Says Walton MD Golam Murshed in an interview recently
Seeing the rising anti-China sentiment in India, the US and much of the world, local electronics giant Walton has now set its sight on attracting buyers who are shifting away from China for procuring electronics and home appliance goods, said its top executive recently.
“But for that, branding Bangladesh is very crucial,” Golam Murshed, managing director of Walton Hi-Tech Industries, told Dhaka Tribune in an interview recently.
Globally, Bangladesh is still known as a third-world country.
But given the present economic status and growth, in absolute terms, Bangladesh is not a third world country anymore, he said.
“This is a big challenge for us in grabbing market share abroad. People simply don’t know about Bangladesh as a manufacturer of home appliances or electronic products.”
And that is where branding comes in, said Murshed, who was appointed the MD last month by the Walton board.
“Bangladesh badly needs to showcase its strength in manufacturing electronics products.”
Other than that, it would not be difficult to match Walton’s foreign counterparts in terms of quality.
“It will not be tough for us as we have a pool of talented engineers who work relentlessly to improve the product quality,” said Murshed, who himself joined Walton in 2010 as an assistant engineer and quickly climbed the ranks.
For quality control and to reach world-class standards, Walton has hired talent from renowned global brands such as LG, Panasonic and Samsung.
And it sends engineers abroad on a regular basis so that they are on top of the latest technology.
Murshed went to cite the case of Walton’s recent export of television to Germany and compressor to Turkey amid the pandemic as a sign of the growing acceptance of its products abroad.
“Before importing from us, these companies were used to importing from other countries and they chose us for sourcing. This shows our strength.”
Murshed also cited Walton’s ascension in the domestic market over the decade to further his point.
“The dominance of foreign brands and imported goods have almost come to an end. This has been possible due to the quality of Walton goods and our affordable price.”
Walton has cornered 75 per cent of the market for refrigerators, 50 per cent for television and 20 per cent for air conditioners, according to Murshed, a mechanical engineering graduate from the Islamic University of Technology.
“In the last decade, we have conquered the domestic market and in the next decade, our vision is to become a global brand.”
At present, Walton -- which manufactures a mindboggling array of gadgets ranging from mobile phones to laptops, washing machines to microwave ovens, blender to gas stoves, electric fans to LED bulbs -- exports to 40 countries in Africa, Europe and Asia.
The African countries and the Middle East could be big markets for Walton, according to Murshed, who previously served an additional MD at the company.
“There is a huge potential for finished goods there. Those countries prefer to import finished goods as there is manpower shortage and labour cost is high there.”
Closer to home, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka have good prospects.
“Considering the price and quality of products, Bangladesh will be the next destination for electronic goods and home appliances,” he said, adding that Walton has been taking advantage of the duty-free market access to the US, the EU and elsewhere that Bangladesh currently enjoys as a least-developed country.
But for now, Walton’s main focus is to ride out the pandemic, which has cost it a quarter of missed sales and that too at a time when the sales for certain items like refrigerators and ACs typically surge.
Its sales crashed a whooping 78 per cent to Tk 489 crore between April and June.
Subsequently, its profit in the 2019-20 financial year that ended on June 30 dropped 47.2 per cent to Tk 733.4 crore.
Even as the economy opened up from June, Walton’s sales are not springing back to pre-COVID level on account of pent-up demand.
In the July-September quarter, its profit declined 12 per cent year-on-year to Tk 401.7 crore.
“The pandemic is an unprecedented one for the world and it has also hit the sales of Walton. During the shutdown, our focus was on how to remain afloat and save our employees, who are like our family members.”
The homegrown electronic giant did not lay off a single worker or slashed salaries.
Walton’s second focus during the countrywide shutdown from March 26 to May 30 was on how to keep the supply chain operations to serve the customers.
“Giving priorities to customer’s demands, we delivered products on time maintaining a health safety protocol, which helped to rebound the sales,” Murshed added.
The share price of Walton, which made its stock market debut earlier this year, has been on a descent in recent days. Since November 12, its share price dropped 15.3 per cent. It closed at Tk 708.7 on Sunday.