The Financial Express

Businessmen find fresh pursuits amid shutdown

They are passing time watching videos, movies, reading books or doing else

JASIM UDDIN HAROON | Published: March 31, 2020 09:43:54 | Updated: April 01, 2020 10:23:26

Picture used for illustrative purpose only Picture used for illustrative purpose only

Businessmen have been passing time by reading books, watching videos or doing indoor exercise as they stay home, compelled by nationwide shutdown.

Some said they have been involved in office work over mobile phones and internet, fearing supply chain disruption.

The dramatic change in the lifestyle of leading entrepreneurs was revealed when this correspondent talked with them over phone in the past few days.

The business people are involved in clothing manufacturing, consumer goods distribution and steel making.

Bangladesh has enforced unofficial lockdown since March 26 to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, which originated in China in late December.

The situation has forced the entrepreneurs to remain in isolation at their homes.

Mostafa Kamal, managing director at the Meghna Group of Industries, said: "I spend my time mostly reading books, talking with relatives and walking on treadmills."

He said he is now reading two books--the autobiography of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and another on Padma bridge.

"I had a habit of reading books, but this was abandoned because of work pressure. Now I've revived that again," he said.

He however said during limited banking hours he has to monitor his companies and monitor supply chains.

Still, he devotes two hours a day to monitor his supply chain.

Aameir Alihussain, managing director of BSRM, said, "I'm spending time with family at home and not leaving it at all."

Until Monday he watched mostly videos, movies and read books.

The BSRM is the market leader of steel in Bangladesh and has been in business since early 1950s.

"To remain physically active and mentally fit, exercise is a must this time at home," the BSRM boss said.

The steel maker is feeding the poor people in Chattogram and procuring personal protection equipment (PPE) from abroad to supply in hospitals in the port city.

Abul Kasem Khan, a former president at the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), told the FE: "I'm watching different videos on the new coronavirus on YouTube".

"I'm also reading biographies and books on economics and business," said Khan, a director of the AK Khan & Co Ltd and grandson of pioneering industrialist AK Khan of Chattogram.

"I enjoy reading autobiographies of famous politicians in my isolation in Dhaka's apartment," Mr Khan told the FE.

He said he uses whatsApp to communicate with others as it is easy to exchange files.

Anwar Ul Alam Chowdhury Parvez, president of the Bangladesh Chamber of Industries, told the FE: "I'm reading a Bengali version of holy Quran during my isolation at home."

Mr Pervez, who owns clothing venture Evince Group, said his treadmill has now been a part and parcel of his daily life.

Mr Parvez said he has been talking with some relatives to whom he had not talked in the last five years.

Motiur Rahman, managing director at the Uttara Motors, told the FE "I'm watching news related to coronavirus situation at home and abroad."

He likened the situation to undeclared curfew, and said this is a right decision by the government otherwise it will spread fast as Bangladesh is one of the most densely-populated countries in the world.

He said he along with 15 other business people have been donating parachute fabric and doctor kits to the hospitals in Dhaka.

"We've planned to distribute some 3,000 medical kits and have already supplied 2,000 to different hospitals.

The main lesson of the virus is maintaining hygiene.

"I believe that such a practice will continue in offices in future," Mr Rahman said.


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