The glass industry was entirely dependent on imports almost three decades ago, but local companies are now exporting products after meeting the domestic demand.
Bangladesh Glass Merchant Association says some high-quality glasses are imported as per the demand of buyers, but the overall dependence on import has declined as local companies can produce almost all types of glasses.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau, glass export has been rising for the past few years. Glass and glassware export target was $1.3 million in the fiscal year 2018-19, but exports reached $1.43 million, up 14.4% from that in the previous fiscal year.
In fiscal year 2019-20, $3.5 million worth of glass and glassware were exported against the target of $2 million, up 144.76% compared to the year before.
Moreover, glass and glassware export growth was 108.53% in the first eight months of the current fiscal year, with exports amounting to $5.38 million against the target of $3.27 million.
In the first eight months of the fiscal year 2019-20, exports reached $2.58 million.
The glass industry in the country is growing by 8-10% every year, mainly due to the increase in commercial building projects, with local companies meeting 90% of the domestic demand, industry players say.
The annual demand for glass is 25 crore square feet, and the annual production capacity of private and public glass manufacturers is 32 crore square feet.
The current size of the glass industry is around Tk1,500-2,000 crore.
PHP Family and Nasir Group invested in float glass used in commercial buildings in 2005 and 2006 respectively. They dominate the glass market, meeting about 70% of the total demand, while other companies hold the remaining 30% share combined.
Vice-Chairman of PHP Family Mohammed Mohsin told The Business Standard the demand for glass was increasing gradually due to the rise in infrastructure development.
He said demand had grown significantly in the past few years and that is why they were bringing new products to the market.
"This sector has potential, but there has been no development for a long time. It will continue to grow in the future," added Mohsin.
The top companies in the glass industry are PHP Float Glass Industries, Nasir Glass Industries, MEB Sheet Glass Industries, AB Glass Industries and state-owned Usmania Glass Sheet Factory. Of them, Usmania and MEB are relatively old.
Rising commercial building projects increasing domestic growth
Bangladesh Glass Merchant Association President Mohammad Hossain Alamgir said commercial buildings are primarily driving the growth of the local glass market.
"High-rise buildings are being built in different areas across the country, including the capital. Glass is being used as an alternative to other materials to enhance the beauty of buildings," he said.
He further said building exteriors used to be made of various materials, such as brick, wood, or plastic.
"But people now use glass for aesthetic reasons. Anti-reflective glass protects buildings from the heat of the sun."
Industry players say the main glass raw materials – sand and gas – are available in the country and that is why this sector has seen more fresh investments.
The most common types of glasses used for commercial purposes include flat, plexiglass, tempered, laminated, wired (wire mesh), tinted, insulated, spandrel, and security glasses.
Usmania was the only glass manufacturing company in Bangladesh before independence. It was established in 1959 in the Kalurghat industrial area of Chattogram and started production in 1961.
After independence, it merged with Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation under the industries ministry.
Although it is known as the pioneer in the domestic glass industry, it incurred massive losses recently. It lost Tk12.54 crore in the 2019-20 financial year, up from Tk10.82 crore a year before.
In 2004, PHP Family established PHP Float Glass Industries in Chattogram with technical assistance from Luoyang Float Glass Technology of China. To accommodate a composite solution for glass products, the company installed a high-quality silver mirror plant in 2008 using the latest technology from China.
The PHP Family vice-chairman said production capacity had seen a 40% drop during last year's 66-day shutdown.
"Now it has returned to normalcy. As the quality of our products is good, demand has not been negatively affected," added Mohsin.
Nasir Glass Industries is a multi-functional float glass manufacturing company. Its factory is located at Joinabazar in Gazipur's Sreepur. It produces float glass (clear and tinted).
Atiqur Rahman, general manager (marketing) of AB Glass Industries, which manufactures various glass products for commercial buildings, said glass business had always been good and it was rising.