Due to lack of branding, Bangladesh is failing to leverage the massive market of Malaysia, the sixth largest importer in the world, that consumes $20 billion worth of products yearly, according to Bangladesh Malaysian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BMCCI) chief.
"Although Malaysia is an import-dependent country, our export to their market is relatively low and the main reason behind this is they do not know about our products. We are lagging behind in branding Bangladeshi products," said the trade body's President Raquib Mohammad Fakhrul.
He made the remarks on Saturday during a press conference, held on the occasion of BMCCI's 20-year anniversary at the Sonargaon hotel in the capital.
Currently Bangladeshi exports to Malaysia is below $600 million.
The BMCCI chief recommended signing of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) along with the branding of local products to increase exports to the South Asian country.
"Bangladesh currently imports $1.6 billion worth of products from Malaysia, whereas, the export is rather low," Raquib said and pointed out that consumers of the products, which we are currently exporting, are mainly Bangladeshis living there.
"There are no products in big super shops of the countries. We are trying to enter their market," he added.
Raquib also mentioned that perceptions towards Bangladeshis have improved over the years.
"A few years ago, when we tried to rent office space in Malaysia, the owners were reluctant after knowing we were Bangladeshis. But the environment is slowly changing. Now it is an ideal time to start branding Bangladesh," he said.
"If we can market our products well, we will be able to capture a big market," added the BMCCI president.
The anniversary event committee Chairman Syed Almas Kabir said that the ready-made garments industry accounts for 85% of Bangladesh's exports to the Malaysian market.
"The other products are only 15% and as the apparel market is already dominated by China, we have little opportunity to make much profit from it," he said.
"We are now developing many types of ICT products and we can capture the Malaysian markets with these products. There is a huge potential here. Besides, there is demand for many products in the country including leather, pharmaceuticals, frozen food, halal meat and handicrafts," Almas Kabir said and added that if we pay attention to this, our export growth in the country will be multiplied.
The 20th anniversary of BMCCI will be celebrated on 13 December at the Radisson Blu Water Garden in the capital. Saturday's press conference was organised to brief the media about the occasion.
The purpose of the celebration is to facilitate and promote business opportunities for Southeast Asian businesses and BMCCI members, and to provide a forum for enhancing networking, consulting and collaboration between Southeast Asian businesses and promoting products and services of Bangladesh and Malaysia.
Anwar Shahid and Mahbubul Alam, co-presidents of Bangladesh-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BMCCI) and senior officials also spoke on the occasion.