He dreamt it, she built it
Visionary entrepreneur Qamrun Nahar Zahir has led Ananta Group from the front to help its annual turnover to cross $300 million last year.
Under her leadership, the group’s export spiralled by nearly 100 times since 1993 when she took charge of the conglomerate after the sudden death of her husband and founder Humayun Zahir.
However, the early years were not smooth for Qamrun Nahar.
It was a tough task for her after the demise of Zahir to decide whether to take care of the budding business or focus only on the family of four school-going minors.
“It was a nightmare for me. I was senseless for a few days after the unusual death of my husband,” said the woman who was only 41 then.
But the strong-willed Qamrun Nahar managed both the family and the business and achieved immense success.
Humayun Zahir had a small garment factory with only 500 workers and a few machineries on Elephant Road in Dhaka.
From only a few millions of exports in 1993, Ananta now employs 28,000 people across its global footprint and has an annual turnover exceeding $300 million.
Qamrun Nahar hopes her group will be able to export $305 million worth of apparel items now as it has been doing business with renowned international retailers and brands.
The company has the privilege of working with over 20 global giants, including H&M, GAP, NEXT, Jack & Jones, Levi’s, Zara, Marks & Spencer and Primark.
Qamrun Nahar completed her BSc in biochemistry from University of Karachi in Pakistan and her MSc on the same subject from Dhaka University.
She had been a teacher in Dhaka Women’s College, which was in fact established by her husband and by herself at Dhanmondi in Dhaka.
Along with her teaching profession, Qamrun Nahar started garment business with a few work orders at a small factory in Dhaka’s Elephant Road and made a little profit.
By this time, she sent her children abroad for higher studies and she continued her business with the help of her father and brothers.
In 1998, the moment came for Qamrun Nahar when she bought an old garment factory in Ashulia, which later changed everything in her life.
“Buying the old factory and making it functional was a turning point of my life.”
The former owner of the old factory was failing to pay some 1,600 workers as he had little work orders.
Qamrun Nahar renovated the production unit and the US retailer GAP started placing work orders.
“I didn’t need to look back as I had a handful of work orders and the factory was running well,” she said.
In 2000, Sharif Zahir, now managing director of Ananta Group, joined her mother Qamrun Nahar to take the group to its current position.
Now, Ananta Group has eight state-of-the-art garment factories.
Qamrun Nahar, also the chairman of Ananta Properties and Ananta Energy Resources, has a plan to set up a model town on Madani Avenue on 13 acres of land in Dhaka.
Work of the Tk 2,500 crore mega real estate project will come to an end in the next seven years. Nine towers will be built which will be up for sale.
The chairman of the group has a plan to employ 3,000 people in different units every year till 2025, by which the company targets to export $1 billion worth of garment items.
The company has already purchased 150 acres of land in Mirsarai to build another industrial village at a cost of $450 million to produce diversified garment items like sportswear, lingerie and knitwear. The construction work of the village will start by December next year.
She also has a plan to go for a joint venture with Chinese or Sri Lankan companies for the operation of the Mirsarai project.
Qamrun Nahar has the plan to make two of her garment companies public by next year. She will float initial public offering of Ananta Denim and Ananta Apparels at the end of this year.
She has already signed agreement with global hotel chain management Marriott to operate a five-star hotel also on Madani Avenue.
She also aims to open a mixed-use type five-star hotel by 2025 at a cost of $250 million.
Her youngest child Asif Zahir, now a director of the group, joined the company after completing his studies from Harvard University and Stanford University.
Two of her daughters are staying abroad. One of them has been practising gynaecology in London and another one has been employed in a multinational company in the US as a consultant.
Social activist Qamrun Nahar is also a director of Janata Insurance and a former vice-chairman of the United Commercial Bank.
The first vice district governor of Lions Club, Dhaka and a life member of Gulshan Society, Qamrun Nahar also loves reading, travelling and sports. She was born in Noakhali in 1952.