Star Line Group at a glance-
- Employees: 11,000
- Annual turnover: Tk900 crore
- Investment: Tk1,000 crore
- Operate 200 buses across the country
- It provided full salaries, bonuses and increments for employees amid Covid-19
Transport company Star Line started operating in Feni with only four buses in 1998, but they kept expanding their business and currently they operate 200 buses on various routes.
The Star Line leads the transportation business on the Chattogram-Feni and Feni-Dhaka routes as their buses leave every five minutes from their counters. The group's business has been continuously expanding due to innovative and diversified services and efficient management.
After becoming successful in the transport sector, the Star Line's owners gradually entered into other sectors and emerged as an industrial group.
In addition to the transportation business, it currently has 32 businesses including hospitality, petrol pumps, CNG station, food, flour mill, carton factory, poultry farm, rice mill, water plant.
These organisations currently employ about 11,000 employees and their annual turnover is around Tk900 crore. Their investment is about Tk1,000 crore, of which bank loan is only Tk158 crore.
The Star Line Group has also developed many institutions including schools, colleges, madrasahs, and a coaching center for cadet college admission to fulfill their social responsibility. The company is building a hospital to ensure free medical care for its workers. This industrial group spends crores of taka every year for corporate social responsibility.
Star Line Group Director Md Main Uddin said, "We have a plan to build a foil factory in future. We also have plans to build a petrol pump, a fruit market and a cold storage at Feni."
Children expand their father's dream business
Ershad Ullah, father of Star Line Group entrepreneurs, had a bus and a truck during his lifetime. He died in 1983 at the age of 47, leaving five sons and two daughters. After Ershad's death, his wife Nahar Begum had to sell the two vehicles to cover her family expenses.
But that did not deter their children from building a transportation business from scratch, said Star Line Group Director Md Main Uddin who reminisced about the company's journey through ups and downs.
"Transportation is our family business. Eleven years after our father's death, the Star Line started its journey with four buses on the Dhaka-Chattogram route in 1994 in a four-person partnership business with a capital of Tk1 crore," he said.
But the business of Star Line buses did not last long as it competed with the 20 buses of S Alam Group on this route. Due to heavy losses, the Star Line Bus closed its business in 1997 by sharing the bus among its partners.
"At that time, the current managing director of Star Line Group Haji Alauddin got two buses, but due to the loss, my elder brother Haji Nizam Uddin was not interested in re-investing in the transport business, but later he invested because of my mother's request," said Main.
The Star Line re-launched its bus services in 1998 after purchasing an old bus from the Shohag Paribahan and renting another one. From then on, the family-built Star Line transport did not have to look back.
"Through the dedicated efforts of all our family members, we have established the Star Line as a large industrial group in the country. It has maintained its dominance in the transport sector by competing with other well-known and expensive companies," said Main.
Currently, the Star Line Group is operating buses on the Dhaka-Cox's Bazar, Dhaka-Feni, Feni-Chattogram, and Feni-Cox's Bazar routes.
Star Line Group Director Main said, "My elder brother Zafar Uddin, executive director of the group, gradually added three new features to our business when we relaunched. The first of these was the non-smoking transport service, the second one was that our buses departed precisely on the scheduled time and the third one was that our buses took a break for prayers on the way."
"The Star Line Group's business continues to thrive because of these three factors in transportation services. Every year 4-5 vehicles were added to our fleet," said the Star Line director.
Main said the Star Line Group's motto is patriotism, social development, employment and innovation.
"To have a full-fledged transport business, you have to have your own bus as well as your own terminals, counters, petrol pumps, and workshops. The Star Line Group has all these. We have four terminals in Dhaka, Chattogram, Cox's Bazar and Feni. We also have three patrol pumps and a workshop in different places," said Main.
The group has 2,000 employees in the transport sector.
Stumbling blocks in transportation business
The way to secure a leading position by competing with various well-known and expensive transport companies operating on the Dhaka-Chattogram route was not so pleasant for the Star Line.
Their transport business has repeatedly stumbled due to various political instability. The organisation faced heavy financial losses due to the political movement, continuous hartal, and blockade programmes in 2014. At that time 50 of their buses burned and vandalism caused a financial loss of Tk10 crore to the Star Line Group, for which the government paid some compensation.
Severe traffic congestion due to repair and construction projects including the Mahipal flyover, Fatehpur flyover, some bridges, and four lanes on the Dhaka-Chattogram highway also caused heavy losses to transport companies operating there.
When these obstacles were gone and the traffic movement became smooth on the route, the shutdown over the Covid-19 started and bus movement halted for about three months.
Star Line's social responsibilities
Star Line Group is working to improve the quality of education in Feni. There is a girls' cadet college in Feni, but very few girls from the district could get the opportunity to study there as they could not pass the rigorous admission test.
To improve this situation The Star Line Group set up a coaching center in Feni by providing a grant of Tk50 lakh, while the Feni municipality provided another grant of Tk50 lakh for it.
In the last 5 years, 115 girls from Feni have been admitted to the Feni Girls' Cadet College after studying in this coaching center. Boys and girls trained in the coaching centre have also got admission into cadet colleges across the country.
Star Line also runs an English medium school named Star Line Sprout International School, where 450 students study from the elementary level up to SSC. There are 650 students in a Feni National College and 35 students in Star Line Hifzul Koran Madrasah set up by the group.
To ensure low cost health care for the residents of Feni, the Star Line Group is currently setting up a 50-bed hospital at Feni-Mahipal Zero Point. The staff of the organisation will get free treatment there too.
This business organisation also gives financial grants to various educational institutions including all the religious ones in Feni.
Although the transport sector was completely closed for three months due to the shutdown over Covid-19, the company has given 100% salaries and bonuses to all its employees. It also gave an annual increment as per the rules of the organisation. The Star Line Group distributed food items worth around Tk1.1 crore among the people during the Covid-19 crisis.