Oliver Dowden (not his real name) has been a loyal RMG customer for years. Regardless of his loyalty to Bangladeshi garments, he has not worked long-term with a single company.
Why? It is because Dowden looked for better communication, transparency and accountability in his partners, which his Bangladeshi partners could not provide.
It was only in 2017, after 20 years of search, that he finally found what he was looking for in Nitex – a Bangladeshi startup working to simplify the apparel manufacturing journey for the customers, in the words of its co-founder and chairman, Muhammad Hussain Mahdi.
Dowden, now a satisfied customer, has entered a 10-year-long exclusivity agreement with Nitex, which states that all the Bangladeshi businesses his fashion label goes into affiliation with will be through this startup.
Oliver Dowden is among many RMG customers from Europe and the United States who are opting to partner with this emerging startup.
Founded in 2017, Nitex provides an end-to-end supply chain platform to SME apparel brands and individual entrepreneurs, starting from product design to order fulfilment, all the way through to shipping the goods to the warehouses.
In the process, a customer can monitor every aspect of the production. Thanks to this unified value chain, Nitex's customer revenue increases by 20 percent, said the co-founder.
What is Nitex?
A little known startup in town, we asked Hussain Mahdi to elaborate on the idea behind Nitex.
"We allow anyone from anywhere in the world to build their own clothing brand without any upfront cost. That means that if you can sell, we will build the back-end supply chain for you," replied Mahdi.
"If you want to launch a clothing brand, first thing you need is to design a collection of products. Building a collection takes you two to three months, and then finding the manufacturers, which requires travelling to countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam and will at least take three months. Nitex is compressing this entire supply chain of six months into six weeks," Mahdi added.
On the website of Nitex, we found designed products up for sale. Mahdi said that once the customer (fashion brand) picks a certain product, it exclusively belongs to the customer; nobody else will be able to buy it.
After the purchase is confirmed, Nitex takes care of the manufacturing end as well.
"When you buy the product, we place an order for you to one of our partner factories in either Bangladesh, Vietnam or China," Mahdi said.
A tale of two school friends changing RMG purchasing dynamics
Hussain Mahdi and Arifin Hasan, the cofounders of Nitex, are school friends. They parted ways after high school but reunited soon due to their interest in business.
The idea of Nitex occurred to them as Arifin, who has been in the RMG business since 2012, continuously faced challenges while working with buyers and brands.
With a target to solve issues regarding communication and transparency by using technology, Nitex started its journey in 2017.
Between 2017 to 2019, Nitex's operations were limited in Bangladesh. In 2019, they decided to base their headquarters in Singapore as financial transactions were easier there.
With a workforce of 30 people, Nitex is registered in Bangladesh, the US, Singapore and Estonia, while partnering with over 50 factories in Bangladesh and around 10 each in China and Vietnam, respectively.
"Our customers are based both in Europe and the US. But right now, we are mostly focused in Europe," Mahdi said.
Their winning mantra: Communication, transparency and accountability
Immediately after the inception of the idea, the Nitex founder started talking to customers.
Mahdi said that he personally talked to more than 200 customers.
"So, you are working in Bangladesh. Are you satisfied? What major problems do you face working with the factories, buying houses and trading companies in Bangladesh?," they asked the customers.
What they found was surprising; over 90 percent of customers were not satisfied.
"We found some major problems with regards to accountability, communication and transparency. The buyers are always anxious about what is actually happening," said the Nitex co-founder.
"If you send a $100 parcel to the US via DHL, you can track it at every moment. But imagine a fashion brand placing a million-dollar order in Bangladesh? They do not have a tracking system. They have no idea at what stage the order is now. Is it progressing at all? Simply put, they have no idea what is going on," Mahdi added.
This is where Nitex is winning over their customers.
With Nitex, the customers can keep up with every aspect of the supply chain: sampling, knitting, etc. They can track almost every step of the chain and communicate with the manufacturers through Nitex's platform.
Besides, Nitex ensures accountability.
Mahdi said, "If there is a problem, our local companies have a tendency to escape responsibility. A problem can arise, but the idea is to take ownership of the projects. As factories don't take responsibility, customers are often anxious about what is going on."
"We are ensuring customers transparency, accountability and traceability starting from design to manufacturing to shipment. And in this process, our partners are the factories, not only the manufacturing partners but also spinning mills, fabric suppliers, etc," Mahdi added.
In 2019, Nitex integrated a design studio.
"Now, a customer doesn't come to us only for manufacturing and tracking services, they come to us because we provide designs as well. They are buying products from us and we are going into production for them based on these purchases. We are accompanying them throughout the entire journey."
No time for unimportant metrics
Having accomplished so much in so little time, Nitex is still not a familiar name to many people.
Why is that? The correspondent asked its co-founder.
He replied that this has been done purposefully.
"As a company, we are not focused on unimportant metrics. For example, the everlasting ratrace for fundraising. If your customers are satisfied with you, if you are providing services well enough, generating good revenues and GMV, your business will roll out just fine and you will get investors," Mahdi explained.
He added: "At the end of the day, an investor will not invest anywhere based on your empty words. Investors are wise people; you cannot fool them."