Hatil holds five percent of the country’s Tk10,000 crore furniture market, its current turnover being almost Tk500 crore
Selim H Rahman had just graduated from Dhaka University in the late 1980s – full of passion about doing something big.
His father had a timber shop in Old Dhaka. He began assisting his father at the shop.
Then in 1989, he opened his own timber shop and named it Hatil.
That was the beginning.
Today Hatil is the number one furniture manufacturer and exporter in the country. The company has managed to grab a large portion of the Indian market.
It is also the pioneer in exporting Bangladeshi furniture to Europe.
But how did a small timber shop turn into a furniture giant? Selim H Rahman related the story to The Business Standard.
"We received an order to provide some doors for a pharmaceutical company back in 1990. Instead of just buying wood from us, the company asked us to make the doors for them. We hired carpenters who made the doors. After that, we started making furniture as per orders we received," he reminisced.
"Apart from doors, Hatil started making almirahs and beds in 1995. Other home furniture items were included in our lists later. At first, we used our own wood, but now we are importing from abroad. At the moment, we are making furniture of more than 1,000 designs," he added.
Currently, Hatil holds five percent of the country's Tk10,000 crore furniture market. Its current turnover is almost Tk500 crore. The figure was Tk175 crore in 2008.
The company has more than 70 showrooms and 300 dealership outlets across the country. It manufactures all types of furniture items made of wood, melamine laminated chipboard, medium density fibreboard, cane and metal.
Hatil's main target customer group is the country's rising middle class.
The founder of the company said the quality of the products as well as its innovative marketing policy has been behind its remarkable success.
"People from the lower class generally use non-branded furniture made of ordinary woods. On the other hand, the market for the upper class is very small. We have therefore targeted the middle class," explained Selim.
"From the beginning, Hatil has been manufacturing medium-priced furniture. As a result, sales increased over time with the growth of the middle class," he said.
Selim said Hatil imports oak and birch wood from Germany and the US, which give the modern designs of their furniture extra sophistication.
Hatil's marketing policy has been innovative from the very beginning. The company has developed an android app to enable buyers to order any product online from a 360-degree preview system. One can also purchase new furniture by exchanging old ones.
Selim said reasonable prices were behind the popularity of Hatil's products among middle-class buyers. Other services like product delivery and warranty helped Hatil achieve the trust of customers.
"We have product delivery services in all our branches. We deliver furniture by our own vehicles inside Dhaka without any charge," he said.
"Customers get a one-year warranty for all products. After that, we charge for our service," he added.
Currently, Hatil shares 50 percent of the country's furniture export.
"We are the first Bangladeshi furniture company to open showrooms in Australia and Canada. We have 18 franchisees in India, two in Nepal, one in Bhutan and one in Canada," Selim said.
"Our furniture has been sold in more than 20 countries, including America, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Russia and Thailand. We are planning to reach out to Europe soon," he said.
The entrepreneur said Hatil has the largest furniture factory in the country in Gazipur, where more than 3,000 workers are employed. The factory is fully environment-friendly.
The company has been the highest taxpayer in the category of furniture makers in the last three years. Hatil has also bagged many awards, including Green Operation Award in 2013.
Selim credits patience and the natural flow of business for the top position that Hatil has achieved.