While attracting these large players is a positive, Bangladesh’s local manufacturers are also expanding and taking on bigger roles, both in the domestic market and abroad.
Walton Group was the second-largest smartphone brand in Bangladesh in 2021, with a 14% market share and 46% growth compared with a year earlier. That puts it just behind China’s Realme Chongqing Mobile Telecommunications, which has a 17% market share.
“Establishing Walton as a sustainable leading global brand is our main target now.”
– Golam Murshed, CEO, Walton
Founded in 1977, with an electronics unit that began in 1995, Walton now boasts a manufacturing plant of around 5 million square feet spread over 19 buildings and shades. The company employs more than 30,000 people producing a range of electrical and electronics goods including refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, televisions, motorcycles, smartphones and other home appliances.
The company is working to expand its export capacity to more than 200 countries, setting up operations in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, and Africa. This year Walton expanded its European foothold by buying three Italian compressor brands to cement its position as one of the world’s leading refrigerator manufacturers. The deal marked the first time in Bangladesh’s history that a local electronic products manufacturer had bought a foreign brand.
“Establishing Walton as a sustainable leading global brand is our main target now,” explained CEO Golam Murshed at a company event in March known as “Walton Day.” He said this relied on skills development within the company, supported by data-driven decision making.
A logical next step would be to break into the $600 billionglobal semiconductor market, with only three local companies in Bangladesh currently providing mainstream chip design services. One of those companies – Ulkasemi – last year announced plans to invest $25 million in a semiconductor design service in Bangabandhu Hi-Tech Park, one of several technology parks the government is setting up to attract higher-value investors. And with low manufacturing costs and a continued chip shortage affecting global supplies, this is an ideal opportunity for Bangladesh to move along the value chain.
The success of Bangladesh’s tech industry is also being mirrored in other sectors, where homegrown manufacturing companies are increasing their presence within the local market, and as exporters. It’s a trend that’s set to continue as the sector moves beyond its reliance on ready-made garment companies and toward a future characterized by technology and the increased spending power of the middle classes.
Leather goods, pharmaceuticals and food processing are other sectors that have the potential to break through, according to a World Bank report.