It was 1996. Aquarium fish breeding, beekeeping, nursery and poultry farm, all businesses were going great guns for Sayed Muhammad Shoaib Hasan when he was an honours first year student in Chittagong College.
But all of sudden, he decided to make quick bucks and become rich. To him, an easy way to reach his goal was to go for investment in the then booming stock market.
At that time, there was a buzz among young people – whatever you invest in the stock market will rake in handsome profits for you.
Shoaib Hasan sold off all his businesses, pooled Tk10 lakh and hopped on stocks that were skyrocketing and luring newbies. But in no time, he along with many other new investors was left high and dry after the stock market crashed in mid-1996.
But without sticking his head in the sand after losing all the money, he started looking for a job but did not find any. Then, he came to his senses – he realised he should do what he knew the best.
In 1997, capitalising on a lower than required supply in the market, Shoaib ventured into manufacturing noodles with an investment of just Tk2.2 lakh, of which he borrowed Tk1.5 lakh from a relative.
Then began his new journey of becoming an entrepreneur – full of hard work, struggle, and toil.
"Carrying my products on rickshaw-vans, I used to sell them from door to door. I have not left any stone unturned to become successful in business. I have tried to take advantage of every opportunity I had," Shoaib Hasan told The Business Standard.
Shoaib along with his younger brother and three workers built a tiny factory named Hifs Agro Food Industries at his house to produce noodles and sold them from door to door in Chattogram city.
With handsome sales in the next few years, he also started producing "chanachur" and "lachcha shemai". Since then, he did not have to look back again, and thus, his food product factory has thrived over the years, making him a successful entrepreneur.
He has already been conferred the best small entrepreneur of the year 2021 award by the prime minister for his outstanding success in his business of noodles, lachcha shemai, chanachur, chips and crackers, fried peas, pasta, jhalmuri, biscuits, beverages, spice power, etc.
"I currently export my products to at least 20 countries, including those in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and to Australia, India, Malaysia and New Zealand. Last year my annual turnover amounted to $4 million," Shoaib said.
Some 60 people are currently employed in his company.
Seeing a good demand in the country, he started producing macaroni in 2004 by procuring machines from China, and later in 2008, he went for manufacturing soft drinks, he said.
To learn about manufacturing of beverages and marketing, he spent month after month in India, the entrepreneur continued.
Shoaib Hassan received training in 2012 under the SME Foundation's Food and Safety Management System Implementation programme, where he met Howie, a consultant from Singapore.
In consultation with Howie and in collaboration with the SME Foundation, Hifs Agro Food Industries won the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) certificate.
Referring to limitations of entrepreneurs in the SME sector, Shoaib said, "Small and medium entrepreneurs in the country do not get proper incentives from the government. There is no separate bank for entrepreneurs.
"If I get adequate government loan support and patronage, I hope my organisation will create at least 700 jobs in the next five years and my company will have an annual turnover of at least $10 million."
In this regard, SME Foundation Chairman Dr Md Masudur Rahman told TBS, "Shoaib Hasan's business success has inspired small entrepreneurs in the country."
The government is very positive about giving long-term collateral-free loans to small entrepreneurs and has already started pushing banks for that, he added.