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Efficient sourcing, data analyzing and shorter lead time will be the game changer for BD apparel

To be able to analyze data in any dimension is a key that could help businesses to become more customer-centric, remain profitable and position themselves better in times of uncertainty

Fakir Rafsanuzzaman joined Fakir Apparels Ltd. as a Director in 2019. As a young entrepreneur, he has the vision to take the apparel manufacturing company to new heights.

Recently with Textile Today, he shared his formula with the textile and apparel community to show the general RMG manufacturing industry in Bangladesh that they can change the dynamics and become a leading apparel manufacturing country.

Fakir-Rafsanuz-Zaman-Fakir-Apparels-Ltd
Figure: Fakir Rafsanuzzaman, Director, Fakir Apparels Ltd.

Textile Today: Normally young generation entrepreneurs are exceptionally visionary. What vision and passion you are driving and implementing in Fakir?

Rafsan: I have joined Fakir in 2019 after completing my studies from the UK. With my brother and sister, we overhauled our company with a new vision and mission; that is to become the top multi-product supplier in Bangladesh to leading apparel brands around the world. We explored and have implemented new and appropriate strategies to align ourselves with the long-term goal for the company.

Moreover, we have restructured and synchronized all of our units and set targets accordingly that are in line with the vision; this enables us to adopt a holistic approach to business management from the top down.

We are developing methods to systematically assess, evaluate and benchmark our internal processes as well as performance to truly become a process-driven and sustainable organization that is also customer and quality-centric. I believe that this is the first step to maximize efficiency, fuel growth and stay profitable in such an ever-competitive industry.

As an entrepreneur and a member of management, believing and internalizing the company’s vision and mission so it is embedded in every member of the team as their own is the key to achieving collective results.

Textile Today: In the challenging times of COVID-19, how did Fakir approach and handled the untested water?

Rafsan: “Thinking outside of the box” is the way you can come out on top in such an uncertain and ever-demanding global marketplace. This is also what I try to promote around my team members, to ‘think outside of the box,’ to get out of their comfort zone and redefine conventional job roles and adopt multiple ones that build on pre-existing skills-sets.

Under the current circumstances, the world and apparel brands keep constant pressure on manufacturers to be more and more sustainable. It has become a necessity to not only move forward but sustain in the business and the world.

As a result, we have also adopted several UNSDGs as a part of our sustainability strategy to tackle real-world industrial problems and take accountability for our actions.

Manufacturers are already proactively leveraging top-notch processes, cutting down wastages and integrating material-optimization processes, green energy and other initiatives to ensure nearly a closed-loop value chain.

COVID-19 had earlier in the year put the entire industry in unprecedented crisis with order cancellations and rescheduling. Although this had initially posed massive consequences, support from the government and an adjustment of our strategy helped us overcome challenges from the first wave of lockdowns.

After that initial shock, we have been in constant communication with buyers regarding any changes that may occur with confirmed orders as well as projections in order to plan the business closely around the customer.

Textile Today: As you have touched on the topic of sustainability, business sustainability is also the backbone for apparel manufacturers which drives the economic wheel running of the country. But in COVID-19 times, the global fashion brands canceled already produced orders, put shipments on hold, canceled or delayed payments, and forced to accept discounts.

Due to this RMG manufacturers, workers and related sectors have suffered greatly. Kindly share with us this horrendous experience.

Rafsan: As mentioned earlier, when brands had moved to cancel orders without negotiations, there was havoc that rippled throughout the RMG manufacturing supply chain. We had to review all our pipeline orders and followed by a series of negotiations, with buyers as well as our suppliers, we managed to minimize the financial and social impact of the first series of lockdowns.

I believe data management will be the key to overcome critical modern-day challenges. Being able to gather and organize data in real-time across the organization – from fiber to shipment – can offer better efficiency and visibility to make well-informed decisions.

At the time as our ethical responsibility, our 10,000+ employees were also assured of their pay during the time as well as bonuses in full and on time.

Shortly, I believe data management will be the key to overcome critical modern-day challenges. Being able to gather and organize data in real-time across the organization – from fiber to shipment – can offer better efficiency and visibility to make well-informed decisions. To be able to analyze data in any dimension is a key that could help businesses to become more customer-centric, remain profitable and position themselves better in times of uncertainty.

Textile Today: Amid the US-China trade war and China’s moving to higher-end product manufacturing, the apparel business is shifting out of China. Giving Bangladesh a golden opportunity to grasp more share of apparel manufacturing.

But we are still mostly producing basic RMG products. So, in the recent future, what type of high-end functional apparel Bangladesh should focus on?

Rafsan-COVID-19 had a remarkable impact on typical fast fashion culture. Consumers are now conscious buyers; however, lockdowns may continue to disrupt consumer buying trends in the near future. The demand for value-added products from Bangladesh is a growing avenue, where buyers are looking for uncompromised quality over quantity.

It is also evident that buyers are now considering alternative sourcing destinations for different product categories and strategic suppliers outside China – a great opportunity for the industry to evolve.

Furthermore, it is known that the growing population of millennials and young adults also gain more value from real-life experiences, such as part-taking in outdoor activities/traveling/sports that require functional clothing but also can be worn for leisure.

People, in general, are also more health-conscious (more so after COVID-19) and it is also evident that functional/athletic clothing is more appealing, comfortable and convenient for the younger consensus.

These kinds of value-added clothing is also more sustainable as the life cycle of such products offers longevity as opposed to cotton-based basic products. The challenges associated with those product categories are vastly critical as well in terms of quality assurance and skill.

Textile Today:  What sort of capacity and mindset are imminent for our apparel manufacturers to take this opportunity?

Rafsan: Those who already have woven units have the pre-existing setup and capabilities to take advantage of the currently growing avenue, as buyers of this category look to diversify their sourcing destinations.

However, given the pandemic, demand for certain product categories may yield a stronger response from the market than others – this is where manufacturers must proactively decide what avenues they are in the position to explore.

Apparel manufacturers need to become customer-centric. Focus on quality and lead time optimization is key to create an edge. It is also important to close the gap between operations and buyers by streamlining the flow of information.

Pin-pointing customer demands supported by market analysis, and then channeling R&D focus on those high impact areas can enhance supplier efficiency and performance – something that will be crucial in retaining and growing the business to new heights.

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