What is the nature of an international trade fair?
The 25th iteration of the Dhaka International Trade Fair – set to kick off on the first day of 2020 – will be participated by local and foreign companies and will act as a platform for buyers and sellers from both home and abroad.
Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) sources said more than 30 foreign companies from 20 countries will attend the fair by setting up 57 stalls.
The event is the biggest trade fair in Bangladesh but questions have been raised how the standard of this event is internationally acceptable.
Several representatives from big companies and business leaders participating in the fair said despite bearing an "international flavour" in the name, the event has not been able to achieve an international standard.
Adding that the fair should not be limited to retail sales only, business leaders said Bangladeshi products should be showcased in the international export market to fulfil the objective of naming the event as the Dhaka International Trade Fair.
Talking to the Business Standard, SM Jahangir Hossain, senior vice-president of Bangladesh Agro-Processors Association's (BAPA), said, "We must invite the best importers from across the globe and show them what export quality goods we have to offer.
"If this can be done, in my opinion, the goal of the international trade fair will be fulfilled."
Ali Ahmed, chief executive officer of the Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute (BFTI), said, "The trade fair is a big annual event in the country. However, despite claims of it being a big event, the fair lacks a strong presence of international-level sellers and buyers."
He added that the fair should be advertised in international media to attract more foreign sellers and buyers.
Ali Ahmed further said, "Similarly as the Dubai fair, a year-long advertisement campaign must be run for the Dhaka International Trade Fair. It is a matter of hope that this issue has been discussed by the parliamentary standing committee."
"We need a new line of thinking. Budget for the fair must be increased to transform it into an international event."
Discussing the issue, EPB's Vice-Chairman Fatima Yasmin said, "The concepts of Dhaka International Trade Fair and the Dubai fair are different. The Dubai fair is investment-oriented, while we view the Dhaka fair as a familiar meeting platform among sellers and buyers from both home and abroad.
"Previous issues have been fixed. No local traders will be allowed to run pavilions belonging to foreign companies."
Meanwhile, BAPA Senior Vice-President of SM Jahangir Hossain, said, "The permanent campus for the international trade fair in Purbachal is being built in accordance with the international standard."
"I believe that the overall standard of the event will further increase once the trade fair is shifted there."
Preparations in full swing
Last-minute finishing touches are being applied to many stalls and pavilions. Construction of some pavilions and stalls is also going on.
The fair's Field Inspector Md Khalequzzaman said 85 percent of the construction in the venue has already been completed.
"The construction of some stalls is nearing completion. Labourers are working in three shifts spanning 24 hours a day. The pace of work increased as the fair drew nearer. I am optimistic that the remaining work will be completed by December 30," he added.
The Dhaka International Trade Fair attracts both foreign and domestic customers because it plays an important role in showcasing products from home and abroad, exploring export markets and allowing local and foreign businessmen to get in touch.
Md Rony Hawladar serves as the manager of Nazrul Store – a shop that sells local spices. He was found discussing their stall design with engineers at the fair venue on Friday.
Speaking to The Business Standard, Rony said, "I do not think that anyone participates in the trade fair to sell products. Our primary goal is promotion and marketing. Yes, it is true that we see a high number of sales for a month. However, even getting a small stall and maintaining it during the fair costs a lot of money.
"In the end, the losses outweigh the profit from sales. But, we witness a decent promotion of our products. A large number of customers from various places visit the fair. Many do not buy our products but they learn about our brand."
He continued, "Outside the fair venue, we have our own outlet, and it is the main place of our business."
According to Export Promotion Bureau sources, 20 countries including USA, UK, Italy, Australia, Bhutan, China, India, Germany, Hong Kong, Iran, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey are participating in the fair.
There will a total of 450 stalls in the Dhaka International Trade Fair. Among those, there will be 27 foreign pavilions, 66 premier pavilions, 11 general pavilions, 8 reserved pavilions, 77 general mini pavilions, 47 premier mini pavilions, 11 foreign mini pavilions and 6 reserved mini pavilions in the fair.
There will also be 84 premier stalls, 17 foreign premier stalls, 50 general stalls and 35 food stalls. The fair will have two dedicated playing zones for children.