Bangladesh’s furniture industry is eyeing the global market as it seeks to diversify its export portfolio. With the world furniture market exceeding half a trillion dollars, local manufacturers say that they can explore untapped potential by addressing several challenges.
The country's furniture industry has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years with customers increasing sharply favouring locally-crafted furniture over imported alternatives. This shift in preference is a testament to the industry's commitment to international standards and quality.
Bangladesh started exporting furniture in 1995 and the sector has come a long way since then. In 2022, the global furniture market size was valued at $557 billion and it is expected to grow to $650 billion this year, a 17 per cent increase in a single year.
As the industry eyes global expansion, prominent market leaders and entrepreneurs share their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities.
While inaugurating the furniture fair at ICCB in Dhaka on October 17, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said, “Our furniture industry is booming day by day despite a lack of skilled workers. This industry has gone through a dramatic change in last 10-12 years. This industry can meet the demand of the country and export furniture to foreign countries.”
Despite facing economic challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, Bangladesh’s furniture industry has seen an enormous growth in recent years.
Bangladesh Furniture Industry Owners Association (BFIOA) president Selim H Rahman said that local entrepreneurs are now meeting the demand of the Tk 30,000-crore sector, but they used to depend heavily on imports earlier.
Bangladesh exports furniture to different countries such as India, Nepal, the USA, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Europe.
However, the industry’s growth has slowed down recently due to the Covid-19 pandemic, global economic headwinds and Russia-Ukraine war.
According to BFIOA, local manufacturers exported furniture worth $190.36 million in the fiscal year 2021-2022, registering an impressive 38.87 per cent growth compared to the previous fiscal year.
Furniture exports dropped by $80.36 million to $110 million in FY2022-23 compared to the previous fiscal year.
One of the major challenges facing the industry is high costs of raw materials, many of which are import-oriented and subject to heavy duties. Addressing these problems is crucial to maintain and enhance competitiveness in the global market.
The furniture industry is leveraging the country's low-cost workforce. This factor is essential to achieving competitiveness in the global market. The shortage of skilled manpower proficient in handling modern equipment and machinery remains an obstacle to growth.
Some entrepreneurs and market leaders have stressed the need for ensuring bonded warehouse facilities, similar to those in the textile sector, to boost furniture exports. Such facilities can streamline the export process and facilitate international trade, they said.
Navana Furniture, one of the leading furniture manufacturers in Bangladesh, has witnessed growing demand for its products in various countries. To meet the market demand, the company has transitioned from bulk raw material purchases to importing materials based on customer orders.
Abdul Hai Sajit, Head of Retail Operations at Navana Furniture said, “We started exporting our products to countries like India, UAE, Malaysia, Singapore and more. While there are legal complexities to navigate, including issues related to the dollar crisis and LC opening challenges, we are cautiously expanding our footprint in the market.”
Akhter Furniture, another leading furniture manufacturer, is exploring the Indian market and working with Indian retailers to boost its business. Company's Managing Director K M Rifatuzzaman said they are making efforts to expand business globally, with online marketing initiatives in progress.
Md Jamal Uddin, executive in charge of sales at Akhter Furniture said, “We are actively working on expanding our business across borders, especially in India. We've already initiated partnerships with several Indian retailers, and our manufacturing capabilities enable us to export to any part of the world.”
“Also we envision launching our international ventures within the next 2-3 years, and we have identified a significant global demand for our products. We have already commenced operations in Kolkata, where we have received a positive response, and we are in the process of establishing another venture in New Delhi."
Some new company is rising to focus only to exporting. Ayoto Furniture, launched in 2022, focuses on setting new standards in manufacturing excellence, specialising in home furniture and modular kitchens.
Dewan Atif Rashid, Managing Director of Ayoto Furniture said, “We are getting prepared to introduce our retail brand in Bangladesh and India by early 2024. In fact, we have already completed successful shipments to Bhutan and are eager to participate in a furniture fair in Mumbai, India, to showcase our modern, modular furniture.
Partex Furniture, known for its unique approach to interior solutions, intends to expand its footprint in the Asian region by exporting processed board products.
Md Masum Perves, Showroom Sales Executive, has outlined the export strategy of the company. He stated, "We have plans to expand our presence in the Asian region by exporting our processed board products, while our furniture remains primarily focused on the domestic market. Currently, our processed board and doors have found a foothold in the trade markets of Agartala and Shiliguri."
Experts recommend establishing more technical schools offering short-term trade courses. Collaboration between the government and private sectors is essential to produce skilled labor and position Bangladesh as a significant player in the global furniture industry.
Brothers Furniture, which has already established trade markets in Kolkata and Guwahati, is keen to unlock its full potential. The company faces challenges related to LC crises and constraints in production facilities but hopes to overcome these barriers.
They recommend implementing technical education programs and short-term trade courses to develop skilled labor for the industry.
With collective efforts of industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and government support, the furniture industry has the potential to become a key player in the global market.
By addressing challenges related to raw materials, skilled labour, and export facilities, the industry can position itself for sustainable growth and international success.
These recommendations are made in the hope that the government will consider measures to further unlock the industry's potential.