I was born right here in Hazaribag and let me tell you, there was a time when ‘leather’ meant Hazaribag as well. So, I have seen and been around the leather industry all my life. Although no one in my family was ever involved with this industry, I found myself interested in it from the start.
It was a long time ago, in 1984 to be specific, when I worked at a buying house as an associate to learn how to run this business. After a few years, I started my own and also got affiliated with a few buyers. This buying business is mostly dependent on foreign people, right? So, if they order, I can do my work. However, in the year 1986, my father passed away, and this interrupted my workflow. Therefore, to support my family, I needed a stable source of income, so I found myself working at an advertisement firm, and I worked here till ‘97 until I found myself reverting to the buying business again.
When the tannery shifting started from Hazaribag, we observed that our buyers gradually reduced their business with Bangladesh and instead started affiliations with India and Pakistan. This was due to suppliers being unable to make deliveries on time, among several other factors. During this time, through a friend, I secured an order of leather goods from Japan. I ordered these goods from a local factory and exported it to Japan and by doing this, my interest in leather goods grew even more.
I knew I had enough knowledge to start my own business in this industry. I knew which leather products had more demand and would sell more, so I thought of acquiring a leather-goods factory alongside my buying house. In this way, I could even create employment and I felt confident that everything will be under my own grip since it is my own business. Moreover, my wife, who happens to be the co-founder of Rezaul Karim & Company, stood by me all throughout and helped me to establish this business into what is it today.
In the buying business, I wouldn’t say I am someone big. I am just a middleman here. Purchasing power belongs to the buyers and delivery power to the seller. If anyone backs off, then their deal becomes void. But the goods factory was absolutely in my control. I got more orders from that Japanese firm, then simultaneously I started exporting to Italy.
I started my business in 2016 and to be honest, this business of mine is not project-wise. Whenever I needed things done, I somehow managed and got it done and so, it took some time for us to get established. We did not take any bank loans; everything we did was with our investment. But unfortunately, just as we started doing good, along came Covid. Confirmed orders from Japan and Canada got canceled and since then, we are still struggling. Additionally, what was more damaging is that in Bangladesh, there already exists a crisis for employees in the leather industry. So, in March 2020, when the first lockdown was announced, I had to pay my employees even with my factory being closed because if I let them go, I may not get them back. We did supply to the local markets but it was nothing big. This way I could just pay their salaries, and pay utilities. But I didn’t close down my factory, I held on.
My plan for this company is to delve into the exporting world. We have our brand as well, called Rooz and we make leather bags and gift products for Dell and HP companies but if I have more investment, I can do this work more efficiently. At the same time, I can also expand my business. But for now, I am hoping to get more work.