Kyaw Sein Thay (Dolly) is one of the most successful professionals in the Bangladesh apparel industry with an enormous experience of 20 years in merchandising and marketing. She completed her Master of Business Administration from Victoria University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia.
Formerly she worked at MGF Sourcing Far East Ltd (Dhaka, Bangladesh) as Director of Merchandising. She also worked at Coolcat, PVH and Li & Fung (BD) Ltd in her longtime merchandising career.
In a recent conversation with Textile Today, she shared her success story and showed the path to achieve competence in professional life.
Textile Today: Why have you chosen your career in merchandising 20 years back when any graduates never think to build a career in the apparel industry?
Kyaw Sein Thay: My elder sister was in Li & Fung Limited and it was totally her motivation that I came in this sector. She inspired me, and I found the apparel sector to be the stair of the opportunity to build a long-time career. Being a young lady, I was also excited to travel to a foreign country and to work people of a different nationality. Finally, I established my career in merchandising and now I believe I am successful.
Textile Today: Being a woman did you receive any privileges in your career?
Kyaw Sein Thay: In my profession, I never received any privilege to be a woman but socially I received help and support from all my male colleagues. But when comes the question of competency and promotion in terms of performance I had to prove my ability.
Textile Today: What social obligation you faced in your long-time career path?
Kyaw Sein Thay: When I started a career that time our social norms were not favorable for a female to work in the garment industry. It was a common belief in the society that female who is working in the buying house or in the garment industry they are not good.
A girl who is working with foreigners or going to abroad alone for a business trip was treated badly. We were in the social taboo 20 years ago but the present situation is improving and now many females are working in the buying house as well as in the garment industry.
Textile Today: Do you think corporate quota in the workplace for the female employee can make them more capable?
Kyaw Sein Thay: I think girls should not have to take privilege from corporate quota rather work hard and gather knowledge so that they can stand on their own feet and prove competency. In this case, the society also has to change the attitude that girls are taking privilege in the corporate job rather come forward to build their capacity and reduce dependency.
Textile Today: You are from the non-textile background and also a female professional. So, how could you manage to be sound technically in merchandising?
Kyaw Sein Thay: The people those were sound technically during my early career were not much in quantity. So to upgrade technical knowledge or to understand the difficult technical process was really not easy.
But I was quite lucky to receive guidance and knowledge from my bosses who were Sri Lankan nationalist during my staying at Li & Fung. They helped me in every possible way to improve my knowledge and experiences.
But my learning was not confined in the office room only rather I tried to broaden my knowledge up to practical ground of industry. In my early career mostly 1st five years, I never left any opportunity to visit industry and always try to discover the unknown technical process.
Textile Today: It is said that Bangladeshi apparel professionals are not capable enough, So many foreign experts are engaged in the country’s apparel industry. How can Bangladeshi apparel professionals improve their professional expertise?
Kyaw Sein Thay: We have to remove the barrier between education and the industry. All the technical institute has to take consolidate the program to create more technical experts. Selecting people to give expert training and gradually employ them in the industry to take over the most responsible job can be an easy way to improve the situation.
According to a statistic, there are at least six lac foreigners are working in Bangladesh and nearly 10 billion USD is going to derange from the sector. We can reduce the quantity by expertise training from the local people at least to 5% by year.
Textile Today: Some young people, mostly females are working in the overseas buyer’s office those are playing important role in making a decision and running the business but most of the young generation in our country they are not much capable to play the same role. What is your opinion?
Kyaw Sein Thay: Young professionals can play their power and domination in the developed country even though they are below age 25. But in the same age, most of the young people in our country are not able to play the same role because of two reasons, one is a lake of root cause analysis and the second is not to think strategically.
Before any professional meeting root cause analysis is important as well as keeping all the strategic data. The root cause analysis is to gather various information on the coming question and to keep answer ready to drive a successful business meeting. The young professionals should also understand how to derive a business meeting as well as to run it up to the successful end.
Textile Today: Bangladeshi garment manufacturers are saying in the context of fair price buyers are not ready to pay, though all the demands to improve workplace safety and upgrade wages already implemented. What is your opinion?
Kyaw Sein Thay: Bangladesh is the 2nd largest garment exporter after China but we are not in a good position for negotiation. Negotiation can be effective and successful when you will know your position to the counterpart. If they are not ready to listen to your word or if you are not important enough to them you will never win in the negotiation.
We see Vietnam is potentially competing with Bangladesh in the American market, and they will supersede us by next year and has taken 80 billion export target by 2025. The production efficiency is now more than 77% in the garment manufacturing unit in Vietnam.
On the contrary Bangladesh position is, height level of wastage in production. Even some factories are not able to give proper inventory over the wastage quantity also.
We must have to understand all the wastage is our money. Being a country of the highest wastage, the lower rate of efficiency in production how do we ask the buyer for the higher price?
If Vietnam or Sri Lanka can offer a competitive price on their best capability and efficiency how do we ask the better price without improving the above area. If the factory says the buyer is not ready to pay more for the wages hike that means factory does not have the tools to negotiate with the buyers.