Bangladesh knit sector is one of the largest knit garments manufacturing industry in the world. The sector is producing top quality knit garments for global fast fashion brands. Like many other sub-segments of the textile and apparel industry, the knit sector in Bangladesh has been suffering from profitability crisis. In recent times, the situation has been worsening with the increasing cost and reducing the price from the buying brands. On 25th April distinguished figures of country’s Knit Sector gathered on a roundtable discussion (RTD) in a Hotel in Dhaka to discuss the challenges of Bangladesh knit sector and suggest way outs.
While presiding over by Engr. Md. Shafiqur Rahman, President, The Institute of Textile Engineers & Technologists Bangladesh (ITET), Engr. Saiful Islam Khan, Managing Director, Essential Clothing LTD. gave the keynote at the RTD and later distinguished industry owners and chief executives discussed on that. The RTD session was sponsored by Divine Group, Auko-Tex Group, and Essential Clothing LTD., where Bangladesh Textile Today was the knowledge partner. This report summarizes the discussions of the session.
Participants in the roundtable discussion program represented about 10 percent of the Bangladesh knit sector by its earnings. The forum is very important not only because of its contribution to the country, this is important also because the participants are influential opinion leaders of the sector. The forum agreed that such knowledge sharing session will help the participating factories and also will help the sector as a whole to understand its challenges and taking out strategies and policies to come out from the challenges.
Bangladesh is one of the strongest knit garment manufacturers in the world considering both capabilities and competitiveness. The country is well known for its quality production at the lowest cost. Bangladesh has been a heaven for producing knit garments for global brands. They are always getting the best deal here, taking out best quality out of the lowest possible money.
In 2016-17, the total export in this sector was $13.76 billion which is approximately 6.5% of the global market share. Bangladesh market share in volume is much higher. The session informed that in 2016 Bangladesh contributed 12% of global t-shirt market.
The country has one of the highest capacities in knit garment manufacturing in the world. Through the last decade, knit factories in Bangladesh increased their capacities in a great pace and today they have become very large volume producers of knit garments.
Impact of the $ 50 billion targets in the unplanned capacity expansion:
To fight back the setbacks of Rana Plaza collapse and Tazreen Fashion fire with a positive goal-setting approach, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA) declared a target of increasing Bangladesh RMG export to $ 50 billion by 2021. The declaration came in December 2013.
To achieve this target, RMG businesses in Bangladesh needed to achieve a consistent 15% yearly growth. But the global fashion market was not growing at the same pace, rather it was shrinking. The country had no alternative but to poach business from its competitors to achieve the target. At that time an in-depth study was required on the competitor’s business model to beat them.
Whereas, apparel makers kept on expanding their capacities on an existing product line which resulted in surplus capacity than market demand particularly on some common products. This launched a fierce internal competition among the factories in Bangladesh. And so customers are taking undue advantages of this situation
Products and its diversification:
With almost all major retailers, Bangladesh has a significant market share in Cotton & Cotton-rich knit products for last 15 years. It was not practical to increase the market share further on those product lines since all customers’ strategy is not to put all eggs into one basket. Now the manufacturers need to identify the products where they have a poor market share and they need to develop know how on those. Most value-added products are in smaller volumes. The session urged that Bangladeshi factories need to master the art of handling small orders efficiently.
The session informed that Debt-Equity ratio is unjustified for many of their projects and so the factories are under pressure with high financial costs. Besides, because of extreme buyer pressure and a load of the unplanned high capacity, factories are keeping a high percentage of negative margin orders which are taking the factories to the dire loss situation. The absence of strategic sales planning and lack of loyalty & technical knowledge among the sales team has been identified as an area to improve a lot for Bangladeshi factories.
