When most of the industries and manufacturing units in the public sector have either been closed down or are running at losses, the Bangladesh Steel and Engineering Corporation (BSEC) stood as a notable exception, garnering handsome annual profits. But it is at risk of losing its enviable status within a few years if its products continue to lose out to those of its competitors in the private sector and its profit margins shrink unabatedly. A front-page report published in this newspaper on Sunday last is categorical that the profit margin of the corporation shrank by 50 per cent over the last five years. Its net profit marked a decline by Tk 90 million in the financial year to Tk 310 million from Tk 400 million the previous fiscal. If five of the nine units of the corporation operate at losses and still the entity makes profit mainly because of two units' exceptionally better performance, it would be premature to give up hopes on the BSEC.
The fact that only two units -Pragati Industries Limited and Gazi Wires Limited -earned a profit of about Tk 1.05 billion (before payment of tax) is highly encouraging. But why the others are failing to keep up with those two begs an explanation. There is a clear hint in the report that some products from those losing units are not enjoying demands from customers for two reasons. One concerns the government decision on limiting private gas connections to households. Thus the tubes are no longer in demand. Again, whatever demand of the item is there, it is met by private companies. But the BSEC products are, it has been claimed, superior in quality and therefore costlier. Here, its marketing strategy has also not matched its quality. Industries in the public sector are not famous for promoting their products.
What is of particular concern is that the BSEC earned a reputation for quality products and it earned foreign exchange from export of some of its products. But it is no longer an exporter. Why? Here is a clear indication that there is a serious lacking in its overall planning. When one after another industry in the public sector has been straying into the red, this flagship industry must not be allowed to embrace the same fate for practical reasons. There is a need for healthy competition between the private and public sectors. Also, such units can be a good source of fund for the government when other sources dry up.
Now that the corporation is facing challenges from different quarters, there is a need for a review of the performance of the losing concerns. Redistribution of workloads ? and if need be a few can be refurbished aimed at going for completely new products ? are necessitated. It is indisputable that the manufacturing units produce quality items. The industrial units must look for avenues for exporting its products. It should as well go for aggressive marketing strategies in order to compete with its rivals. Thus the BSEC is unlikely to lose its domestic market either. If it can capture markets abroad, it will be to its advantage for sustainability.