Until the PHP Family, a Chattogram-based business conglomerate, went for manufacturing coloured and luxurious reflective glass in April last year, it was all about imports when it came to meeting domestic demand.
In no time, PHP Float Glass Industries Ltd, the first to go into production of such glass, got hold of around 30% stake in the market and is now producing 10 such types. Its monthly production now stands at 1,000 tonnes.
Amir Hossain Sohel, managing director at PHP Float Glass Industries, told The Business Standard, "We use our own float glass as raw material in manufacturing reflective glass."
"We produce this glass in 10 colours, such as dark blue, ocean blue, golden, bronze, silver, dark grey, purple, green, violet and pink in our factory and successfully market them," he said.
In 2005, PHP Float Glass began commercial production, but it still had to import reflective glass amounting to over Tk10 crore annually to meet local demand and stay competitive in the market.
It was not PHP alone. In fact, the entire industry would bring in 3,000 tonnes involving more than Tk25 crore annually on reflective glass imports, according to industry insiders.
In 2021, the company came up with a fresh investment of Tk2,500 crore in producing reflective glass. Besides, its capacity has of late doubled by Tk500 crore more. Currently, PHP, which uses Chinese and European technology, holds the capacity to manufacture 300 tonnes of glass, including mirrors and tempered glass, per day.
Around six decades ago, the state-owned Usmania Glass Sheet Factory Ltd, a reputed sheet glass producer, first started manufacturing glass locally. Even so, demand for coloured glass used to be met through imports.
With demand for coloured glass rising rapidly in line with a massive growth in the construction of many establishments across the country, private companies stepped up as the government's manufacturing company did not have any diversity in glass production.
PHP Float Glass Industries Ltd, a top private company, produces 200 tonnes of four types of glass, such as clear float, mirror, reflective and tempered ones. Its monthly sales range between Tk35 crore and Tk40 crore, said Amir Hossain Sohel.
The company first introduced float glass making technology in Bangladesh. Later, following in its footsteps, some other companies went for investments in the industry.
Alongside catering for the local market, PHP also exports glass mainly to South Asian countries, such as India, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.
The government recently announced export incentives for the glass sector. "We are working on boosting our exports to cash in on the incentives as there is a great demand for reflective glass in our neighbouring countries, such as India and Nepal," Amir Hossain noted.
"We will be able to play a role in fetching foreign currencies by exporting reflective glass after meeting local demand," he hoped.
The annual demand for glass is around 25 million square feet, while the annual production capacity of private and public glass manufacturers stands at around 32 million square feet. The total glass industry amounts to Tk2,000 crore.
The specialised sand, accounting for 60% of raw materials meant for producing glass, is available in the local market, while other raw materials, including dolomite, limestone, coal powder and chemicals, are imported from abroad.