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Villages can potentially gain Banking business

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The Chairman and CEO of Lockpur Group of Industries and the Chairman of SBAC Bank Limited, S M Amzad Hossain is among the most socially responsible industry owners in the country. His efforts to integrate the rural people into his business empire and advance a forward thinking banking structure have largely went unnoticed in the media. In this intimate interview he shares his stories from the past and his vision for the future, as The New Nation asks him questions related to his industries and his bank.
 NN: Why did you go back to your village to invest and build up an industry?
Well, I am from village," he simply said. "I've always wanted to give back to my community. I think industrialization is very capital-city-centric or at least city-centric. So, people are leaving rural areas and flocking toward the cities and you can't really blame them for that.
"I thought that if I bring the machines & set up industry in the villages then they don't have to go to the cities. People who go to cities spend a vast portion of their income on living expenses in the city. Ultimately there is no substantial change in their lives.
If I bring the industry to them, then he can live in their own houses comfortably, without paying rent and work happily.
NN: How big are the industries and how many people actually work in those factories?
SBAC Chairman: When I started, I did not think that I would get where it is now. At this moment, all of these industries together employ 18 thousand people, including officers, engineers, technicians etc. The amazing thing is, among our most skilled technical people like engineers, 30 percent are women. The workers and the supervisors at the industry are 70 percent women. But that's not all. My locality, the Fokirhat Thana, has eight Unions. The 4 Unions among them do not have a single house where at least one person isn't employed at one of my industries. These workers have proper working conditions. They work in shifts and they run the industry successfully.  
NN: why do you set up branches of his bank in remote areas?
SBAC Chairman: Banks are city centric because they want to make quick profit. But if you look closely, these banks are setting up in business hubs, they are making quick profit, but they are also gaining quick defaulters. Whereas, the amount of resource/money in the villages can potentially gain Banking business and the risk of defaulters will be much less. And in the absence of banks, micro credit companies, MLM companies, loan sharks prey on the poor rural people. The rate of interest they impose start from 25 percent and go up."
"So, I thought if I set up a branch there and keep the rate of interest in the single digit. This will be good for the people and the bank can also operate risk free," he added.
 "After I opened up these branches in the villages, they are performing no less than city branches. And I have to reiterate, there is no risk," he assuredly said.
NN: How is his bank doing well based purely on the villages?
SBAC Chairman: We wanted to make the bank customer centric. We wanted to get to the real customers. The bottom line was making a customer friendly bank. When I was in America I used to bank in The Commerce Bank (which is currently known as TD Bank, owned by the Canada Trust). This was the most customer friendly bank in America. The way it became customer friendly was by making the bank 9am to 9pm and 7 days a week. The extended support attracted the clients."
"People are getting engrossed in using technologies very fast. But people still value human contact. It has value and it cannot be ignored. That's why for SBAC Bank, technology is important, its indispensable, but we decided to always value the human element and give priority to it."
NN: what is your vision for the future?
SBAC Chairman: I have made 4 unions poverty free. I want to extend this to beyond my immediate locality. I feel that there are many places around my locality that could benefit from my contribution. And I want to contribute. I want to make the whole area poverty free.
NN: When do you envision this will happen?
SBAC Chairman: I think in the next 5 to 7 years, I will be able to go near the goal. However, I am often immensely bothered by the bureaucracy that you have to go through; in my case even after direct support from the highest level of the Government. But I will not go into that. What I want to say is this: I think if certain problems are handled strictly by the government, then you can build industries anywhere in Bangladesh. If you have electricity, a strong management and the will to spend some time in the rural areas, then it is possible. I would like to do more. All you need is very strict implementation of the rule of law.

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