The world is getting more concerned about environmental pollution, particularly for the use of plastic, polythene and other non-disposable items. A large portion of these can be replaced with jute which is very own asset of Bangladesh. "Therefore, we can help the world curb pollution by supplying more jute-made goods," said Esrat Jahan Chowdhury who has just been announced as the Best Micro Entrepreneur of the Year at the ongoing 10th National SME Product Fair.
In an interview with The Business Standard, the young lady added that the government should pay special attention to the jute industry and help exporters take the golden fibres to all parts of the world.
"The global demand for jute goods is increasing day by day. We, however, are yet to reach all the potential markets."
"Many women like me started jute businesses and have successfully turned the wheel of life. Yet, we can do far better if we get support from the government. For example, it can help jute sector entrepreneurs participate in different trade fairs abroad for effective promotions. Besides, low-interest collateral-free loans can give us a massive boost," she explained.
Esrat Jahan, the owner of the jute product brand "Tulika", started her business in 2016 with a small amount of capital. Completing her academic study, she worked in a buying house, a private bank and a prominent hotel. But the sought-after jobs could not satisfy the woman from Cumilla who had cherished a dream of entrepreneurship.
"Once, I quit my job to give time to my child. In the meantime, I was looking for starting a business, particularly with local products that are more in demand abroad. Finally, I have figured out that jute goods are meant for me. My goal was just export," Esrat Jahan said as she shared the story of her entrepreneurial journey with TBS.
"The initial days were tough for me as I had no idea about the jute business. Even none of my family members were involved in any kind of business. So, I started participating in different training and communicating with those who have been working with jute for long. They, however, discouraged me for being a woman and not mature enough for the business."
"They argued that it is not possible to do this business without experience at such a young age. But I persisted," she recalled the old memory.
"When I received an export order in 2018 my confidence reached a level. I did not need to look back since. My biggest asset is quality products. At present, my jute products are exported to Ireland, Italy, France, Sweden and the Netherlands," Esrat added.
Currently, more than 50 permanent and temporary artisans work at her factory in the Middle Badda area of the capital and make versatile jute products such as bags, home decor, and handicrafts. The annual turnover of her company is over Tk2 crore.
"My business has steady growth and I hope I will be able to take my turnover to Tk30 crore and the number of employees to 1,000 by 2032. I cherish the dream of spreading our golden jute to all over the world."
"I also have the plan to open an outlet of Tulika in the Netherlands soon, in partnership with one of my friends. All types of our local products will be showcased there so that dutch people can learn more about us," she added.
On the local market, the woman entrepreneur said the demand for jute products in the domestic market is nominal as people are not familiar with the products.
"Even we have no academic studies on the valuable sector. Again, small traders are far away from going for advertising due to a lack of capital."