Suggestions to counter customer price pressure:
- Share logical open cost break up and actual margin with customer
- Expose the product complexity and all hidden costs in a positive manner
- Present a hypothetical analysis on what would be the impact of meeting customer’s unrealistic target price
- Return the same technique of customers to give the excuse of other departments. ( ex: Accounts dept.) for not being able to meet their unrealistic targets
- Highlight the positive aspects of our business and examples of our good service at the beginning of every costing session
- Address the negative impact of price reduction to customer’s compliance & ethical department. Also, try to incorporate these impacts into your audit CAP wherever possible
- Not become too dependent to one single customer, so we are in a position to bargain
SWOT Analysis of our Knit Sector
- Competitive labor cost
- Robust backward linkage
- Excellent know how
- State-of-the-art facilities
- Loyalty to customers
- GSP facility (other than the USA)
- Lack of design input
- Lack of product variety
- Productivity challenge
- Small runs & fast fashions
- Poor infrastructure
- Unstable power supply
- Higher bank interest
- Increase Market Share by entering to the untapped product group
- Increase business by entering to the untapped market
- Overtake extra business from China
- Unplanned capacity expansion
- Stereotype mentality to stick to the same product group
- Minimum wage & other cost increase
- GSP withdrawal can initiate a massacre
Engr. Shafiq set the tone of the program in his introductory speech. He highlighted that “it’s a huge global market of $ 550 billion and Bangladesh is the second largest RMG exporter in the world with $ 28.6 billion in 2017. And we’re facing lots of challenges internally, also from foreign buyers. One of the main challenges is buyers deducted 13% price, whereas our production cost increased by 15%. Bangladesh is going through a crisis phase. And the election is also in this year. So, we’ll emphasize way outs to overcome present challenges.” Engr. Md. Shafiqur Rahman is the President of ITET and Managing Director of Hams Group.
The keynote speaker Engr. Saiful Islam Khan gave the inauguration holistic presentation with a SWOT analysis of knit sector pointing out that our knit sector is not united to face the challenges. He highlighted that Bangladesh delivers the best in the world out of the money of the buyers. We maintain commitment, which is not that available in the fierce global market. He further added that we have a weakness in product design, don’t have any priority-setting policy, poor infrastructure is affecting us also we’ve productivity challenges. And besides, we don’t concentrate on product variety, Mr. Islam added. He further stressed that we’ve to diversify our products. Also, we can tap into the untapped market. He warned all that sticking to only a few products for the last 40 years and building capacities on those products have become a great threat for the sector. Mr. Islam advised all to keep in mind that we’ll gain the status of a developed country by the UN soon; we’ll lose some benefits we’re getting now.
Engr. Selim Reza, Executive Director, Divine Group said, “Goal of the program is to generate new thought. Find out ideas to overcome the current challenges of the sector. It’s a buyer dominating the market. We’re not even using 40% of our efficiency.” Engr. Salim shared that many companies around him urged him to call for an open forum to discuss the challenges and opportunities of the sector and so he has coordinated the organization of the event. He informed all that based on the feedback of the RTD next course of action will be taken. Engr. Salim Reza is the Senior Vice President of ITET.
Prof. Engr. Mashud Ahmed, Vice-Chancellor, Bangladesh University of Textiles said “we’ve to keep on pursuing to get a better price. Accord and Alliance impose their decisions on us. At first, we should solve our own factory problems. Push the government to deal with the foreign buyers. Also, we’ve to tell the
buyers about the resources we exhausting and environmental disaster we’re creating for their products to gain upper hand in negotiating the price.” He urged the industries to gain control over the textile and apparel value chain. He wondered about the possibility of overcoming the current challenges unless the manufacturers can increase their influence on the value chain. Prof. Ahmed told that Bangladesh apparel industry is stapled by its head and tails by others. Bangladesh doesn’t have its raw materials also don’t have control over the market, so it’s very easy for everybody to exploit the manufacturers. He emphasized on knowledge and training to overcome this. He asked for providing negotiation training to the owners and marketing persons of the apparel industry.
