Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 4, Issue 23, Tuesday June 12, 2007


of choices and variety

We are no longer at a stale mate with the world. Labelled as it might be a “Third World” country, Bangladesh is making an effort to keep up with the rest of the world. Our slowly changing society is learning how to walk the walk and talk the talk. Previously, where we had one television channel, now we have near a dozen. Little things like, broadband, catering, fashion schools, talent hunts, laptops, camcorders, convertible BMWs, pen drives, brand ware, cosmetic surgery- things we saw on TV and dreamed about are now a reality in Bangladesh. In that same line of thought, just like the birth of some and the growth of others, the toiletry industry in Bangladesh has certainly grown and become more accommodating.

In the old days, when people went abroad, they were given shopping lists that contained scores of toiletry items- soaps, shampoos, conditioners, face washes, creams and so on. In those days the local toiletries market was not advanced enough to meet all the demands of the people. Quality was a big issue that prevented people from buying local toiletries. But in the last decade things have changed drastically for the toiletries industry in Bangladesh. And things have changed for the good.

Now people no longer have to rely on others travelling abroad to get what they want. The basic necessities of everyone are now available through our own toiletry industry. Of course if a person wants an alcohol-free, hydrating, gel-based make-up remover with astringent, then s/he will have to rely on a foreign brand but as far as shampoo, conditioner, face wash, face scrub, cream, lotion, toothpaste, vaseline, powder, shaving cream go, it is all now locally produced and available.

Five minutes of channel surfing between NTV, Channel-I, ATN, BTV will give you a glimpse into our local range of toiletry products, and consequently the local toiletry industry. In keeping up with the times, toiletry makers have wised up too. They know that as good as the product might be, if they want people to buy it, they will have to put their product out there. And what is the best way for the makers to put it out there? One word: Advertising. Whether it's on paper, billboards, radio or television, advertising is the best way to simply let people know, above other things, that such a product exists. Now to make people actually buy it, it is always wise to use celebrities to promote the product. After all, people think that if so and so is using it or vouching for it, then it must be good. Hence it is no surprise that toiletry advertises frequently show celebrities sashaying to jingles or talking about how a certain product resolved their dilemma. Naturally, this leads to curiosity, and hence the growing sales of local toiletries.

As for the products, our local market has it all. To start with the very basics, buying local soap is no longer an issue. Previously Lux was the only brand people would rely on without any doubts. But very soon Meril, Aromatic, Cosco, and Keya to name a few caught on. All these companies now make good quality soap. Most of these brands, like foreign soap brands, make soaps that come in different fragrances and colours.

Shampoos and conditioners were next in line to receive a facelift. One brand that has done very well locally is Sunsilk. Hosting free hair washes has definitely created a stir for Sunsilk. Sunsilk has a whole range of shampoos to suit different hair needs. While the parent company maybe international, the local versions seem to satisfy customers from various income ranges. But Sunsilk is not the only brand to have reached a milestone. Shampoos like Meril, while catering to customers in a less diverse income range, manage to make their mark by simply selling to the masses.

To treat prickly heat, powder is integral for a country that boasts scorching heat and humid weather all summer. And to meet the demands and beat the heat several local brands produce a range of talcum or prickly heat powder to cure away the summer swelters.

While local brands are producing a whole range of diverse toiletry products, multi-national companies like Unilever have also set up shop to bring their internationally recognised products to our local market. Many of these products are now even locally manufactured. This enables customers interested in buying international brands to avail them without really denting their wallets.

At the end of the day while an elite few upper and upper middle class customers go into upscale stores to buy upscale toiletries, when it comes to the masses, local brands are a God-Send. What makes these brands even more appealing now is the growing number of companies producing them, the growing range of products to suit various needs, the eye catching packaging and last but not least the well thought out and carefully executed advertising. At the end of the day it is all about choices and all about variety and to that end, the Bangladeshi toiletry industry has certainly arrived and made its mark.

By Tahiat-e-Mahboob
Special thanks to Unilever for the stills of Pond’s, Sunsilk and Lifebuoy


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