Faruque Hassan is the panel leader of Sammilita Parishad for the next Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) election. He is the managing director of Giant Group and former vice-president of the apparel trade body. He is also an honorary consul general for Greece in Bangladesh.
Faruque Hassan recently talked with The Business Standard's Jasim Uddin about various aspects of the RMG industry in Bangladesh, market and product diversification in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the upcoming BGMEA election.
As our RMG's focus started shifting on market diversification, what is the current status?
We have started exploring the new markets since 2009 when the export earnings from the non-traditional market (new market) were only $800 million. According to the data two years ago, export earnings from the non-traditional markets stood at $7 billion.
We have been able to gain a 16% market share in non-traditional countries (new markets) from 7%. However, the growth got slower during the last one and a half years.
We want to explore new destinations in the coming days by utilising my team experience in diversified fields in the apparel sector.
What are the potential countries for Bangladesh to export more apparel products?
Bangladesh has huge potential in several non-traditional destinations like Russia, UAE, Korea, Malaysia, and China.
We have the opportunity to widen our horizon as Bangladesh has been more dependent on five prime products so far.
How do you explore more new markets?
Exploring new markets through only entrepreneurs is not an easy job and requires teamwork with related government ministries.
I have extensive experience working with foreign missions of Bangladesh. I will augment the effort in association with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Finance to grab new markets and innovate new products.
As Honorary Consul General of Greece in Bangladesh, I have some good friends in diplomatic areas that might be a plus point to gear up my job if we are elected.
How can you drive to diversify the product basket?
In my view, Man-Made Fibre (MMF) products can be the game-changer of product diversification as Bangladesh still depends on cotton-based items. We can bring good results with MMF products as it has significant scope for growth.
MMF garments have more than 70% market share in global apparel while Bangladesh exports about 25% MMF based apparels.
We will advocate the government to provide a 10% cash incentive on MMF based apparel export and I believe it will make a difference when it comes to product diversification.
In the election manifesto, you have mentioned working for the extension of the loan repayment period, how it will be materialised?
Due to the second wave of Covid-19, apparel entrepreneurs are in a tight spot over their business. As they cannot repay their loans, we will advocate increasing the loan repayment period from the existing 18 months and reduce the instalment size.
We will also negotiate with the government and banks to give a breathing space for entrepreneurs from this pressure.
AS we know you have chosen the brand tag "Made in Bangladesh with pride" to brand the country after the Rana Plaza tragedy, do you have any concrete plans next if you get elected in the election?
Bangladesh's RMG sector has made significant improvement in terms of all indexes-safety, social and environmental compliance, and best practices.
Apart from that, Bangladesh is home to the largest number of green factories in the world. But we have failed to brand the industry and reap its benefits.
I have experience with the International Apparel Federation (IAF), the world's leading federation for apparel manufacturers, (SME) brands, their associations, and the supporting industry, and I will jointly work with the global platform to brand the sector if selected.
Recently, I have talked with IAF president Han Bekke and he gave his commitment to me that there will be an annual convention organised in Bangladesh next year which will be a great occasion for us to showcase our industry.
It will also be a matter of pride for me if we get elected to serve BGMEA members.
The conventions will be a great event for global supply chain leaders including brands, designers, manufacturers and raw materials suppliers to come together.
You have picked a good number of young, energetic candidates in your panel, what is the reason behind that?
We have a mixed bag of experienced leaders, who have experience working with the BGMEA, some are successful entrepreneurs who have the determination to serve the sector.
Some are young entrepreneurs and second-generation RMG leaders who have a strong educational background and commitment to the industry. I think if we get elected with a full panel, it will be immensely helpful to serve the apparel industry.
We are also committed to restorations of organisational best practices which are currently suspended and continue best practices of the current board to make 'BGMEA for all'.
We believe that it's an organisation for serving members. The election is a process to make leaders more accountable to their members. Without an election, I believe office-bearers would have no commitment for the members.