IN CONVERSATION WITH MURTAZA JAHANGIR: About Authentic Bengal Indigo – PART II
(8 Minutes Read)
In the second part of our interview with Murtaza Jahangir of Living Blue, we talk about the post Pandemic strategies for marketing. What might be the future of artisan made products in the coming days.
AS- What are your post Pandemic strategies for marketing, promotion and sale?
MJ- At Living Blue we attend many international trade shows, every year. In the past we have visited ( the Green showroom in Germany, New York Now, Santa Fe-New Mexico, Maison de exception is one of the main trade events we are attending in the last years. The Social Business Wing of CARE USA, Care Social Ventures, monitor our activities and guide us with strategic planning with marketing and promotion. As the Goodwill ambassador for CARE, with supermodel Iman we have worked on promotional campaigns in the past and we are working on some new campaigns for the future. We received a huge amount of interest after the article was published in Vogue, with supermodel Iman and Zac Posen. So we are very eager to continue to work in collaboration with the team in the future.
We are also re-focusing on the local fashion market in Bangladesh. Some discussions are in progress to work in collaboration with other fashion brands to promote Living Blue products within the Bangladesh market. We are also working with a European design-agent to take care of the european marketing for Living blue. We have successfully worked in the past with her. We want to extend this collaboration for the future. She has assisted us with many activities from product development to marketing. Interestingly, we are noticing a spike in the global demand for Natural dye during the Pandemic.
AS- Which countries in the world are you mostly selling your Indigo dye?
MJ- USA and Japan are our largest buyers of natural indigo dye. We also sell large quantities in European countries cumulatively. Recently we are getting some enquiries from Latin America and from some countries in Africa. Our products are very high-quality and we assure that it is 100% natural Indigo, the trust that we build with our clients is very important. We want to continue to have good business relationships with our existing clients and make new ones along the way.
AS- What is your role as the Technical Manager of the leading Artisan based organization from Bangladesh?
MJ- CARE is a non profit organization and Living Blue is an artisan owned social organization that emerged from one of the governance projects operated by CARE Bangladesh. Our aim is to make Living Blue a self sustaining business so that it does not require any support from the mother organization. I am employed by CARE Bangladesh, my role is to bridge the gaps between the two organizations and to assure that the operations of Living Blue are going smoothly. The social welfare activities run by the non profit organization has to be taken care of by me and at the same time the commercial activities too. One of the social welfare activities is that we provide healthcare camps for the communities. We are working towards bringing the communities under a micro health insurance policy, so that they get healthcare support when needed. I also play some roles within the supply chain, some of the procurement activities, negotiation with the buyers, expediting the exporting formalities, financial management of the export proceeds of Living Blue- the overall business management is also a part of my responsibility.
AS- Do you have an in house designer for living blue? What is your experience of working with local and international designers so far?
MJ- To assure financial self sustenance for Living Blue we want to keep the fixed costs to a minimal. For that reason, We do not have any in-house designers as of yet. In the past we have worked with international designers and design brands. We have developed products in accordance to their specifications successfully. On many occasions we have worked with freelance designers on assignment basis; we paid them on the consignment basis and it has worked very well for us so far. Maybe in the near future we will have an in-house designer working with living blue.
AS- How do you plan your yearly marketing campaigns? What does a typical yearly marketing plan look like for Living Blue?
MJ-We mostly participate at the B2B trade exhibitions, we have participated only at a few retail exhibitions so far. To exhibit at Maison d’Exception we had to prepare a whole new collection. The preparation also is usually a bit elaborate. We had engaged with a designer to produce the appropriate product range to qualify as a participant. After the first two years the third and the fourth year participation is granted. This will be our fourth time participating next year. We analyze the viability of participation in each of the trade events and then we decide which trade show to attend.
We look into the economic and political situations to assess the market. The associated cost of participation and the attendance of appropriate buyers, the budget and available resources for participation is also considered carefully before making a plan for the year ahead. Presently, given the Covid-19 Pandemic, everything is uncertain. We are unable to make any plans for marketing campaigns abroad for next year. Only the coming months can give us directions on how to go forward.
AS- At last, what is your message to our readers as you are managing one of the leading artisan-based, artisan-owned social organizations from Bangladesh.
MJ- I would like to request all buyers to make more informed choices while buying. The buyers need to be aware of the provenance of the items. They should consider the socio-economic and environmental impact they are making as a buyer. So, do not just always go for the cheapest, but also consider what other impacts they are making by supporting the brand. As conscious consumers, they should know the stories behind the brands. By purchasing from artisan made brands they are making direct contributions not only to small businesses but also are supporting a family of artisans. They must realize that a family at the grass-root level is sustaining and hopefully thriving through your purchase. This support is not only needed for Living Blue but all the Artisan based brands.