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Innovative mentorship can lead the industry towards long-term success

Raisa Hassan, Director, of Northern Tosrifa Group (NTG) is among the newest generation leader who has joined the Bangladesh apparel industry to add innovative and creative leadership. She did graduation from Michigan State University, USA. She joined the country’s top-notch readymade garment (RMG) giants five years back. Since then, Raisa Hassan has blended into the country’s massive labor-intensive apparel industry. From taking leadership of small projects in her initial phases – she quickly climbed up the ladder to become a Director in Northern Tosrifa with her dynamic and innovative skills.

Raisa Hasan
Figure 1: Raisa Hassan, Director, of Northern Tosrifa Group (NTG).

Northern Tosrifa Group is one of the leading RMG giants of Bangladesh, consisting of knitting, dyeing, fabric finishing units, and several garment manufacturing units. It has been serving globally leading fashion apparel brands for the last 32 years.

Recently, in a conversation with Textile Today Raisa Hassan shared NTG’s corporate strategy, prospects and possibility of Corporate Management in Bangladesh, and the importance of innovative mentorship. Here is the core discussion for the readers.

Textile Today: What motivated you to come into the textile and apparel trade? Please share your journey.

Raisa Hassan: After graduating and working in the states for a bit I decided to come back and work on a few small projects. What lured me in was the amount I got to learn in the first few months, the people and this large impactful industry that has so much to offer

In the beginning, there was a big learning curve – as there was a big gap between what we study and what we see in the industry and nothing like that can be taught in academia – overcoming that was the biggest challenge.

Understanding, what to do, when to do it, where to do, getting familiarized with the psychology of the work force,  the buyers and  the market were my priorities. Understanding this has helped me thus far progress and explore different practices. There is always more to understand and explore and that challenge is a driving factor in my progress.

In terms of motivation, honestly saying, the Bangladesh garment industry’s multifaceted challenges have lured me in. In the beginning, I joined to manage small projects but quickly I was drawn into this massive people-centric sector – working here is a massive challenge for a new leader, at the same time, it is immensely rewarding. As managing, influencing, and motivating such a huge workforce is a gigantic task. A small decision makes a colossal transformation in the business and the workforce. Overall, these things keeps me motivated to be a part of NTG.

Textile Today: The labor-intensive industry requires skilled manpower from workers to mid and top-level employees. How do you evaluate Bangladesh’s workers’ and professionals’ skills?  Are they competitive comparing to our competitor countries?

Raisa Hassan: I will put our workforce and professionals’ skills in a different perspective. First of all, I will not go in comparison, rather, I am a strong believer in nurturing different talents in a different way. We need the right tool to train them. As Bangladesh’s workforce psychological mindset is unique than that of other manufacturing countries’ workforce mindset. As part of upskilling them, like I said earlier, understanding their psychology and using that to create proper training tools is instrumental and the responsibility of this should be shared through our leaders, be it mid-level management or  direct supervisor the effort to understand and develop should be multi-faceted. Effective planning and execution with proper motivation is the ultimate challenge of our apparel industry leaders.

Our big workforce is one of our key strengths and their never-ending dedication, grit, eagerness, hunger for growth and impressive learning curve are keeping the RMG industry moving forward.

Innovative mentorship can lead the industry towards long-term success
Figure 2: Branding the sector to our local talents in other leading public and private universities is priceless to attract more capable workforce in our textile and RMG industry.

Textile Today: Please share us NTG’s corporate strategy to recruit and develop Management Trainee in the company’s Corporate Human Resource Development Team.

Raisa Hassan: In the last 5 years, we have developed NTG’s corporate strategy. When I joined here, I had very different idea about corporate strategy. But it took me a while to understand that the employees stay in an organization due to good motivating mentors under the right environment. Management trainees or fresh graduates are often like ‘blank slates’ they are open to learning and absorbing everything and they need good mentors to be motivated and thrive.