Engr. Md. Shamsuzzaman CIP, Managing Director, Micro Fibre Group said “We’ve to find out from where we can save money. We’re weak in raw power, we’ve to solve it. Our manpower is our strength. In summary, we’ve to be very smart to sustain. We’ve to change our composite culture. Professional excellence is a must for survival. We have a dire crisis of truly capable plant managers who know the pinpoint details of each step of the operation and business.” Engr. Zaman explained the success story of his company Micro Fibre Group. He told that we are not cheap. He told, “We are earning more than 200 million USD per year by producing less than 50 million pieces of garments. Our average cost of per piece garment is more than 4 USD. We have found out our competitive advantage and product group. We are saying ‘no’ to many orders because those we don’t want to do and our capacity is full.” He told that it became only possible by intense analysis and effort to set our competitive advantage and best product range selection which has market demand. We are not competing with neighboring factories for orders; we are bringing a new range of orders from outside. We are unbeatable on efficiency in the world.
Engr. Zaman urged others to study Micro Fiber’s model and said we are very open to sharing the inside stories.
Engr. Zaman added “to counter the recent challenges we’ve to increase our knowledge level. Buyers don’t give all of their orders to us. They maintain a balance. We’ve to reduce dependence on basic products. Rather we’ve to do value-added products. And most importantly, this type of program should happen regularly.”
Engr. Md. Mozaffar Hossain, Managing Director, SIM Group said ”China is self-sufficient but we are not. Also, we’ve to find new markets.” He expressed frustration over the current condition of the industry. He told that we have increased our capacity but don’t have enough orders. We have to explore new markets to bring right orders.
Ehsanul Karim Kaiser, Ex-Executive Director, Esquire Group said “In the past for textile processing pricing was united. But few owners broke the norm and now breaking has become norms. Now we’ve to unite again to solve this problem. He gave the example of one of the top global brands C&A, telling that C&A board has a central strategy to decreases 2% price every year whether our cost is increasing day by day. Buyers most of the time doesn’t give rational look on this. We must do something to solve it.”
Prof. Dr. Engr. Ayub Nabi Khan, Pro Vice-Chancellor, BUFT said “to sustain in this industry we’ve to think if we’ll only stay in T-Shirt. We don’t have any integrated professional movement. Also, identify challenges and need efficient resource planning. He urged all to call upon the government to facilitate necessary support to resolve the issue. He stressed that organization like ITET can play a pivotal role in this.”
Engr. Sayed Farid Ahmmed, Managing Director, Unique Designers Ltd. said, “It’s with buyer and seller. And the buyers don’t know the actual cost. But though merchandisers they squeeze and don’t leave any profit for us. If I can’t manage my production cost, then how’ll I get a price from the buyer? Also, we’ve to develop our efficiency.”
A.L.M. Ziaul Haq, Managing Director, Amazing Fashions LTD. said, “Establishing a decision in BGMEA or BKMEA or in a top-level government position is difficult but we can easily unite among ourselves to solve the price and other various issues. We can form an alliance to do joint negotiation on purchases and sales, for example, this will give greater control to us on the value chain. He further suggested that we can also form an alliance of experts and consultants to solve problems and to get the right decisions.”
Engr. Anwar Hossain, Director, Niagara Textile Ltd. said, “We’re doing the same business for last 40 years. We didn’t think anything on this issue. Pricing has many branches and controlling cost is challenging. We have a huge process loss. We’ve to reduce it. To sustain in this industry we’ve to reduce RFT. To overcome buyers’ challenges we’ve to keep the capacity to switch buyers. Also, produce different types of products. Always we have to keep our products cost-effective and need to find out how we can reduce operating cost.”
Engr. Shawapan Kumar Ghosh, Executive Director, SM Group said, “We’ve to understand buyers motive. Buyers know that soon the wage will increase. And the buyers have planned how to come up with those. And that why they are always telling us to reduce cost in different other areas. However, we also have a forward-looking plan. We need to plan how we increase the price from the buyers.”
Engr. Sumaye Md. Mollik, Sr. General Manager, Universal Yarn Dyeing Ltd. said, “As we’re getting less price in knitting, to sustain we’ve to unite in setting the bottom price at least for the basic products.”
