The country’s export-oriented leather sector entrepreneurs are eyeing to emerge as one of the top ten global exporters of footwear and leathergoods in the near future, the sector insiders have said. As part of the strategic initiatives to achieve the target, local leathergoods manufacturers and exporters will organise ‘Bangladesh Leather Footwear and Leathergoods International Sourcing Show (BLLISS)’ in the country regularly. The first-ever three-day BLLISS-2017 received positive responses from all the stakeholders. The event became a meeting platform for global buyers, brands, manufacturers and exporters, according to Leathergoods & Footwear Manufacturers & Exporters of Bangladesh (LFMEAB). The exhibition on the second largest export sector of the country was jointly organised by Ministry of Commerce and LFMEAB at International Convention Centre Bashundhara (ICCB) in the capital on November 16-18. The mega event, with the theme ‘Think Ahead, Think Bangladesh’, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina through video-conference from her official residence Gonobhaban on November 16. More than 30 exhibitors displayed a wide range of their innovative products in separate stalls in BLLISS-2017. Local brands, buyers, designers, fashion experts, industry leaders, sourcing agents, retail chain distributors and investors received comprehensive ideas regarding upgraded capacity of the local manufacturers and exporters through the exhibition. Breakout sessions like entry strategy in USA market, lean management, and sustainability in leather sector supply chain by global experts in respective areas brought much-needed global industry information and insights to the local industry people. Policymakers and government officials have also received first-hand experience on the internal capacity of the country’s leather industry by participating in the event. The industry insiders said BLLISS-2017 also highlighted that LFMEAB in association with the government regulatory body concerned has taken extensive compliance initiatives to make Bangladesh compliant in supply chain. Global magazines and online portals like International Leather Maker, Leatherage, World Footwear Magazine and ModaPelle, portraying the leather sector, have highlighted BLLISS-2017 positively, which bolstered Bangladesh brand image abroad. The government has set the export target for the leather sector at US$ 5.0 billion by 2021 in the 7th Five Year Plan, as products of Bangladesh are usually good enough to attract global buyers and brands. However, in terms of the country it had to struggle. In this regard, BLLISS has been instrumental to change the mindset. Subsequently, LFMEAB has declared BLLISS as an annual event of Bangladesh. Ministry of Commerce and LFMEAB have planned to continue this show regularly at least for the next three years. Next year BLLISS will be held on November 1-3 at the same venue. Apex Footwear Ltd Chairman Syed Manzur Elahi, in BLLISS Networking Dinner 2017, said, “We have to sell the country (Bangladesh) first, then the products.” Under Factory Visit segment of BLLISS-2017, different brands and buyers visited local leathergoods and footwear factories. They were also introduced with practices of production and management as well as overall culture of manufacturing and export in Bangladesh. Several local brands that participated in BLLISS-2017, told the FE during the expo that the platform has created an opportunity for them to build business relationships and share ideas about latest technologies and trends in the leather sector. Apex Footwear Ltd deputy manager (international business) Tusar Saha said their company has taken part in the sourcing show to explore future markets. He said usually Bangladeshi companies join various international footwear and leathergoods shows abroad to entice the foreign buyers. But it will be not that far when the foreign buyers will come here to place their orders. Organising events like BLLISS-2017 and robust campaign of such initiative globally will attract the foreign buyers to come Bangladesh, he added. Vulua Footwear Industries general manager Md Abul Kalam Azad said the show has been quite positive for them in terms of marketing their products to the visiting buyers and other participants. Bengal Leather Industries Ltd executive director Shadman Saqib Chowdhury said the exhibition was a good platform to meet interested buyers as well as leather industry-related machinery and other component suppliers. He said response from the participants of the expo was quite good. But the organisers need to publicize more and promote the event internationally to encourage more interested buyers to come here. Visitors from China, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam have received practical information and seen what strengths Bangladesh has to offer. Around 70 international dignitaries, including business leaders of 16 footwear associations from the Asian countries visited BLLISS-2017, and found looming investment opportunities as well as business benefits of sourcing from Bangladesh.