Rejection from job interviews for more than a year surely frustrated Mohammad Imran Hossain, a fresh graduate from Chattogram's BGMEA Institute of Fashion and Technology. And then came the Covid-19 pandemic.
But Imran did not give up.
He set up a factory of ready-made garment products with two friends – Fuad Ahmed and Mohammad Mahbub, who were in the business – in September, investing Tk30 lakh to produce knit and woven items.
The factory named Max Quality Fashion started with only 30 workers, but the number has now increased to 100. The company has the capacity to produce 30,000 garments a month.
Initially, the trio started working on sub-contracts and local orders through buyers, but now it is moving ahead with the plan to collect direct orders.
"For the first time in November, we received two direct orders," Fuad Ahmed, another director of the company, told The Business Standard.
One is from a buyer from the US – 12,000 pieces of Joker pants, and the other from the Middle East.
"If the order can be successfully shipped, there is a possibility to get orders from the buyer every month. Besides, the work of making 10,000 pieces of night wear for the Middle East is also going on in parallel," said Fuad.
In three months since its inception in September, the company has produced about 1.5 lakh garments worth about Tk18 lakh.
Further, it has orders worth around Tk45 lakh from the US and the Middle East this month.
In a recent visit to the factory, located at A block in Halishahar of the port city, our correspondent found the workers busy on two floors encompassing 4,000 square feet of a commercial building.
The sewing section is on the sixth floor while the cutting and finishing sections are on the seventh floor. The office of the factory is also on the seventh floor. There is a small table and three chairs in one corner of the floor. Imran talked to The Business Standard sitting in the tiny office.
He seems confident now though he is not claiming that he has become successful. He believes that he is moving forward in the right direction.
Asked how the company started, he said, "We wanted to make T-shirts and children's clothes on a small-scale and sell them on the local market in Chattogram. Later, one of us suggested starting the business on a large scale."
"Since he had some experience in this sector, we took the challenge. Our goal was to keep the factory running until at least January. We were determined that we would not close the factory even though we had to incur losses. We are doing well for such a bold step. Our organisation has not seen any losses as yet," he added.
However, their journey was not easy. In the beginning, there was some crisis of capital, but the youths got the support of their families.
Although Imran studied in the field of RMG, he did not have any real life experience. However, the previous experience of his two friends in this sector helped in this case. Fuad and Mahbub were involved in the sector a couple of years ago, but they became unemployed after the pandemic hit.
Imran thinks trust between the three friends is the main capital rather than financial capital. He said that many good initiatives are ruined due to a lack of trust and confidence among partners. The mutual trust and confidence between the three of them has inspired them to take on such a challenge despite the limitations of financial capital.
"Our goal is to transform the factory into a 100% export-oriented organisation ensuring compliance with BGMEA [the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association]. That is why we have taken the issues related to the interests of the workers seriously from the very beginning. We are paying the workers within the stipulated time every month no matter whether the organisation faces losses or makes profit. We want to continue this in the future," said Imran.
Workers at the company said they lost their jobs during the novel coronavirus pandemic and then joined the company two months ago. Though this company is small and the salary is a bit low, they are happy as they get paid on the 10th of every month. Besides, the work environment at the factory is better than that of other organisations, they said.
Jahanara Sultana, a worker of the factory, said, "I used to work for a big company. We did not get salaries regularly. However, I have not faced such a situation here."
Nasir Uddin Chowdhury, former vice-president of BGMEA and president of Chattogram BGMEA Institute of Fashion and Technology, sees the emergence of young entrepreneurs in the garment industry amidst the novel coronavirus pandemic in a positive way.
He told The Business Standard, "We feel very proud of such an initiative taken by the students of our institution. Our main objective is that the students become entrepreneurs rather than run after jobs so that they can generate employment for other people. BGMEA will extend all possible cooperation to ensure proper compliance of the factories, which will be 100% export-oriented."
Tipu Sultan Sikder, president of The Junior Chamber International (JCI) Chattogram Cosmopolitan, said that educated young people are coming forward with new initiatives, which will definitely inspire others.
"We plan to work in coordination with the government and non-governmental bodies to develop the skills of young entrepreneurs in Chattogram," said Tipu.