Aarong – Bengali for ‘village fair’ – is Bangladesh’s most popular lifestyle retail chain. This ethical brand began in 1978 as a humble means to empower rural artisans to rise above poverty. Today, with 18 retail stores across Bangladesh and over 100 fashion and lifestyle product lines, Aarong supports 65,000 artisans with fair terms of trade. Revolutionising the retail industry with high standards for quality and artistry, this iconic brand blends the traditional with the contemporary in ways that never cease to win consumer appeal both at home and abroad.
In 1976, when BRAC– the world’s largest development organisation – engaged a small number of rural women to produce crafts, their only buyers were a few scattered retailers in Dhaka. Weeks, even months would pass between supply and payment, until BRAC intervened and established Aarong to pay the rural women for their goods on time. Over the past four decades, Aarong has carved out a unique market segment for handicrafts, reviving Bangladesh’s rich heritage and impacting the lives of more than 325,000 people through 850 small entrepreneurs and the Ayesha Abed Foundation. The foundation acts as Aarong’s production hub, where artisans find employment and access to BRAC’s holistic support including, maternal health care, hygiene awareness and subsidized latrines, micro-credit, legal aid, day care and education for their children.
From clay pots to diamond jewellery, and silk and cotton fabrics to brass and leather merchandise, Aarong’s vast range of innovative products, backed by a robust supply chain and distribution network, makes Aarong truly a household brand in Bangladesh. Its growing presence outside of Bangladesh – through fair-trade networks and the online shop– continues to broaden the market for Bangladeshi crafts globally, creating more opportunities for artisans to protect their age-old art and livelihoods.
Ten Keynotes about Aarong:
1. A support enterprise of BRAC: 100% of the business surplus is invested back in improving the socio-economic standards of the marginalized people of different communities.
2. A socially responsible organization
3. Working as a platform, where independent cooperative groups and family-based artisans market their crafts
4. At present operating through 11 domestic outlets, 1 franchised outlet in London and a considerable export
5. Currently working with 65,000 rural artisans, 85% of whom are women
6. Reinvented the traditional handicraft industry of Bangladesh
7. A flagship of Bangladeshi heritage and tradition
8. Each single product is a masterpiece that meets the sophisticated and modern taste of its target customers
9. Has more than 100 product lines
10. The growth rates of the last three years were respectively 30.3%, 38.2% and 20.0%