Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   | Volume 6, Issue 47, Tuesday, December 06, 2011



Brand Bongo

The last decade has seen a surge in the number of shopping malls in Dhaka city. Wherever you reside, chances are high that you have a shopping mall just a few blocks away. Also, fashion houses have joined the rat race and mushroomed all over to lure customers by any means -- all the glitzy billboards and glamorous buildings with qualified salespeople have come handy to them. Yet, they have one rival they fight hard to beat: good old Bongo Bazaar.

Bongo Bazaar, which collectively consists of a few markets clustered together, has been catering to our clothing needs since 1989. When it comes to clothes, Bongo Bazaar has everything a person needs, from socks to hats. And it caters to all kinds of customers, regardless of class or economic standing.

And winter is a busy time at Bongo Bazaar. After all, where do you get such amazing, warm clothes at such a cheap price?

Inside the bazaar, things are confusing. It is an endless maze of tiny booths on both sides of narrow pathways, with the shouting sellers trying to get your attention.

The supply of clothes at Bongo Bazaar comes from three main sources. “A bulk of our clothes is of 'export quality'. These are the rejected items we get from the garments factories making clothes for big companies like Nike. Then, there are some factories that produce specifically for the local market. In fact, many of us have sewing machines and workers of our own too. Finally, there are a few items imported from China, Thailand, etc,” a shopkeeper informed.

Therefore, it is no surprise that Bongo Bazaar can offer such cheap prices. But it is indeed surprising how cheap these items can get. For example, you get a pair of gloves at a price as low as Tk.20. You get a sweater at a price of Tk.300.

The traditional perception goes that lower prices mean lower quality. Bongo has come a long way in defying this notion. “You do get good quality clothes here. If not for a teeny tiny defect that goes unnoticed to the naked eye, the jeans that I bought for Tk.270 may have been in a original Denim showroom with an astounding price tag,” says Mishu, an university student.

Most of the time, the quality is good. However, it is always wise to check some basic things before you purchase; for example, whether there are any holes, whether the zipper is working or not, etc.

The clothes may be cheap and good in quality, but are the clothes in Bongo Bazaar fashionable?

Not all the clothes in Bongo are, really. And that's where your taste in fashion comes to the rescue. Tonmoy, a fashion savvy college student opines, “When you buy from a fashion house, you get an assurance of quality and style. But since Bongo Bazaar caters to people from different backgrounds and social classes, you can't just pick up a random outfit and think it'll be stylish.”

Indeed, when you buy something from a reputed brand, you automatically have the satisfaction that only such brands can generate, even if the attire is not very fashionable. However, Bongo Bazaar gives no such assurance. You are on your own. It is your call whether a particular design is in or out. And that's one reason why shopping in Bongo Bazaar can be so interesting.

When shopping for winter clothes, you also might come across people who are buying long overcoats (that you don't see people in Bangladesh wear) and what not. Motin, a villager, is one such customer. “I'm shifting abroad for work. It's extremely cold there, and that's why I'm buying such clothes. If there was no Bongo Bazaar, I would have been in trouble finding winter clothes at such cheap prices.”

Buying warm clothes is a great idea if you are staying in Bangladesh too. Check out their ubiquitous leather jackets. The simple yet trendy sweatshirts are very much in style. Along with them, buy gloves, woolen socks and monkey caps if you so feel the need. They are all available at inexpensive prices. Suggesting a price range for every item won't help, but as a general rule, you know that you are on the right track if you can buy things at prices less than half of what the sellers ask!

In the endless maze of the market, you'll find foreigners too, sometimes accompanied by local “guides.” The cheap prices indeed are a huge attraction.

That's basically why we love Bongo Bazaar so much. It provides good clothes at incredibly cheap prices. Now, who doesn't like that combination?

The general ambiance of the market is nice too. Try some deshi snacks like fuchka and chotpoti along with "gorom cha" in the street. As it is winter, you can also opt for pitha. And while you're at it, you'll probably see a couple of horse carriages go by -- the distinctive charms of Puran Dhaka never fail to enchant.

However, if you are one of those who don't find walking in confusing mazes adventurous, or if you haven't mastered the art of haggling, Bongo Bazaar is not the place for you. One can easily be the victim of haggling. The vendors are street-smart in a notorious way. They'll rip you off whenever they get the chance.

But most of us have learned the haggling bit -- it is an enjoyment rather than a disincentive. Its part of the great Bongo experience!

