• Friday, July 25, 2014

Special Feature

Trading Green

Md Shahnawaz Khan Chandan
Hand tags made of handmade paper from the workers of Good and Green. Photo: Prabir Das
Hand tags made of handmade paper from the workers of Good and Green. Photo: Prabir Das

Masrur Khan, a university student in London, was buying some takeaway food from TESCO, one of the largest retailers of the world. While receiving the takeaways suddenly he noticed the bag. It wasn't the smart design of the bag that grabbed his attention; rather it was what it was made of. It was a paper bag and while providing it the famous retailer was promoting their brand as environment friendly. Masrur says, “While working in different districts of Bangladesh, I discovered the potential of jute fibre for manufacturing green products mainly different types of jute bags, packaging etc. Besides these it is also highly useful for producing handmade paper which has a huge demand in global market. That day suddenly the idea of utilising this opportunity struck my mind and I launched 'Good & Green'.”

Jute bags like these prepared by Good and Green have been admired in Japan, Australia and Middle East. Photos: Prabir Das
Jute bags like these prepared by Good and Green have been admired in Japan, Australia and Middle East. Photos: Prabir Das

Each year retailers around the world provide their customers with millions of tons of plastic bags with their products that are littering the planet, killing marine life and poisoning our food chain. This is ultimately fuelling the environmental crisis caused by climate change. The world therefore is now welcoming environment friendly and bio degradable packaging systems that have no harmful impact on the ecological system terming them as 'eco ethical products'.
This is the opportunity that has been grabbed by Masrur Khan, a young Bangladeshi entrepreneur who formed a company called 'Good & Green' for manufacturing and exporting these eco-friendly products. At first, Masrur visited some jute mills in various districts of Bangladesh, mills that were almost dead and abandoned due to poor market value of jute products. “Then I inspired these small industry owners to revive their productions of jute fibres and jute products and even in some cases I have funded their productions,” says Masrur. “Thus I ensured my supply of jute fibres, jute waste and jute products for further development.”
Masrur then went to the nearby villages to talk with the village women to utilise the traditional craftsmanship of rural Bengal. Masrur proposed to produce jute bags of different types and handmade paper with the jute provided by those mills. Rural women, who were already trapped by loans with high interest thanks to different micro credit NGOs, delightfully accepted this proposal as Masrur ensured them a good remuneration for their work.

But then another obstacle came up.
Furnishing jute fibres into fancy crafts and valuable goods like handmade paper required special skills of an artisan. Most of those village women had no such skills. “I faced a real problem but did not lose hope,” recalls Masrur. “I talked with the Jute Diversification and Promotion Centre based in Dhaka. After a series of negotiation and conversation they agreed to train my workers with a nominal fee.” Thus with this initiative Masrur and his company created a group of skilled artisans whose produces would be admired in distant corners of the world.
Saleha Khatun a widow from Pearpur village of Jamalpur district is an employee of Masrur's “Good & Green”. She says, “When Masrur bhai gave me work and trained me for the job I got a new life. Before that I used to work in other people's kitchens. Now I can earn 12-15000 taka per month and I have also trained my two daughters to work with the jute fibres.” Besides making social changes, this young entrepreneur ensured hundred percent carbon emission free production lines. Since these products are completely handmade at home, there is no question of machinery and carbon emission. Using these biodegradable products also ensures a natural recycling process.

A worker of Good and Green turning jute fibre into a finely weaved hand bag. Photo: Prabir Das
A worker of Good and Green turning jute fibre into a finely weaved hand bag. Photo: Prabir Das

'Good & Green' has been exporting these products in different developed countries like Japan, Australia, and United Arab Emirates where these products have been highly appreciated This company has been exporting handmade paper, products made of handmade paper such as price tags, notebooks, and home decorations. Says Masrur, “We have been exporting these green goods for more than a year. As a company, 'Good & Green' is a droplet in this huge global market of green products. But with the available raw material and potential manpower it can take a leading position as a foreign currency earner if promoted and supported by the government.”
The main obstacles faced by young entrepreneurs like Masrur who have been dreaming of export based progressive Bangladesh is that they have limited connection with the business world. The initiatives from the state to promote these potential importers of these goods in the developed world are few and far between. For this reason these change makers have been really struggling with their efforts. However, we can hope that government will caste a favourable eye on companies like 'Good & Green' so that they can flourish, export their goods and earn recognition for Bangladesh.

The writer can be contacted at shahnawaz.khan@thedailystar.net

Published: 12:00 am Friday, June 27, 2014

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