If faced with the question "what is the ultimate casualwear?" Almost every Bengali man will answer "lungi" without missing a beat. In the hot and humid weather of Bangladesh, lungi is unbeatable when it comes to comfort. And for the past 130 years, a family of craftsmen has been ensuring our comfort by weaving the finest of this clothing.
Amanat Shah Group has become synonymous with quality lungi in Bangladesh. They export lungi in huge volumes to as many as 18 countries in the world. Their practices have been adopted industry-wide. They have helped repopularise lungi and received accolades both home and abroad.
And now they are venturing online with a dream.
The rise of Amanat Shah Lungi
From a humble beginning as 'Rupashdi Cloth Store' to becoming a giant conglomerate adored all across the country and appreciated by fans of Bangladeshi 'lungi' worldwide, Amanat Shah Lungi - founded in 1983 - has always been a trendsetter.
This current third-generation family business stems from a textile enterprise that dates back 130 years that also sold lungis.
Earlier, lungis were bought unstitched and people had to stitch it on their own. Amanat Shah Lungi is the first brand to introduce stitched lungi in Bangladesh.
Before the 1970s, lungis were sold without any brand name or price tags. Then Mohammad Helal Miah, founder of M/s Helal and Brothers (the parent company of Amanat Shah Lungi) came up with separate names for each category of lungi and introduced price tags. Later on, this became the standard practice in the industry.
So why lungi of all things?
"Choosing lungi was not a hard decision to make. I had a dream of promoting our heritage of weaving that dates back to Mughal era Bengal. I am proud that I have achieved enormous success in promoting our ethnic heritage by presenting it (lungi) to the new generation, who had almost abandoned it," said Mohammad Helal Miah, Founder & Chairman of Amanat Shah Group.
According to him, the clock is ticking back again. He believes they owe their success to their unique approach to colour, weaving, design and ornamentation and – most significantly – the purity of cotton.
At times lungi has been regarded as an outmoded piece of garment reserved only for the less privileged. Au contraire, lungi has seen a sort of resurgence in the recent past.
"It (lungi sales) is quite amazing because of the rapid increase in demand among the urban youth as the most comfortable home wear, in addition to the traditional users of lungi.
A recent study finds that on average at least 5 crore people in the country wear at least two lungis a year, which makes the market size 1500-2000 crore," said Helal Miah.
However, the brand also has their fair share of challenges including but not limited to increasing yarn prices, scarcity of skilled workforce and availability of utilities like gas and electricity.
But the chairman sees a silver lining. "Challenge, in fact, is the root of all success. The tastiest fishes are those which swim upstream. We are trying our best to meet the challenges," he said.
He believes the government can help them overcome these challenges. According to him, if the government subsidies import duties on dye and chemicals, the cost of production could be reduced.
"Other logistical facilities need to come from the government to facilitate manufacturers of these ethnic wears to meet local demands, as well as remain competitive in the export market," he added.
The brand exports lungi to as many as 18 countries of the world in considerable volume. For their success in exporting lungi, they have received awards from both the President and the Prime Minister of the country, which include one Presidential Award and two National Export Trophies. They have also won the CIP award and the DITF Award seven and 16 times respectively.
Currently, more than 15,000 industrial workers are working in their four key industrial units, manufacturing 100% cotton and mixed-yarn products. "We have a dying unit, weaving processing unit, spinning unit, as well as fabrics unit.
As many as 25,000 direct and indirect workers are on the employment payroll in various clusters all over the country," said Helal.
A future of lungi
Now a new generation of leaders is taking over the reins of the company to successfully lead them into the future. Rezaul Karim, son of Mohammad Helal Miah, joined the enterprise as the group director upon completing his studies.
"I am confident the ideals of fair play and ethics in business that I have tried my best to infuse the next generation with would carry forward through more decisive stewardship and competent leadership," said Helal, a proud father.
"My dream is to promote the 'lungi' culture around the world. I want to take the traditional wear, along with the attributes of traditional Bangladeshi textile products, to the next generation at home and abroad, and create social awareness among the young generation about our lungi tradition," said Rezaul Karim.
The brand also wants to establish a separate lifestyle brand focusing on modest fashion based on Bangali tradition. Rezaul Karim took the initiative of launching their own online venture. In 2021, the e-commerce platform Miah (www.miah.shop) started its journey. This latest venture is, in fact, Rezaul's brainchild.
"Now we are delivering lungi online all over the country and also serving the Bangladeshi residents living in different continents through international courier.
We hope to make the most of this online platform and the communication tools it provides for more aggressive marketing," concluded Rezaul.