Cricket bats being made using 100% domestic raw materials
First cricket bat factory was set up more than three decades ago
At present a medium quality bat is sold for Tk300 to Tk500
Price of a good quality bat is Tk1,000 and more
Annual profit from the cricket bat making industry is Tk3-4 crore
Cricket bat industry has created 12,000-15,000 direct and indirect jobs
Baldia cricket bat industry in Pirojpur is one of the 177 industrial clusters across the country of SME Foundation
Adidas rookie, Kashmir willow, CA are among the brand names in cricket bats put on sales online or in sport shops.
Prices range from Tk1,500 to Tk3,600 to as high as Tk18,700 – unaffordable to most young cricketers spreading from a lane in the city down to a remote school playground.
For them, non-branded locally-made bats are readily available alternatives. These are sold at between Tk300 and Tk1,000 and fairly good for beginners and even for playing in local tournaments.
Although still not up to global standards, these locally produced cricket bats have successfully replaced the imported cricket bats that were widely used in domestic cricket tournaments at one time.
A cricket bat factory was set up in Baldia union at Swarupkati upazila in Pirojpur more than three decades ago. The availability of raw materials in the area helped the development of this industry. Although the industry started under the initiative of one person, now there are more than 300 cricket bat factories in the locality.
Entrepreneurs in the industry said the annual profit from the cricket bat making industry is Tk3 crore to Tk4 crore. Direct and indirect employment around this industry is about 12-15 thousand.
Industry insiders said in addition to wholesale sales to traders in the capital, cricket bats are sold at various festivals or fairs. At present, a medium quality bat is sold at between Tk300 and Tk500, while the price of a good quality bat is Tk1,000 and more.
Cricket is now a very popular sport in the country. The Bangladesh cricket team is one of the top ten teams in global rankings, due to which the popularity of cricket in the country is much higher than before.
The SME Foundation, which works with small and medium entrepreneurs, is working to take the cricket bat industry forward.
The Foundation has 177 industrial clusters all over the country, and Baldia cricket bat industry in Pirojpur is one of those clusters.
Foundation officials believe that availability of bank loans, advanced technology, modern training and marketing can create opportunities for the export of cricket bats produced in Pirojpur.
According to a report by the Foundation, the demand for cricket bats is increasing with the growing popularity of cricket worldwide. Pakistan is a pioneer in making cricket bats.
Sources concerned have said cricket bats are made in China, the USA, Taiwan, Germany, Canada, France, Italy, Belgium, India, Sri Lanka, Australia and England for the world market. It is hoped that the cricket bat manufacturing industry in Bangladesh will go a long way if the country can replicate the best practices of these countries.
Abu Manzoor Sayeef, Assistant General Manager of Cluster Development of SME Foundation, told TBS: "This industry is labour intensive. It is playing a big role in creating employment or preventing inter-district migration."
He said, "There are many opportunities for the expansion of this industry in the future. As cricket has become much more popular in our neighbouring countries, there are opportunities for export. Providing technical assistance to entrepreneurs through training will play a big role in job creation and earning foreign exchange."
The way the industry started
In 2014, the SME Foundation took the initiative to develop this industry in the remote areas of Baldia union in Pirojpur.
The SME Foundation's report "Needs assessment for cluster development: Baldia cricket bat cluster" highlighted the history of the industry's development.
The report, dating back to 2014, noted, "Around 26-27 years ago, Abul Kalam, a resident of Binnagram in Pirojpur, came to Dhaka in search of a livelihood and took a job in a sports equipment company called Khelar Sathi Sports. He worked making footballs, shields and carrom boards."
"It was in this factory that cricket bats were made by bringing artisans from Sialkot in Pakistan. Abul Kalam went to his village home with the bat made in that factory. Following the design of the bat, he made several bats and brought them to Dhaka, which were sold at a good price. With the demand for more cricket bats, he returned to the village and set up a bat factory," the report said.
It is learnt that gradually many more became interested and involved in the endeavour. At present, there are more than 300 factories at Binna, Uribunia, Katakhali, Dubi, Panchbeki and Khejurbari villages and Keramuddir canal areas under Baldia union of Pirojpur.
Cricket bats are made in the factories by using local technology, the target being to meet local demand. Neem, jibon, kadam, mango, gewa and kerosene wood are the main materials used in cricket bats made in the country.
Messrs Hossain Sports manufactures different types of cricket bats in Baldia. Md Al Amin, the owner of the company, told TBS, "In the beginning, bat production was small, but now it has become much bigger. However, government support or patronage is not yet available. There are some problems which need to be solved."
He said, "This industry is playing a big role in creating employment for local youths. If we get help in the future, the industry will grow bigger, increasing the number of jobs. Now most of the factories are closed due to the lockdown. Besides, entrepreneurs are struggling to pay interest on loans."
Assessment recommendations yet to be fulfilled
The SME Foundation conducted a needs assessment of the Baldia cricket bat cluster six years ago.
At the time short, medium and long term development activities were recommended, identifying the major problems of the potential industry. However, even after six years, there is no initiative to implement the recommendations.
The SME Foundation said it offers training in product manufacturing and provides opportunities to participate in national fairs. Loan arrangements have also been made.
As a mid-term goal, it was recommended that modern cricket bat production techniques of Pakistan or China be inspected within 1-3 years. In order to facilitate marketing, organising buyer-seller gatherings or fairs was also recommended.
To achieve long-term goals, building model clusters through integrated development assistance over a period of more than three years was also recommended.
However, although some of the short-term recommendations were implemented, mid and long-term recommendations did not see the light of day.
Obstacles to market management
The market and products of domestic cricket bats have not been diversified. Small entrepreneurs are being held hostage by four or five wholesale buyers in the capital.
Despite the demand at the divisional level, cricket bats go to different districts all over the country through those Dhaka-based wholesalers. There are allegations that a syndicate is active behind this monopoly.
Buying a bat at Tk70-Tk80, the wholesalers sell them at Tk300-Tk400. Sports goods dealers in Chawkbazar and Gulistan in the capital are wholesale buyers of bats made at Baldia cricket factories.
Once the bats are made, the entrepreneurs bring them to Dhaka by road and waterways to be sold.
Some bats are furnished or fully usable, while others are 'raw bats' which the wholesalers sell after attaching their own logo to them.
Entrepreneurs have said as the channels of market management and sale of products have not been diversified, the cricket bat producers of Baldia are being held hostage by a syndicate of wholesalers.