The US$ 28 billion apparel industry of the country not only contributes to earning the largest share of foreign currency and creates employment of 4.4 million people but also plays a significant role in developing other businesses. The sector has established a stimulating private sector producing thousands of successful entrepreneurs that helped put the economy on a firm footing. Recently entrepreneurs are facing many struggles and being hopeless to go ahead. To gear up these entrepreneurs need to take a view on such an idol who will show them new hope and confidence. Recently Tahsin Sadia Rupkatha of Bangladesh Textile today met Naimul Haque Khan, Director, Lubnan-Richman-Infinity, and discussed several issues, where he shared his success story. He started his career as an entrepreneur, overtake many challenges and ultimately reach in the pick of success.
Mr. Khan’s experience and success is critically important not only for the people of ‘Bangladeshi Fashion Retail Industry’ but also for the people of export oriented apparel industry. As textile and apparel companies are looking for opportunities to upgrade in the value chain to keep them competitive, they may find a path to invest in branding, marketing and retailing from Naimul Haque Khan’s life. Here is the glimpse of the conversation for Textile Today readers.
Richman-Lubnan and Infinity are the top Bangladeshi fashion brands. Their Mission ‘Committed to Quality’ is the story behind their success. Starting from Lubnan fashion-forwarded ethnic-wears in addition with exclusive bridal flavor makes them different in the market.
Textile Today: What switched you to start a New Bangladeshi Brand 15 years ago which is now became one of the leading fashion houses in Bangladesh?
Naimul Haque: After completing graduation it is tough to decide a suitable career for anyone but I had ideas about garments and wanted to start my own business. Those days there were only few fashion/ boutique houses in Mirpur Road but they used to make only clothes for females. So an idea came to my mind to open an outlet of Men’s Wear. Me, Md. Junaid, Chairman and Nazmul Hoque Khan, Managing Director, Lubnan Trade Consortium Ltd., started Lubnan. We started with a small shop of Panjabi made of traditional Rajshahi silk fabric and western cloths for men. Than within 5 years capitalized the overwhelming response from our valued customers, we have proudly launched more outlets one after another in a row such as Bashundhara City, Rapa Plaza, Rifles Square, Gulshan Avenue, Uttara, Sylhet & Chittagong.
Textile Today: From the beginning what type of challenges you faced to establish your business?
Naimul Haque: Bangladesh is highly depending on fabric from India and china. In a reality of comparative high price, variety and quality of fabric, shorter lead time and smooth supply still now Bangladesh only full-filling the demand of 20% of fabric for rest of the demand we heavily depend on China and India. It was a big challenge to overcome this fabric supply chain issue and at the same time offering a reasonable price to the customers.
Textile Today: Do you have any plan for going international?
Naimul Haque: Most of the international brands passed 100-150 years and we are comparatively too young. Still as we are ensuring the standard in short time we got very good response. Meanwhile Bangladesh has already gained the reputation in garment making all over the world. European countries are very fond of Bangladeshi clothes. So eventually we have plans to establish the brand Richman as International Brand, starting from the South-Asian Market.
Textile Today: How it will affect the local brands’ business if international brands like H&M or Walmart starts outlets in Bangladesh?
Naimul Haque: The standard an international brand carries if they tries to ensure the same quality they have to offer their products in high price which will definitely going to be tough for them to catch attention of maximum regular customers. This is the era of communication already people are getting their desired international branded product from online but cause of our affordable price range, trendy design and quality product builds long lasting relation & partnership with the customers. So, I don’t think it will be a threat for our business.
Textile Today: Every product under one roof “Infinity Mega Mall” how this idea came to your mind?
Naimul Haque: Due to the lacking of time and traffic jam it’s become really tough for the people to reach from one place to another easily. So we stepped to open a mega mall where we ensure every quality product for a family- clothes for elders and kids, at the same time footwear, jewelry, branded cosmetics etc. It has become very much beneficial for those who have less time but lots to buy.
Textile Today: What is the specific reason for declining growth of textile and clothing business in Bangladesh these days?
