Sri Lanka and Bangladesh: how international trade fairs contribute to the economy

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Recently, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the 26th edition of Dhaka International Trade Fair (DITF), Bangladesh’s largest annual trade and business event, to be held at the mega new Chinese-built site Bangladesh-China Friendship Exhibition. Center in Purbachal. Every year, Bangladesh organizes the DITF with the argument that it will promote exports that will ultimately contribute to the economic growth of the country. On the other hand, some people say it’s just a waste of time and money. It is high time to analyze whether DITF can really contribute to the economic growth of Bangladesh. And it is also important to analyze the contribution of “Jaffna International Trade Fair (JITF)” to the Sri Lankan economy.

Jaffna International Fair

Since the inauguration of the first trade fair on December 1, 1995, DITF has been held annually at Sher-E-Bangla Nagar in Dhaka until last year. The Export Promotion Office (EPB) and the Ministry of Commerce are responsible for organizing this exhibition. In addition to local companies, many foreign companies regularly participate in this event with general booths, premium booths, mega-pavilions, mini-booths and mini-pavilions. And, this year, the fair has 23 pavilions, 27 mini pavilions, 162 stalls and 15 food stalls which have been licensed to different local and international organizations.

New window of opportunity

Since governments spend a lot to organize the DITF and the JITF, it is important to assess the effectiveness and fruitfulness of this fair from the perspective of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Any international trade fair always touches on broad dimensions of the economy that need to be discussed in detail. First, the DITF offers an exclusive opportunity for companies, both local and international; whatever their size, an opportunity to present their products and services to potential local and foreign customers, professional associations and the media. On the one hand, it opens a new window of opportunity for local producers and suppliers to compete globally; and on the other hand, it contributes greatly to the sustainable economic development of the country by increasing the volume of exports, facilitating entry into the international market and strengthening the confidence of the companies of the country.

Second, DITF provides a neutral platform for doing business where it brings together people from various departments, finance department, supply chain department, etc., of an organization who can influence the purchasing decision. And that’s how it really increases the likelihood of doing business by bringing people from different levels of management together on one platform. Third, in addition to boosting sales, entrepreneurs can observe the actual reaction of consumers not only on their existing products, but also on upcoming products that they are planning to introduce in the market or have introduced recently. They can then assess these opinions, reactions and perceptions of current and potential customers to drive and assess the future trend of the market.

Fourth, the DITF will help to develop a network among local and foreign businessmen, buyers and sellers, distributors, suppliers and agents who will ultimately bring Bangladeshi products to the global market. This will help them not only to diversify export products but also to diversify export destinations. Fifth, it will help organizations to collect information about their competitors, such as upcoming products, pricing techniques, marketing and promotional strategies of competitors. More importantly, it will help local businesses understand how foreign companies are entering a new market with their products.

Seventh, as many foreign companies are participating in the show with new and innovative products, it will help local entrepreneurs to come up with ideas on new products which they could introduce to Bangladeshi consumers with personalized features. Eighth, it is undoubtedly a great platform for local startups to promote their business and products with minimal or almost zero cost to their local and international potential customers. Finally, DITF increases the flow of money into the economy, as many people go there and spend money on shopping, which makes the economy vibrant. And, it will also increase the flow of foreign currency into the economy, attracting tourists for business and recreational purposes.

Economic growth

Although the DITF has huge untapped opportunities to contribute to Bangladesh’s economic growth, Bangladesh has failed to unlock its full potential. In order to create hype and promote the DITF in foreign markets, the government should develop an attractive website with all necessary information and facilities available for foreigners. The government should ensure an active presence on social media, especially on Facebook and Twitter, and boost the event on social media to have greater reach. The government can promote the DITF as well as the tourism sectors of Bangladesh to foreigners by creating videos and promoting them on YouTube and mainstream TV channels.

DITF helps potential exporters launch their product and assess its potential in the international market. Apart from local sales, it also helps local businessmen to get business orders from overseas. The government and the trade association should work tirelessly to remove all the hassles and address all the challenges such as lack of information, presence of counterfeit and poor quality products, etc. As Bangladesh has huge trade deficit, negative trade balance, in international trade, it should promote DITF to diversify export segment, export destinations and boost exports to address its trade imbalance.


Dhaka International Trade Fair

(Ozair Islam is a freelance writer and columnist. He can be reached at [email protected])

– Eurasia Review

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