A leading entrepreneur of Bangladesh, now 81, spent his formative years in Kolkata. On Thursday evening, his alma mater awarded him for his life-long contribution to business and society.
Syed Manzur Elahi, chairman of the Apex Group and philanthropist, was among nine recipients of the Xavier’s Business Award, presented by St Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Kolkata, and the St Xavier’s College (Calcutta) Alumni Association, in association with The Telegraph.
“I am the senior-most here. I came to St Xavier’s School in 1945-46 at the age of five and studied there till Class VIII. Because of some family issues, I had to go to a boarding school,” he told a packed Father Depelchin auditorium.
Elahi came back to St Xavier’s College for graduation before doing his master’s from Dhaka University.
“I have seen a lot. From a war-ravaged economy... Bangladesh started with $686 in 1971. There was a famine in 1974.... Today, our per capita income is more than that of India. Nobody gave it to us on a plate. We had to work hard for it. We proved a notion wrong. That Bengalis are not good entrepreneurs,” Elahi said, triggering applause from the audience.
Thursday was the 38th foundation day of the alumni association.
Nine former students of the college were recognised.
In his inaugural address, Father Dominic Savio, principal of the college and president of the association, said: “It is our duty to applaud some of our notable alumni who made us proud with their commendable efforts in the field of business and serve the society at large. That’s what the St Xavier’s business awards are all about.”
Firdausual Hasan, secretary of the association, said: “The people recognised today were not the ones who have only upscaled their turnover. They have also made a difference to society and changed the lives of other people.”
Imran Zaki, advisor to the programme and former secretary of the association, said: “The Xaverian spirit is about giving back to society. That is what we are celebrating.”
A list of the other awardees and what they said:
- Debaditya Chaudhury, founder and managing director of Chowman, Oudh 1590 and Chapter 2
“I have received several awards. But this is the most precious for me,” he said
- Debanjan Mandal, partner at Fox and Mandal
“I was born, bred and buttered at this college. Now, I am being rewarded here.”
- Lalit Beriwala, director, Shyam Steel
“College life at St Xavier’s prepared me for the future. It was my foundation.”
- Parikshit Mundhra, co-founder of Willowood India
“I was weak in economics. Father Felix Raj taught me after regular classes for a year. Back then, I dreaded the additional classes but now, I realise their importance.”
- Ramesh Agarwal, director, Rupa & Co Ltd
“I am humbled. Thank you for everything.”
- Ruchika Gupta, executive director, Sanmarg Pvt Ltd
“Proud to be the only woman in this illustrious list.”
- S.M. Lodha, founder of the Indsur Group
“I am overwhelmed.”
- Vishal Jhajharia, founder-director of Starom Realty
“St Xavier’s shaped my life. It made me what I am today.”