Naimul Haque: At least a sum of money should be granted by the government for the textile and apparel sector. The government was about to add 5% of subsidy in their last budget but unfortunately it was removed last moment. Lacking of the security of business environment and most specifically government is not showing that much interest required ensuring the labor law and the rights for the labor. I or individual business parson cannot ensure it alone. Increasing rate of electricity and gas is another big reason.
Textile Today: How Bangladesh can achieve more confidence of the foreign investors in Bangladesh?
Naimul Haque: Countries from China, Japan to other competing countries are ensuring 100% security even in the middle of the night which it is absent here. A sound and secured business environment is highly required for our country. When the Japanese buyers were too much interested to come for establishing business that time the holy-artisan terror attack incident affected so badly. So I think we need more time to gain the same trust from the foreign buyers.
Textile Today: What Bangladesh needs now to develop this textile and apparel sector?
Naimul Haque: Bangladesh requires an industrial zone dedicated to the textile processing and related industry “A Textile city” for its development. Bangladesh government should consider this fact that the economy of Bangladesh is largely depending on the textile and apparel sector so it is high time to develop a textile city of Bangladesh with facilities like a Hospital for the workers and proper security. The main power is the man power to ensuring investments in workers’ health will boosts this textile sectors. The textile industry city in China is the largest in the world in both overall production and exports that’s how they are leading all over the world.
Textile Today: What is the main strategy to build a brand and maintaining the reputation of it?
Naimul Haque: By taking any situation positively even when a customer comes to get back any product we feel it is a chance to learn from our fault and to upgrade our lacking. Our affordable price range, trendy design and quality product build long lasting relation & partnership with the customers.
Textile Today: Even a few years ago there were only 2 seasons for fashion producers but now people are not buying 2 months old designed cloths. What this ‘Fast Fashion’ trend and corresponding pressure on solid waste mean to you?
Naimul Haque: Obviously this will mean a change for businesses, but that change can be a positive one. It can be used as a catalyst to examine how my business handles its waste, leading to recycling more, and reducing the amount of waste produced, along with the associated costs. By giving almost 60% sell we tries to recover it and launch new fashionable clothes. Dubai and China is buying our clothes and selling it like a high project but if we start this trend and book one side of a shopping mall to sell those products expired for ‘Fast fashion’ could bring better result for us. Even our space is limited; we’re still not experts at providing waste collection solutions in tight spaces. But only thing will help us to reduce this waste inside
business premises, by collect it back and like other countries like Middle East than we never have to worry about collection windows. Fast fashion is really big fact for environmental pollution. In short, now we have to invest for waste management and also in supply chain management.
Textile Today: May we know your opinion about the challenge for our textile and apparel industries to increase earning by export from today’s 28 billion to 50 billion USD by 2021?
Naimul Haque: I must say it’s a great challenge but as I said “A Textile City” is required to ensure the development. The innovative attempt to enlarge Green factory around the country is also a big sign where we can ensure the sustainability without wasting much resources. We need expert designers and marketing merchandisers to create our own market value. The strategy is to ensure quality, good marketing policy, secured investments. We need to make sure workers satisfaction and most importantly a business policy without hampering our dignity. By hard work and with governments help it is possible for Bangladesh Textile sector to fulfill the challenges and soon we may see Bangladesh transforming from developing to a developed one.
Textile Today: Any suggestion or advice for the young entrepreneur and students?
Naimul Haque: Students are the future of this country so their dreams must be big but ‘need’ must be limited. When a graduate makes his/her first move to career, he/she should have a big dream but not ‘high expectations’. The reality is tough to survive they must practice to start with some part time job related to their subjects or department from their early age not because they need it but for the practical knowledge that how they have to handle any tough situation when they will start their own dream projects. Youth have power to work hard, innovative and modern ideas, knowledge about technologies, so anything good and big can be done only by the young generation. A student may not have knowledge about every department or sector but if he/she feels that any sector after graduation will be career friendly to him/her than they should divert to learn the practical facts and should not be afraid of being failed. They may have cash capital problem but important is the confidence and the ideas to be an entrepreneur. Young Generation must have the practice to travel and research and potential to introduce big things in small budget.
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