There is hardly any globally renowned clothing chain shop where apparel products made in Bangladesh cannot be found these days. In many developed countries, Bangladeshi ready-made garment (RMG) items are now one of the best choices of consumers.
But back home, many Bangladeshis with low per capita income could not afford to purchase the high-end RMG products made by Bangladeshi RMG factories for global brands. Only some rejected pieces and the ones stolen from the factories can reach the local market at different parts of the Dhaka city.
However, a group of businessmen have come up with a unique solution to this problem. They produce ready-made garments copying the design of high-end RMG products. The products are known as “copy” products in the local markets and look almost like the RMG items made for global brands.
A portion of febrics imported for woven garment industry is also being sold there.
The popularity of Bangladeshi RMG items worldwide has now made the country the second largest RMG exporter but local people had once upon faced severe crisis of clothes.
A cluster of industry was set up in Keraniganj’s Kaligang in the outskirt of Dhaka to meet the local demand. They produce jeans, shirts, panjabis, borkhas, clothing for babies and other RMG items for the local markets.
According to manufacturers, about 75 per cent of the demand of the local market is met by the products of the factories located in Keraniganj.
“We've a very good reputation for the jeans products. Sometimes people cannot differentiate between exportable items and our products,” said Mohammad Shadhin Sheikh, general secretary of Keraniganj traders and shop owners association.
He said they have also good market for panjabis, borkhas and baby RMG products.
There are 3,000 RMG factories and 5,000 showrooms in this hub.
Between narrow roads, there are some four to five storied buildings where these factories and showrooms are located. In most buildings, the first two or three floors are for showrooms and the rest of the floors are for factories.
Traders from across the country come here and buy the RMG products displayed at these showrooms.
This burgeoning hub is just beside the Buriganga river and the RMG items are transported to different parts of the country through the water routes, the traders said.
During the Eid sales now, according to them, this garment-manufacturing hub sees a turnover of Tk 100 million a day.
Many workers who lost their jobs at the export-oriented RMG factories often join these small factories or in cases, they themselves set up small factories of their own, banking on the skills they attained.
Sheikh Mohammad Shamim, a factory owner, was seen working and giving direction to workers at his factory in Alam Market in Keraniganj on a hot summar day in early June. He has been in the business for the past 10 years.
Every year his factory produces 40,000 jeans and can sell volumes worth Tk 200,000 every day during the Eid season, Shamim told Prothom Alo.
Mohammad Alam, manager of Bikrampur Pant House in Kaliganj, who has been doing business in Keraniganj for the past 20 years, said his factory produces 20,000 jeans every year.
“We only produce jeans and we have clients all over the country. Many retailers from very remote areas come to our shop for our jeans,” he said.
There are also many shops that sell raw materials and accessories such as fabrics, buttons and other items, he added.
"Many local brands based in Dhaka are our clients. They buy jeans from us and sell them from their showrooms,” Alam said
Nazmul Hossain, a retailer in Jashore, was buying jeans from Alam’s shop. Nazmul said he comes to this market every month.
“These jeans are very popular in our market. Sometimes if I cannot come, I ask them over phone and they send me the products by courier service,” he said.
Traders said this market could have flourished further had the government provided them some support.
"We often face problems in accessing loans and even if we manage to get loans, interest rate is quite high. It would be better if we get loans at reasonable rate," said Sadhin Sheikh.
Abdur Rahman, a factory owner at Alam Market in Kaliganj, complained that most of the roads are congested in this area and during Eid time, there is huge traffic congestion.
"If transportation facilities improve, we will get more customers and this industry will grow further," he said.