‘Aarong’, Bangladesh’s craft and fashion icon looks forward to go international

Mostafa Al Takbir (Mahim)       
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The country is moving forward – such an advertisement was broadcasted on TV in the last century. Many people took it only as a sticky ad for advertising while the intelligentsia of that time sensed Bangladesh really was going forward. Though it was not clear to all, some entrepreneurs have realized that time and had taken some brave steps which brought the country to the forefront of an emerging nation from ‘flood-drought-natural disaster’ known country. Bangladesh economy is one of the 11 emerging economies in the world today because of their hard work and strong determination to thrive.

arong

We see, there is a lot of change in the situation of the country’s economy and the peoples’ standard of living. The people of Bangladesh wanted to be self-reliant, some people wanted to change the whole country, small entrepreneurs have dreamed of making global organizations. Not everyone got success in the beginning, but their visionary mentality has forced them to come to the end. They have brought major changes in the quality of production, marketing and sales. In this trend, the world class clothing are being manufactured in the country today.

There are many organizations in Bangladesh who are making world-class products, dreaming to be global. One of the organizations that has introduced Bangladesh in a new identity in the world, is Aarong. Aarong is unique in creating its own fashionable clothes by embracing the culture and heritage of this country with high standards of quality and artistry.

Figure 1: Over the years, Aarong could maintain its unique proposition and remain in the top of the fashion choice of people.
Figure 1: Over the years, Aarong could maintain its unique proposition and remain in the top of the fashion choice of people.

Bangla word ‘Aarong’ means the village fair or market. Like its meaning, Aarong also do the same thing as the opportunity to showcase and sell commodities made by ordinary people in the village. Originally, the beginning of Aarong’s journey was started from the idea of collecting and selling domestic handicrafts. Now, it has turned into a versatile and huge institution. However still today the original supply of Aarong products come from rural women.

Historically, the birth of Aarong was dedicated to support the life of poor and helpless women. The name ‘Aarong’ is now a trust and a symbol of quality. Private organization BRAC started its training in making sarees for women in Manikganj in 1976. Besides, they took the initiative to sell these sarees made by village women in the capital town. From this initiative, Aarong was born in 1978. The picture of a peacock is chosen as the logo. It is used in orange color. Because orange is the symbol of strength or hypertension.

Aarong has been coming out from the beginning of marketing strategy, design or brand image. Recently, Aarong’s director Tamara Abed told Textile Today, “Aarong has been established as a strong brand today. Because, we always keep promises we make to the customers. When Aarong started its journey, there was hardly one store in Bangladesh. Aarong is probably the first fixed price shop in Bangladesh. Besides, we have carefully monitored and maintained design and quality since the beginning. That is why Aarong has become the biggest brand of crafts.”

At the beginning, Aarong started with Jamdani and Block Print’s silk sari, Nakshikantha, jute goods, mummy, silver ornaments, leather goods and various types of handicrafts. But people know Aarong as Nakshikantha, Pajamas-Panjabi and Sarees producer. That is, the identity of Aarong came from the dress. Aarong first made garments for men, women and children. And now, there are more than 100 fashion and lifestyle product lines related to their brand positioning. Of these this includes jewelry, carpets, jute goods, homecare products, candles, shops etc.

They have started preparing various food items and cosmetics also. Foods include milk, juice, curd, butter and honey. The cosmetics includes shampoo, soap, oil, facial wash etc. And homecare has 17 kind of products.

It is well known that Aarong tried to create their own brand value through organizing fashion show, exhibition and other promotional activities in the country. Through these activities, the name of Aarong has become increasingly popular in the country. Aarong started advertising with the first established model and still plays as a pioneer in determining marketing strategies. For this reason, a festival like Eid or Pooja-Parbhan gets priority from urban fashion conscious youths or older people.

Figure 2: Aarong has diversified a lot but the village artisans still maintain at its core.
Figure 2: Aarong has diversified a lot but the village artisans still maintain at its core.

Tamara Abed said, “Aarong always works with mission. Aarong has sold domestic products for 32 years. We have never sold any foreign products. I worked in the development of crafts. We’ve done indigenously, now the confidence has been developed in the peoples’ mind. Everyone appreciates our work at home and abroad. These are basically our strengths, motivation sources. Aarong is very well known to foreigners. The organization has taken their image to such a stage that it is a very common incident that if a state or government head or an important visitor comes to Bangladesh, he/she chooses Aarong.”

Figure 3: When it is handicraft, it doesn’t necessarily mean traditional only, Aarong is modern also.
Figure 3: When it is handicraft, it doesn’t necessarily mean traditional only, Aarong is modern also.

Presently, Aarong has 11 outlets in Bangladesh most of them are quite large in scale.

Table 1: List of Aarong outlets in Bangladesh
Location Date of inception Closing date
Sobhanbag, Dhaka 1978 Closed sometime around 1980s
Sholoshahar, Chittagong 1983
Moghbazar, Dhaka 1984
Zindabazar, Sylhet 1985
Lalmatia, Dhaka 1989
Khulna Town, Khulna 1995
Gulshan, Dhaka 1997
Wari, Dhaka 1998 2016, changed location
Uttara, Dhaka 2001 2011, reopened as flagship
Halishahar, Chittagong 2008
Mirpur, Dhaka 2010
Comilla Town, Comilla 2012
Chashara, Narayanganj 2013
Jamuna Future Park, Dhaka 2014
Dhanmondi, Dhaka 2015
Banani, Dhaka 2015
Bashabo, Dhaka 2016
Bashundhara City, Dhaka 2017

Because of the popularity, many people think of Aarang as the ‘Makkah’ of the local garments. In 2015, the ‘Best Brand Award’ were won by Aroong in the fashion boutique category from Bangladesh Brand Forum’s annual award ceremony.

Aarong celebrated 30 years of their journey in 2008. Aarong’s goal is now to be established as a global brand. Tamara Abed said, “We have to go to the next level. Though we do not have the preparation, we need to go to the international level. I’m trying. There are some limitations in Bangladesh.”

Aarong authorities say that 65 thousand workers are directly involved with them, of which 85 percent are women. In addition, 3 thousand designers design clothing for Aarong. There are 13 production centers and 600 sub-centers of Aarong in almost 2,000 villages of the country. These numbers are increasing. Apart from this, 25 thousand independent groups and family workers’ products are marketed through Aarong.

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