EPF employs 11,000 workers to manufacture a wide range of hair products including: wigs, hair pieces, braids, and high-end human hair extensions
In a large hall-size production unit of the Evergreen Products Factory (EPF), a group of women twist silky hair on mannequin heads. They form braids in halo, Fulani, crochet, Ghana or cornrow styles.
Carefully, others comb the permed, dyed hair. This is a traditional exhibition of Bangladeshi village women, doing hairdressing for their daughters or sisters during their leisure time in their courtyards.
They also have male companions drawing bunches of unbundled hair through hair hackles clamped to workbenches.
The Evergreen workers, mostly hailing from the impoverished northern villages, have no spare time for volunteer hairdressing. In Uttara Export Processing Zone, Nilphamari, they manufacture hair products for foreign buyers.
According to EPF Chairman Felix Y.C. Chang, Evergreen manufactures three million pieces of hair products monthly.
"Our major export destinations are the United States, European Union countries, South Africa, Japan, and China. Currently, Evergreen is among the top producers in the world," Felix said.
EPF operates on nearly 38,000 square metres of space in the Uttara EPZ. The company employs around 11,000 workers – one-third of the total workforce in this industrial colony.
Given the designs and orders by international buyers, EPF manufactures and sells a wide range of hair products like: wigs, hair pieces, braids, and high-end human hair extensions.
As Halloween celebrations and cosplay culture have become more popular across the world, the EPF deals with a large number of orders for beauty hair products.
The EPF sources raw materials primarily from: China, South Korea, Japan, and India. And Bangladesh will soon be the next source country.
"We import straight hair strands of eight to 20 inches of length. The strands are cut, dyed and permed as required," said EPF's Deputy General Manager Quazi Ferdaus-Ul-Alam.
At first, the workers – using hackles – separate the required size of strands and organise them in bundles that are disinfected. This work is mostly done by male workers.
Then the female workers attach each strand to a base cap – made of a fine-mesh – knotting them with a hair ventilating needle.
"Knotting a wig requires sharp eyes for detail. Female workers aged between 18 and 23 can work better. Manufacturing hair products is actually craftsmanship," said Ferdaus.
There are no ceiling fans in the production units but the air is comfortably cool because there are a number of large exhaust fans (vents) that pass the hot air outside.
Ferdaus accompanied us to go to EPF's next expansion Trillion Gold Limited at Fatejangpur beside the Dhaka-Dinajpur highway.
The under-construction facility – with six factories and a 1,500-tonne water treatment plant on its 30-acres of land – aims to employ 10,000 new workers.
EPF chairman Felix believes that good management is the backbone of Evergreen's success.
Felix, a 54-year old industrialist, is the successor of Chang Chih Lung – who founded the company in Hong Kong 58 years ago.
During a recent visit to Uttara EPZ, a pair of guardian lions' statues at the entrance of EPF caught my attention.
The pair reminded me about the Lion Rock Spirit that is said to be a core value Hong Kong's people pass down from generation to generation.
The spirit portrays how Hong Kong's people have worked hard, collectively, to continue their socio-economic advancement after the Second World War.
Since launching production units in 2010 in the Uttara EPZ, Felix, so far, has invested around Tk1,000 crore in Bangladesh.
He said that he will expand his business if he receives more benefits.
According to data available on the website of the Export Promotion Bureau of Bangladesh, Bangladesh exported $23.02 million's-worth of human hair and wigs in the 2017-18 fiscal year. Ten years ago, human hair and wigs worth $0.81 million were exported.
The official data proves that the million-dollar business is expanding substantially.
Hopefully, Evergreen will lead the business.