It was a cold winter afternoon on Sunday, January 12.
The pavilion of the Small and Medium Enterprise Foundation (SMEF) at the Dhaka International Trade Fair (DITF) was buzzing with crowds.
People were browsing a variety of products like batik, handicrafts, leather goods, footwear, and processed food in different stalls.
"Local products are cheap compared to the foreign ones. I always find it comfortable to buy locally-made products," said visitor Ashraful Alam.
"I bought a pair of shoes for Tk1,500 from the SMEF pavilion. The price would be much higher if it was a foreign brand," he added.
A spontaneous response from buyers like Ashraful is the sign of hope that the small and medium entrepreneurs are seeing at the fair. Entrepreneurs are expecting that this year's total sales and orders would double compared to the previous year.
"The response from the customers is much higher this year. They have been buying our products since the first day of the fair. We are getting orders from the local big buyers too," said Masuda Yesmin Urmi, chief executive officer of Smart Leather Products.
Muhammad Morshed Alam, assistant general manager of the SMEF, said, "The number of entrepreneurs participating in the fair under the SMEF pavilion has been increasing."
He said many small and medium entrepreneurs are also participating in the fair outside the SMEF pavilion.
"But the pavilion has given us a clear idea about how the interest of customers and big buyers in products made by small and medium entrepreneurs has increased," added Morshed.
For the last three years, the SMEF has been getting a pavilion at the DITF at a low price to provide stalls for small and medium entrepreneurs. Sources said the Export Promotion Bureau has been giving the SMEF a 50 percent discount on pavilion.
Entrepreneurs registered with the SMEF are eligible for getting stalls.
Because of the discount, rents of the stalls automatically go down compared to other stalls. This year, 19 small and medium entrepreneurs have got 21 stalls.
This special advantage is like a blessing for the small and medium entrepreneurs who have been working under the SMEF.
"This is why it is very easy to make a profit of up to 50 percent by producing and selling anything inside the country. The market is already there. Now we just have to improve product quality," said Rezbin Hafiz, owner of People Footwear and Leather Goods.
Entrepreneurs said the DITF is a great opportunity for them to showcase their products to a wider mass of customers. The one-month duration of the fair is also important as all other trade fairs are usually held for three to ten days.
"People from across the country visit the DITF. So, we can have a large number of customers here. But when we participate in a district fair, people of only that district come to visit," said an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs said they have already got foreign orders in the first quarter of the fair.