SMEs and branding Bangladesh

SMEs and branding Bangladesh

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Daily Independent on July 3, 2010

Bangladesh earns a significant amount (about USD 16 billion) by exporting Readymade Garments (RMG) to the west but with brand name of Wal-Mart, Mark & Spencer, Jechipeni, Nike, Addidas, Jharah, and many more. This is because we are doing a nominal task – just cut and sew with buyers brand name and logo. As a result, these products are sold as buyer’s brand. On the other hand, Bangladesh is an SME dominating economy. Our SMEs are  producing a wide variety of products in different important sectors like, light engineering, plastic and rubber, ceramics and glassware, electrical and electronics, leather and leather goods, cosmetics and toiletries, craft and giftware, crockery, frozen foods, furniture, handicrafts, herbal products, horticulture, jute and jute goods, motor cycle, silk and silk cloths, textile and clothing, motor parts, agro-processed food, medicine, software, cement, cargo vessel manufacturers, and fashion items, etc. but most of the cases businesses operate without any formal registration even without a registered trademark.

Some SMEs are producing world class goods but in absence of registered trademarks these products are not getting brand status. At the same time as the products or manufacturing processes are not patented so these are copying by their competitors and product quality is reduced. Many products get popularity with innovative design and shape but these are not protected as registered industrial design. Many companies start with a good opening but lose market share due to unfair competition and copying. As a result brand image is not building up in SME sector.  Let’s try to analyse what are the IP tools that can be applied in which SMEs and for what reason. Firstly, trademark is essential for every business entity. We give a name to our enterprises and if it is registered as my trademark then nobody will be allowed to use same name and logo in their products. So there is a possibility to establish brand image for qualified products of that entity. It ensures highest utilization of goodwill of a single entity for their innovative products and services. When innovation comes up then question of protecting that innovation through patent registration occurs. So we can state that trademark and patent is for every enterprise in every sector.

Many gorgeous movies and songs have been produced by our production houses and performed by Bangladeshi artistes but due to copying illegally production houses and artistes are losing their expected reward. As a result the film industry is declining day by day. In our neighbouring country film is one of the major contributors to their GDP whereas Bangladeshi cultural arena is fighting to survive. This is because of piracy and absence of IP law enforcement.

Hollywood and Bollywood may be role models for Dhallywood if proper IP law imposed in this industry. Our light engineering sector is producing world class parts, machineries and appliances but not a single firm gets brand image in the market. But, why is this? This is because houses are producing goods but selling with a brand name of a prominent foreign company. None of these sectors trying to create a trademark building brand image on their own trademark. This is because they are not aware about the intangible value of a good brand name. As a result many Bangladeshi companies’ products are missing their expected goodwill in home and abroad. So government especially SME foundation will have to take the lead to create awareness among the SME sector for registering trademark and marketing products with their self trademark to establish brand image.

Leather and leather goods are earning a significant amount of foreign currency but if we exclude Apex, Jenny’s then what are the names you can remember? I am sure you cannot come out with 10 Bangladeshi leather goods companies’ names in this list. But is it true that only five to 10 companies are producing leather goods in Bangladesh and earning such a significant foreign currency? Logically it is not. So why we are not capable to list up 10 branded shoes and leather goods producer’s in Bangladesh? This is because they are not aware of creating self trademark for branding their own rather to utilize brand image of others with name of RATA, TATA and GATA. We must come out of this mentality if we really would like to brand Bangladesh. If strong impositions of IP laws can be ensured then such pirating will be stopped and real self branding will be promoted which will brand Bangladesh with their self glory.

Other than Keya, Tibet, and Aromatic thousands of cosmetic companies are producing cosmetics in Bangladesh. Some of these are producing really quality products but marketing with a foreign pirated brand name. If this is the scenario how we can expect a branded cosmetic company in Bangladesh. So, the government should take a lead for building awareness among the entrepreneurs that whatever you produce you must have to market it with your self registered trademark so that native qualitative products can get brand image in home and abroad. A very wrong drive our government takes frequently. Small production houses in different sector are raided with a metropolitan magistrate and closed down by showing low quality of their product rather than regulating their quality by covering up under a certain policy that you can produce qualitative products with your self trademark. No SME house should be closed down by the law enforcers; rather they should ensure proper enforcement of IP law (trademark, industrial design, patent, copyright, and trade secret) to create a competitive environment where disqualified houses will be automatically shut down. Significant amounts of handicraft and gift items are being exported ach year, but do we know any brand name in this sector? Azad products and some others have started their journey in this sector but with very limited product coverage. But, what is about others exporting handicrafts and gift items?

This is not the scenario of the stated sectors only. It is the case of  country’s all SME sectors. They are producing finest goods but not aware of having a self trademark for building up own brands to utilize their products goodwill in the market for getting loyal customers as well as branding the country. So SME Foundation / Branding Bangladesh activists can take the lead for awareness creation among the SME owners in different sector about basic issues of IPR and strong imposition of IP laws (except education and healthcare sector) for promoting Branding Bangladesh in home and abroad.

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Md. Joynal Abdin

Development Researcher, Columnist and Author

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