Pa-Wang Ceramic Industry Ltd, a United States (US)-Bangladesh collaboration for tile manufacturing, has been producing quality products using state-of-the-art and environmentally-friendly modern technology.
A group of globally renowned professionals and experts of the company are fully dedicated to presenting premium, luxury, trendy, and stylish quality tiles in Bangladesh.
Pa-Wang's full automation technology ensures a zero chance for human error and allows the company to deliver European brand Roma products at the highest standard to the customers.
On 26 March, 2021, the company will mark the 7th anniversary of its tile production.
S M Mahbub Alam, managing director of the company, has talked to The Business Standard's (TBS) Abbas Uddin Noyon about the business of the company and the country's ceramics industry.
TBS: Once, the country's ceramics market was mostly dependent on foreign companies. But now, 85% of the demand is met by local companies. Some are also exporting ceramics products after fulfilling local demand, but there is some doubt about the quality of local products. What are your observations about this?
Mahbub Alam: This doubt is completely baseless. Bangladeshi brands are maintaining the quality of ceramics at all stages of production including: import of raw materials, input process, in-processing, etc. We comply with global standards in the multipage stages, including supervisory, maintenance and system loss. As a result, the quality of our products is the same as of Italian ceramics. In some cases, we produce better products than China and Taiwan.
Our company, Pa-Wang, also produces high-quality products. Only we produce diamond glazed tiles in the country. This is the latest technology in tiles. It brings diamond-like hardness to the upper surface of the tiles.
The hardness of the upper surface glaze of other companies in the country is a maximum of 4.5%. But, in Roma tiles, it is up to 6%. Ordinary tiles are 60-70% glossy but in Roma, it is 100%. Another speciality of our tiles is our snow white tiles. We are the best tile producers in the country.
Although the quality of our tiles is good, their price is relatively low.
System loss is the lowest in our industry. Our factories are in production for an average of 23 hours although the standard in our country is 22 hours. As a result, we can produce good quality products through the maximum use of time. However, as we are a small company, we have to give a discount on the price. Sometimes, the business has to be kept low for brand recognition. The price of tiles of some small companies like ours is a bit lower but the quality is not low at all.
TBS: What is the condition and potential of the current market of ceramics in the country?
Mahbub Alam: The growth of the ceramics sector has averaged more than 20% in the last ten years. The sector was foreign-dependent even in the early twentieth century. But now our companies have created a strong position in the export market after meeting the demand of the local market.
Some 66 brands in the country have been producing tableware, tiles and sanitary ware. Products worth about Tk6,000 crore are being sold on the local market every year.
We can understand the market potential of the country and the opportunities for business expansion only by comparing ourselves to other countries. Tiles have long been used in all types of installations in developed countries. But they have just started being used in our country.
Our villages are transforming into cities. The rate of constructing buildings has increased a lot. Our per capita tiles use is around 0.5 square feet. On the other hand, the use of per capita tiles in China is 75 square feet. We are moving in that direction now, so our potential is huge.
Our goal is to change your life. Our concern is that people get a fair return on the money they spend. We are giving a quality product compared to the price. If you want to bring the same quality tiles from Italy, you have to pay several times more.
TBS: Bangladesh only exports tableware, not tiles or sanitary ware. Why is this?
Mahbub Alam: All our ceramics products are the best in quality. However, tiles or sanitary ware cannot be exported due to transport costs.
The value of the tiles in one container is $5,000, while the minimum rent for a container is $1,000. If they are shipped to Europe and the US, the container fare will be more than $5,000.
On the other hand, in the case of tableware, it costs up to $60,000-70,000 per container. However, its logistical cost will be the same as the tiles. For this reason, you can make a profit by exporting tableware, but it is not possible by exporting tiles. A company will not be able to make a profit by exporting tiles from our country even if it wants to.
TBS: How will the Bangladeshi ceramics industry progress using fully import-dependent raw materials and high-cost LNG gas?
Mahbub Alam: Raw materials are our main challenge. We are lagging behind China, Vietnam and India due to dependence on imports of raw materials. However, the government's 10% incentive for exports and duty-free import of raw materials is giving us some opportunity.
The biggest advantage for us is that the price of gas in Bangladesh is comparatively lower than in neighbouring India. Along with this, the opportunity to get workers easily and at low cost is also keeping our ceramics industry ahead. For these reasons, we see opportunities to do better than our competitors. However, it is very important to ensure the gas supply.
TBS: Apart from gas and raw materials, what are the other challenges for the industry?
Mahbub Alam: In addition to gas and raw materials, adjusting the price is a big challenge for us. Due to the frequent increase in gas prices, the prices of products on the local market have to increase. People do not take this well. As a result, lower-priced Chinese products are sold on the market. Secondly, we are having difficulties with the duty structure. We have not been able to bring it to zero level even after discussing it with the government.
Although ceramic products are no longer luxury products, they are subject to a 15% supplementary duty. There is value-added tax as well. There is also a shortage of skilled manpower in our industry. If we can solve these issues, our potential is huge.
TBS: Tell us about the production of Roma Tiles and the future plan of your company.
Mahbub Alam: Roma Tiles is not a very well-known name in the country. Our plan is to move slowly. We are currently producing about one lakh square feet of tiles daily. There are many companies in the country that are producing more than five lakh square feet of tiles daily. We differ from them because these companies produce both good and ordinary products. We exclusively make only good quality tiles. Big companies look at the quantity. We see the quality.
Our plan is to market the best quality products in a small range and create a premium brand.