Syed Nasir ran into a top paint manufacturing official while on his way to the capital to look for a job. The conversation with the official was brief, but it was convincing enough for shifting Nasir's career focus to business from job hunting.
The official also promised to do Nasir a favour – if Nasir started making tin cans, the official's employer Berger Paints would buy them.
After the "deal", the young man returned home, borrowed Tk1.25 lakh from his father's pension, recruited 20 workers, and started tin can making in Chattogram for the paint manufacturer.
This move marked the beginning of Xclusive Can Limited in 1992, which logged a Tk152 crore turnover last year by supplying more than half of the annual domestic demands for paint and ice-cream containers.
The clients were Berger, Asian, Nippon, Dulux, Elite in paints and Savoy, Polar, Kwality and Lovello in ice-cream, Radiant, Popular, ACI Pharma in pharmaceuticals and Aarong and Milk Vita in the dairy sector.
With four production units in Chattogram, Gazipur and Tongi, Xclusive now is going for two more factories – one in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar in Chattogram's Mirsarai and another in Gazipur.
At the Xclusive factory in Gazipur, the company's Managing Director Nasir detailed the green features of the production unit that make plastic cans, ice-cream boxes, lubricants, pharmaceutical and paint containers.
With 750 workers, the inside of the factory remains cool though the production facility does not have any fan or air-conditioner. Nasir said the factory was built with environmentally-friendly green technology.
Exhaust fans vent out the inner heat, keeping the inside temperature 5 degrees Celsius lower than the outside. To ensure enough light and air, the height of the ground floor ceiling is 20 feet while others are above 16 feet – around double the residential building storey height.
The factory leaves 18,000 square feet space in its compound for vegetation and greenery as there are also plants on the balconies and on the rooftop.
"We do not sweat or feel exhausted while working at the factory. Working at such a spacious production unit does not feel boring either," said Ananta Talukder, a worker at the Xclusive.
The factory does not have visible wiring, but rather uses the Busbar Trunking System, a power distribution system using copper or aluminium busbar with suitable enclosures that does not have short circuit risks.
However, the factory has automatic overhead fire extinguishing lines and wide emergency exits.
"A factory is not a warehouse. Rather it is a working place in nature where there will be sunlight, rain and air," said Syed Nasir.
The floors are made of polyurathene pudding that helps keep the products clean and hygienic.
"Many are exporting food items in our boxes. So, we consider health safety and food safety in all seriousness," noted Nasir.
The factory uses state-of-the-art Chinese machines, including more than 50 robots.
Syed Nasir said he invested Tk60 crore in the construction of the five-storied factory building. Construction began in 2016 and was completed at the end of 2019.
Of the amount invested, Tk1.56 crore alone was spent on consultation fees on fire, worker and electric safety measures.
Cans and ice-cream boxes of different sizes are made from imported plastic resin. The whole production process is automated. Plastic resin is poured at the beginning of the production line while the final products come out at the finishing lines.
The workers just do the sorting out and packaging.
Nasir says his factories use 500 tonnes of plastic resin, 300 tonnes of tin plate and electrolytic tin plate per month.
Academic certificates for loan security
Nasir said he gave his academic certificates to Sonali Bank in Chattogram as security for a Tk5 lakh loan for business expansion at the beginning of the business. The bank also lent him Tk15 lakh against his warehouse.
"That was a watershed; I badly needed the support at that time," said Nasir.
The businessman expanded his Chattogram-based business to Dhaka in 2000 to get a better hold on the market. The first three years of expansion were good, and then the challenges started surfacing as paint manufacturers began shifting to plastic containers from tin cans.
As plastic can-making requires more production cost, Nasir paused the Dhaka-centric business expansion and returned to Chattogram. He started manufacturing plastic containers at the same Chattogram factory he used for tin can making.
In 2006, he moved to Dhaka again and set up a factory in Tongi. Subsequently, he secured orders from the major painting brands.
What about recycling?
Nasir believes Bangladesh needs waste segregation and better waste management so that plastic products can be recycled and reused.
"Foreign buyers come to us and say they will place orders if we can recycle 25% of our local products. But we cannot fulfil the condition since it is tough to retrieve sold-out containers. People usually use the paint containers as water jars or for other purposes," he added.
About the green production unit, Nasir said he wants to encourage others about factory compliance, worker safety and green workplace so that industrial accidents can be averted.