By M H Haider
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed


BRAC Kanon: For a greener world

In the midst of the concrete jungle called Dhaka, a greener change has been envisioned. To bring about this change, on December 03, 2011, BRAC Kanon officially opened their new display and sales centre, in the first step of kick-starting BRAC's latest Green Initiative.

BRAC takes Corporate Social Responsibility one step further not only for themselves but for anyone who wishes to avail the services offered by BRAC Kanon, an outlet which presents four different Green enterprises under one roof. These enterprises are BRAC Nursery, BRAC Sericulture, BRAC Solar and BRAC Recycled Handmade Paper.

BRAC Nursery, established back in 1994, is the most prominent feature of the four. With a motto, 'For a greener world', the nursery acts as the first step of the process. Fruit, Timber, Ornamental and Decorative kinds of plants are all available here. With a price range starting from 200tk-10,000tk, there is an option for everyone. Cactus plants, Mahogany Trees, Lillies to almost any plant which thrives in our climate, is available here. BRAC's 15 other nurseries, spread throughout the country, fuel the supply here. The varieties on display assure that almost anyone can now eke out a little natural solace for themselves in their homes, offices or roof-tops. Apart from the plants themselves, the outlet also offers technical assistance, accessories and gardening equipments and tools. Furthermore, Landscaping, Rental and offers tailoured for corporate clients are also available.

Next up comes the BRAC Sericulture. 'Be Green, Wear Green', is the tagline for this venture. Started back in 1978, BRAC Sericulture played a significant role in the development of Sericulture in Bangladesh. Focusing on introducing high-yielding varieties of silk worm and mulberry cultivation, BRAC Sericulture relies on contract farmers and their own resources. Disease Free Laying, Silk Cocoon, Silk Yarn and Silk Fabric are all on sale here. However, the outlet's best creations are the simple silk saris and scarves, starting from 2000 taka and above. A display also lays out the entire process of procuring silk from Disease Free Laying, in simple steps. The fact that is the first initiative of its kind, is not missed.

The third agenda is BRAC's Recycled Handmade Paper. Established back in 2000, the venture acts as a stern reminder of the importance of saving trees. The fact that paper can be used in a day whilst the tree it came from will take years to replace, is the primary motivation behind the initiative. With an eye on minimising waste and promoting a greener, cleaner environment, BRAC's Recycled Handmade Paper is high quality material, as demanded. Used to make gift-bags, wrapping papers, envelopes, art paper, text book, slip pads etc, these products are not only useful but also environmentally friendly. Custom products are also offered in an attempt to make the business world more environmentally friendly. "The envelopes used in BRAC are all recycled along with majority of the paper-materials required, including the business cards," informs Nazra Mahjabeen Sabet, the Programme Head of BRAC Enterprise. The products sold here are all recycled, biodegradable, non-toxic, sustainable and reusable.

Having offered the conventional ways of protecting and nurturing the environment, BRAC offers one more vital, yet ignored, piece of the puzzle; BRAC Solar. Starting its journey back in 1998 and then again in 2002, the enterprise is finally entering the mainstream market. Partnering with Solar Intercontinental (SOLARIC) Ltd., the inventors of the micro-inventor technology, BRAC Solar offers the perfect solution to the current power crunch situation. Cheaper, affordable and sustainable energy is the mantra behind the project. With solutions for homes and offices, BRAC offers numerous packages, ranging from 17,000 taka to 55,200 taka. The packages are available for off-grid areas and also on-grid semi urban areas. The wiring and installation are free of charge while LED Tubelights and fans are included in the package prices. A 3-year warranty is available for the micro inventor. The set up is capable of saving up to 90% of one's electricity bill. A back-up time of 4 hours is an added bonus. If that isn't enough, a demonstration went on to show how the system was capable of supporting a 22 inch TV, lights and standing fans. "This entire project runs on solar power with 2.4 kilowatts generated in an 8 hour period," Nazra states.

BRAC Kanon doesn't only promote the concept of green but rather encapsulates it. The project is an attempt at ushering in an era of lush greenery, sustainability and in turn a better future. Those who wish to make a change, no matter how small, head off to BRAC Kanon and make your contribution for Mother Earth. It would probably the best investment one can ever make. Located at 205/1 B, Gulshan-Tejgaon Link Road, Dhaka, right opposite to Gulshan Aarong, BRAC Kanon stands as a testament of what can be, nestled among nature's precious representatives.

By Osama Rahman
Photo Courtesy: Brac Kanon


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