Sherpa Hossainy's Blog

Beach house export prospect bright

Posted in Bangladesh, Business, Export and Import, Interviews by Sherpa Hossainy on September 4, 2011

Published in The Independent on 4 September 2011

Read the article on Independent website

Digital print version

“Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I export such an unusual product,” said Anowarul Islam, managing director of Pioneer Group, as he explained export prospects of an unconventional product — beach house.

As the name suggests, beach houses are small huts placed by beaches, used for refreshment, taking foods and changing by the beach-goers as they enjoy the sun-bathing.

Islam told The Independent that earlier he was reluctant to share the concept with anyone because there are some “idea-thieves” in Bangladesh. “Now we are an established company and I feel there is a need to share,” he added.

Raw material for beach house (hay)

The lone exporter of beach houses, Pioneer Overseas Corporation (POC), a sister concern of Pioneer Group, started exporting beach houses in 2006 on a trial basis after a Bulgarian company expressed interest to buy the exceptional product.

Islam said POC, established in 1982, was mainly involved in exporting kite-parts made of bamboo, mainly to Pakistan. Through one of his Pakistani clients he met a Bulgaria-based company Baron Ltd representative, who was impressed by the motifs of the old-style small village huts made of bamboo and hay — known as “Kachari Ghor” in Bangladesh.

Raw material for beach house (hay)

“The Bulgarian buyer said there is a big demand for such houses in Europe and wanted us to make something similar,” Islam said. It was so successful and profitable that the company never looked back.

The raw materials of beach houses are primarily bamboo poles and sticks, paddy straw and hay. “The raw materials are purely natural and local; we don’t use any imported item,” said Islam.

So far POC has exported 400 such houses, which are usually 10’X10’ in size, mainly to Bulgaria, Croatia and Pakistan. The total export volume of POC now stands at $450,000.

“Last year we made 75 shipments, and this year 37 shipments are completed and 100 more are in the pipeline,” he said. Manufacturing cost of one beach house is around $1,500-2,000, depending on the intricacy of design.

The house parts like roof, bamboo poles and walls are shipped usually in 40′ containers and get assembled abroad.

As the world now shifts to using more eco-friendly products, demand for bamboo-made beach houses are surging exponentially. “Beach houses have a high demand in sea-side hotels and resorts in Europe nowadays,” he said.

Islam said that big orders for temples — a collection of beach houses which can accommodate 100 to 150 people as opposed to 10’X10’ beach houses which are for couples — are coming in but material and manpower shortage poses a big problem. “It’s a big project, we have orders, but we can’t take them as this will require more money, manpower, complex designs and raw materials,” he said.

Currently POC is working with a workforce of 500 craft persons, but the figure was only 20 when it started. “Mostly indigenous people are employed by us as they are really adroit at this,” Islam said.

Most manufacturing takes place in Rangamati, Kaptai, Chittagong and Sunamganj where good quality raw materials are available, he added.

As demand rises, the beach house manufacturing might face a raw material crunch as production of quality bamboo is few and far between. “We need 1,000,000 bamboos every year, and we are trying to lease 100 to 150 hills in Rangamati to cultivate bamboos,” Islam said.

POC only could get lease of six hills as the government seems unenthusiastic about POC’s venture and more interested to lease the hills for cultivation of rubber, a much-vaunted export item.

Islam said: “We are the only one with an application. No one really knows much about it and does not appreciate what we are doing.  “If we can produce quality bamboo in our own hills, our costs will come down and we can take more orders.”

Roof of a beach house

Naming India, Indonesia and Vietnam as the biggest market players globally, Islam said there is a need to use improved tools to accelerate the manufacturing process.

“One labourer can only cut 120 pieces of bamboos a day using manual tools, whereas in a foreign country 1,000 can be cut because of availability of superior tools,” he said.

Anowarul Islam sought government incentives and effective policies to boost the production of bamboos to have adequate supply of raw materials. Recently the commerce minister said the government will declare handicrafts as a thrust sector and exempt it from all existing value added tax to boost its exports.

The global handicrafts market is $120 billion and the present export volume of handicrafts from Bangladesh is merely $4.47 million.

“We have spoken to the chairman of National Board of Revenue, the Environment Ministry and the International Business Forum of Bangladesh for support and we hope this new product will catch the high-ups’ attention,” Islam said.

The beach house export also involves other handicrafts item as they are used to decorate those houses.

“It’s not that only beach houses are exported; there are many decorative items needed for the house like flower vase and wall mat, which are also exported.

“Now we are also providing Nakshikatha to add aesthetic value to the beach houses; so beach house exports will also help other handicraft items’ export to grow,” Islam added.

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