Those days are gone when businessmen had to rely on foreign products for designing their items. Now most of the factories have their own design and product development team which brings out four to six new products – from plates, cups, mugs to cutlery and dinner sets – every year.
Designers and owners get ideas from everything, such as a nice building, mosque, saree, monument or a foreign product.
“Two years ago, I saw a jamdani saree designed beautifully. I bought it and handed it over to our team to replicate the design in ceramic products. They did it successfully,” said Irfan Uddin, general secretary of Bangladesh Ceramic Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BCMEA) and a director of FARR Ceramics.
Irfan said they have their own design and development team, and most of them are fine arts graduates.
DBL Ceramics, which is a relatively new entrant in the market, follows Italian and Spanish designs to attract customers, both in local and export markets.
“But to make those products we need special dyes and chemicals that push up our production costs,” said MA Jabbar, managing director of DBL Ceramics, a concern of apparel giant DBL Brothers.
The company employs eight artists dedicated to designing ceramic products.
Other companies such as Akij Ceramics, Shinepukur Ceramics, Monno Ceramics, Artisan Ceramics, X-Ceramics, China-Bangla Ceramic, Paragon Ceramics and RAK Ceramics also produce products with their dedicated design team.
But there is another way to design products as raw material suppliers also help factories design products.
“Whatever design you want, tell them and they will make the design for you,” said Shirajul Islam Mollah, president of BCMEA and managing director of China-Bangla Ceramic Industry that began operation in 2002.
He said designing of products will get more importance when Bangladesh boosts its exports to the global market.
Design matters a lot for ceramic products, according to salesmen at the capital’s Elephant Road, a retail hub of the products. They said they were trained by the companies so that they can brief customers about the quality and aesthetic side of the products, be it a cup or a dinner set.
“Customers do not see the quality of the products, rather they prefer good-looking ones. They even want to spend more when they like a product, solely for its design,” said Kamal Hossain, 30, a salesman at a store of Shinepukur Ceramics.
He said tableware products, which were a luxury even 10 years ago, have now become common for use.
The first use of practical pottery vessels is thought to be thousands of years back. Historians believe it was as far back as 9000 BC. These vessels were used to hold and store grain and other foods. It is believed that ancient glass manufacturing is closely linked to pottery making, which flourished in Egypt in about 8000 BC.
Later, ceramic art spread to almost all developed cultures, which was evident in vanished cultures, like that of the Iron Age population in Africa over 3,000 years ago. Later the use of ceramic products became popular in cultures such as those of the Chinese, Greek, Persian, Mayan, Japanese, and Korean as well as the modern Western cultures.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany and other European countries dominated the industry and export markets. But a jump in production costs, including wages and currency appreciation, made ceramic manufacturing unfeasible for many of those nations, even in China.
The first factory in Bangladesh was set up in Bogura in 1958. Two factories emerged in 1960s and one in 1974. Then half a dozen new companies entered the market in 1990s after which it proliferated post-2000.