With home decor becoming an increasingly more popular hobby for people not only nationwide, but around the world, new businesses in the industry are bound to catch your eye; even more so when said businesses promote local materials, and create a beautiful amalgamation of heritage and style. One such new venture is Beni Boonon.
A concern of Bengal Braided Rugs Ltd (BBRL) -- an export oriented manufacturer of diversified jute products --Beni Boonon aims to take jute to the everyday household of Bangladesh and promote the golden fibre in the domestic market. While BBRL has been exporting to the USA and the UK since 1997, BeniBoonon began its journey officially in November 2019 and has been growing ever since. The love and pride that people have for local products has acted as the biggest source of support for them. We got in touch with Saadul Islam, Director, BBRL and BeniBoonon, to find out their recipe for success.
Tell us a little about your team, and how you ended up here.
As a team, we have always prioritized on local products and their promotion worldwide. The journey with jute began with my father, Shahedul Islam (co-founder of BBRL), who I admire for being a visionary. He has been in the jute business for over 40 years. I’ve seen him build up the company and invest all of his life’s work into turning it to what it is today.
I, on the other hand, have been involved with the family business since 2012. I worked as a full time musician and photographer before that. To be honest, it was mainly the inspiration I received from my father and the curiosity to understand more about jute that led me to this field. I did not have any professional or academic training that would assist me in handling the business, so I pushed myself harder to learn hands on. Every visit to the factory meant I would learn something new. After 8 years, I think it’s safe to say I have found my passion in this business and will continue to nurture it.
Beni Boonon recently hired its newest member, Mushfiq Shaheed, who is our marketing executive. He has a background in Textile Engineering. It has been a great couple of months so far and we are excited to venture further with our dedicated production team, without whom all this would not have been possible.
When and how did the idea for Beni Boonon develop? How long did it take to bring that idea to life?
Well, my father, Shahedul Islam has been exporting jute products for over 40 years and has always felt they were not appreciated enough in Bangladesh. In general, people have always been more inclined towards synthetic and imported products. He always dreamt to regain the glory of our golden fiber, which was the driving force of our economy back in the 80’s. He aspired to create a local brand with high quality diversified jute products. Everyday conversations we shared over tea led to the creation of the name “Beni Boonon”, which was officially patented towards the end of 2019.
Borrowing from his ideas, I began work to help materialize “Beni Boonon” into a brand and started to develop household products, combining traditional designs and western aesthetics. It was exciting, since the local market was something we had never explored.
We were slightly hesitant at first, but the love that poured in from our customers convinced us that jute would finally make its return into our homes.
What was the process like? Did you face any challenges when you decided to start the business?
We primarily started by opening up a Facebook page, aesthetically showcasing our products through photographs.
Branding and logistics was not very challenging as we already have an established manufacturing unit, with experience in product development and marketing.
I would say the main challenge was getting people to buy home decor products, especially rugs, without physically seeing them first. We have been able to overcome this with constant communication with our customers and being observant as well as sensitive to their needs.
There is still a long way to go, but we are really happy with the response so far.
Where are all your products made? Do you have your own craftsmen?
We have our own production facility consisting of around 300 skilled craftswomen. The team used to make products for export only, but now they are also proudly manufacturing jute products for Beni Boonon.
We are here only because of the dedication they show towards their craft, down to the finest detail.
Who comes up with the designs? Do you have a particular style you take inspiration from?
I have had 8 years of experience working on product and design development with buyers from the USA and UK. The years have helped me understand the concepts of design creation for specific markets.
I am blessed to be able to work with a team of artisans at the factory to develop modern designs, and understanding preferences of the local market.
How has the response been since you started? Which product/design is your bestseller?
To be honest, we did not expect much of a response when we started with a Facebook page in November 2019. To our surprise, we have been receiving a lot of love and appreciation from our customers ever since we started. Many other e-commerce stores, local traders, architects, interior designers, etc have shown interest in our products too, which is very encouraging.
Our best seller is our Kantha design, which has been developed to achieve the look of traditional Kantha stitching, but cleverly designed to be hand-printed on jute.
Being in the business, how involved would you say people nowadays are with home decor? Would you say more people are inclined towards organic jute products?
We think people are more inclined towards using tastefully crafted home decor products to embellish their personal space.
It is also great to see interior designers and architects wanting to promote local and sustainable products to their clients these days. The younger generation is also very environmentally conscious, and tends to be inclined towards organic, sustainable products that are locally produced.
Finally, how important would you say it is to promote more organically produced, local products for the country’s economy?
There is a huge demand for environmentally sustainable consumer products all around the world. We think it is important to maximize on this trend and promote the use of jute products as much as possible.
We are happy to share that we just fulfilled our largest order from a big corporate buyer, who will be using our products as gifts for Pohela Boishakh. We are also working with a modern local furniture brand, “Bohu”. Our products are being showcased along with their beautiful furniture at their showroom in Tejgaon Link Road (right next to Aarong). As for e-commerce, we are currently collaborating with Krishti and Bagdoom, and our products are available on Bagdoom’s website.
All this in just four months shows the huge demand and potential for organic home decor products in Bangladesh. We can proudly say that the jute we use is grown and processed in Bangladesh, and there are no imported components involved whatsoever in our production process.
To see more of their creations, visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/BeniBoonon/