A very common phenomenon in our country is that people living here have a fascination for anything labelled as ‘foreign’. This is specially true for people belonging to middle class and lower class as they don’t have the ability to make a foreign trip. Once buying foreign things was an impossible dream for those people. However that impossible dream has come true because of Dhaka International Trade Fair where different foreign stalls come up with their products and consequently cross-sections of people get an opportunity to buy their desired exotic products at a competitive price.
One such enthusiast is Tabassum Tamanna who was seen standing in front of a foreign pavilion. She shared, “Every year when the fair begins, I visit it twice. To be particular, I pay visit to the foreign pavilions and stalls. Different foreign items showcased at these stalls attract me very much as I can compare their products with ours. I like to buy their items such as crockeries and garments. Besides, their befitting decoration always allures me.” Like Tamanna there are thousands of people who take a trip to DITF to buy their necessary home appliances, kitchen utensils and accessories, cloths, cosmetics etc. On the other hand, the foreign businessmen also try to convince their consumers with their quality products. Thus, these foreign pavilions and stalls have proved to be a major attraction for the visitors owing to reciprocal interest of both the parties (both buyers and sellers).For the increasing interest of cross-sections of consumers, the number of participating countries is also increasing gradually. This year a total of 52 outlets from 22 countries are participating in the fair. Different business entities from India, Bhutan, Pakistan, China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Nepal, Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, the Maldives, Mauritius, Russia, Iran and Swaziland are taking part in the fair. They are selling products like cosmetics and beauty products, jewellery, fabrics, ceramics, carpets, electronics, leather goods, toys, machineries, furniture and handicrafts. Among different types of products Kashmiri shawls, Turkish melamine, Thail home appliances, Iranian jewellery and cosmetics items, and gift sets for kids are in high demand among the visitors.
Well, as far as foreign stalls are concerned, the idea can be viewed from two perspectives – one from the buyers’ perspective and the other one from the sellers’ angle. First of all, the visitors find it very convenient to buy foreign items from these stalls as all of them don’t have the scope of making it abroad. Nabila Rahman, a university student who came to the fair with her friends, said, “I came to this fair only for recreation. But after coming here I discovered that the items displayed at the foreign stalls are quite good. As it is not possible for me to go abroad, so I bought two three-pieces from Pakistani stall. I have also bought some perfumes and jewelleries from Iranian stalls.” Again some people buy those items because they feel that these are authentic products. Latifa Begum, a housewife from Mirpur, said in this regard, “I wait for this fair throughout the year. I am interested to buy Thai utensils. But it is very difficult for me to differentiate between original and counterfeit products that are available in the local markets. That’s why I come to this fair so that I can buy the products without any hesitation on a reduced price.”
While the consumers are happy with the quality of products, the sellers are also expressing their satisfaction over the response. Salesperson of Turkish stall said they were mostly showcasing products such as jewellery and melamine items. Among all of their products bracelet and bicha (an ornament that is worn around the waist) are being sold in large amount. Similarly, a salesperson from Indian pavilion echoed the same kind of response. He said, “Kashmiri shawls are drawing customers’ attention as it’s winter now. We are satisfied with the presence of the visitors.” Besides, Malaysian pavilions are mostly selling various kitchen utensils such as juicer, dry cleaner and frying pan. A salesperson from a Malaysian stall, however, expressed the hope of better turnout in the later weeks. He said, “We hope that we will experience a better crowd in the later weeks as the fair gets its full pace when it approaches the end.”
Apart from the happy stories, there are some stories of dissatisfaction as well. Some of the foreigner traders have shared their discontent over various irregularities. German trader Jonas Busam is one of them. He stated, “A huge number of goods which we have brought from our country are awaiting customs clearance at the airport. We had a certain plan to put our best products on display at the fair but unfortunately we are struggling to receive our products. Such delay, in turn, is hampering our business seriously.” Such complication is also discouraging many to partake in the fair. Alamgir Boksh Pintu, whose stall represents Pakistani company Kreation Corporation, said, “Most of the stalls displaying Pakistani products are being run by local importers. Real Pakistani business owners refrain themselves from joining the fair because of the complexities they have to face while getting visas.”
However these international pavilions and stalls are significant not only for sales factor, but there are other implications. Firstly, such a fair provides a unique opportunity to the local businessmen and entrepreneurs to see and compare their products and services without having to travel the world. Smart companies also make use of their presence at trade fair to gather knowledge from the competitors. Entrepreneurs can learn a great deal about competitors’ technologies, pricing and the depth of their market penetration. “We have been trying to capture the local market of kitchen utensils for the last couple of years. Though we get some response from the buyers, it is not up to our expectation. So, we are trying to introduce accessories with new designs and dimensions in the market. As some companies, who are doing the same business for long time, from abroad are taking part in this fair, we are observing their products’ quality and striving hard to gather some experiences from them which will be very helpful for us,” said a manager of a company on condition of anonymity. Secondly, such arrangement instils a feeling of competitiveness into the local entrepreneurs.
To conclude, there are some allegations as well that some traders are taking undue advantage of the fair to market locally-made products in disguise of foreign stalls. Concerned authorities must look into the matter as such practice, if true, will depress the visitors in the long run to a great extent, which may turn out to be very ominous for further growth and expansion of an international trade fair of such calibre.