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Aarong opens its flagship outlet

25 March, 2011 marked a new beginning for the country's leading fashion and lifestyle brand Aarong, by the opening of its very first flagship store in Dhaka-Mymensingh Road, Sector 3, Uttara. At 36000 square feet, the outlet is currently the country's biggest retail store.

The outlet was inaugurated by Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder and Chairperson of BRAC, Muhammad A. Rumee, Managing Director of BRAC Enterprises and Tamara Abed, Director of Aarong.

In retail, the term 'flagship' is commonly applied to a store which is the landmark of an entire chain and holds the highest volume of its products. Aarong, now in its thirty-third year of operation, began conceptualising the design and building of its flagship store five years ago, in an effort to consolidate its brand image and present itself on a platform of global standards. The flagship store therefore aims to fully capture the Aarong brand and act as a projection of the brand's positioning.

Several organisations came together in order to make this dream come true. Synthesis took charge of designing the building, BRAC Construction did the erection, while a Malaysian organisation named Quirk & Associates worked along with the local organisations KNMR and Charuta to get the interior done.

These organisations worked day and night, visiting the 624 work stations of Aarong situated in various corners of the country, trying to capture the true spirit of the 65000 artisans that are the heart and soul of this social enterprise. The end result came out to be nothing but magnificent.

Once inside the store, one is sure to get mesmerised by the breathtaking sight of the truly festive and sophisticated design work that captures the spirit of the hard-working Bangladeshi artisans and craftspeople.

Every aspect of the design, starting from the customised plan for the building to internal layout and décor, has been made to fit international retail industry standards. 'Nokshi kantha' has been chosen as an overall theme for the store, to reflect Aarong's pioneering role in reviving this unique and dying Bangladeshi craft.

Spanning the North wall of the building is Aarong's tree of life, which portrays the company's interwoven story with its family of thousands of artisans. The network of roots and branches of the tree is a map of the river line of Bangladesh. The motifs that form the tree use unique 'nokshi kantha' patterns shaped from natural elements like metal, wood, clay, leather and bamboo, things that are indigenous to the work of the country's artisans.

The outlet features six levels, each of which highlights one or more of these elements, with dedicated segments for clothing, accessories, leather and metal, books, stationery, toys, household products and much more. The ground floor used metal, first floor Muslin sari with Jamdani patch works, second floor wood, third floor clay, fourth floor metal and leather and the final floor features bamboo.

New features introduced include an exhibition gallery, a floor dedicated to exclusive product offerings, a premium customer lounge and a chic, newly-branded Aarong café.

In its effort to create a complete, state-of-the art retail experience for its customers, Aarong used the concept of visual merchandising that tries to create an environment that is meant to make the customers feel the fortitude of its products and concentrate the limelight on the upbringing of its products more than anything else. Hence, immense weight has been attached to the choice of colour, lighting and placement of the products.

Aarong has been serving its loyal customers over the last thirty years with the basic objective of poverty alleviation in Bangladesh. Its customers don't only expect satisfactory service, but look forward to seeing Aarong reach new heights. Hence, the Aarong team believes that their flagship store is a demonstration of their long-drawn tie with their customers.

Aarong has not only created a new dimension in the fashion industry of Bangladesh, but has also created massive employment opportunities for the rural mass, taking Bangladesh a step forward in the fight against poverty.

The Aarong flagship outlet in Uttara indeed stands as a symbol of pride for Bangladesh, representing its many artisans and craftspeople in the international arena, the ones whose sweat and dream shape the brand.

Address: 7 Dhaka-Mymenshingh Road,Sector #3. Uttara.

By Afrida Mahbub
Photo courtesy: Aarong


Wonderful SBNS

I am in love with the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium at Mirpur. Simply awestruck! I never thought anything in my beloved Dhaka could look so 'cool and yo', like the Gen X lingo expresses.

The huge gates -- western, southern or any other stand specifying which way to go -- lead to the spacious entrance guarded by security personnel, a little crude but one can overlook their manners, they are on duty after all; the police security checkpoints where the officers mercilessly throw away your MAC stuff and ignore your pleas or threats, the souvenir shops; all neat and tidy.

The corners of the stairs are void of any red stains from paan peek, the long sunny verandas have no sign of any litter, and the almost five-star hospitality boxes spick and span, showing off the grand dining hall. These make way for the international galleries, the club houses and the grandstand beyond and of course, the big regular galleries; all these give the stadium a magnanimous feeling. I mean, this stadium has nothing in common with the stadium I grew up with.

Bangabandhu National Stadium or simply 'stadium' as we used to call it, was the only stadium where both football and cricket matches were held. The stadium was very close to my maternal grandma's house and we always lived in or around her house. Thus my proximity with the stadium and its crowd was always very close. Whenever my favourite Abahani boys scored a goal we could hear the stadium roar or when Mohammedan scored my darling grandma got elated. When the floodlights were installed every game was a must cheer from Nanu's rooftop. We did go to watch cricket matches with picnic baskets full of sandwiches and puris, but frankly it was mucky and the ambience or vibe that we got was chauvinism mixed with sleaze. When you have nothing else you had to be content with whatever you have; that was my stand then.

