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A seal of mediocrity, or a sign of excellence?

  • Published at 12:19 am February 19th, 2018
  • Last updated at 03:00 pm February 19th, 2018
A seal of mediocrity, or a sign of excellence?
We Bangladeshis never seem to be able to give ourselves and our collective efforts due appreciation. It’s only when we recognize our own capacity for excellence that we can expect the world to know about us. I am, of course, alluding to our local industries. Gone are the days when Bangladeshi-made products were limited to just clothing or textiles. From a small hairpin to industrial machinery, “Made in Bangladesh” is now a certified seal -- even though the exact quality may vary. Bangladesh has made great strides in the realm of industry, made evident by our gradual penetration into the world of technology. However, when it comes to consumer appreciation and choice, imported products are always preferred. We stick to our preconceived notions to the point where we indiscriminately reject any product made in Bangladesh. This is a sad state of affairs, and we have no one but ourselves to blame.

Doel’s descent

Some 47 years after the first computer was brought to the country, Bangladesh manufactured its own laptops under the brand “Doel.” As a part of the Digital Bangladesh initiative, the state-owned Telephone Shilpa Sangstha (TSS) produced the machines and launched them at just under $130 in 2011. However, with demand for leading international brands on the rise, Doel’s flight was short-lived.
We have to instill a love for deshi products in the upcoming generation. It is their duty to move the country forward
The tech-savvy were hardly interested in the product, and sceptical of its durability. Production was soon halted, and the product line was finally deemed a “national failure.”

Beevatech and Walton

Hopes were kept alive by a low-cost vehicle manufacturer Beevatech Limited, the company that pioneered battery-operated three wheelers and “cars.” The company developed a car-like vehicle, which they call a four-wheeler, which can hold up to four people and runs exclusively on a battery. If these are accepted more widely, it wouldn’t be that far-fetched to one day see Bangladesh manufacturing electric cars in proper. Beevatech and similar other companies need to be encouraged to mass produce their vehicles. To that end, perhaps the government could consider investing in this promising company. Bangladeshi consumer electronics giant Walton has been assembling products since 2000. Up until 2017, it had 5% of the Bangladeshi mobile phone market by assembling Chinese smartphones. In October, the company inaugurated its first smartphone factory in the country. They later launched the Primo e8i, the first-ever Bangladeshi-made phone. Most of Walton’s phones are priced cheap -- yet, we only seem to want foreign brands. Our overt dependence on imported products and lack of interest in local products is one of the reasons behind such ambitious aims falling out.

Lack of diversification

According to the International Monetary Fund, Bangladesh’s GDP was $686.8 billion as of April 2017. But this mostly covers clothing and accessories, textiles, footwear, paper, and marine resources. The list does not even go close to locally manufactured technology. It is expected that the Jessore Hi-Tech park could improve Bangladesh’s tech situation, but it is merely speculation at this point. Either way, this does not bode well for the future of our economy, because over-dependence on a narrow range of goods is risky.

Love yours

There is an established stereotype about locally made products being not up to the mark -- most of us have a good laugh at any given Bangladeshi manufacturer. We can’t entirely dismiss this kind of an acquired attitude either, because there have been countless times when a deshi product or service did indeed let us down. However, having love for these products is beyond any materialistic benefit. Every product made in one’s country must have a special place in the heart of every citizen. You don’t even have to be a patriot to appreciate small efforts. These efforts would only make sense if there are consumers of these products to begin with. Competition drives improvement, after all. The promise of Digital Bangladesh should not be limited to just government plans and policies, but should also include our collective efforts. The prime minister herself wishes to reduce the nation’s dependence on imports to make this country more self-sufficient. We have to instill a love for deshi products in the upcoming generation. It is their duty to move the country forward. Our local brands have the capability to compete with foreign ones.   Aiman R Khan is an apprentice advocate, Dhaka Judge Court.