A woman works at Tajma Ceramic Industry Limited, the oldest ceramic factory in Bangladesh, in Colony area of Bogura on 6 October 2022.
Soyel Rana

The Tajma Ceramic Industry Limited, the country's first ceramic factory, resumed its operation after nearly eight years in 2009 with the technical assistance of China.

The company began its journey in 1958 and manufactured several ceramic products including plate, utensil and teacup. The reputation of its products had spread across Pakistan once. But the factory closed its operation in the face of losses triggered by furnace oil crisis in 2001.

Tajma Ceramic, the oldest ceramic factory in the country, currently manufactures around 60 products including plate, cup, glass, jug, mug, bowl, soup bowl, flower vase various showpieces.

The market price of its manufactured products is about Tk 360 million. About 250 employees, mostly women, work at the factory.

Tajma Ceramic managing director Mohammad Sharifuzzaman said the factory resumed its operation in 2009 and the company is making profit now after paying liability and loan to banks though the crisis has not been overcome entirely yet.

There is a gas crisis and low pressure during the day time, and that disrupts production, he added.

From a bidi worker to factory owner

Late Abdul Jabbar Pramanik, founder of Tajma Ceramic, came to Bogura city from Khajurapara of Naogaon’s Raninagar in search of a job during the 1940s. He was the second among four brothers. His elder brother Tazim Uddin and third brother Mojibur Rahman worked with their father in agriculture while the youngest brother late Amzad Hossain was a president of Bogura Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

According to family sources, Abdul Jabbar Pramanik could not study because of poverty. He took his first job as a worker at Bhandari Bidi Factory after arriving in Bogura. He saved a little and then returned to Raninagar of Nagaon before the 1947 partition. He along with his three other brothers purchased a three-bigha land and opened a bidi factory. They manufactured bidi from tendu leaves instead of tobacco leaves and their ‘Kallyanbidi’ and ‘Pak Bidi’ became popular in the north Bengal region.

Abdul Jabbar took initiative to set up a ceramic factory with the profit of the bidi business. Owned by the four brothers, the first ceramic company of East Pakistan began its journey beside Satmatha-Sherpur road adjacent to Colony Bazar in Bogura city in 1958.

The factory was named after the initial of the four brothers’ names ‘Tajma’. The company has run its business as a limited company and Abdul Jabbar was the first managing director of the company.

Story of turning around

Sharifuzzaman, son of Tajma Ceramic’s founder Abdul Jabbar, is the current managing director of the company. He completed Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) from Jhenaidah Cadet College (JCC) and completed his graduation and post-graduation on geography at Jahangirnagr University. Then, he joined their family business.

Sharifuzzaman said his uncle Amjad Hossain become managing director of the company after his father Abdul Jabbar died in 1985. Amjad Hossain passed away in 2020, but he took over before his death.

Tajma Ceramic with the new ide of furnace oil-dependent ceramic products started its journey in the 1950s during the east Pakistan, Sharifuzzaman said adding Japanese company Nichimen Trading Company provided technical assistance in the beginning and supervised the production process at the factory.

Another factory Pakistan Ceramic Industries Limited was launched as demand was growing. That factory was renamed as ‘Peoples’ Ceramic Industries’.

Sharifuzzaman said several technological change was brought about in manufacturing products to survive in the competition, but the production cost increased after the government withdrew subsidy on furnace oil in 2001, thus, production was halted as they could not survive in the competition.

The MD said their factory went on production again in 2009 after gas connection reached Bogura. On an average, about 11,000 pieces of ceramic products are manufactured daily and some 330,000 to 350,000 pieces monthly, and that have a market price of around Tk 30 million.

Vice president of Bogura Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mahfuzul Islam said Tajma, which paved the way of ceramic industry in the country, still maintains the industrial tradition of Bogura.

Cost of raw material import increases due to dollar crisis

People concerned said once these utensils were made up of soil. Nowadays, these utensils are manufactured from ceramics and use of ceramic products has increased significantly for construction, household and beatification purposes. Ceramic industry has also expanded over the past couple of decades.

According to sources of Bangladesh Ceramic Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BCMEA), currently the market of ceramic industry is now Tk 50 billion and currently, about 70 ceramic factories are manufacturing various types of products sanitary ware, tableware, tiles and utensils.

Sharifuzzaman said they import ceramic raw materials from various countries including India, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, Germany, New Zealand and Bulgaria.

Import cost has increased recently because of dollar crisis and deprecation in taka and that raises the production cost. That is why they are struggling to cope up with competition. Subsidy on import of raw material and supply of gas as per demand is necessary to expand the ceramic industry as well as technological assistance to manufacture modern products, he added.

*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna