Colours of transformation
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 three.
Little things like, broadband, catering, fashion schools, talent hunt, 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 toiletries industry in Bangladesh has certainly grown and become more consumer-friendly.
In the old days, when people went abroad, they were given shopping lists that contained a whole range of toiletries: soaps, shampoos, conditioners, face washes, creams, etc. In those days the local toiletries market was not advanced enough to meet all the demands of the people. But in the last decade things have changed drastically for the toiletries industry in Bangladesh.
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 industry. Of course if one wants a alcohol-free, hydrating, gel-based make-up remover with astringent, then one 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, etc, goes, all that are now locally produced and readily available.
Five minutes of channel surfing between NTV, Channel-I, ATN and BTV will give you a glimpse into our local range of such products. In keeping up with the times, manufacturers 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 nothing is more aggressively advertised as toiletries. 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 a good idea to use celebrities to promote the product. So no surprise that advertisements frequently show celebrities sashaying to jingles or talking about how a certain product resolved their cosmetic dilemmas.
Local toiletries bring two names to mind instantaneously. The first is Square Toiletries, which started its journey in 1988 and were (at that time) a separate division of Square Pharmaceuticals. They started out with one product. In 1994 Square Toiletries Limited became a Private Limited Company. Today with over 50 products, Square Toiletries Limited is one of the largest companies in the local industry. They cover a wide range of personal, health, home, and fabric care products. They hired motivated employees, used the latest technology and created attractive, quality products. Currently, Square Toiletries Limited is one of the country's leading cosmetics and toiletries manufacturer.
The second name that comes to mind in this sector is Unilever Bangladesh ltd. While it can be argued that Unilever Bangladesh ltd is a subsidiary of Unilever, a multinational company spread over half of the globe, and most certainly not local,it has worked locally to produce items that fit in with our society and our people. In keeping with the condition of our society, unlike Unilever's concerns abroad which are, let's say more advanced, in Bangladesh it thrives to provide our people with the basic toiletries.
Because of Unilever Bangladesh ltd, Bangladeshi people can avail international brands at affordable prices. Leading the market in most of the categories it operates, its' portfolio of brands of toiletries include Lux, Lifebuoy, Fair & Lovely, Ponds', Close Up, Sunsilk, Clinic, Rexona, and Pepsodent. Although many of its brands are big international names, Unilever locally develops their product mix. One of Unilevers' goals is to improve health and hygiene practices and thus illustrate its commitment to the society. Through their diverse range of toiletries they give Bangladeshi people the privilege of choice - a privilege founded on the simple universal reality that different individuals have different needs.
It isn't that Unilever Bangladesh Ltd and Square Toiletries Limited are the only two notable brands in Bangladesh. There are numerous others such as Keya, Cosco, Tibet, Aromatic, to name a few. All of these brands have worked really hard to build consumer trust through producing good quality products.
One of the commendable things about all these brands is that they have reached out and made themselves accessible to people in the remotest and least accessible parts of Bangladesh. The consumer bases of most of these brands live in rural Bangladesh. While urban city dwellers have a choice between what products they choose to buy, without these local companies rural consumers have no products at all, forget choosing between local and foreign products.
There is very little possibility that foreign products will make their way into villages. More importantly local brands are affordable, which is the biggest motivation behind consumer behaviour.
In these ever-changing times, it is remarkable to see that our local makers of toiletries are keeping pace with what consumers want. They have truly come a long way from the days when we shunned local products and handed lists to people going abroad.
Photo: Munem Wasif
Photo Direction: Khaled Mahmud,Head Office