On a November noon, Kashem Ali, a worker of the print and embroidery section at Jinnat Apparels Limited, comes to the Fair Price Shop inside the garment factory to buy some groceries.
His list includes sugar, washing powder, beauty soap, toothpaste and so on.
"For every item I have to pay less than the market price. If I buy products of Tk500 here, I can save around Tk70 to 80," said Kashem Ali, standing at the counter of the Fair Price Shop at Jinnat Complex in Sardagonj, Kashimpur, an industrial area of Gazipur.
More than 14,000 garment workers of four factories- Jinnat Apparels Limited, Jinnat Fashion Limited, Jinnat Knitwear Limited and Flamingo Fashions Limited in the Jinnat Complex buy their daily necessities from the shop.
DBL Group, one of the country's leading readymade garment factories, has set up seven Fair Price Shops, named Bandhan, at all factories across the country for their workers as a part of their CSR activities. As a result, 38,000 workers of the RMG giant can buy quality products at a price less than that of the market from these shops.
"We took the initiative of setting up the Fair Price Shops during the Great Recession of 2008. The impact hit all economies including Bangladesh. The prices of nearly all commodities skyrocketed. To ease workers suffering, we set up Bandhan," said MA Jabbar, managing director of DBL Group.
In 2008, the number of workers in the DBL Group was around 8,000 and the initiative came as a blessing for them. Now the RMG giant has a workforce of 38,000 and all of them are getting the benefits of the initiative.
How it works
As workers may not have cash in their hands all the time, they can buy products from Bandhan on credit. They can buy more than 300 items from the shops.
A worker has to fill up a requisition form and submit it to the shop in the morning. The shopkeepers will make the things ready in a packet. The workers can collect the packet during the break or after their shift is over. The bills are adjusted with their salaries.
The company has a schedule for different groups of workers to avoid crowds. However, there is a limit set for workers to buy products. A worker cannot buy products worth more than 30 percent of their salaries from the Fair Price Shop. The shop does not sell vegetables, fruits, fish, meat and rice.
Alongside its retailer's role, Bandhan works as a wholesaler as well as a distributor of large companies. It purchases goods including food, cooking oil, toiletries, house-keeping stuffs, tea and beverages in bulk directly from Unilever, GlaxoSmithKline and other national and multinational companies.
For example, the maximum retail price of a one-kilogram packet of Rin Power Bright is Tk120. But the Fair Price Shop sells it for Tk103. The price of a Mediplus DS toothpaste is Tk90, but here the price is Tk77.
"There are no wholesalers or distributors in the supply chain, so, we can sell the products at a lower price than the maximum retail price. Workers can buy our products at 5 to 20 percent lower prices than the MRP," said MA Jabbar.
"They get the chance of buying high-quality products at a cheaper price," he added.
Another benefit of the initiative is that workers do not have to go to the market frequently as they can get those in their working place. It saves time.
With the expansion of the company and its workforce, Bandhan is also growing. In its first year in 2008, the total sales stood at less than Tk1.5 lakh. Now the sale has increased to Tk8.5 crores. The company officials said they are giving subsidies to the fair price shops for the wellbeing of the workers.
MA Jabbar believes that business cannot find success without a total teamwork. "Definitely we have to look for our team members," he said.
The fair price shop Bandhan has been recognised by Business Call to Action under UN Global Compact.
DBL Group started their business 1991 as Dulal Brothers Limited. Over the years, the organisation evolved into a diversified conglomerate in Bangladesh. The businesses include apparels, textiles, textile printing, washing, garments accessories, packaging, ceramic tiles, pharmaceuticals, dredging, semiconductor design (VLSI), ICT, and telecommunications.
The annual turnover of the company in 2018-19 was $600 million. The company started its first offshore business in Ethiopia for apparels and textiles creating employment opportunities for 4,500 people.