An emerging industry

There was a time when making a piece of furniture meant a huge hassle for the buyer and the manufacturer/ seller as well. Although characterised by stressful tasks, the whole affair of making a piece of new furniture would at the same time flood families with excitement. Some 30 years back or so, people used to free up their courtyard to facilitate the carpenters do their job at ease.

Making furniture mostly meant hiring carpenters and bringing them home for the work. The carpenters were gladly treated with glasses of tea after every hour and so. The children would swarm around them with eyes full of eagerness, enjoying the conversion of sturdy chunks of raw wood into skillfully carved bed, table, armchair or cupboard. But those days are long gone, gone are the days when home furnishings used to be bulky and less user-friendly. Today, very few people think of bringing carpenters at home to get their work done. There is no need to shoulder so much of strain when elegant plus affordable ready-made furniture are available right within your reach. Not only are these furniture stylish, they are at the same time light and therefore, easy to carry and move.

Some of the leading outlets of modern furniture in Dhaka include Otobi, Navana, Hatil, Koncept et cetera. You can also check out the Gulshan I City Corporation Market for foreign furniture, many of these furniture's components can even be separated and stacked into boxes, which means that if you are a smart person then these days you can even assemble a piece of furniture by yourself. All these indicate that the need for calling an expert or a carpenter might virtually reach the dead-end in the coming days.

Today, instead of wood, materials like steel frame, specialised plastic sheets, and wood substitutes and the like are imported and used to manufacture furniture. Most of these materials are imported from Malaysia and bear high quality. Replacement of wood with wood substitutes is not only contributing to helping the government in safeguarding the environment, it has at the same time made furniture affordable among the mass. While manufacturing a wardrobe from pure teak would cost around Tk.30 000, a closet manufactured from modified wood would only cost you between Tk.18 000 and Tk. 20 000. All these illustrate that furniture making is emerging as a profitable industry in this country.

Otobi has been known for furniture manufacture from substitutes of wood for years. With branches spread in every major locality of the capital and outside Dhaka, Otobi's furniture is not only smart; they are durable and light and cost much less than wooden furniture. Not only movable articles, furniture are now also referred to bathroom and kitchen cabinets. A visit to the outlets of Otobi would tell you that innovativeness has also touched the fittings needed in bathroom and kitchen. An entire cabinet including stove, shelves and drawers of numerous sizes, patterns and colours are available at the branches of Otobi; all you have to do is call an expert to install it in your kitchen.

Navana Furniture, which is a brand name of the furniture unit of Aftab Automobile Ltd., was founded in 2002. NAVANA furniture possesses capabilities that are fully integrated, starting from designing, sampling to selecting of materials and moulding through testing, assembling and distribution. Navana has its own huge factory and warehouse in Savar, covering an area of 12 000 sqm. Navana imports all the major raw materials used in its furniture, which include melamine laminated chip board and MDF board, AISI 304 Grade SS Sheets, fabric and PVC leather, chair components, fittings and accessories.

Hatil, which was established in 1989, is a leading manufacturer of doors and furniture. In the outlets of Hatil, you will find furniture made from both wood and modified wood. Needless to say that the furniture made from modified wood are very much within your means. Even the furniture made from wood are complemented with stainless steel, glass and modified wood to give them a more modern look and a reasonable price tag. Moreover, there is an obvious shift from wood to substitutes of wood among the local furniture manufacturers. With outlets spread in Mirpur, Uttara, Dhanmondi, Tejgaon, Old Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna and Mymensingh, Hatil is a trusted brand name in the furniture industry.

At one time furniture meant household objects made from 100% pure wood, today this scenario is no more true. At one time people bought furniture with the thought of using them for at least 50 years, but today parents have accepted the fact that their favourite furniture may simply seem boring and archaic to their children. These days many families have developed the habit of purchasing new batches household furnishings after every few years. In this growing mobile culture, people demand light furniture, which they would be able to easily shift from one place to another. Today people want furniture at affordable prices so that they would be able to make new purchases after every five years. After all, there is little charm left behind when you use the same old bed for years. The emergence of modified wood and specialised plastic has made furniture affordable for those who couldn't previously afford trendy furniture for their home.

In this article, we must also add how furniture of foreign ships made well-designed furniture affordable for people with limited income. As you go by PanthaPath, your eyes are sure to catch the attention of rows of shops selling furniture and appliances of foreign ships. As a matter of fact, 'ship breaking' is now a profitable business in Bangladesh. Old foreign ships are bought and scrapped for the steel.

But along with steel, the furnishings of these ships are also sold to the dealers of furniture. Most of these furniture are manufactured from wood as well as other materials. These old furniture are bought by people not only with limited income but also those from the upper-middle class. While we browsed the stores, we met a couple who were looking for a study table for their son, who is a 5th grader studying in an English medium school in Dhanmondi. However, bear in mind that these sellers often cheat the customers by calling locally produced furniture as furnishings of foreign ships.

A new addition to the furnishings line is the wrought iron furniture. Quite light and artistic furniture are now made from wrought iron, which are very reasonably priced. Today you can purchase a wrought iron bed complemented with wood for as low as Tk.10,000. Exclusive, located in Sector 1, Uttara is an outlet that sells elite wrought iron furnishings. Besides, you can also visit the furniture stores located in Tejgaon and PanthaPath that sell fashionable furniture made from wrought iron. The blend of wood and wrought iron in furnishings has certainly added to the appearance of local furniture.

Our furniture industry is going through big changes; specialised plastic sheets, modified wood and steel frames, are gradually replacing wood. What was once considered a small-scale business is now a big industry, employing millions of people and almost fully meeting the needs of the local consumers.

By Wara Karim
Photo Credit: Legacy Furniture(pvt) Ltd.

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