Never underestimate the local market!

Wafiur Rahman
Thursday, October 27th, 2016


How Banga Bazar and Islampur meet our clothing demands


It happened almost silently. The market that has always been underestimated has actually emerged. It was once argued that a few outlets in the city are basically the outcome of leakage or unsold stock of the export-earning sector. In fact, many of us have failed to notice the demand from the consumers and the market potential to grow and we now see a competitive domestic market. Banga Bazar or Islampur are the incarnation of the underrated market.


‘Reasonable in terms of quality and price’ was the logic from Samina Rahman, a resident of Bongshal, who was visiting Banga Bazar in the capital to buy new clothes for her daughter on the occasion of Eid. ‘This market is the source of reliability for people who have a very limited source of income,’ she said. Investigations show the price of the clothes was twice the price of the last year. But compared to price, the quality has increased. ‘I make a sale of Tk. 4000-5000 a day,’ said Kazim Ali, a businessman, ‘and when it is for the occasion of Eid, the amount raises up to Tk. 20,000.’


Before Eid, the retailers have to handle a massive wave of customers, said Saiful Islam, an employee at M.M Fashion. They cannot even make them go away when it is time to close. ‘Most of the stocks at Banga Bazar are export-quality products,’ said Abdul Aziz, owner of RR Fashion. ‘Due to some sort of technical error, a stock of the lot gets taken out of the export shipment and lands here. This results in the export-quality products being sold at the lowest possible prices, making the customers very happy and content.’


However, Sabikun Nahar, a student of Dhaka University, thinks otherwise. She said that she had also heard of the low priced high quality products, but that does not exist anymore. The prices are really high in almost every store.


Also, there are almost 150,000 street vendors in Dhaka city. Keeping the Eid festival in mind, there is always an influx of seasonal vendors streaming into the capital, dreaming for a quick injection of cash. But they cannot do business on the footpath if they wish to. They have to take lease of the footpaths from the police, miscreants and extortionist gangsters.


The debate whether there should be stores on the footpath or not – rather, it can be said, they exist in Bangladesh and it is a stark reality. The last caretaker government was criticised for trying to evict the street hawkers. It is driven by demand and consumers are seen buying in large number from the footpath. Kamal Siddiqi, a local leader, opined that hawkers should be allowed to carry on their street business on humanitarian grounds.


Islampur, in old Dhaka, has now been famous for reasonably-priced Jamdani, Katan, Rajshahi Silk, Boutique, hand-crafted sari, three-piece, shirt, Panjabi, trousers, bedsheets, pillow covers and manng y more. There are a good number of muti-storied buildings namely Jahangir Tower, Latif Tower, Ahsan Ullah Market and Khan Mansion that have housed 12,000 stores overall. To ensure security for the businessmen, there is also a cloth/fabric industry owners association. Except Fridays, transactions are done from 9:30 in the morning till 8 at night – 6 days a week.


Sheikh Shahidul Islam, owner of Sheikh Textile Mill at Islampur, complained that buyers do not want to come to Islampur anymore due to extreme traffic congestion. ‘Fabrics are being imported from India and China,’ he said, ‘many local businessmen evade tax by smuggling them into the country – hampering authentic importers in the process.’


Islampiur lies on the west side of Sadarghat and Patuatuli, on the north-west lies Babu Bazar, Badamtoli on the south, Patuatuli on the east and Jindabahar on the north. Islampur was known as ‘Sachi Port’ at one time. Even in 1963-64 there were no high-rise buildings, only tin sheds, as recollected by Golam Rasul, a veteran local of Jindabahar. ‘There used to be bus routes from Shodorghat to Chawkbazar, with fares being 5 paisa,’ he said. From 1968 to 1970, Islampur became a booming cloth market. The number of stores was limited back then. There were hardly 4 to 5 showrooms of fabric mills in Patuatuli, adjacent to the south side of then-Jagannath College. The major mills of that era were Chitta Ranjan Cotton Mill, Ahmed Bawani Cotton Mill, Adamjee Cotton Mill and Laxmi Narayan Cotton Mill. Demand for more and more clothes resulted in more new stores at Islampur.


Withstanding the test of time, Islampur is now the country’s largest wholesale clothing fabric market.


Baburhat, another reality: It is the biggest sales hub for hand loom fabrics and products. Sales on Mondays are very high to the core. Various small and medium level businessmen buy saris, lungi, mosquito nets, bed sheets, etc and distribute them all over the country. Major lungi manufacturers such as ATM, Standard, etc buy a substantial amount of their lungis from this place.


Located in Madhobdi, Narshingdi, Babur Haat has now been known to be the Manchester of the East. When did this Manchester come about? From the late 18th century. There used to be a night-market named Kazir Haat from dusk till the late hours of night time adjacent to Babur Haat, in a vaillage called Anandi. Everyday goods used to be sold here. Towards the beginning of the 19th century, local zaminders (landlords) sponsored a new night-time market in the outskirts of their homes, at the same location. During the time of the British-opposing non-cooperation movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, he had urged all his countrymen to boycott foreign fabrics of all sorts. This had inspired the local people to take interest in fabric weaving. 3 villages mainly turned out to be the leading fabric manufacturers from this – Algi, Birampur and Anandi. These weekly haats used to attract all the manufacturers to sell their goods – their success stories spread word all around India.


During this period some responsible people took initiative and used Japanese weaving technology. Marwari businessmen exported their goods to West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Odissa, etc. Now the route is not direct anymore, but they are traded across the country.


The 1965 political war and instability helped in the decrease of using sea for trade, resulting in the end of business relationship between Indian clothing businessmen and Babur Haat.

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