Just three or four years ago, the villages of Shihari and Dumori in Bogura’s Adamdighi upazila were active as about 400 small glass vial factories operated in the area.
At that time, these factories collectively employed more than 3,000 locals to produce glass tubes of all shapes and sizes, which were mainly used for preserving homeopathic medicine or corrected spirits.
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However, due to the high cost of production along with the arrival of many plastic industries and automated construction, the factories of small glass vials in the two villages have now almost disappeared.
Another important reason for their disappearance is that the owners of these factories do not receive financial or technical support from government agencies.
According to locals, the glass pipe industry in the village of Shihari was founded about 50 years ago, when an anonymous man set up a production unit called the “Cumilla Glass Pipe Factory”.
Shortly afterwards, about 200 small-scale factories were set up in the area before finally expanding to the neighboring village of Dumori, where another 200 entrepreneurs joined the industry.
Eventually, the two villages began shipping glass pipes throughout Bangladesh, including Dhaka, Satogram, Jenayda, Kulna and Punjagar, with a combined annual turnover of over Tk 100 million.
Unfortunately, this is now a distant memory for the locals. During a recent visit to the area, it was found that about 100 glass pipe factories had closed.
In 2013, the Bangladesh Small and Medium Enterprises Foundation (SMEF) conducted a nationwide cluster mapping study, which identified 177 SME groups, including the Bogura glass bottle industry.
The study also states that the Shihari glass bottle complex was first established in 1972, when about 400 skilled and semi-skilled workers were hired from 100 factories.
Their products accounted for about 80 percent of domestic demand at the time, when Shihari Village’s annual turnover was about 50 million Tk.
The study further warned that the Shihari glass bottle industry would one day disappear due to rising production costs and a lack of financial or technical support.
However, the study was only done in the Shihari village complex, where locals said many traders managed to make good profits even by 2017-18.
As production costs continued to rise over the years, entrepreneurs in these two villages later only hired women workers for almost half the wages paid to their husbands.
However, even that could not save the industry from extinction, locals said.
Abdul Jalil, a resident of Dumri village, said the industry has stopped operating since it suffered continuous losses.
“Only two or three houses in Shihari village are still engaged in the manufacture of glass toys and pipes, while the rest have taken on other professions,” he added.
Zahid Hasan, another local, said he and his father had set up three glass bottle factories in 2002 with about 150 employees.
Each employee could earn up to 4,000 Tk each week.
“I made good profits until 2017, before which we could earn up to 70,000 Tk each month,” Hassan added.
However, since then the company has taken the worst course as it is not able to compete with cheap plastic alternatives in view of the increase in production costs.
“We can no longer collect even six to seven million Tk from the markets, as many factories have lost their capital,” he said.
Shamsul Haque, president of the Noshratpur association, told the Daily Star that there were many people who once produced glass tubes to earn a living, but that era has since ended as they could not adapt to modern markets.
“Entrepreneurs could not get help from the government either, forcing many of them to take loans from non-governmental organizations with high interest rates,” he said.
When contacted, Dr. Mofizur Rahman, CEO of the Media Foundation, said that since the mapping of the clusters in 2013, many of them have recently disappeared.
“Now we are preparing another cluster mapping study for the next financial year,” Rahman said.
As for the Bogura glass bottle complex, he said it was a non-reinforcing complex.
The complex may be on the verge of extinction due to lack of modernization and support.
“Besides, we could not work together because the Media Foundation did not have the financial capacity at the time,” he said, adding that he hoped things would be different now, as they have since acquired that capacity.
When asked, AKM Mahfuzur Rahman, Deputy General Manager of Bogura BSCIC, said he would visit the complex soon to meet with local businessmen.
“If they want, we can help them and, if possible, facilitate their transition to any other small industry,” Rahman added.