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I would like to start with two seemingly unrelated questions: what is Bangladesh’s budget for FY 2017-18? And what is the net operating revenue of Coca Cola and Google in 2017?

The answers are in public record. Bangladesh’s budget for fiscal year 2017-18 is Tk400,266 crores, whereas the net operating revenue of Coca Cola in 2017 was Tk299,274 crore – the lowest in last 7 years! For Google, the net operating revenue in 2017 was Tk926,729 crores – the highest ever!

So, Google’s revenue was more than a double of Bangladesh’s budget while Coca Cola’s revenue was about three-fourths of the 2017 budget. Just to add one more information: Samsung generates 10 percent of Korea’s economy in recent time. That’s the power of strong brands.

Now, why Bangladesh do not have strong brands like Apple, Coca Cola, Google, H&M, Samsung, Nike, FedEx, Absolut Vodka or McDonald’s?

What could be the possible reason? Poor economy? Lack of initiation? Mindset? Or, something else?

Bangladesh has been manufacturing world class garments for a long while now. All the top-notch brands like Wal-Mart, H&M, GAP, Benetton, ZARA, Levi’s, Sears outsource garments to Bangladesh. People around the world are wearing garments with “Made in Bangladesh” tag inside, but Bangladesh has not capitalized on this branding. If we can manufacture world class garments for the best global brands, why can’t we build our own global brands? Have any Bangladeshi entrepreneurs, involved in this industry, given a thought on this? Don’t they have the thirst to be known globally? Or, they are just happy to take orders and manufacture it for others?

The fact is noteworthy not only for garments industry, but for all other industries. There’s no strong FMCG brands either from Bangladesh in the international arena. Although few companies have recently started exporting good number of products to different countries but, their main target market is not global, rather the Bangladeshi consumers living in the Middle-East and other regions. Our tendency is to sell products and earn revenue, not to establish a brand for the long run.

For some not so obvious reasons, we very often find Bangladeshi entrepreneurs a bit short-sighted. In most cases, they prefer to play safe, evade risk but expect quick return on investment (ROI). We are yet to understand that earning revenue would be a ‘by-product’ if we successfully build a strong brand and engage the right target audience with the brand. And, it is also to be understood that no brand is built up overnight. It takes time, patience, persistence and calculative investment to build up a strong brand.

There are some good brands in Bangladesh, no doubt, but we haven’t exposed them to the global level. Take for example, Aarong; a very popular brand among the urban and semi-urban communities in Bangladesh. Aarong, established in 1978, has been doing tremendously well with unique, trendy and fashionable clothing, jewelry and traditional gift items. It is reviving and promoting the rich heritage of Bangladesh. Whenever you visit an Aarong outlet, you foreigners voraciously buying souvenir. Clearly the products are capable of attracting the global citizen. Aarong has 18 outlets across Bangladesh to serve its customers.

So, it is reasonable to ask, why doesn’t Aarong has outlets in Paris, London, Madrid, Dubai, Delhi, Tokyo, New York, Mumbai, Vancouver or Sydney? If Aarong can attract so many global citizens in Bangladesh, then why doesn’t it target bigger customer base in these big cities around the world?

One may ask, how can Aarong, being a promoter of Bangladeshi heritage, be successful in those locations? Well, it’s an era of ‘glocalization’ (global + localization). So, apparently, Aarong has to customize its offerings/products based on the target audience and location. Since Aarong has successful experience in its home country, it can easily replicate its policy in other countries and work with their local heritage too.

Bangladesh is no longer a ‘least developed country’ rather. It’s high time to start thinking about building strong brands which will take Bangladesh to every corner of the world. Entrepreneurs should come forward with initiatives and the government should facilitate in all possible ways. Together we can make Bangladesh great!

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