali Bank) in 1959.
When he was studying at Saint Xavier's College in Kolkata, the Indo-Pak war began, and he came back to Bangladesh and joined his father's W Rahman Jute Mills in Chandpur as a trainee. Later, he became an executive and worked till 1971.
In 1972, when all jute mills were nationalised, suddenly they were in deep trouble.
Latifur Rahman began his own business in 1973 with tea export to the Netherlands and since then he never needed to look back.
His leadership was not limited within his own business only. He led chambers many times.
He was the president of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry for seven terms, president of Bangladesh Employers' Federation for two terms, and member of executive committee of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBBCI), Bangladesh Jute Mills Association and Bangladesh Tea Association.
He expanded his footprints to pharmaceuticals to food, beverages, insurance, financial institutions and many more. Transom Group also owns Bangla daily Prothom Alo and majority stakes in The Daily Star.
He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Bangladesh Bank.
In 2012, Rahman was awarded "Oslo Business for Peace Award" by the Business for Peace Foundation in Oslo, and Business Executive of the Year 2001 by the American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh.
He was the vice-president of International Chamber of Commerce Bangladesh till his death.