The story of the man who founded the first paint manufacturing company in the country
A visionary businessman, Serajuddin Ahmed built an empire with nothing but his passion, leadership, innovation and perseverance. Known simply as Seraj among his friends, he was a hero to his followers, an icon to his contemporaries, a mentor to young entrepreneurs and an amazing symbol of fairness to people he did business with.
Seraj was born on March 16, 1931 in Kamarjuri in Joydebpur. After completing ICom (HSC) and graduation from Salimullah College Dhaka in 1952, he started his career as an executive with a trading company.
He left his job at the trading company in the same year to pursue his dream and embarked on his entrepreneurial joureny by establishing a small-scale factory named 'Elite Chemical Industries' in Chittagong, the first paint manufacturing company in Bangladesh.
In 1953 Seraj married Rabeya Begum, who encouraged and supported him with love and compassion throughout his career over the following years. The couple was blessed with four sons: Ramzul Seraj, Salim Ahmed, Feroz Ahmed and Sajedur Seraj.
With Seraj’s hard work and creativity, the small factory soon expanded and became an enriched factory with modern equipments and machineries capable of producing international standard paints. Gradually, Elite Chemical Industries became the only producer of top quality paints in Bangladesh providing paints in numerous shades at the time. Today, the company stands as the largest local paint manufacturing company.
Following the popularity of Elite Paint in the market, Seraj compelled the Pakistani Government to stop importing foreign paints into the country and established Elite Paint as the only trusted paint company across the country with the tagline “Ronger Raja” (King of paints).
Seraj diversified his business in the following decade and set up multiple industries in different sectors. In 1974, he established 'Elite International Ltd,' which had also witnessed an instant success and became the largest tea exporter of Bangladesh at the time. He also established Karnaphuli Tanneries & Chemical Ltd in 1977, Elite Garments Industries Ltd in 1980, Elite Iron & Steel Industries Ltd and Delite Knitting Co Ltd in 1983.
As a pioneering businessman, his contribution extends to the banking and insurance sector. With the assistance of Dubai Bank Ltd, he along with a few other local businessmen founded AB Bank Ltd in 1984, the first private bank of Bangladesh. He was also one of the founders of the first private insurance company in the country: Bangladesh General Insurance Company Ltd.
Seraj believed in the power of association and co-operation amongst competitors for the greater good. In doing so, he founded the Bangladesh Paint Manufacturers Association (BPMA), which actively operates to date with an aim of establishing consumer friendly and ethical business practices for all paint manufacturers in Bangladesh.
He held numerous prestigious positions, including president of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce & Industries (CCC&I) and Special Representative in different trade bodies formed by the government of Bangladesh (1981-84).
Over the years, Serajuddin Ahmed established many schools, madrasas and orphanages. To provide stipend and financial help to the under-privileged students studying in Chittagong University, he established “Elite Paint Rabeya Seraj Trust.”
The visionary businessman passed away On May 1, 1985, at the age of 54 in Poland during an official tour. Till date, every year on May 1 his family organizes ‘Mezban’ in Chittagong and Dhaka to commemorate the legendary businessman. Thousands of people from different walks of life attend every year.
Today, his four sons look over the empire he built, along with initiatives of their own. Although the person Seraj has passed away, the legacy he left lives on.