Noorul Quader: Pioneer of Bangladesh’s readymade garments

Sujoy Mohajan* | Update:

M Noorul Quader. Photo: Masuk HelalM Noorul Quader, widely known as just Noorul Quader, is the begetter of many good things in the history of Bangladesh.

Noorul Quader was an air pilot as his first profession, but was removed from duty following an accident. He then studied economics at the University of Dhaka and joined the language movement at the age of 17. During the Liberation War, he was deputy commissioner in Pabna district. He left the job and fought against the then Pakistani regime for Bangladesh's liberation. He left his surname ‘Khan’ in odium to the Pakistani rulers who were popularly called ‘Khans’.

He was establishment secretary of Mujibnagar Government, so the first establishment secretary of Bangladesh. He was the first chairman of Bangladesh Parjatan (tourism) Corporation, previously known as Tourism Bureau. He made it a corporation. The logo of the corporation was designed by Kalidas Karmakar under his leadership.

He quit the government job shortly after the liberation of the country. In 1973, he started his own business. He is not only the pioneer of the RMG sector, but he is also the introducer of many things for the industries.

Firstly, he started indenting business. Five years into it, he founded ‘Desh Garments’, the maiden readymade garment factory in Bangladesh, in association with South Korea’s Daewoo Corporation. He first exported readymade garments abroad. The RMG sector is now responsible for 84 per cent of the total export income of the country. The ‘Desh Garments’ was a foundation stone.

In the late1980s, the United States introduced the quota system that badly affected exports of many countries including South Korea. It extremely impacted Daewoo Corporation as well. Following the crisis, Noorul Quader struck a joint venture deal with Daewoo. As per the deal, Daewoo Corporation agreed to produce readymade garments at the Desh factory in Bangladesh and train Bangladeshi workers.

Shortage of skilled manpower was a huge challenge for Desh. As per the deal, Noorul managed to send 136 employees including 16 women workers to South Korea for training.

Workers work at a RMG factory in Dhaka. Photo: Hassan RazaIt was not an easy journey as the newly introduced sector neither had skilled manpower nor enough money to invest.

Desh Garments faced another big blow as the banks failed to come up with the promised funds. Banks sanctioned Tk 180 million, but they released only Tk 2.4 million. It was very tough running the factory with this money. He then came up with an idea of back-to-back LC facility. Bangladesh Bank governor M Nurul Islam, who was Noorul Quader’s close friend, extended necessary assistance. Nurul Islam helped him introduce the back-to-back LC for his business. He never looked back.

Presently, the RMG sector stands on solid foundation thanks to the back-to-back LC, Bonded Warehouse, UD Certificate and many other facilities. Noorul Quader paved the way.

Noorul Quader died in 1998. ‘Desh Garments’ is now run by ‘Desh Group’ of companies. Noorul’s wife Rokeya Quader is the chairman of the group. His only son Omar Quader Khan is the managing director and his daughter Vidiya Amrit Khan is a director of the company.
First shirt made during the training in South Korea. Photo: Hassan RazaNoorul Quader was born in Mymensingh. Desh Garments was founded in Kalughat of Chattogram.

Asked about the location of the factory, Vidiya said the Chattogram factory was built to avail the easy export facilities there. At present, 900 people are working at the factory.

Despite being the first RMG factory of the country, the size of business of the Desh Garments has not been expanded as expected in the 41 years.

As causes, Vidiya said the factory was badly damaged during storms in 1991. It was then shifted to Agrabad of the city. The business of main factory was shut for nearly five years. The factory resumed production in 1996. Noorul Quader died two years after its resumption, casting another big blow to the business.

In spite of all the challenges, the authorities said, they did not shut down the RGM business just to keep the historic business alive.

The management is now planning to extend the business further.

Desh Group’s chairman Rokeya Quader said many of those who were sent to South Korea for training are now entrepreneurs of many garments businesses.

*Sujoy Mohajan is business editor of Prothom Alo. This report published in print edition of Prothom Alo has been rewritten in English by Toriqul Islam 

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