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Kutumbita – empowering non-desk workforce

The challenges

Most of the workers in the Ready-Made Garments (RMG) sector of Bangladesh are non-desk employees. Thus, it is not always easy to bring this workforce on the same platform under the same communication network. In this regard, SQ Group has developed a Bangla mobile application for their workers named Kutumbita.

Figure 1: Workers are connected and getting benefits of tehnology.
Figure 1: Workers are connected and getting benefits of tehnology.

Kutumbita is a mobile tele-phonic internal communication platform, which is all about the workers and employees engagement and communications. It aims to empower an entire workforce to interact, share and collaborate no matter where they are and what they do. The branding of the application is centred on its name ‘Kutumbita’, ‘Connection’, ‘Kin’ or ‘Kinship’ in Bangla.

To start with, this factory immensely felt that the basic knowledge of using this mobile application is needed because if workers are not aware of how to use it then the purpose will not be served. Thus, they were looking for the professional support. Since this is an application targeting the shop floor worker, the primary challenge was the availability of the smart phone among the target group because most of our associates were bar phone user.

Considering this fact we conducted a survey to find out their average monthly mobile bill. Based on the findings we started exploring a telecom partner who can come up with a bundle pack (android handset + Talk time + Data) equivalent to the average monthly mobile spending of our associates.  Finally Robi came up with the most competitive bundle offer within the average monthly mobile expenditure of our associates.

Since most of the shop floor workers are technologically challenged, initially it was a bit difficult for us to share the technical knowledge of the mobile devices and the kutumbita application with all of our associates and it was also difficult for them to adopt smart phone and use the application. However, our all-out effort with weekly training programs and engagement activities help them to adopt this positive change with a short span of time.

The initiative

SQ Group, in partnership with Robi Axiata Limited, has already provided 3,500 WE Brand smart phones to their workforce (both workers and employees) who want to voluntarily purchase these phones through a convenient instalment scheme.

Key features of the mobile application interface of Kutumbita:

Voice (Opinion, Grievances and Civic):

The Voice interface of the Kutumbita application enables users to have their opinions heard by weighing in corporate polls, posting grievances and raising civic issues to the management. Such as all workers of SQ Group can get access to a digital grievance management tool through which they can raise any kind of grievances without having any fear or hesitation. The grievance notification directly goes to the Head of Human Resources and Kutumbita admin. The application can handle the grievance  quickly and effectively . The grievances that have been received including unnecessary hawkers causing road blockade in front of the factory gate during lunch break, air pollution at the factory, and inappropriate aisle marking at the production floor etc.

Kutumbita has also become a platform for workers to share their opinions through polls – such as “Do you feel there is gender based salary discrimination in our company?” The application has become a medium by which management can circulate any necessary news, conduct surveys and get instant feedback.

Advice:

The Advice interface of the application is related to rights, health and safety. Advice acts as an easily accessible handbook of workers’ rights and responsibilities, fire and safety regulations, health and hygiene practices.

SQ Group wants to empower its workers by letting them know about their rights. Keeping that notion in mind, it circulates the Bangladesh Labour Law through the application.

Works (leave, salary and alerts):

The Works interface of the application refines routine tasks by simplifying the leave application process. In many cases it has been evident that, if a worker gets sick and not being able to come to the office on that day, it is considered as an absent day, since he/she is unable to inform about the sickness at the right time. However, by using this application, if someone gets sick or needs a leave for emergency basis, he/she can apply the leave without coming to the office on that very day. The worker just needs to submit a leave application through the device. The Works interface also plans to include a payroll management and tracking process for individual’s salaries and bank statements in the future.

The success

It is easy to use in the native language of Bangladesh, which supports to serve the purpose of getting the benefits, such as engaged and satisfied workforce as well as efficient management.

Lessons learned

Throughout the implementation it has been evident that with proper approach we can change workers’ mind-sets towards new technological inclusion at any level of an apparel manufacturing organisation, which actually help the factory management to ensure an engaged workforce and allows the shop-floor associates to become more empowered.

Way forward

SQ Group has a roll out plan to reach all of their 13,000 workers and employees for the use of the Kutumbita mobile application. This factory would like to collaborate with regulatory bodies, brands, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and other agencies to evolve this application as a common product for other interested factories for wider uptake in the sector as well. In future we would like to explore the opportunity to bring smart phone producers like Samsung, Huawei, mi, etc. as an implementation partner so that they offer handset at reduced price with monthly EMI facility.  In terms of the kutumbita application feature, in the next version we are trying to make it more user-friendly.

About SQ Group

SQ Group is one of the leading garment manufacturing companies of Bangladesh. Approx. 13,000 workers are currently working here.

About PSES

Promotion of Social and Environmental Standards in the Industry (PSES) is a joint project of the governments of Bangladesh and Germany, implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, which works on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), in partnership with the Bangladesh Government. The project is supporting Bangladesh’s garment, textile and leather sectors to increase compliance with national labour and environment laws and international standards to fulfill the commitment towards an inclusive workforce. PSES promotes best practices from the RMG industry, to raise awareness and encourage industrial players to replicate similar initiatives in the areas of social and environmental standards as well as inclusive skills development.

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