Samson Chowdhury was born in 1926 and educated in India before settling in Ataikula Village in northwest Bangladesh (then newly known as East Pakistan).
He started a small pharmacy in 1958, venturing into a partnership with three friends to form a pharmaceutical company that became the Square Group.
It grew into one of the largest conglomerates in Bangladesh, with approximately 28,000 employees in various industries such as cosmetics, textiles, agricultural products, information technology, health services and media.
Samson received a number of awards and recognitions. He was named Business Executive of the Year by the American Chamber in Bangladesh in 1998 and recognised by The Daily Star and DHL Worldwide Express as the Best Entrepreneur of Bangladesh for 2000-2001. He received the Banker’s Forum Award in 2005 for Business Ethics, Honesty and Transparency; was recognised by the National Board of Revenue as one of the top ten tax payers of Bangladesh since 2005; and received Commercial Important Person status from the Government of Bangladesh.
However it was not just as a businessman that New Zealand Baptists knew Samson. He was also a committed, servant-hearted follower of Jesus.
Samson was elected president of the Bangladesh Baptist Church Fellowship (BBCF) a dozen times, and was honorary General Secretary for 14 years between 1956 and 1969. He is a former president of both the National Church Council of Bangladesh and the National Evangelical Alliance.
Between 1985 and 1990, Samson served as a vice president of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and served on the BWA General Council, the BWA Executive Committee, the Baptist World Aid Committee, the BWA Promotion and Development Committee, and the BWA Memorial Committee.
With Bangladesh being a nation New Zealand Baptists have focused on and served in for many years, Samson was a true brother in Christ. In times of difficulty with regards to gaining visas or documents required by our mission workers, Samson was a faithful supporter. He saw the value of NZBMS’s contribution and encouraged us immensely.
Susan, one of our tranzsend workers, has published a book on the life of Samson Chowdhury. In the preface she says:
“I wrote a book about Samson Chowdhury and his business practices with the hope that Bangladeshi Christians and others would see this model of Christian business as an inspiration and encouragement for them to do the same. Mr Chowdhury’s commitment to hard work, excellence and integrity are examples for all of us to follow whether we are in business or not.
“His life was an example of someone who maintained his Christian faith while achieving remarkable success in the marketplace. He honoured God in all that he did and his generosity to many organisations and individuals in Bangladesh will be remembered for years to come.
“Samson Chowdhury was not without his faults. He had strongly held views and opinions which sometimes led to disagreement and conflict with friends and colleagues. However to us he has always shown respect and humility. On a visit to his home or his office, he would always walk us to the lift or downstairs to the car, no matter how busy he was.”
Samson died in hospital in Singapore on January 5, just short of his 86th birthday. Tributes came from both the business and Christian sectors.
Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, said, “Samson H. Chowdhury has made immense contributions to the development of various industrial sectors in the country.”
Anis Ud Dowla, chairman of ACI Group in Bangladesh, said, “He was a rare example of honesty in business.”
BWA General Secretary Neville Callam said, “We remember Mr Chowdhury’s commitment to Christ, his selfless service and his exemplary deportment. His dedication to the ministry of the BWA was evident in his generosity in supporting the BWA mission.”
Samson leaves wife Anita; sons Samuel, Anjan, and Topon (who is president of the BBCF and a member of the BWA General Council, the Executive Committee and the Budget and Finance Committee); and daughter, Ratna Patra.
Funeral services were held on January 6 in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, and burial on January 7 in his home district of Pabna.