The task of obtaining product certification for exporters just became quicker, cheaper and simpler thanks to the June opening of a modern testing laboratory in Dhaka by Intertek, the world's biggest tester of consumer goods.
Before, exporters had to go through the time-consuming and expensive process of shipping their samples to Hong Kong, China or India to get the requisite third-party certification assuring quality and absence of any health hazardous elements.
But now, they can simply take the samples to Intertek's laboratory in Tejgaon, the company's biggest in Asia, and get the documentation within a couple of days -- and at a much lower cost.
“The operation of such a big lab will help the exporters acquire their test results faster and reduce their lead time to a huge extent,” Rajesh Saigal, managing director of Intertek South Asia, told The Daily Star.
Set up at a cost of Tk 42 crore on more than one lakh square feet of land, the laboratory will provide one-stop service to a total of 17 industries including textile and garment, footwear, agro-processed foods, electrical goods and chemicals.
The plant will not only test fabric samples, apparel, footwear, home furnishing and electrical appliances for hazardous elements and chemicals, but will also analyse the colour fastness of fabrics and conduct fibre analysis.
The laboratory is manned by 600 technicians and experts, the majority of whom are Bangladeshi nationals. “They are efficient enough to run the tests and certification.”
Saigal is bullish about the laboratory's prospects, adding that the company is expecting at least 20 percent year-on-year business growth from it. “It might even cross 30 percent,” he added.
The reasons for such high expectations, he said, were the country's steady economic growth and the growing importance of garments to the export basket.
“Despite the domestic odds, the garment business will continue to grow in Bangladesh as the country is still competitive to international retailers for lower production costs.”
Many foreign companies are now relocating their businesses from China to other countries with lower production costs, which has created an immense opportunity for Bangladesh, he said.
Moreover, the laboratory will serve as the third-party testing hub for exporters from Myanmar, Madagascar and Mauritius, according to Saigal.
“Our market survey, which was conducted before we installed the lab, is very encouraging -- we have good business here. We were excited by the survey's findings, which showed Bangladesh is poised to become a major market for us.”
So much that the company is now aiming to inaugurate another branch in Chittagong by the middle of next year, he said, adding that 400 more would be employed for the port city operations.
Headquartered in London, Intertek has a network of more than 1,000 laboratories across 100 countries, from where it tests products from toys to telephones and issues safety certificates and standards.