Faruque Hassan is a visionary leader with his longstanding leadership and capabilities in the Bangladesh apparel industry. He has assisted BGMEA for more than 12 years, presently he has been elected President of BGMEA from the Joint Council in the recent BGM EA elections. Hassan is set to take the lead of the association on April 20 for a two-year term after leading his Sammilita Parishad to a resounding win in the recent two-yearly polls.
Versatile leader Faruque Hassan started his career in the garment industry back in 1982 rose as one of the charismatic leaders who pioneered the readymade garment (RMG) industry in many uncharted territories.
Hassan is the Managing Director of Giant Group, one of the pioneers in textile and readymade garments since the mid-eighties. Recently he shared his visions and agendas as the new BGMEA President with Textile Today. Here is a glimpse of the discussion for the readers.
Textile Today: After 8 long years, the BGMEA election was held and you are moving to take responsibility as the President after being elected from the Joint Council.
Faruque Hassan: First of all, I would like to thank all the elected members of our BGMEA, as well as the voters – roughly 90% voters, turned up – from the bottom of my heart who spontaneously came to the polling station in the COVID-19 situation and voted for their preferred candidates.
As the panel leader, they elected me with the highest number of votes from Dhaka and Chittagong, and 24 out of 35 candidates on our panel were elected.
We will elect the Board of Directors based on the opinions of the selected candidates of BGMEA on Friday 16th April and Tuesday 20th April we will take over the responsibility of steering BGMEA.
I sincerely believe that the new board will be able to tackle all the current and future challenges efficiently and effectively.
Textile Today: You have mentioned the challenges, we know that our textile industry is going through a lot of problems due to the growth of COVID-19, so what are the challenge for you while you are assuming the leadership position of BGMEA?
Faruque Hassan: The first thing I would say is that the globally new COVID-19 infections are increasing. We are now in the 3rd wave which is stronger than the 2nd wave. Posing an unimaginable threat for all including the textile and apparel manufacturing countries.
In light of this scenario, my first job as a President would be to revive our export earnings so that factories operate well, nobody loses jobs, and the economy runs well.
To do so, one of the primary roles will be to bring all the members of our BGMEA together to create a united body.
Side by side, establishing coordination among other related organizations in the garment industry like BKMEA, BTMA, buying house and accessories platforms to make a synchronized body with a unified thinking process, benefiting all at the end of the day. Moving our industry forward and overcome all obstacles we are witnessing in the current volatile global business situation.
Our 2nd challenge will be to regain the export. As in COVID, RMG export declined to $27.94 billion in the last fiscal year from $34.13 billion a year ago as the crisis battered global economies and caused apparel demand to collapse. Besides many buyers demanded unusual deferral payment, which severely affected the local garment business. At the same time, reducing orders of many of our factories has caused many problems.
To address this, I would like to talk to the policymakers of the government, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Commerce, and the banks to ensure that the facilities that we used to get are maintained.
In this crisis time, the garment industry urgently needs constant banking support. For the last year or so, many factories took bank loans to sustain the business. But the situation is not yet recovered fully to pay back the loans. Also, the factory owners are struggling to repay their loans, which we will discuss with the banks and government policymakers. The biggest task will be to allow the factory owners to repay the loans from the bank on time and in advance.
To deal with this, the Bangladesh Bank should give deferral payment facilities to manufacturers so that they can run the business smoothly during the crisis.
If we can survive till 2021 with the proper cooperation of the banks and the government, then by 2022 we will be back to the outside world in a stronger position than our previous position.
The next 3 months would be very crucial for the apparel sector because of the volatile market situation as most of the major export destinations were still in lockdown, which kept the demand for apparel items at a lower level.
We have a big challenge ahead of us because when we leave LDC in 2026, we will not get duty free facility but we will have to build good relations with other countries in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce. We need to work in attaining GSP Plus facilities. And will have to work to go for more bilateral agreements, FTAs.
Textile Today: How do you see the progress of the apparel industry? Could we position it rightly in our market? What would you like to do in your capacity?
Faruque Hassan: Bangladesh RMG has come a long way. Bangladesh’s textile and apparel industry is one of the most sustainable in the world. With more than 500 garment factories in the country have registered themselves for opting for green or environment-friendly production facilities, and these units are proceeding towards ensuring long-term sustainability.
We will continue our efforts to brighten the image of the sector. We will negotiate with international buyers and communities to increase the prices of the garment items exported from Bangladesh.
Exploring new markets is one of our top priorities to steady the business. Here govt’s cash incentives on export receipts should be given with purposes as the effective rate of purposeful incentive was higher than the flat incentive.
And at the same time, we will work on product diversity which will be a big challenge for us. You know that two main raw materials are required in any garment.
The cotton we are doing very well, we would continue to grow in this segment. For manmade products, we need a boost. Many of our companies are trying to increase their product portfolio in manmade. But we are not yet competitive in these products against China or Vietnam. In my capacity, I would work with the government to bring a special 10% export incentive for manmade products. This will help a new material supply chain to develop here.
Textile Today: You have been working to take our textile industry to new markets since 2009. Don’t you see that today these markets have changed a lot?
Faruque Hassan: Yes there are major changes in our new market. I have been working for the new market since 2009. When I stepped down as senior vice president in 2019, we saw a sharp growth in export to the new markets.
For example, in 2009 the market share of Bangladesh in the new market was 6.88% which came to about 27% in 2019 and this percentage has decreased in the last two years but we will work to increase it once again.
We will work on product diversity which will be a big challenge for us. Unfortunately, Bangladesh does not produce any raw materials that are required for garments. neither is produced in Bangladesh. Of which less than 2% of the required cotton is produced where none of the petrochemicals occur in Bangladesh.
Despite such constraints, we have been investing in our industry for several years now to make the necessary raw materials readily available in our country as well as improve all the machines.
In addition to these, we need to create design studios for design development through which we can create value-added products and use new technologies in the industry that will reduce the manual labor of workers and increase productivity as well as enter to digital age very easily. We will be able to maintain our position in time.
I think technology will not reduce overall employment because it will create new scopes.
Textile Today: How would you see the online digital markets?
Faruque Hassan: We know that outlets of many brands in the world have been closed due to COVID or closed due to lockdown but online sales are still on. So in our country too, those who are doing business in this situation are the ones, but we have already entered the digital world online, but it is not that we have been able to do 100%, we have to work more on it.
We need to invest more in increasing our market in the online digital gamut. We will work further on this.
Textile Today: When it is about capacity building, most trade leaders mainly stress academic education. But what can you do on professional on-job learning?
Faruque Hassan: Speaking of professional education, you already know that on-the-job training is going on in the garment industries. When we started the industry, we did not have any experienced people. The workforce in this industry is said to be male and female most of them are new and inexperienced in this sector who have never worked before.
On-the-job training has been going on in our industry from the very beginning but over time it needs to be improved to create more skilled manpower. I think it would be more regulatory to do this with those who have professional trainers.
We will be able to reach our desired goal very quickly, if the professionals who are now with us properly apply efficiency in our factories, time management, and industrial engineering, etc.