The catalogue is now distributed to over 50 countries, and is observing its 18th anniversary this year
The Bangladesh Trade Catalogue (BTC) contains the addresses of more than a hundred thousand Bangladeshi businesses, categorized into 37 business sectors and sub-sectors.
Although the catalogue is published jointly by the Commerce Ministry, Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), and Dedar Trade International Limited, it is the brainchild of Sultana M Chisty, editor and CEO of the BTC.
Sultana dreamed of publishing such a catalogue more than 20 years ago, and her dream finally came true in 1999.
The catalogue is now distributed to over 50 countries, and is observing its 18th anniversary this year.
The Dhaka Tribune recently sat with Sultana, who recounted her journey and shared behind the scenes stories and future plans.
Being the daughter in a family with a background in business, as well as a Commerce Ministry official’s wife, Sultana received the opportunity to attend several business events and trade fairs both at home and abroad.
“When I attended foreign events in the 90s, I noticed that many countries were offering trade or investment catalogues. On the other hand, representatives from our country travelled empty handed. This got me thinking about publishing a trade catalogue for Bangladesh,” she told the Dhaka Tribune.
Having developed a writing habit from an early age (her first poetry book, “Krishnakaya,” was published in 1990), Sultana devoted all her time from 1996-99 to publishing the BTC.
“I was blessed with support from my husband and many other friends and family members,” she said.
Sultana added that she burst into tears when the catalogue was first published, and she subsequently directed her efforts to branding the catalogue. “Whenever someone I knew went on a trip or attended a trade fair abroad, I gave them some copies of the catalogue to distribute at the event.”
She said all the copies were distributed free of charge, and she footed the bill herself with earnings from advertising and her property.
“I was optimistic about fulfilling my dream of a trade catalogue for Bangladesh, and I had a little bit of time to think about funding. I am very thankful to my family for both their mental and financial support,” Sultana further said.
Sultana’s youngest son Amirul Rajiv said: “When my mother started working on the BTC, we grew fed up with her, as she put her full focus on it. She even started to stay at office at night to complete her work. Every day, she was busy documenting information on several business organizations.”
“However, our boredom eventually turned into interest, when we saw that my mother loved her work so much that she even asked for updates on the BTC project when she was paralyzed for a year,” Rajiv added.
This year, to mark the 18th anniversary of BTC project, Sultana is going to host an event titled the “Golden Pen Business Award” at the Bangabandhu International Conference Center (BICC) on July 29. The event will be organized to honour business personalities and inspire the future entrepreneurs of Bangladesh.
Sultana wants to make the BTC available to all businesses across the world, through a mobile app and website to be launched in the coming days, and she wants to work on the project as long as she can.
“A developing country like Bangladesh, where business is growing fast, needs a trade catalogue. This can present an overview of all the actors in a sector. I just do my part, and everyone should do their best in this regard,” Sultana concluded.