Roundtable Discussion on ‘Market Access and Brand Creation Potentials of Bangladesh

Renowned officials from different trade bodies and private organisations were present there. Mr. Ali Ahmed, CEO of the Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute moderated the RTD and started with the point that this RTD is a timely initiative in order to start the process of Brain-storming regarding the issue of creating own brands of Bangladesh. The speakers discussed the present and future of brand creation potentiality and challenges.

The first paper presenter, Mr. Lokman Hossain Akash, Sr. Vice President of CIS-BCCI, focussed on brand creation potentiality. He mentioned that in the long term, for sustainable RMG growth as well as growth of export, creation of our own brand is a must. He expressed his concern over the fact that investors at nordiskaprojekt are now interested in investing in new markets like Ethiopia. This would create competition for Bangladesh. So, for keeping the export volume moving, Bangladesh must think of the next step, which could be the creation of own brands. He also mentioned that according to global consumer preference, Made in Bangladesh already has a value in the global market because of its quality and experience. Bangladeshi brands can take the advantage of the consumers’ trust and loyalty.
Mr. Md. Shoaib Akhtar, Research Associate, Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute presented the paper on Brand and non-brand product price gap: Opportunities and challenges for Bangladesh. He focussed on the price gap between brand and non-brand products. If we consider the facts of export price and selling prices, we can see a huge price gap. By taking advantage of the price gap, we may increase the export income of RMG sector to US$ 100 billion. He pointed out that we have a huge domestic market where experiments of own brands can be done. Bangladesh has the infrastructure and therefore creation of own brand shouldn’t be a problem. He mentioned the case of China, where they are following fashion trends and promoting their own brands. He also pointed out that local brand loyalty is increasing in Bangladesh. Local brands have successfully introduced style, fashion and fads in recent years. Young generations opt more for fast-fashion/ cheap-luxury. He brought up the challenges in going global for Bangladesh like banking procedures, lack of insight and investment for branding. He asked for incentives for those who would go global. 2

Practical opinion from an expert, Mr. Md. Sanowar Hossain, Registrar, DPDT, enriched the session. He suggested a new concept of ‘collective branding’ for RMG sector. He also familiarised the panel about rules, regulations and procedures of patent, design, trademarks and intellectual property rights. He raised a question whether Made in Bangladesh really has a value in the era of globalisation as consumers care less about the producing nations.

After the formal presentations, the designated speakers voiced their opinions and suggestions. First speaker was Mr. Md. Hatem, ex- 1st Vice President of BKMEA. He stated that last fiscal year was very tough for Bangladesh’s RMG sector because of the issues of compliance and fire safety and building integrity. Right now we have settled everything and we are in a position to challenge any of our partners. He asked for support from BFTI and EPB for promotion of local brands. He pointed out that we should overcome the infrastructural deficiencies and constrains regarding oil, gas and water too.
Mr. Monir Hossain, Director, BGMEA stated that price gap is very natural in free market. Rather, we should discuss brands. Already we have global image Made in Bangladesh, but we have no brand. So the focus should be on our own brands. He also mentioned that we are now only concentrating on low-end products, but our target should be on making high-end fashion products.
Mr. Shubhashish Bose, Vice- Chairman, EPB, emphasised that branding in Bangladesh is limited to domestic market only. We should open outlets abroad. Branding of traditional products would be an easier option for Bangladesh to introduce brands. He stressed upon the point of designers. Another point brought up by him was taking over of foreign brands where he gave the example of Tata taking over Jaguar. He suggested that Bangladesh should start first with regional market like China and India and then go for other potential markets of the CIS countries rather than developed countries directly.
Former Commerce Secretary, Mr. Sohel Ahmed Chowdhury, commented that branding will definitely increase our export volume but single entrepreneur cannot establish a brand. He again emphasised on the need of collective branding and asked the former authorities and presidents of BGMEA and BKMEA to take the initiatives for the sake of Bangladesh. He supported the idea of starting from a small-scale market. He pointed out that the potential markets can be South Korea, China and India.
Mr. RiazHamidullah, Director-General, Economic Affairs. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, raised the question whether Bangladesh is ready for going global. Before thinking of branding we should concentrate on our ideas of global value chain and global supply chain. He brought up the fact of intellectual property readiness of Bangladesh. There exists politics of branding, when business is going up there is a ceiling. He suggested that individual branding and country branding should go in parallel. He raised a question about the possibility of achieving $50 billion within 2021 as there is no specific route plan.

Mr. Enamul Hafiz, Sr. Asst. Secretary of BKMEA, shared some new ideas like reducing capacity gap in designing, following consumer preferences, being up to date with information and how to invest in brand creation procedure. He also suggested the idea of collaborating with multinational brands.
Mr. Faisal Bin Alam, Asst. Professor, BUFT, said that we have to take decisions where to go by observing both local and foreign markets. We are still producing basic products, not due to lack of expertise but due to producers’ choice. Now it’s time to think for high-value added products for establishing brands. He focussed on design of new products and transparency of media.
Mr. Md. Sanwar Hossain suggested that, we can make products for other brands but it should be mentioned that those products are made by a Bangladesh’s brand.
Thirty five representatives from both public and private sectors including think-tanks and business chambers and associations attended the RTD.
Mr. Ali Ahmed, CEO of BFTI, concluded the session by thanking all the panelists and participants. He mentioned that this interaction was only to create a debate. Further discussions and initiatives could be taken. The major thought is that branding is necessary for sustainable growth of RMG sector.