Up until February of this year, Ventura Leatherware Manufacturing (BD) Limited based out of the Uttara Export Processing Zone was on top of the world.
The country's top leather handbag exporter was sending out 250 thousand pieces of leather products every month - including ladies handbag and wallets - to far-flung countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, China and countries under the European Union.
Annually, Ventura exported products worth more than $90 million, with the US accounting for nearly 65 percent of it.
And then Covid-19 hit.
Several of their export orders got cancelled and the company was forced to lay off all of its 4,300 staff.
But Ventura was not going to leave their employees in a lurch.
The company authorities had been keenly tracking developments in China since the start of the year and by February had already initiated temperature screening at the gates and free mask for all staff. Before they were laid off, all workers received training in health safety.
Earlier last year in October, Ventura launched a 16-month health programme for all female staff, particularly those from rural areas.
Under that programme, the female workers received training on nutrition, personal hygiene, waterborne diseases, menstrual health, family planning, preventing sexually transmitted infections, and serious illness such as malaria, dengue fever, HIV, AIDS, and reproductive cancers.
During the shutdown, the company authorities used the programme as a measure through which they kept regular communication with their staff and keep their motivation up.
Shahjalal Manik, an employee at Ventura, said, "A sense of insecurity grew within us due to the lay-off. But the company officers maintained communication with us over phone. That was a relief."
But Ventura authorities, who refer to their workforce as 'team members', did not deprive even the new recruits of the lay-off benefits, although, the company could do otherwise in accordance with the labour law.
All the team members received their basic salary of 45 days and house rent.
The leather exporter revoked the lay off on June 1. According to Ventura officials, all the workforce have joined their work in full-fledged operation.
Before reopening, Ventura officials conducted a thorough 'telephone-screening' to investigate whether the team members, individually, are prone to COVID-19 infection. Since 99 percent of Ventura's 4,300 team members are local, the screening was a requisite.
"On 1 June, we resumed production with all of our 4,300 members," Syed Atiqul Islam, Ventura's Head of Human Capital Management said on June 17.
After the factories resume operation, Ventura strengthened its health safety measures.
"All the expatriate staff members had been maintaining a 14-day quarantine before joining their work. Now, every person entering the factory premises have to go through proper sterilization with disinfectant solution. We have arranged outdoor washing facilities and rearranged the production units so that team members can work maintaining social distancing," Atiq said.
"We are doing all this because we consider our team members as human capital, not human resource. It is our obligation that we not only invest capital money, but also help make life better for the team members."
Every day, all the team members, irrespective of their position in the factory, have to do physical exercises together and clean their equipment twice.
Malik Ma, Chief Operating Officer of Ventura, told The Business Standard, "We are doing all this because, we consider our team members as human capital, not human resource. It is our obligation that we not only invest capital money, but also help make life better for the team members."
Starting its journey at Uttara EPZ in 2012 as a leather product manufacturing training centre with only 70 members, Ventura now employs more than four thousand locals from Nilphamari.
Malik Ma, satisfied with the performance of his team members and their dedication and modesty, said that Ventura wants to create ownership among its working staff.
Every month, Ventura invites 10 best workers' family members to visit the factory premises in a motivational programme.
"If they [team members and their family members] feel that they own the factory, they will work with much more dedication," Malik Ma said.