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Bangladesh needs to invest in country-branding to uplift image of textile and RMG industry……

Bangladesh was losing its reputation to international apparel market after Rana Plaza and Tazreen Fashion incidents. Some local entrepreneurs thought deeply to rescue the image of the country’s RMG industry. Md. Fazlul Hoque, Managing Director of Plummy Fashions Ltd., is one them who are the pioneers of enumerates the successes and challenges of sustainable development for the Bangladesh textile and clothing industry. He has 20 years of versatile experience in knitwear industry and led many organizations from various role including BKMEA, BEF, IAF etc.

Figure 1: Md. Fazlul Hoque, Managing Director of Plummy Fashions Ltd. was talking to Textile Today.
Figure 1: Md. Fazlul Hoque, Managing Director of Plummy Fashions Ltd. was talking to Textile Today.

He was shocked for these unexpected incidents and motivated to rebuild its trustworthiness and brand image. He established a groundbreaking industry Plummy Fashions Ltd, which is now a milestone as the world’s highest rated green knitwear factory. Plummy Fashions Ltd (PFL) located in Narayanganj, 20 kilometers south from Dhaka city center has set an example of green industry in textile world. The site is 5.5 acres, sensitively landscaped with a combination of award winning designed buildings and 3 acres of tranquil gardens has commenced a ground breaking project. PFL strives for sustainable and accountable business practices in Bangladesh and is establishing the definitive business model that manufactures and customers can follow for the benefit of everyone.

Recently Fazlul Hoque shared his experiences and opinions on several issues, including branding apparel industry of Bangladesh, challenges of the industry and way of overcoming the challenges. Ariful Islam, Industry Correspondent of Textile Today reports the conversation.

Textile Today: How can we brand Bangladesh RMG industry?

Fazlul Hoque: Branding is very much important for a business. It is badly needed for our RMG industry. Country branding is more important to establish industry branding. When a country has positive branding then industry gets benefits from it automatically. Unfortunately, our country has a negative branding to the world, which is our basic weakness. There are many positive things we achieved but these are not highlighted and not impressed positively due to negative country branding. When topic is about Bangladesh RMG industry, then it is highlighted that Bangladesh is the country of Rana plaza massacre or country of Tazreen tragedy.

We need a branding campaigns for one or two years long to establish our positive image collectively. Now industry owners are trying to establish it individually. However, it is not representing our whole industry scenario. Our major stakeholders like government, BGMEA, BKMEA, EPB etc. can take initiatives for branding activities. Our competitor India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and others also have their country branding policy. It would be better if we can assign any third party foreign credible organization for doing such activities. It will be more effective and we should work on it.

Figure 2: Plummy Fashions Ltd.
Figure 2: Plummy Fashions Ltd.

Textile Today: What Bangladesh could use for branding her?

Fazlul Hoque: Bangladesh has many achievements, which can make us unique from others. We have now ensured our work place safety and security. There are 67 certified green buildings in our country and most of them are RMG industries. We have 8 LEED Platinum green factories. Our competitors do not have such number of green factories. Many other best practice achievements of textile and apparel manufacturing companies must be highlighted globally.

Textile Today: How do you evaluate current status of Bangladesh RMG Industry after Accord and Alliance initiatives incase of work place safety?

Fazlul Hoque: Accord and Alliance are playing a significant role for improving our work place safety. They have worked deeply for improving the condition of the industry. Now scenario is changed and our work place is very safe. Despite of these achievements, there is some dissatisfaction also among the RMG owners.

Accord and Alliance are following theoretical rules for some cases but practically situation is different. Besides, factory owners do not have right to bargain or appeal against the decisions taken by two bodies. It is now imposed on them, which must be followed without any argument. There is no third party appealing authority to review Accord or Alliance decision if factory management thinks it can be reconsider or can manage by alternative way. There should be such neutral authority with expert people from other concerned field i.e. BUET, Fire Brigade etc.

Figure3: Sewing section of Plummy Fashions Ltd.
Figure 3: Sewing section of Plummy Fashions Ltd.

Textile Today:  How entrepreneurs can take more initiatives for sustainability of RMG industry?

