Entrepreneurs team up to conquer leather world
Eleven small leather product makers have come together to form a retail brand, aiming to become a household name.
"As an SME [small- and medium-sized enterprise], it is very tough to become a successful brand. We do not have that capacity and financial power to do so,â€ Tania Wahab, a partner of the brand.
Tania partnered with BAG, Axis, Sassy, 3Tech, Muchee, Superfit, Rubai & Bushpull, SA Authentic Leather Craft, Leathereign and Duce, and formed Leather Cave in 2011.
â€œAs a team, I think we will be able to go a long way," she added.
Leather Cave participated in last year's Dhaka International Trade Fair, the largest exposition in the country, and received positive response.
"The response was very good. It helped us move forward," said AKM Hedaitul Islam George, the group's coordinator.
George, managing partner of BAG, a leather footwear and product manufacturer, said the group is comprised of a number of successful entrepreneurs.
"We are hopeful of the brand's success as we are like-minded people," he said, adding all partners in the brand have experiences working for successful brands.
George said many local and global brands were doing business with the group members -- individually.
"This struck us. There are times when do not get money for our sales. We wondered if we could come together and launch a brand. We could sell products under its name and our money will not get stuck,â€ he said."
He said the brand would also help the group members promote their products at the international arena.
"It is a financial burden for a small entrepreneur if he or she wants to promote his or her products alone."
George said a group of 33 small entrepreneurs formed the Leather Technologist Small Entrepreneurs (LTSE) in 2009 after they graduated from the Bangladesh Institute of Leather Engineering.
Their target was to build a brand which supplied quality leather goods to the local market.
â€œThe Leather Cave is the result of the group work,â€ said the 31-year-old George.
He said the main strength of Leather Cave is it is a huge range of product line.
â€œNo other single brand has such product lines,â€ he said, adding the brand has opened an outlet in Banani.
The group has plans to open another outlet at the capital's Elephant Road in May this year, and showrooms in Bogra and Rajshahi, two important cities in the northern part of the country.
Tania, also owner of leather product-making venture Karigar, said the brand has taken part in a number of fairs at home and abroad to popularise the brand and set up a website.
"We are providing training to our workers together," she said.
Tania, who started Karigar in 2005 when she had just completed her BSc from Bangladesh College of Leather Technology, said if the partnership becomes successful then many would follow suit, breaking the fear of coming together.
She said it would be easier to brand the products as there would be less pressure on the financial side.
The 33-year-old admits that the group needs to learn things on marketing, management and maintenance to sustain the initiative.
"We have lacking in managerial skills."
The Poverty Reduction by Increasing the Competitiveness of Enterprises (PRICE) -- a five-year USAID-funded project, which works with the government and private firms to alleviate constraints hindering the competitiveness of aquaculture, horticulture and leather products sectors -- is helping the group to launch their products and find a niche in the market.
Tania said the partnership is not only a platform to promote their individual products, but also to share work orders.
"If a member of the group facing a tight deadline and is far from meeting it, he/she can subcontract the work to another member of the group."
"We help each other when someone faces financial squeeze," she said.
"But we will have to nurse the partnership and become professional."
Although the group is yet to export their products under the brand, six to seven entrepreneurs are already exporting their products under their individual brands.