Recently this has widely been discussed about branding of Bangladesh in the various seminars and forums. It is very crucial to brand our country properly with a view to building a superior image. Country branding means the earning of reputation for a country by utilizing its inner resources and opportunities, which are original and inspiring to the outer world. Moreover Country branding is a field of theory and practice which aims to measure, build and manage the reputation of countries. Bangladesh can build up country branding and image and can transform it successfully to exploit its export potential. It will be as important as what our country actually produce and sell. This is also referred to as country-of-origin effect. Earlier our country was branded as riverine country as it is criss-crossed by hundred and thousand of rivers and canals or our country was widely branded for its amply produced raw jute i.e. Golden fiber of Bangladesh and also branded as the “Birthplace of microfinance”. Again Bangladesh has already been positively branded by Goldman Sachs “Next 11”(N11) after BRICs and has also been included in JPMorgan ” Frontier Five”. These all are positive branding of our country which in turn has been augmenting the image of our country rest of the world. Side by side our country has long suffered from a negative image of a poor country. Many countries of the world have some positive branding like “The Factory of The world” is for China; True Asia is for Malaysia etc.
Now it is time to leave away the negative images that we previously had and we need to go forward with new branding which will uphold the image our country across the globe into next stair. During the recent World Marketing Summit held in Dhaka, the Marketing Guru Philip Kotler urged for branding Bangladesh through RMG (Ready Made Garments), yes he pointed out the right way to brand our country in new sticker as we have ample scope and opportunity to brand Bangladesh trough RGM.
After the signing up of MFA (Multi Fibre Arrangement –there was an agreement which governed the world trade in textiles and garments from 1974 through 2004, imposing quotas on the amount developing countries could export to developed countries), the RMG sector started to spread across the developing countries including Bangladesh in late 70s afterwards Bangladesh did not need to look behind in the race and the next is only the success story. The contribution of RMG sector to our national economy cannot be expressed in a small write up though it is well known to many of us. The Ready Made Garments (RMG) industry is one of the sectors which pull out our economy and placed our economy in to the right track. This sector accounts for approximately 76% of the total export and nearly 10% of GDP and made our country the 3rd largest RMG exporters in the world with annual export figure about $18 billion underpinned by low-cost labor, policy and financial support from government, competent entrepreneurs, competitive price level and long term-experience in this field. We can not skip over the contribution from backward linkage industry specially about €4billion invested PTS(Primary Textile Sector) which helps a lot to keep up maintaining the constant growth of RMG sector with huge capacity of 5000 factories in the country at present. The sector also contributed towards employment creation (near to 5 million), poverty alleviation and the empowerment of women. Even after the phase out of MFA in December-2004 when it was apprehended that the RMG sector will not grow significantly due to uneven competition from the countries which are advanced in back-ward linkage industries rather it will face set back but it did not happen and the sector witnessed over 10% year on year growth.
Our RMG sector has been growing up despite of facing multifarious problems and challenges since 1980s. In order to brand our country through RMG and to increase the more market share from world RMG market, number of steps need to be taken and the problems associated with this sector need to be resolved through searching new export destinations(Middle East, China, Malaysia, Japan, Russia, Hong Kong Brazil and Argentina). Bangladeshi foreign mission distained to existing and prospective market will have to work proactively to enhance the existing market and to explore the new market, effective commercial diplomacy to ensure preferential market access or market access through bilateral or multilateral agreements needs to be established. Specific trade fair of RMG needs to be arranged in the prospective countries and uninterrupted supply of energy to the RMG sectors needs to be ensured. Infrastructure, the most important issue which hampers the RMG sectors needs to be addressed blatantly, Efficiency of Chittagong port should be increased and shipment lead time needs to be reduced. As it is a labor intensive sector and confronted with semi-skill woman labor, several steps may be taken up to increase their skill and education. In this regards, Government can set up a specific University in the replica to Textile University or specific graduate level subject can be offered in all public university.
Future outlook of our RMG sectors is bright and immense in the world $300billion RMG market. MckKinsey & Company, a global management consultant firm is very upbeat in their recent report titled on “Bangladesh ready-made-garments” and drew a buoyant picture of our RMG potential reporting that the RMG export from Bangladesh may be triple( $36 billion to $42 billion) by 2020. Due to high labor costs, appreciation of currency, shortage of labor, etc, China’s overall industrial structure will shift to high-end products and China may turn into RMG importing country which will offer huge potentialities in front of Bangladesh.
Before drawing the conclusion line, it can be said that if all the problems embedded with this sectors can be solved and the awaiting prospects with this sector can be grasped up, It will not be a distant-dream when people from rest of the world will read more “Made in Bangladesh” hand tag and level tag and Bangladesh will be labeled across world as “Country of choice for RMG” we are waiting to see the dream to-be come in to true.
The writer is a Senior Assistant Vice President and Senior Relationship Manager, Corporate Banking Division of a private commercial Bank in Chittagong.