Traditional bamboo and cane crafts of Bangladesh are fading away gradually, with cheaper plastic and wooden products of big companies having captured the market.
Yet, some people are working hard and soul to keep them alive. Amir Hossain Siraj, hailing from Borcheg village in Moulovibazar's Komolganj upazila, is one of them.
Amir Hossain Siraj runs a cane furniture business in his village and sends products to the country's different parts.
When most small cane furniture businesses are failing to survive the competition with established brands, Amir's "Siraj Kutir Shilpa" is thriving day by day.
Amir Hossain told The Business Standard, "In 2003, I started making cane furniture with a capital of only Tk20,000 and one worker. Now, 15 workers are engaged in making cane furniture and other crafts with me."
"Like all other sectors, my business is going through a bad time at this pandemic time, but I still have some orders to complete," he added.
He sells about Tk35 to Tk40 lakh worth of cane furniture per year. Amir said he earns Tk2.5 lakh per month, and his expenses, including staff wages, amount to Tk1.5 lakh.
"I used to run a nursery. In 1998, I thought of making some cane furniture for my house. Once I made them, many people wanted to buy them. Then, I started making cane furniture at home and selling those for low profits," he added.
He also ships his products to different areas through courier services. He also has a Facebook page. But his business mainly runs through personal contact.
He also said, "Some people collect cane products from me and send those abroad. There is a good demand for such furniture abroad. A Qatari expatriate buys a lot of goods from me and sells them in Qatar."
Siraj Kutir Shilpa makes almost all kinds of cane furniture, such as bed, dining table, chair, plant vase, sofa set, reading table, rack, dressing table, table lamp, pen stand, hotel-restaurant-office furniture, etc.
To make cane furniture, he and his staff go to different villages and collect bamboo and cane.
Amir Hossain told TBS that he started the business on his own without any training and is still running without any help. He went to Karmasangsthan Bank a few times but did not get any help due to a lack of funds.
The cane business requires capital for different purposes as apart from collecting the raw materials – bamboo and cane, there are other expenses such as medicine, place, electricity, etc. It is tough to keep going with a limited amount of capital, Amir Hossain added.
He further said, "Courier services remained closed for a long time due to coronavirus, so I could not send cane products to my clients. And I could not go from house to house to collect bamboo too. But I had to pay salaries to my employees."
"I have not yet been able to make up for the financial losses I suffered during the pandemic-led shutdown. It would be beneficial if I could get any help from the government. I did not get any help, even after trying. If I get the right guidance, I can export these traditional goods too," he also said.
Komolganj Upazila Nirbahi Officer Ashekul Haque said, "He never applied for financial support from the government. Maybe, he does not know how to apply properly. But the administration always supports this type of initiative."
"We will contact him and provide him with necessary support, and the upazila administration will work on how to expand this industry," he added.