To develop this culture support from mid-level management is the key. For the last few years, we are focusing on building those mentorship in NTG to grow the learning culture in the organization. Our HR team is works really hard to find the right people for the right place, but works even harder to follow-up and ensure they are getting effective learning as soon as they join.  This can be through rotations, evaluations, mandatory trainings and testing. NTG has started to build a thriving environment to collaborate and grow.

In terms of prospect and possibility of Corporate Management in the country, I will say that is getting redefined and restructured. In past, Bangladesh’s company sizes were not that big and every decision use to come from top management. But as the companies are growing, the decision making is getting distributed in the whole structure. Managers in the industries are now getting involved in decision making to certain extent – especially in the textile and apparel industry.  Slowly it is becoming a necessity to distribute responsibility, accountability and to some extent power and decision-making at different levels of the corporate hierarchy.

Textile Today: How are you appealing talented students from leading universities to make their career in apparel industry?

Raisa Hassan: Initially when I started working at NTG, I had started to notice that a lot of students from universities that are not RMG focused don’t have information on the different areas or work this gigantic industry has to offer. This was an area we wanted to explore, so from time to time we reach out to the different private and public universities to do career fairs and other activities to spread information about the opportunities in RMG.  For example, a few years back, NTG arranged a seminar in NSU and we got huge positive response from the general students. This shows that, branding the sector to our local talents in other leading public and private universities is priceless to attract more capable workforce in our textile and RMG industry.

Textile Today: Please share us the importance of on job learning or continuous learning.

Raisa Hassan: The textile and apparel industry is constantly evolving and transforming. So, as we all are learning continuously. There is no end to it. Still, there is a tendency of slowdown of learning or become stagnant happens at a certain period of time to promote continuous learning we try to not only offer training at all levels but our open door policy allows even our board to continuously recommend reading material or workshops or even short videos to expand the knowledge of our workforce. We also engage globally leading training institutes, experts and platforms to keep ourselves on top.

At NTG, we always keep this culture of learning running to keep our workforce top-notch efficient.

Innovative mentorship can lead the industry towards long-term success
Figure 3: NTG proudly fosters a practice of innovation and introducing updated technologies, this allows us to often spearhead innovative techniques that are cutting edge in sustainability and efficiency.

Textile Today: We know NTG has been working with different innovative and updated technologies. NTG is also very successfully overcoming the challenges. How do you see the journey? 

Raisa Hassan: NTG proudly fosters a practice of innovation and introducing updated technologies, this allows us to often spearhead innovative techniques that are cutting edge in sustainability and efficiency. Something that we have learned through our practices of innovation is to keep driving, because often in the journey of innovation there are periods of low motivation and stagnant progress, but it is important to keep working towards the goals because the results are usually extremely rewarding.

For instance, we are one of the first companies in Bangladesh to bring Cold Pad Batch dyeing or CPB dyeing. Bring this new technology, learning and marketing it with our existing workforce was a huge challenge. A challenge that our team worked tirelessly to overcome, they had gone abroad to see best practices, experimented and innovated new techniques to efficiently adapt to the new system. Now, our LEED platinum certified dye is doing ground breaking work in utilizing the best of CPB dyeing. Besides saving water and consuming less energy, and chemicals – at present with CPB dyeing we can also dye high GSM garments more seamlessly. And we are able to proudly convey this capability to our buyers – which is a value-addition and very few apparel manufacturers can offer.

Textile Today: Textile Today has been working to transform human capital, also we are operating several innovation projects in different textile and apparel factories. This year we set out target to disseminate an innovation culture throughout the industry as the industry can attain competitiveness through innovativeness. How do you evaluate our initiatives?

Raisa Hassan: I find Textile Today’s work amazing – as an ‘Innovation Hub’ it is giving the industry and academia the scopes to take innovative ideas and growing, as well as, implementing it in the most practical manner. Balancing, fine tuning and bridging the gap between technical knowledge and practicality. Becoming a flagbearer of innovation culture is really appreciating and hard work in the textile and apparel industry. Textile Today’s innovation projects are phenomenal in the industry and at present it is a reference point.

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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