Foreign participants at the Dhaka International Trade Fair (DITF) eye Bangladesh as a potential market given the country’s rising per capita income and vast consumer class.
Some 55 companies from 21 countries are taking part in this year’s trade fair at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, which is organised by the commerce ministry and the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), the government agency solely responsible for promoting and expanding export and markets across the globe.
“Bangladeshi people like our products because of quality and reasonable price,” said Zahoor Ahmed, owner of Kashmir Shawl Industries, a Srinagar-based woollen shawl manufacturer.
The manufacturer is taking part in the fair for the second time and has already gained popularity: he recently opened a branch in Dhaka as he bagged some permanent clients in Bangladesh.
Similarly, Shibli Shamsi, a women’s clothing manufacturer from Pakistan, has been taking part in the DITF for the last 10 years. Its salwar suits and overshirts have good demand in Bangladesh.
The company has some clients in Dhaka who import directly from Pakistan, said its Chairman Gulrez Shoaib.
“We are trying to provide quality products to customers through the DITF as we are looking to expand our business in Bangladesh,” said Shoaib, who came to Dhaka for the first time this year. His father took part in the previous nine editions.
Sultans’ Home, a Turkish carpet manufacturer, has been taking part in the DITF for the last 13 years and has created a good market in Bangladesh as there are good number of carpet lovers here, said Halef Ozkurt, its country manager.
“We see a potential market in Bangladesh. Our target is local customers,” he said, adding that the company has opened an office in Uttara, Dhaka.
Craft and Creation, a Srinagar-based household decoration item manufacturer, has been participating in the fair for the last few years.
The company has won customer’s confidence on the back of the quality of products, said Manish Garg, an owner of the company.
“We do not take part in any fair except the DITF.”
Craft and Creation exports products to Bangladesh in a limited scale and is looking to expand its footprint in the country.
“That’s why I take part in the DITF,” Garg said.
Although more than 50 companies are taking part in the fair, the correspondent did not find direct participant of foreign companies except those from India, Pakistan, and Turkey.
Executives selling products at stalls showcasing products of companies from Thailand, Iran and Korea say representatives from the countries did not take part as local agents can run the stalls.
One of them is Aove Saha, who is running Korea Collection, a stall at the Korean pavilion, as a director.
“Korean products in areas of household, cookeries and beauty are becoming popular in Bangladesh.”
His company takes part in various fairs in Dubai, Europe and North America as there is a good demand there.
According to Ahmed, the EPB is very cooperative and he has not faced any problem in taking part in the fair.
Some foreign participants, however, alleged that they have to pay higher customs duties to bring in products to showcase them at the DITF compared with fairs in other countries.
Companies mainly take part in fairs to display products and sales are not the main target, they say.
Garg brings in products by air and is charged customs duties depending on weight. “Ultimately, customers have to bear the duties as we include the tax with price,” he said.
Although he has shipped in products through sea routes, Shibli Shamsi also had to pay a large amount of custom duties, Shoaib said.
Ozkurt’s company has paid $30,000 in customs duty to bring a consignment of products from Turkey.
Customs levy duties on the products sold at the DITF as per declaration of the participating companies, said Mohammad Abdur Rouf, secretary of the fair organising committee.
If the participants write to them about the higher duties, they would look into it, he said.