Ananta Group started their glorious journey in 1991 by late prominent industrialist Humayun Zahir. From 1993, Mrs. Qamrun Nahar Zahir took the guardianship of the company, since Sharif Zahir (elder son of Humayun Zahir) joined the family business in 2000 and took over the leadership in 2006 as Managing Director.
Sharif Zahir finished his graduation from the University of Texas at Austin in 1999. When he started they had 1500 people for making jeans. From there, they focused on building the organization. And today they have almost 26,000 people working across 8 factories. Ananta Group also diversified the product portfolio by making jeans, suits, sweaters, and lingerie. Recently Textile Today Team met with Sharif Zahir where he opened up many things like his vision, thoughts and his personal life.
Textile Today: How will you differentiate Ananta Group from others?
Sharif Zahir: Here the difference is how we have differentiated ourselves from others. I’ve studied abroad and come back as it was our family business. Also, my younger brother Asif Zahir completed his graduation from Stanford University in Computer Science & Engineering and joined in 2008 as Director and some others who’ve studied abroad and worked abroad joined the company as well. Even though it’s a traditional industry but we thought the opportunities were there to differentiate the company.
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This company is run by professional management. And we’ve set up a structure where we’ve proper accountability and transparency of the company.
We are also different from other companies as we always invest in human capital transformation.
Textile Today: Please share us from which vision did you join here?
Sharif Zahir: As I said that untapped opportunities brought me here and this is also my family business. Usually, the trend for people studying in the US is to join a multinational company and stay there. But I have seen that Bangladesh is a developing country and has a lot of opportunities. Country’s average growth rate is more than 7%. Right now with the investment in infrastructure and proper outlook, I think Bangladesh, as well as companies, have a long way to go. So, for anyone who wants to work hard, I think Bangladesh is the right place and that is why I have come back.
Textile Today: What is your future plan as a Managing Director keeping in mind the current challenges of the textile and garment industry?
Sharif Zahir: We have taken some investors, a Swedish hedge farm has invested in 2009-10. Then IFC was also a small shareholder. We have grown by 25 to 30% for the last five years. We have set the platform to grow this as a much bigger company. Unlike other garment manufacturers, we are a more structured company now.
We have invested in ERP so that this company can go even further. We have a target of achieving US$ 1 billion export by 2022 and we are on it. And to make it happen we are continuously investing in people and organization.
Our philosophy is to give the best service to the retailers at the moment. Which means we want to diversify the product portfolio even more.
One major problem of Bangladesh textile and garment sectors problem is that from the ’80s till present we are concentrating on bottom products. But if go to a retail you will see that there are so many other different products. Now we need to get into other products. Which means we can do other value-added products like suits and dresses.
In the future, we can see that the textile industry is shrinking. So, the retailers and manufacturers getting more and more dependent on each other. Which will in future lead to the increase in manufacturing services, like we have already started giving design support and we are sourcing our own products. In the future, we will have our own warehousing, where we will pick up information from the stores and we will fit the cutting room. Once this integration is done then the dependency on manufacturers will increase significantly.
And this will ensure us as no step away from being a retailer. So, there is no stopping Ananta from reaching the end consumer. Ultimately this is the vision of ours.
We have to gain expertise once the business starts to shift from Bangladesh. Working closely with the customers day by day will make our learning period smooth.
We are also studying the buyers demand and have the plan to set a new factory at Mirsarai Economic Zone. We have acquired 150 acres land and we have a plan to go for sportswear, active wears, outerwear, and other value-added products.
Textile Today: How can Bangladesh textile industry do better and what are the gaps in the industry that has to be mitigated?
Sharif Zahir: Bangladesh is in this business segment for a very long time. But still, now we don’t have any proper technical institute. The existing fashion institutes have no significance, as students can’t understand the fashion of Europe sitting here in Bangladesh as it is a matter of cultural difference.
But, what we could have done is investing more in manufacturing infrastructure. Like technical schools, learning patterns, work studies, production engineering, the role of PM and APM. Unfortunately, these things haven’t grown here.
When our textile and RMG industry was small, it wasn’t an issue. But now it has grown enormous. And who will provide these supports and play the leading role? To attain $50 billion export who will provide infrastructure support? The textile industry hasn’t grown in a structured way. But we have grown big like cottage industry, which is why we witness incidents like Tazreen and Rana Plaza.
So, we have to think comprehensively if we want the industry growth to $50 billion even more. Like a garment factory can’t be in a 10 storied building. Ideally, it should in a single shed structure. The land was an issue in the past but we have the land actually. We need road and infrastructure support which is developing now.
New factory setups should be in a single roof structure. And the factory has to be very simple and compliant. But we see people make things complicated. Also, ACCORD came here as a joke which is also a matter of shame for us. Can you imagine that foreigners come here to set up a fire pump!
Bangladesh should have these policies and rules so that other nations could follow us. We are now in that leading position to set our own standard. And we should have set examples for others. We can’t run like as it is for the last 20 years.
We have such great universities, each should be equipped with labs and up to dated curriculum on textiles.
Our textile graduates have enough caliber but they don’t have enough opportunities. BGMEA and other bodies should play the leading role. But no one taking the proper responsibility and ultimately the industry is suffering immensely.
BGMEA should be run by professional management. And the stakeholders like us should be the trustees. We manufacturers will give the vision. Cause someone needs to do the works. As we can’t see any real work been done by the BGMEA.
We are also involved with some of the universities by providing interns. But our valuable contribution to the textile industry is from 1991, a great number Ananta Group’s employees became experts and are currently serving the industry.
Textile Today: What training facilities do you provide to the employees?
Sharif Zahir: We always try to take fresh workers in our new ventures. Like in our suits factory we took 100% fresh workers and giving them proper training. All of our factories are equipped with standard training facilities. We must think our employees as our resources and company structure must be set up accordingly.
Textile Today: Please give a message through us for the new entrepreneurs…
Sharif Zahir: Actually at this moment innovation is must to survive in the business. So, the new entrepreneurs should come up with innovative ideas along with patience. Also, the government and the banks should make the new investment system easy to iron out the rough edges for the manufacturers. BGMEA also should have some policy to help the newcomers.