Shamim Ara Deepa, a private service holder in Dhaka, is a regular customer at the quarterly fair of the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) at its head office in Motijheel. Under normal circumstances, she would have visited the fair every day, but this time she came only on the final day, due to Covid-19 pandemic. Around 25 customers visited the fair on the concluding day, however, entrepreneurs said they were happy even though the number of buyers at other times is much higher.
The BSCIC Design Centre has been organising the fair since 1998, aiming to provide marketing support to the artisans and entrepreneurs trained by the Design Centre.
BSCIC General Manager (Marketing), Akhil Ranjan Tarafdar, told The Business Standard that products worth Tk24 lakh had sold during the 5-day long autumn fair, which started on 18 October. 60 entrepreneurs had participated.
The fair was last held in December last year. BSCIC entrepreneurs breathed a collective sigh of relief at being able to participate in the fair after a long hiatus. Ordinarily, they would have taken part in at least three fairs in the last ten months.
Fair participants believe they will be able to recoup the financial losses resulting from Covid-19. They have set up stalls selling a variety of products, including blocks, clothing, handicrafts, home furnishings, nakshi kantha, leather goods, etc.
Entrepreneurs said only a handful of buyers had visited on the inaugural day, but footfall began to increase from day 2 onwards, continuing to the final day. From experience, they said most of the products sold on the concluding day of the fair.
Elina Rahi Ira, owner of Ira Boutiques, said, "I was not sure if buyers would come to the fair. However, sales have been good in the last four days. I have sold products worth around Tk1 lakh in the last four days and I'm happy with the response considering the Covid-19 situation."
Jasmine Khan, owner of Jasmine Boutique, said she was anxious before the fair started, thinking she would not get much response from the buyers. Still, sales are going well.
However, many of the participating entrepreneurs claimed that this year's sales had dropped by one-third compared to years prior. Without government assistance, it will take a long time to recover the lost revenue.
Marian Chowdhury, owner of Nurjahan Boutique, who took part in the fair, said, "Considering the Covid-19 situation, what we were able to sell is not bad, but many of our regular buyers did not risk coming to the fair with the ongoing pandemic."
The government has provided multiple forms of assistance to many people, but we did not receive anything. Had we received some form of government support, it would have helped us to recover losses, he added.
Another entrepreneur, Sanjida Khanam, the owner of S and F Fashion and Handicraft, thinks the reduced footfall in the fair can be explained by a decrease in people's buying power.
So far, I have sold products worth around Tk50,000, which is not bad considering the current economic and overall situation of the country, she added.
BSCIC Chairman, Mushtaq Hasan said, "They can make up for the losses caused by Covid-19 by selling their products here, which is why we have organised the fair at this time. We want them to come out of the bad situation. Hopefully, this will help move them to an improved condition."