The 75,000 taka bed | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 26, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 26, 2008


The 75,000 taka bed

Ansar U Ahmed, sales manager of furniture maker Otobi, shows the company's top of the range hospital bed being manufactured in Dhaka. Built in three sections, the Tk 75,500 bed is an example of the broad manufacturing base developing in the country.Photo: STAR

Bangladesh is not a country where you expect to find a Tk75,500 bed, but such items are being produced in Dhaka and are becoming the country's latest export success.
It's not gold encrusted bed knobs, but the technology and mechanics that mean the local furniture maker Otobi is able to charge this amount for its top of the range hospital bed.
Built in three sections so that the head or foot can be raised, the bed is an example of the broad manufacturing base developing in the country.
The beds produced by Otobi and rivals such as Navana Furniture and Partex are not just meeting local demand that is growing at 20-25 percent a year, but increasingly being sold to neighbouring India.
Industry insiders estimate that at least 15,000 people are directly involved in hospital bed industry across the country. “But if you count the informal hospital furniture industry the number will be much more bigger,” said one factory manager.
In the case of Otobi, the rising demand means the company is planning to add another two manufacturing plants to the existing ones it operates in Mirpur and Shyampur.
Otobi was set up in 1974 by the artist and sculptor Nitun Kundu, who is best known for works such as Shabash Bangladesh (Bravo Bangladesh), a sculpture inspired by the liberation war in Rajshahi University, and the Saarc Fountain in Dhaka. Now one of the country's leading furniture producers and retailers, Otobi started producing medical equipment in the 1990s.
With its range of hospital beds costing from Tk75,500 to as little as around Tk6,000, the product accounts for between 10-15 per cent of the company's turnover, according to Otobi Sales Manager Ansar U Ahmed
On top of establishing 17 sales points in India, including Kolkata, Chhattishgarh and Agartala, the company is now trying to find other foreign markets.
Domestically the rising demand is not only driven by the expansion of medical services, but by higher expectations among patients.
People of the new generation are choosier compared with the old generation, Ansar said. “They want change and Otobi has been working to fulfill their desires.”
And beds are just one segment of the total medical equipment market. For example, Otobi also produces patient trolleys, bed set cabinets, saline stands, medicine trolleys, instrument trolleys, food trolleys, bowl stands, emergency carts, medicine cupboards and isolation screens.
Navana Group (Furniture) also produces a wide range of hospital equipment. “The market for hospital beds has been growing in this country and more and more manufacturers have also been expanding their businesses,” said Arifuzzaman of Business Development of Navana Group (Furniture).
But at present Navana like Otobi and other local manufactures cannot entirely satisfy the local market as they do not produce mechanised beds. The demand for beds to be fitted with a motor drive and electric remote controls has been increasing in recent years, especially with the arrival of high profile hospitals such as the Apollo and United, aimed at the country's upper middle class.
Such beds still have to be imported from Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and Singapore.
A senior official of the Apollo Hospital, country's one of the most modern hospital, said they do not use the locally manufactured hospital beds as those are manually operated.
“We use motor-driven electronic hospital beds and these are imported. But, we procure other small furniture from the local markets to some extent,” he said.
“We have a plan to start production of electric and remote controlled hospital beds in Bangladesh shortly,” said Otobi's Ansar. Navana's Arifuzzaman said the company was also looking into electrical beds.

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