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BD apparel makers need to integrate their products with established online platforms

Unifill Group is one of the pioneering leaders in the Bangladesh textile and fashion industry since 1987. The journey was very rough with all the challenges and to this date, came on top to set a leading example for the rest of the garment and textile industry.

M-Sakhawat-Hossain-Director-Unifill-Group
Figure 1: M. Sakhawat Hossain. Director, Unifill Group.

By realizing the need for shortened lead time, reduced cost and quality services Unifill set-out to become a fully integrated textile and garments manufacturer group in Bangladesh.

Recently FT Research Team of Textile Today visited the factory and met Barrister M. Sakhawat Hossain, Director, Unifill Group to know about the journey of Unifill Group, also their expertise areas.

A challenging start

Back in the 70s Md Abul Hossain, Founder and Chairman of Unifill Group felt that the imported clothes he was selling in Islampur could be made in Bangladesh. He decided to set up a small textile factory with only a handful of looms and started supplying fabrics in the local market. At that time all over printing clothes were not originally made in Bangladesh and hence all army/ defense uniforms garments were imported from India, Pakistan and Turkey. Unifill Group first started making all over printed fabrics in Bangladesh and supplying fabrics to Bangladesh Army.

When Unifill contacted the Bangladesh Army and submitted samples and Bangladesh Army found that there was no difference between imported garments and Unifill made garments. From then on Unifill started supplying clothes to the Army and later to Bangladesh Border Guard. Thus, Unifill Group continued to grow its business with defense procurement and the local market.

Abul Hossain’s eldest son Md. Mahabub Hossain, Managing Director of Unifill Group joined the business after completion of his graduation in Finance from the University of Dhaka. He saw that the local garment market was increasing very fast and most of them were depending on imported fabric from countries like India, Pakistan, and China.

Abul Hossain realized that without producing fabric – which is 80% cost of a garment – only garment making will not give Unifill a good mileage. From that realization, Unifill Group started the backward linkage business of fabric manufacturing for export-oriented garments industry.

Md-Abul-Hossain-Founder-Chairman-Unifill-Group
Figure 2: Md Abul Hossain, Founder and Chairman of Unifill Group.

Finally, they started to make different types of fabric for the market. Unifill later bought looms from Europe and increased their weaving production. Unifill Group is currently making all the materials needed to make garments, which is helping a lot in the economy of our country.

“But since l did not have a dyeing section, dyeing was done from another industry. However, the quality of the dyeing did not match Bayer’s requirement. As a result, Unifill Group brought dyes and chemicals from China and started dyeing from the local market, which was costly,” he mentioned.

This led Unifill to establish a modern state of the art Dyeing Composite in 2008 which undoubtedly strengthened the backward linkage. The total capacity for woven fabric in the dyeing factory is 6.5 million meters per month and for all over printing capacity for knit fabric in 500 tons per month.

At present they have 6 garment factories and they have about 12,000 manpower working in their weaving, sewing and sweater and garments factories.

With the experience of Unifill’s business, Barrister M. Sakhawat Hossain also joined in the group as Director and he said that now buyers are buying fabrics from China at a lower price than Bangladesh, which is a threat to the industry in Bangladesh. He said currently Russia, China, Japan and Europe are their target market areas.

Great milestone in printing

Printing pulls a heavy punch in the RMG industry. In this area, Unifill is successfully delivering the buyers’ requirements with a strong backward linkage capacity. They have increased their knit products printing capacity to 500 tons per month in the last 3 years from 20-25 tons.

World-renowned buyers are referring Unifill for printing garments to those garment factories who do not have printing facilities as it gives the best printing quality and maintains compliance. Unifill group has developed expertise in discharge printing, pigment printing and reactive printing.

Sakhawat Hossain said, “Recently we are in talks with European buyers where we highlighted our competitiveness.”

Unifill’s printing price is more competitive than in China. So, the European buyer expressed their interest to work with them for printing rather than with China, he said.

At present Unifill is working with H&M, M&S, Next, TESCO, JC Penney, C&A, LC YKK, Kiabi, Zara, etc. “Very soon we will export printed knit fabric to Italy and Portugal.”

To modernize the printing sector, Unifill Group has already brought machinery and started the reactive printing method. In addition, they are printing through the discharge printing method and are planning to bring digital printing machines and equipment in the future.

Due to low order on digital printing, they are taking time to set this, he informed. At first, their printing was only for woven fabric, whose production was much less.

But for the past 3 years, Unifill has been printing 500 tons of knit fabric in a month and 3.5 million meters for woven fabric.

brands-Unifill-working

Need online presence

Bangladesh exports RMG mostly to the EU and the U.S.A. Over the years expanding the export markets has seen very little light. Due to the recent shrinkage of the global apparel market, Bangladeshi apparel manufacturers are visiting new markets and participating in different fairs to open up new markets.

However, globally the apparel industry is witnessing a shift towards online business rather than physical stores. That is why online platforms are getting bigger every year.

