It is my utmost appeal to all my small and medium scale garment manufacturers of Bangladesh as well as the buying houses/agencies to put their concentration on Far East Asia and Middle-eastarn countries as the new market opportunities for the near future.
I have been exporting to India successfully for the last 12 years on a quite larger scale. I started with an order of 1,000 PCS worth $3,000 back in 2007-2008. Last year, the garment export value to India crossed $1 billion from Bangladesh. Though this number is not remarkable compared to the overall apparel export figure of Bangladesh, I have brought a lot of Indian buyers in the last 10-12 years.
I was quite successful in convincing many of them to use Bangladesh as a cost-effective and quality full sewing hub as a neighbour country. As India is strong in cotton growing and value-added fabric production, successful collaboration can be a leading factor in exploring a big market of 150 crore customers.
Though the business has slowed down due to the pandemic situation and the new SAFTA rule implemented by the Indian tax department, it will resolve soon. As a huge improvement is needed to take place in our EPB, the mindset of the Indian buyers also needs to be improved in comparison to international trading.
It will take time, but it is not impossible. We, as a successful exporter of the world must not leave any untapped opportunity left behind. We must cope up with the modern changes in customer demand. Customers are more focused on customizable solutions rather than mass production.
I have done export in Indonesia as well. Though they impose a heavy duty on apparel products, the opportunity is there.
The USA, EU are the biggest markets for our garment industry leaders, foreign buying houses and they have no time for exploring a new market. We have around 6,000-7,000 small and medium scale factories that have a capacity of 20-50 to 120-machine setups.
This industrial category can play a vital role if buying houses/foreign agencies can organise them properly. These small/medium scale manufacturing units can be useful production tools for minimum quantity production package buyers all over the world.
It is my strong suggestions/appeal to BGBA (Bangladesh Garment Buying House Association) and BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association) to take the serious initiative to sit and suggest a governmental body for duty-free access in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, which I believe can be turned into a big blessing for small and medium scale factory owners.
This category of the manufacturer can be listed in BGMEA or BKMEA as a B or C category member. If it is not possible to have listed them, BGBA can come forward and take initiative for them. The BGBA can teach, train, monitor them, and prepare them for producing quality full products of small-scale quantities.
As I mentioned at the starting of my article, there are huge untapped potentialities for small-scale orders from Bangladesh as in Bangladesh we always look for mass production and basic products. Potential buyers are unable to reach the small and medium scale manufacturers to place their requirements.
If we can make a database of the small and medium manufacturers, exporters and portrait them in the right manner, we can create a big market for export in the near future which will support the real-time demand of the customers.
All the trading houses and buying agencies can play a major role towards a sustainable garment industry for the next decade. We can use our human resources who are staying abroad to explore markets worldwide and generate sales for the medium scale manufacturers. The government should come up with various promotional initiatives to create a strong market internationally to utilise the small-scale garment manufacturers in a right manner.
All ERC (Export Registration Certificate) and IRC (Import Registration Certificate) holders who are doing business for more than 15 years should be permitted to have bond licenses and use their bond facility to save the small and medium scale manufacturers. If we realise carefully, we will see that a major number of small/medium garment owners came from very root level.
Most of them had a good technical knowledge on apparel production. The major lacking lies in the understanding of the finance and banking system. Understanding buyer requirements and understanding international trade is also something the owners failed to understand.
Trading houses and buying agencies should start working in this area of shortage and make a chemistry between the need of buyers' and manufacturers' and unutilised production space. They should take orders and execute them efficiently and ship them using the bonding facility of their own office. In this way financial risk will be minimised.
Focusing on the small/medium manufacturers will eventually create job opportunities and we can engage the young generation to be more productive implementing their knowledge as they are quite advanced in accessing information worldwide.
If we do research on this small/medium scale industry, we will notice that these factories are copying the products of international brands and shipping them to Thailand, Malaysia and other nearby countries through courier services which is sort of illegal. We can turn this capability into positive resources as worldwide the demand of online shops is rising at a lightning speed.
Everyday new online portals are coming up and customers are also engaged more with this online buying pattern. So, the demand for MOQ products is rising day by day, we just need to utilise our resources in the right manner.
We just need to ensure basic human rights, building safety and other mandatory compliance factors by a monitoring body and if necessary, we can ask for governmental funding support to secure this. We must remember it is not just an industry in our economy, it is that industry which controls the economic movement of the country.
Buyers of the potential countries still need to be mature more to conduct international business. Specifically, Indian buyers don't have the same understanding as European or Canadian buyers. They still treat us as their local vendor. Things will change in the coming time.
We must take the utmost benefit from this opportunity of catering the small order market to be sustainable in near future.
MD Salauddin, The chairman of ASK Apparel & Textiles Sourcing