Guest Alumni Lecture Leads to Historic Investment in the Future of Bangladesh
When Waeez Hossain (MBA’22) enrolled at Georgetown McDonough, he was hoping for an education that would give him the business acumen to be able to give back to his native Bangladesh. He chose Georgetown for its global reputation and proximity to organizations like the World Bank and IMF. He had no idea, though, that through the power of the Georgetown network, his impact would begin before he graduated.
Hossain is part of a multigenerational family business — Anwar Group of Industries (AGI) — that was founded by his great great grandfather in 1834. It has several different divisions, ranging from financial services, building materials, real estate, and furniture to car dealerships and insurance. He says the secret to running the oldest family business on the subcontinent is to consistently innovate and redefine it.
“The unique thing about a family business, if you‘re able to succeed you are able to run the organization for a long time,” he said “It’s in our genes to look for new opportunities in Bangladesh and we try to adapt our business to the new market environment. Although there are significant differences in each generation’s operational styles, the one thing that is constant is our ability and need to serve the Bangladesh market.”
At the moment, Hossain is working at Bangladesh Finance, a portfolio company of AGI, where he is focused on loans for private businesses to aid the transition of one of the world’s fastest-growing economies from agricultural to industrial. So, when Ben Levine (MBA’19), then vice president of Sovereign Infrastructure Group (SIG), delivered a guest lecture in a class taught by Professor of the Practice Michael McDermott about how infrastructure projects are a way for business to improve society, Hossain said it resonated with what he wants to achieve in Bangladesh.
SIG is a global structured financing company and private credit platform that was seeking opportunities in developing nations like Bangladesh. Hossain saw the opportunity for Bangladesh Finance to distribute capital from foreign investors using their knowledge of the market and individual projects.
Additionally, SIG has a history of hiring Georgetown graduates, from their senior leadership to their interns.
“I chose to pursue my MBA at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business for a reason— Georgetown’s leadership at the intersection of international business and public policy is unmatched,” Levine said in an interview in April 2021. “At SIG, I had the opportunity to apply the technical skills I learned in the classroom while building upon my foundation of economic policy and international affairs. One of my favorite activities at SIG was leading the firm’s graduate and undergraduate internship program, and I am proud to say that most of SIG’s interns to date have been Hoyas.”
In the spirit of Hoyas Helping Hoyas, Levine was happy to connect with Hossain when he asked to continue the discussion started in class.
“After I reached out to Ben, I saw that the company’s philosophy was about bringing long standing change in a country. That made it easy for us to work together as companies,” he said. “In Bangladesh, our primary investors from sovereign nations are from China and Japan and India — it’s really hard to tap into a different market for Bangladesh since we don’t have that relationship with U.S. investors.”
They each saw potential in a partnership and worked together from October to April to explore how that would take shape. The result was a Memorandum of Understanding signed at the Bangladeshi Embassy on April 8, 2021, that serves as a long-term, best-efforts collaboration framework that enables SIG to mobilize U.S. capital market investors into Bangladesh infrastructure projects through the Bangladesh Finance and Investment Company.
“As an alumnus, I was honored that Professor McDermott asked me to speak to his class about my career path and work as an infrastructure investor,” Levine said at the time of the MOU signing. “Six months after the lecture, I was proud to say that SIG and Bangladesh Finance and Investment Company executed a memorandum that seeks to finance up to $2 billion of Bangladesh Finance’s infrastructure project pipeline over the next two years. This engagement could not have happened without Georgetown.”
This $2 billion pipeline includes a $40 million direct senior loan to be used for small and medium enterprises, green energy projects, women entrepreneurs, social housing, economic empowerment initiatives for transgender individuals, and the refinancing of existing Bangladesh Finance obligations.
“This is a big milestone for our company, but also a big milestone for Bangladesh to have investment from the United States. We are starting to talk to others about similar deals,” Hossain said. “This entire process has taught me a lot about my country and my family business, and Georgetown was a great facilitator in making sure I took the initiative to make sure I succeed for the goals I made for myself.”