However now that we have an international standard stadium, the past doesn't matter; let me just be ecstatic with the Mirpur one. I couldn't believe it when I found Nachos in the food stalls on the third floor. Now nothing can be compared to that, whatever the portion or the price, you have got to have nachos at Mirpur stadium. Fried rice with sweet prawns, samosas, and the list of yummies go on. And in the dining hall down the corridor, Sheraton was catering. I was speechless. At the old stadium potato chips were the maximum you could get inside the grounds and on the outside was the famous chaap from Provincial or sweet paans.

But I guess what made the experience such a high-spirited one for me was the crowd. In spite of a few minor hiccups our supporters were on their best hosting behaviour. I must say we were an extremely sporty and cheerful crowd; when our dashing cubs crossed 58 in their last game with South Africa why else would the crowd go wild unless they took everything sportingly? However, their waving of Pakistan flags is another story altogether. I wouldn't even venture that way in protest. And when the Kiwis were thrashing the Proteas the crowd was simply cheering cricket. The feeling was breathtaking. While on the topic I must congratulate the very efficient, friendly, cute and handsome volunteers, they had the most tiring job but they were always smiling and courteous.

I would really miss the stadium unless I manage tickets to the Aussies' clash with our cubs. Kudos to the management, with one request: please make sure we get to see everything this clean always.

-- Raffat Binte Rashid


Celebrating womanhood

Photo: Star

"I am proud of my work," Monowara Talukdar from Gaibandha asserted while presenting her story on the occasion of the centennial International Women's Day.

Before Monowara introduced and marketed Tulshi Tea, she was a home-maker with a Masters degree in Bangla from Dhaka University. Her project on Tulshi Tea began in 2004, and she now supplies to large shopping malls across the country.

Production of Tulshi Tea provided a livelihood for 12 thousand helpless women in Gaibandha, who now earn Tk3000 to Tk 10000 per month. "Tulshi around us is a neglected herb. After significant processing the tea is produced," said Monowara. "A person is as big as his or her dreams," reiterated the confident lady.

Not only Monowara, some other successful entrepreneurs like her were also assembled at the celebration held at the BRAC Centre on March 21. They too shared their stories of struggle. All of them have contributed to improving the lot of the underprivileged women, as well as their own.

They all thanked Midas Financing Ltd for extending its hand to help their initiative. This organisation has mobilised easy loan to these women.

Maliha Mannan Ahmed, Selina Hossain, Farzana Shakil and Sharmin Hossain are among the successful women entrepreneurs whose achievements were highlighted.

Maliha is a qualified doctor who also has a Masters in Business Administration. She works as a researcher on herbal products at Meena Herbal Solutions of Jemcon Group. She works to find herbal solutions for the problems like heart disease, diabetes and so forth. Selina produces many household products and supplies to large retail outlets including Aarong. Farzana Shakil is a renowned beauty expert. Sharmin, a graduate from Bangladesh Agricultural University is working to ensure fresh agro products to the consumers. All these entrepreneurs benefited from taking small or medium loans from Midas Financing Ltd.

Midas Financing Ltd, SME Foundation, BFWE (Bangladesh Federation of Women Entrepreneurs), BWIT (Bangladesh Women in Technology), WEA (Women Entrepreneurs' Association Bangladesh), WISE and WIMA took the initiative of gathering these successful entrepreneurs to celebrate the centennial International Women's Day.

The theme of this year's International Women's Day is 'Equal access to education, training, and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.'

BFWE president Rokia Rahman in her welcome speech said that women return 100 percent of their loan and Midas tries its best to approve applications from women. Present on the occasion, the Norwegian Ambassador, Ragne Birte congratulated all Bangladeshi women on the centennial celebration of International Women's Day. She described the progressive trend of Bangladeshi women in education and technology as a role model. She urged women to keep the pace up.

The observance of the day also included the presentation of a paper on Technology and Women Entrepreneurs -- "Then to Now". WEA President Sabrina Islam highlighted on the change in women's lives brought about by taking micro financial assistance. After taking loans women have learnt to take risk, changed their lifestyles, and have been able to express their opinions in major family decisions.

Chairman of SME Foundation Aftabul Islam in his closing remark urged the women to become more IT literate to develop their lives. Among others, the President of BWIT Luna Shamsuddoha was also present.

Music and skits were part of this celebration to make the event an entertaining affair.

By Mahtabi Zaman


DD Kids from Dressy Dale

Children's skin is soft and sensitive and they need comfortable dresses in appropriate designs. Considering children's physical and psychological needs, Dressy Dale now launches a new collection. DD kids blends Eastern fashion trends with Western concepts and develops attires that are made in natural colours, using natural fabrics.



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