I received my trade license in the year 2005 but I was involved with my leather business way back. In my third year of undergraduate life, I decided to fully concentrate on the leather market so I started doing market research on the leather industry. Since I was a student majoring in Leather Technology, I knew it would be wise to get ahead even before I graduate.
Market research showed that men’s wallets and belts were most in-demand in our country. Leather products for women, such as bags, were more expensive, and naturally, were less in demand. Back then, the leather industries in our country were mostly export-related and did not focus on the local market, so I thought to start my business by entering the local market first.
In the beginning, I did my survey and the results showed that the market for corporate gifts is huge. Diary covers, file folders, laptop bags, all these products were imported from China at year-end. So, I started making these sample items at first on a small scale. I bought a second-hand “Singer” machine with BDT 3,500 and started work. The first obstacle I faced was that there were no female entrepreneurs in Hazaribag. Not just in the leather industry but in any industry. And since I am not even from this area, I struggled to find a space as nobody wanted to rent to a woman conducting a business.
I would showcase my sample products at the front of my 80 sqft workspace, and managed to catch the attention of some corporate people who would come to Hazaribag for work. I would roam around Hazaribag trying to find the best producer of belts and wallets and would buy from them when I got orders from the corporates. After some time, when I started getting orders regularly, I decided to take on more employees and got a bigger space for myself. I started preparing legal documents for my business, after which I approached different offices showcasing my products and if they would be interested in buying from me.
After a few negative answers, I got some positive ones. From day one of my business, I ensured top-quality products, and the buyers saw it too. Even if I incurred losses, I never compromised on quality. Lucky for me, I got a huge order from British American Tobacco, Bangladesh. Then I became their vendor. This is when things started looking good for me. In the year 2008, I exported my products for the first time in the UK. Till 2016-2017, I focused on the corporate sector and exports.
I received the Australia Fellowship Award in 2015 for the quality of my products. People here acknowledged my high-quality products and suggested making Karigar a brand itself. But that was not possible because I have been supplying to different big named brands and I cannot use my brand name for selling those products.
To make my brand identity standout, I started another company named TAN. TAN comes from Tannery and since tanning leather is the most important aspect of this industry, I chose this name. However, I have still not been able to make my brand, TAN prominent in the market. Because I am already caught up with my other brand “Karigar” as I have to complete huge orders for brands like Aarong, Bata, and Apex to name a few. As such, I am not able to spend enough time on building my brand TAN and it is lagging behind.
Therefore, I plan to concentrate more on TAN and try to make it into a brand and also buy a factory space as this current one is a rental. Also, all these years, I never tried exporting on my own, I only exported when I would get orders. So, these are the two areas I would like to focus on most in the coming days.