Engr. Ibrahim Molla, Technical Director, Auko-Tex Group said, “We’re responsible for this current situation. We are biting each other’s cake. Market diversification is very important. We’ve to look for new markets.”
Md. Moniruzzaman Badsha, Managing Director, Fiat Fashion Ltd. said, “As wage will increase soon we’ve to think from now to create impact. Also, we’ve to change the labor law. Cause some of it being abused by the workers. Currently, a worker can stay on leave for 7 days without prior notice. Review it, and make it two days.” Engr. Badsha informed that many factories in Bangladesh suffering from worker shortage and severe absenteeism problems. This is causing severe productivity loss.
Md. Shakhawat Hossain, Country Manager of Shelsham Trading co. Ltd. said, “We supply more products than demand. BGMEA and BKMEA failed to play a vital role. We need to go door to door and getting more close to the markets.”
Saiful Islam Shahin, Executive Director, Impress Group said, “Buyers come here bearing in mind to give us 20 cents less. We also have to have proper study and plan what we want to achieve from buyers.” He added that still, the global knit sector can offer great business potentials for Bangladesh companies; we need to properly position us for that.
Shamim Rahman, Director, South West Composite said “We are known for our cheap labor. We’ve to change buyers’ mindset. Also, we need a different approach in pricing. We should fix the cost per product.”
Abul Hossain Sentu, Managing Director, Asialink Apparels (BD) LTD. said, “In the same international fair our different companies give different prices. And the difference is quite high. As generally, both are Bangladesh companies buyers have no reason to pay me high for the same product. And it’s a very sad scenario.”
Md. Monjur Hasan, Director, Meghna Executive Holdings said: “We’ve to strengthen our position globally.”
A. F. M. Touhidul Alam, Executive Director, Silken Sewing Ltd. said, “Our costing is hurting us most, there is no way out without reducing the cost of production”
Tasdiqul Alam, General Manager, Marketing & Merchandising, Knit Asia LTD. said, “we follow others and start a business. Our every point should be preplanned and well thought.”
Anwarul Hossain, General Manager, Alim Knit (BD) LTD., Mondol Group said “We’ve to remove our poor mentality. Also, we are doing competition within us.”
Engr. Md. Shakhawat Hossain Talukder, Secretary-General, ITET said: “we’ve united to solve this.”
Tareq Amin, Founder & CEO, Textile Today said “In this event 20 leading factory key decision makers are present who contributes more than 9.15% of Bangladesh knit sector in terms of revenue. You are the people who carry great influence in this sector. You also can engage many others who are not present today. Global brands are filling about 12% of their knit products from Bangladesh, so they are strongly dependent on us. So, if our mindset is that we’re dependent on them then we’ll always be on the back foot on negotiation point. Although its industries decision that on which ground we’ll do negotiation. But if we know our position that we’re an important player here. We can win the negotiation.”
Engr. Amin said that “it’s true that we’ve made some mistakes and haven’t rationalized our capacity properly. Still, in our current status, there’s a time to take a decision on how to utilize this capacity rationally.”
Mr. Amin added, “And as we make commodity product we can come to a bottom price cause in whole the world, commodity products get sold at bottom price. And ultimately buyers have to take this 12% product from Bangladesh. On that note, if we leaders can take the initiative to set a bottom line and push the industry then it’s definitely possible. Also, we can engage BGMEA and BKMEA to set a bottom price for commodity RMG items we are producing in bulk.”
In the end, Engr. Shafiq added “We’ve to do sector wise programs. Like merchandisers, spinners weaving etc. Then we’ll go to the government.” He expected that such knowledge sharing event will help the sector getting the right strategy in moving forward.
Among others, the RTD was participated by Md. Masudur Rahman, Managing Director of Blue Bird Intl. Ltd., Md. Liaquat Ali Sarder, Executive Director, Sun Tech Energy Ltd., and Engr. Md. Shariful Islam, Managing Director, Auxicolour Bangladesh.