Local entrepreneurs yet to realize market potentials
Nobody takes its name in public and when they do, they do it under their breath, in a hushed tone, usually in a whisper so that the sound does not reach beyond the intended listener/s.
Without mentioning its name, its buyers often points his finger at the box with amorous picture that contains it or when he takes its name, he becomes sure that nobody is around.
Such an inhibition one has to overcome to pronounce the word condom but it has to be pronounced, so pressing and real is the need that the market has to be supplied with at least 250 crore pieces of the contraceptive item annually.
And the market keeps growing by 25% per annum, according the estimation of market insiders.
But the irony is that despite having a large domestic market, the country has to depend heavily on imports as no local entrepreneur came forward to produce the product.
The yearly demand of the contraceptive is worth around Tk2,750 corer, with the government with a manufacturing plant catering to only 10% of the demand.
The rest 90% is met with imports, especially from China, Thailand, England and Malaysia.
The market keeps growing with increased demand. In 2016-17 fiscal, the country imported condom worth Tk1,933 crore, which increased by 22% to Tk2,362 crore in 2017-18 fiscal, according to the National Board of Revenue (NBR).
In last fiscal (FY2018-19), condom import hit worth Tk2,425 crore, as per the NBR data.
Condom is one of the popular contraceptives for controlling birth, while people also take pills, injections, intrauterine devices and other methods for family planning.
A 6.4% of married people use condom as contraceptive, while 62.4% of the married people use any of the other contraceptives, according to the latest report of ‘Bangladesh Demographic Health Survey’ conducted by the Ministry of Health and Family Planning.
The survey finds use of condom on constant rise while that of pills and other contraceptives on the decline.
In 1975, the use of condom was 0.7%, 1.5% in 1983, 1.8% in 1985, 1.8% in 1989, 2.5% in 1991, 3% in 1994, 3.9% in 1997, 4.3% in 2000, 4.2% in 2004, 4.5% in 2007, 5.5% in 211 and it reached 6.4% in 2014 among the married people, it mentions.
One manufacturing plant and 200 brands
To meet the increased demand, the Essential Drugs Company Limited, the state-owned pharmaceutical company, set up a condom manufacturing factory in Khulna in 2011, which now produces 22.5 lakh pieces yearly.
The health ministry distributes the condoms, produced by the Essential Drugs, across the country free of costs under different government family planning programs.
Besides, about 200 brands of imported condom are available in the market, according to industry insiders. Of the brands, Hero, Raja, Panther, Sensation, U & Me, Xtreme, Amore, Durex, Coral, Carex, Moodes are popular.
“We float tenders and buy condoms from renowned international manufacturers with our brand names,” said Khandaker Shamim Rahman, head of marketing, SMC Enterprise Ltd, which holds two-thirds of the condom market share.
He informs that they do not produce any condom and none but the state-owned Essential Drugs produces condom locally.
“Our main goal is to ensure the use of contraceptives and work for health hygiene,” he says, adding that making profit by producing the product is not their concern.
Investable market, but not yet explored
Despite having such a big unexplored market of condom, local entrepreneurs are yet to come forward to make investment in it.
“Obviously, condom is a profitable product. But the idea of producing the item locally and investing for that has not yet been conceived,” says Syed Abdul Hamid, professor at the Institute of Health Economics of Dhaka University.
"The condom still remains a taboo, which may be why no entrepreneurs came forward for producing the product locally," he tells Dhaka Tribune.
Mentioning the potential of the product, the health economist urges private sector entrepreneurs, especially pharmaceutical companies, to come forward to manufacture the contraceptive product.
Hamid notes that the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) introduced or-saline in the country and now all pharmaceuticals were competitively producing the product. “Similar thing should happen in the case of condom,” he says.
Market doubles in five years
According to industry insiders, the market of condom increased by leaps and bounds especially in last couple of years, and it doubled in five years.
“We saw only 3% year-on-year growth in condom sales in 2015-16 fiscal, which jumped to 25% last year (FY2018-19),” says SMC’s Shamim.
The rate was 4% in 2017-18 fiscal and 19% in 2018-19 fiscal, he told Dhaka Tribune, claiming that the overall condom market growth corresponded with that of SMC itself as the company holds two-thirds share of the market.
Shamim expects a 28% sales growth for the ongoing fiscal (FY2019-20).
“People are now getting more conscious about contraceptive and they have started to realize that the condom is safer than any other methods,” he says.
Professor Hamid thinks that the use of condom will increase further with increased literacy rate.
“Our family planning was basically female-centric and family planning workers were mostly female, which is why contraceptives such as birth controlling pill is popular,” he explains.
“But pill, injection or other methods have huge side-effects, one can even suffer from cancer and other ailments using pills, while condom is the health-friendly,” adds Hamid.
According to BDHS report, the government holds 10.6% share of the total condom market. It distributes the product named Nirapad.
The survey finds SMC, having seven brands, to be the leader in condom market with about 62% shares.
Of the SMC’s brands, Raja holds 6.1% share while Panther holds 23%, Hero 11.1%, Sensation 16.6%, U&ME 4.8%, Xtreme holds 0.1% share of the market. Besides, the SMC recently launched another high priced brand, Amore.
Among other brands in the market, Coral holds 5.8% share, Carex 5.6%, Durex 1.3%, Deluxe 2.2%, Super Guard 1.9%, Moods 0.4%, Gamy 0.6%, Wonder life 0.1%, Romantex 0.3%, Love Guard 0.7%, Jippy 1.5%, Green Love about 1.2%, and other brands hold 5.9% market share.
A three-piece packet of condom sells for Tk15 to Tk110 on an average depending on brands and features.
Panther, the most sold brand, sells for Tk15 per pack, Sensation for Tk25, U&Me for Tk40, Extreme Tk70, Amore Tk100, Donless Tk100, Sensor Tk30, Green Love Tk30, Shot Tk70, Extra Pleasure Tk110, and Coral for Tk30 per pack.
SMC’s head of marketing Shamim says condom users among married persons is only 6.4% now.
“We have a huge scope for expansion,” he says, predicting that the number of condom users will increase day by day because of its hygiene feature.
Professor Hamid says the government is planning to popularize condoms instead of other contraceptives.