The second biggest player in apparel manufacturing and exports globally, Bangladesh has long been a victim of what many term as ‘poor brand image’. Despite emerging strongly from the image crisis that followed the tragic Rana Plaza incident to successfully reinstate the buyers’ faith and regain its lost credibility, the industry by and large failed to sell adequately the brand image so far.
“Buyers in general pay roughly 20-25 per cent more for products sourced from countries like India and Sri Lanka as compared to Bangladesh for similar product categories which is because Sri Lanka and India have been successful in building the brand image and position themselves accordingly to leverage the benefits…Our industry even though boasts of the second highest number of green factories globally besides the numerous state-of-the-art and compliant units, strongest possible backward linkages and abundant availability of manpower, we are still forced to play the card of low-cost manufacturing destination to bag orders..,” rued Atiqul Islam, former President of BGMEA and MD of Islam Garments, while speaking to Apparel Resources earlier.
Islam is not alone, there are many within the industry, who feel that individual companies notwithstanding, the sector as a whole has been lacking in the branding exercise. “At individual level, some companies have successfully built their brand images but the country as a whole is still lacking in it…The time has come to take the next step and build a positive image of the country as a manufacturing powerhouse,” suggested Mahmud Hasan Khan (Babu), Managing Director of Rising Group and Vice President of BGMEA.
Khan’s wishes seem slowly but surely turning into reality now! Recently the country has bagged the 39th position among the 100 most valuable nation brands in the world, drubbing the likes of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
As per Brand Finance’s (a London-based brand valuation and strategy consultancy firm) ‘Nation Brands 2018’ report, Bangladesh’s brand value increased to US $ 257 billion in 2018 from US $ 208 billion in 2017 to rank 39th out of a hundred countries from its last year’s position of 44th. In contrast, India ranked 109th with value of US $ 2159 billion, followed by Pakistan at 51, and Sri Lanka at 61.
If experts are to be believed, the relentless efforts and big investments by entrepreneurs towards improving the safety scenario in the RMG sector had a pivotal role to play in this turnaround.
“Definitely, improvement of safety standards in the Bangladesh apparel sector has increased the branding and image of Bangladesh to the global retailers. Development partners, buyers and brands are satisfied with the improvement…,” reportedly underlined BGMEA Senior Vice President Faruque Hassan while speaking to the media, adding had the evaluation been done based on only apparel sector instead of all the sectors, the valuation and brand ranking would have been much higher for Bangladesh.
Adding to it is the Government’s vision and planning to not only strengthen the industry but various other facets associated with it like business environment, power and infrastructure development, etc. It may be mentioned here that the Government has launched many projects including establishing 100 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to attract investment from home and abroad, and US $ 50 billion export earnings from RMG sector by 2021 while also working towards generating 40,000MW electricity by 2030.
Having established the long elusive brand image, it is time the industry works on its strengths to earn the maximum mileage in the global arena to keep the growth curve going strong.