Dhaka, Monday, 03 October 2022

Entrepreneur Syeda Selima Azad 

“After lockdown jute industry growing again”

“After lockdown jute industry growing again”

Apparel Correspondent: Bangladesh produces the best quality jute in the world. The major cash crop has created many entrepreneurs. Most of them are women and doing business successfully by dint of the innovative product ideas for the customers.

But COVID-19 outbreak brought a severe blow to the sector this year. The entrepreneurs had to struggle to sell their produce due to the cancellation of the traditional fairs and product orders. The story of Syeda Selima Azad (SSA), the entrepreneur, social activist, manufacturer and training provider, is also no different. She is the CEO of Godhuli CBP, a handicraft brand, as well. The 53-year-old entrepreneur started her journey with jute products in Mymensingh in 2016. Recently she talked The Apparel News (TAN) over phone regarding the jute industry in the pandemic.

TAN: What is the present scenario of the industry?

SSA: After a deferral of over eight months due to COVID-19, the jute sector in our country is growing again. Besides jute sacks, carpets and ropes, Bangladeshi jute exporters are now selling diversified jute products around the world.

TAN: How many jute diversified products are there?

SSA: There are 288 enlisted jute diversified products including jute bags, purses, bed sheets, sofa covers, blankets, curtains, floor mats, sweaters, blazers, gents and ladies shoes, sarees, file folders, photo frames, handbags, tote bags, laptop bags, office bags, shopping bags, cosmetics boxes, pencil boxes, backpacks, jute pillows, ornaments and ornament boxes, ladies three pieces, home decor items and others.

TAN: How’s your experience of this year’s jute fair?

SSA: I took part in jute fair on March 6 (National Jute Day) at Officers’ Club in Dhaka in a limited scale. The fair was postponed on March 8 due to COVID-19 pandemic.

TAN: What was your plan after starting pandemic?

SSA: I closed my factory on March 24 for cancelation orders. It was difficult time for me to pay regular wages to my 18 workers and manage raw materials. For financial safety of workers, I kept ‘Udoya Annado’ handicraft center open and they worked there to earn livelihood.

TAN: What is the most important factor in the sector?

SSA: I always suggest my trainees for creating innovative products ideas while providing training. Unique product thinking is imperative to develop this business. Without it, one cannot shine here.

TAN: How many institutions are working for the industry?

SSA: Since 2014, Jute Diversification Promotion Centre (JDPC) which is situated in the capital’s Farmgate area is providing training for new entrepreneurs to promote their new products. Besides Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Foundation, Women Entrepreneur Association of Bangladesh (WEAB), Ministry of Textiles and Jute, Ministry of Industry, government and private banks and others institutions are working for the growth of the sector.

TAN: What do you want to say regarding getting loan from banks?

SSA: One important mater I can say to the banks that women entrepreneurs never become loan defaulters. They have to think multiple issues to pay back the loan timely. That’s why we see that most of the clients of micro-credits programs of NGOs are women and they are performing well. So banks can provide loan to the women entrepreneurs easily.

TAN: Tell us about employment in the sector.

SSA: The jute sector has become an important source of livelihood for many families in Bangladesh. The demand for jute products is high in the local and international markets. The number of the entrepreneurs is increasing this sector which is creating job opportunities for many.

TAN: What do you see about the future of the jute industry?

SSA: The traditional thinking like jute is only used to make sacks will end one day. And the trend of using environment-friendly jute product will increase among us. Thus, people will feel free to use the golden fiber of the country as daily commodity avoiding harmful products.