In the latest election of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Md. Imranur Rahman was elected as one of the 27 directors. Imranur–also the Managing Director of LAILA GROUP & Director of STERLING GROUP– set out on a new journey in his life in 2004 at the age of 24-year as a businessman in the Bangladesh apparel sector.
In a recent discussion with Textile Today, he shared the recent challenges of the textile and apparel industry, also his vision and plans to lead the industry forward.
Textile Today: There are many challenges our textile industry facing started before the pandemic and amplified after the pandemic. How will you address the challenges and possible way out as a Director of BGMEA?
Imranur Rahman: Bangladesh textile and RMG is facing multiple challenges and most notably the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic made the situation worse reducing the apparel consumption market worldwide. On top of it, the second wave made it more difficult.
Order cancellations, deferred payments, and illegal discounts put apparel manufacturers in a difficult situation. On top of it, we have made investments with bank loans, and in COVID, entrepreneurs could not pay loans due to the aforementioned reasons.
Our apparel industry directly employs more than 4 million workers. Due to this current situation, many factories shut down resulting in jobless workers who do not have any other income source. We need to get fair product prices from fashion brands to pay our workers fairly.
That is why even in the COVID, we kept the factories open maintaining a strict safety guideline of WHO, BGMEA and the govt. Though it increased our operational costs, we holistically maintained a foolproof safety procedure. As a result, the COVID infection rate in the RMG sector was almost zero.
Another vital aspect is fashion brands and buyers are ordering less as the consumption in the market has decreased. For less amount of order, all the apparel-manufacturing countries are competing making it even more challenging.
Since RMG’s inception in the ’80s, local entrepreneurs have focused on cotton-based products. Globally the cotton-based products price has been reduced. Meaning our ratio of profit reduced greatly. We manufacturers had to pay fully to our suppliers, on the other hand, buyers continuously squeezing prices. Putting manufacturers in an unbreathable situation with no respite in sight.
Simultaneously, we are facing intense price competitiveness with other knit product manufacturing countries.
Local currency value against the US dollar plays a significant role. Our RMG competitor countries also greatly devalued the local currencies against US dollars. Whereas, Bangladesh has not devalued its currency against the dollar.
At the end of the day, buyers will source from the best-offered price with a better working environment and other sustainable measures. So the govt. should look into the matter closely.
Our RMG grew in terms of size, workplace, environmental sustainability and export volume. And now the RMG is a model industry with more than 143 LEED Certified garment factories in Bangladesh already in operation & 500 more awaiting LEED certification.
Keeping workers’ jobs safe and continuing the business is becoming severely difficult for above-mentioned reasons. Considering all these factors, we need policy support from the govt. to sustain the pandemic.
Our Honorable BGMEA President Mr. Faruque Hassan is working tirelessly to come out of this situation with his new Board Members.
Textile Today: As you depicted that as a third-world country, top players of the apparel supply chain always manipulate us. How can we change this situation?
Imranur Rahman: As a nation, we are really warm and welcoming to foreigners. Having said that, we are always soft in bargaining – be it in importing and exporting.
The solution lies in creating a positive image of the country. It is all about positive country branding. On this note, we have made spectacular progress in terms of environmental sustainability, safe workplace, R&D, ethical business practices. Bangladesh has been placed second on a list compiled by supply chain compliance solutions provider Qima comparing the ethical auditing practices of major manufacturing countries.
Here media plays a significant role, as it can publicize the positive best practices of the Bangladesh textile and apparel industry. I want to thank Textile Today for bringing the best practices of our textile industry. Only a positive country image can and will give us better bargaining power.
Textile Today: As a promising young Director of the Board BGMEA and son of the Ex-president – in which area you want to work and emphasize for betterment?
Imranur Rahman: As I said, firstly I want to improve our country’s image. Bangladesh has a huge scope of branding country image to give us a better price bargain. The govt., media, associations, academia – everybody working collectively is the crucial key to make a change.
At the same time, product diversification will be key for getting a better price. Though we are cotton-based garment makers but nowadays our RMG makers are making high-end value-added apparel like outerwear, sportswear, jackets, etc. in parallel with R&D capability, higher efficiency is giving us an edge.
With basic cotton-based products demand going down, we cannot survive by only making basic products. RMG is already at a break-even point and soon we will go into negative growth. Making high-end value-added apparel is the go-to option for us.
An efficient workforce is one of the paramount pillars of the textile and apparel industry. BGMEA has taken the Skills for Employment Investment Program (SEIP). BGMEA signed MOU with SEIP Project under the Ministry of Finance in April 2015. Within 2020, it trained a total of 68,055 trainees of which 42,315 skilled workforces.
From the academic level, BGMEA University of Fashion & Technology (BUFT) is dedicated to the development of human resources for the RMG, textiles and allied sectors of Bangladesh. The university aims to establish itself as a ‘center of excellence for the study, research and development and to serve the nation.
BGMEA board members from the industry are incorporating their experience knowing the demands and the latest technologies, so the university is constantly adopting these. Moreover, BUFT has agreements with 36 international universities. Every year we are sending 50 students to China, Netherlands, Germany, India, UK, etc. for postgraduate and Ph.D. programs. These all are contributing immensely to our graduates.
These will be our top priority. As a leader, we have to think and put our greater industry and country’s wellbeing first. Rather than thinking individually as an entrepreneur, a leader has to think from the macro-level to make a change. That is why I have joined the BGMEA, to make a positive impact as a Director.
And as a country, we are observing positive growth, be it in infrastructure development, roads and highway, enhancing port capacity, power, special economic zones, etc. Eventually, it will uplift our country’s branding.
Textile Today: Demand for woven products in the global market declined–we are observing for few months—how a new dimension can be made in woven products meeting recent trends to boost the sector?
Imranur Rahman: In woven Bangladesh is suffering from less woven product demand in the global market. But we are hopeful that the improved COVID-19 situation will increase the demand and benefit us. Besides, our industry is continuously adding value, which will profit us in the end in the woven sector.
As I said earlier, the RMG industry is working on product diversification, R&D, and investment in high-end machinery that will aid us in grabbing woven orders.
Textile Today: We know the product ranges of Laila Styles Ltd are Casual Trousers, Shorts, Skirts, Denim Trousers, Swim Shorts and Nightwear, etc. How do you see the demand growth of such products globally and Bangladesh is contributing here? Following the demand generated during COVID 19, did you develop any new ranges?
Imranur Rahman: In Laila Styles Ltd, we are also following this trend of upgradation. We are going for higher-end products. In COVID, we are making diversified products in the same line. Thus, we are surviving the pandemic.
Textile Today: How will you forecast future opportunities for the Bangladesh textile and apparel industry?
Imranur Rahman: With COVID-19 on the loose, future forecasting is unpredictable. Globally, countries are observing sudden worsening situations. Therefore, primarily we need a normal situation to work on a long-term plan. On our part, product diversification, R&D, better education, training workers and staff will be our strength. These will give us the strength to withhold our globally leading position.