From carpenters to contractors: the Feni furniture hub is booming

Abdul Kader started his career as an assistant carpenter with a daily salary of Tk 150 about 30 years ago. Over time, he developed his skills and became known for his attractive designs.

With his personal clientele in the area and some savings at hand, the young man started a furniture factory in Chhagalnaiya of Feni, on an investment of Tk 5 lakh in 1997. Kader hasn’t had to look back since. during.

Currently, he sells furniture worth Tk 6-7 lakh every month on average.

Another entrepreneur, Al Amin, who started his factory in 1998, sees a turnover of Tk 14-15 lakh per month. “It is my pride and joy to be able to provide jobs for 25 workers,” he told The Business Standard (TBS), adding that he had also become very wealthy from the earnings from the factory.

Kader and Al Amin are just two of some 200 entrepreneurs at the furniture center near Chhagalnaiya bus station, who now produce furniture worth Tk 150 crore a year, according to the SME Foundation. The majority of them were once carpenters or furniture workers there.

According to a study by the Foundation, the furniture trade in the hub started in 1965 and has become popular over time. Now, furniture produced there is supplied to different districts of the country, after meeting local demand.

The center, which has more than 3,000 workers, manufactures a wide range of furniture items, including beds, tables, chairs, sofa sets, almirahs, display cabinets, fabric racks and dressing tables. They are made with traditional technologies and equipment. Modern high-tech machines or technologies have not yet achieved this.

Senior carpenters train juniors, make them skilled over time, and the chain has been around for a long time.

Speaking to The Business Standard, many factory owners said they had their own stores or showrooms, while many ran their factories taking orders from retailers. Customers can also order furniture directly.

Factories source their wood and timber locally from government auctions and from several other countries as well, such as Nepal, India, Malaysia, and even countries in Africa.

“There was a time when only Chhagalnaiya people were our customers, but now people from all over Feni district and other parts of the country come here. It’s only because of the good quality of our products at affordable prices,” Shahidullah, a factory owner, told TBS.

“We make furniture with traditional technology, but our products are very popular,” Al Amin said.

However, they said they now face a labor shortage as many artisans have migrated to the Middle East and other countries in hopes of earning higher incomes.

“People from Feni love to go abroad. So keeping them here for a long time is a challenge. With the easing of the pandemic, the trend of going abroad has increased rapidly, that’s why we are now facing labor shortages,” said factory owner Kamal Uddin. .

And those currently entering the industry will take 4-5 years to qualify, he added.

Rafiqul Islam has been working in the hub as a cabinetmaker for 8 years. He told TBS that he can earn Tk 500-600 with regular work and Tk 1,000-1,200 working overtime at night under pressure.

“Those who go abroad earn more.”

To overcome the crisis and continue to grow, entrepreneurs are urging the government to provide training to create a skilled workforce, guarantee loans on favorable terms and facilitate the purchase of high-tech machinery.

When contacted, the Managing Director of the SME Foundation, Md Mufizur Rahman, said that they are planning to organize a variety of trainings for the workers there.

“We will also recommend banks to provide low-interest, easy-term loans to entrepreneurs there,” he added.

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