Sakhawat Hossain said, “Bangladesh apparel manufacturers lack seriously in online presence. It is high-time for RMG manufacturers to integrate their products with established online platforms or establishing their own presence online.”

Fabric innovation

In the fabric production segment China is leading in terms of fast lead time, innovation, etc. but Unifill Group snatched a mammoth 2 million meters of woven fabric order from China by a French buyer. Usually, China secures this type of big order.

Though Unifill placed price left very little room for profit, still to show the buyer that they are capable of doing orders of such quantity with maintaining requirements.

He said, “French buyer was so happy that they said to do the 4 million meters fabric order from Unifill in future instead of China. this is how we at Unifill take impossible challenges of competing with Chinese work efficiency – which is 75%, lead time, and delivery.”

“Unifill is one the pioneer apparel factory in Bangladesh to export fabrics in Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Turkey.”

M. Sakhawat Hossain. Director, Unifill Group

Sakhawat Hossain added, “Unifill is one the pioneer apparel factory in Bangladesh to export fabrics in Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Turkey.”

Unifill has a strong and experienced R&D team to ensure the quality of its fabrics. The experience of the team gives them ultra-edge, as whenever new challenges and difficulties arose, instead of new investment the team solves it.

Unifill’s fashion house in London

Unifill has a fashion house in London to understand and deliver the latest trends and fashion.

The world is witnessing an immense transformation as the consumers are moving from cheap knitwear apparel products to value-added sportswear and manmade-synthetic fiber-based fashion products. Also, consumers now value garments with speed, precision, traceability and adaptability over bulk.

Sakhawat Hossain said, “Globally instead of cotton made garments, polyester, stretch fabric, synthetic activewear, cotton and polyester blended fabrics are becoming more popular. The Chinese garments industry is developing new blends every day. Bangladeshi garments factories are way behind in this.”

“To cover this gap there is no other way than to invest in R&D, having own design houses to develop and deliver value-added fabrics to compete and sustain in the global apparel business.”

“We will soon go for synthetic fabric production in knit segment to capture this market share,” Sakhawat Hossain added.

Quality designer is key to attract buyers attention

The garment sector is suffering from a lack of quality designers and fabric specialists. To solve this challenge all the textile universities and public universities need to establish a design-related course section to fill up this gap.

The textile and apparel industry is the lifeline of Bangladesh’s economy and the backward linkage sector is the backbone of this. A quality designer, R&D expert can do wonders in developing value-added fabrics.

The University of Dhaka should have a department about the Fashion and Designing department where students will learn about RMG. Mr.Sakhawat intends to stress on this issue with the relevant Govt. authorities and also with the BGMEA President Rubana Huq.

He said the new generation needs to work hard for the textile sector. At present, to uphold the textile sector of the country, we have to study about RMG and technical textiles and invest in Human Resource Development.

Human capital transformation

Human capital transformation is a paramount issue in any industry. It is one of the biggest concerns of the Bangladesh textile and apparel industry also – workers’ efficiency is only 35% here.

A quality mid-level can increase Bangladesh’s readymade garment (RMG) prospect immensely. Bangladesh’s government, BGMEA and other related bodies should come forward to make efficient quality mid-level.

Textile-Today-with Chairman-Director-Unifill-Group
Figure 3: Team Textile Today with Chairman and Director of Unifill Group.

Instead of giving a huge sum of money to European designers, our designers can develop and produce world-class designs. It will also save a big amount of foreign currency drainage. Unifill Group invested millions yearly in this regard. Round the year all the departments go through the training programs.

Standard operating procedure

Standard operating procedure in any organization is a vital issue to run the business smoothly. Unifill ensures a top-notch system for the smooth running of all the operations.

“In such a big group it is almost impossible to sit individually and solve each and every issue as an owner. Rather due to an efficient system every morning I get all the summaries in my laptop thanks to our effective organizational operating procedure,” Sakhawat Hossain.

Environmental Commitment

Unifill Group is committed to preserving a sustainable and pollution-free environment. They have so far invested substantially to build a modern and functional Effluent treatment Plant (ETP), with 500 cubic meters (discharging treated water) capacity per day in order to establish themselves as a compliance factory.

Through this ETP they are maintaining tolerable Ph, COD, BOD level according to local & global legislation which reflects Unifill Group’s commitment towards preserving a pollutionfree, greener and sustainable environment.

Unifill uses only AZO-free dyes and committed to ensuring a healthy and eco-friendly environment. Out of its commitment to environmental sustainability and welfare of the cotton farmers, Unifill group only sources BCI (Best Cotton Initiative) cotton for the fabric. Unifill group also sources recycled yearns as and when required.

Employee welfare

Unifill group is a firm believer in employee welfare and is an advocate of a healthy workforce. Unifill group provides complete healthcare services which include medical consultation, diagnosis, medication and life insurance.

They also distribute subsidized rice to their employees. Unifill Group put a strong emphasis on education and training programs. Every year different training programs on skill development are organized by Unifill Group to boost up the efficiency.

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

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