Fazlul Hoque: For sustainability, our entrepreneurs have done many things. We are in the front line among any other RMG producing country but it is reflecting less. There was no requirement from buyer side to build green factory. Only requirement was for ETP (Effluent Treatment Plant) to prevent harmful chemicals disposal to the environment. But our entrepreneurs have done it. Government should give incentives for green building to encourage the entrepreneurs. There is punishment rule in the government policy but on the other hand, reward also needs to include in the law. Then it will motivate us in ethical way.

Figure 4: ETP Plant of Plummy Fashions Ltd.
Figure 4: ETP Plant of Plummy Fashions Ltd.

Textile Today: What types of changes are required to continue success in this industry?

Fazlul Hoque: Our growth rate was not satisfactory in the last financial year. There are many reasons behind it. We need to establish more new industry in order to continue growth. Now there is land crisis for building a new factory. Government should establish special zone for apparel industry. Uninterrupted utility supplies i.e. gas, electricity is increasing our production cost. New gas connection is almost stopped. Infrastructure is another barrier to establish new industry. It is not enough for existing business operations properly. BGMEA is negotiating with government but this should be strategic and result oriented to get quick feedback.

Textile Today: What challenges are coming for this industry in coming days?

Fazlul Hoque: Challenges are two types. One is inter-industry and another is global competition. Our product price is very low due to our negative branding. We have to develop our negotiation skills. We are always claiming that buyer is not giving us good price but we cannot avail it due to lack of our good negotiation skills and loosing huge amount of money. Nobody is willing to pay more if he can buy anything in a less price. We should adopt industry bargaining strategy and boost up our individual skills. This is not enough focused in our industry though this is very important. We could arrange training or experience sharing session to develop our negotiation skill. Another global challenge is our productivity, which is less among our other competitors. To improve productivity, it is important to have basic education for our lower and midlevel management. If they do not have basic education, they cannot learn from training. Some new countries are emerging to this business with latest technologies, which might be challenge for us.

Internal challenges are utility, infrastructure etc. Our cost of doing business is very high which is increasing our product price whereas our competitor country’s cost of doing business is less than ours.

Textile Today: How can we compete with our nearest competitors like Vietnam, India?

Fazlul Hoque: Our closest competitors are very much skilled in negotiation. Their productivity and efficiency are very high. We have to focus on these things. It is said that we need to concentrate for high value items. However, it is difficult for us. Lead-time is most important for high value items. In addition, order quantity is less. There are still many scopes for us to diversify our business in mid value and low value items as well. We are not addressing those opportunities.

Our lead-time is also high than our competitors. We need 35-40 days lead-time to ship goods in Europe whereas other competitors need 15-20 days or maximum 25 days as voyage time. For these we cannot cope up with fast fashion. We badly need a deep-sea port to compete with other countries.

Textile Today: What is our next potential market and how we can diversify our market?

Fazlul Hoque: I think our next potential market could be our neighboring countries India and China but I am in doubt, how quickly we can explore it. Now a day, we are exporting to china and India through international brand. It has paved our way to enter the market. We have to focus on the local brands and retailers to increase our export. Other potential markets are Russia, South America which are needed to explore more.

Textile Today: How LEED certification is helping you for branding your factory and how are you capitalizing on this.

Fazlul Hoque: Plummy Fashion has got the highest points and achieved world no one LEED Platinum certification. We have got huge help from our local media and international media as well. They helped us for branding. We also took help of our professional network. Now we are using this as our bargaining power with our clients. Certification always helps to get good client and more orders but we need to ensure good service against it. Our client is happy with us and we are growing together.

Textile Today: How Green factories could be an effective branding strategy?

Fazlul Hoque: When a factory gets green or LEED certification, they achieve a good marketing tool. It depends on their own strategy how they are going to using it. However, strategy should be fixed very carefully, it should not be exaggerated. They should start promoting their achievements by their own or also can take professional help from any third party. As much as they can make publicity, it will help to make a brand.

Textile Today: What else should be done for Branding Bangladesh Textile and Apparel?

Fazlul Hoque: Branding is a professional work. Branding has own style to establish its image to the target market. We should hire professional third party organization for our branding. We will get more benefit from it rather than our own publicity. Now we are trying to establish our own brand but when we assign other professional party for the industry branding, it will help us more.

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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