Along the seashores of Cox's Bazar or Kuakata, countless geobags can easily be spotted on the beach or the estuary. Bags after bags are dumped there to stop the erosion of the embankments, shoreline or the beach.
A geobag is commonly used because it is cheap and durable. And thus, commercially, its demand is surging every day.
Geotextile is necessary for development projects like the construction of railways, roads (temporary and permanent), highways, MSE (Mechanically Stabilised Earth) walls, retaining walls, and drainage systems.
A recent study by Grand View Research Inc. said that the global market of geotextiles is worth $8.24 billion with countries in the Asia-Pacific being the biggest geotextile consumers of this market. Bangladesh, alone, has a demand of Tk10-12 billion per year.
And the entity responsible for introducing geotextile in Bangladesh is the DIRD group.
It all began with its founder and current chairperson Itemad Ud Daulah - who after completing his studies left the country to work for a multinational company - came back to Bangladesh 16 years later. Overseas, he always felt as though something was missing.
In 1983, he founded DIRD Garments Ltd. And in the following 28 years, the company branched out into several diversified industries and turned into a leading conglomerate in Bangladesh.
The parent DIRD group now has four wings – textile, engineering, agro, and software – run by 20,000 people.
"We have a big family which is diverse in work, but we do not allow that to compromise the quality of our service," Nabeel Ud Daulah, the managing director of the DIRD group, told The Business Standard.
The year was 1989 when the DIRD group introduced non-woven geotextiles in Bangladesh. And in a few years, geotextile received nationwide acceptance in the local market.
Now there are seven local companies that meet 95 percent of the country's demand for non-woven geotextiles. Interestingly, in the Padma bridge project, DIRD Felt Ltd (DFL) alone supplied half of its geobags and geotubes, while supplying to other mega projects.
DFL claims to be the largest non-woven geotextile manufacturer and exporter in Bangladesh. Its daily manufacturing capacity is 85 tons due to its huge local and international market demand.
Additionally, DFL uses recycled PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) bottles, turns them into PET. This unique step helps them to save the environment and meet sustainability goals. To meet their goals, DFL has built a backward linkage which serves smooth production. DFL also uses polypropylene resin to produce 100% PP products.
"We do not only sell geotextile as a product. Along with this, we also provide a 360-degree solution, regarding application, modern design and technical support with high safety. Our team is active to provide any assistance regarding geotextile or other solutions," stated Nabeel.
In order to pursue its commitment to quality and international standards, DIRD has invested in a state of the art material testing laboratory titled Bangladesh Material Testing Laboratory Ltd (BMTL) which is competent to produce calibration and testing results.
Technology and geotextiles
In his academic life, Nabeel studied computer engineering at Columbia University, New York and Economics at Cambridge University, UK which further fostered his interest in the technological aspect of things and exploring new ideas.
He believes that integrating technology into different solutions can solve a lot of problems.
Under the chairperson's supervision, the DIRD engineering wing has recently introduced reinforced anchor block and tendon based technology instead of the traditional ones. To test, it was first used in Mohakhali flyover and it made the expense more than 50% cost-effective.
This consequently caught the attention of all the national departments such as Roads and Highway, LGED, Bangladesh Bridge Authority, Bangladesh Army etc. They acknowledged the efficacy of this technology and started to incorporate it countrywide under supervision of DIRD Engineering Ltd.
"Our software company Raven Systems limited has developed ERP (Enterprise resource planning) – a proprietary solution to automate various production and administrative systems. This has made our business easier," said Nabeel, excitedly.
But how can an ERP make business easier? "It is customised for our unique organisational requirements actually. It allows a comprehensive access to information and helps to maintain interdepartmental communication related to resource planning, manufacturing, commercial processes, accounts, etc." explained Nabeel.
"In this way, our data flow is maintained, and also it is easier for us to get all the data in one platform. The use of AI (Artificial intelligence) has saved our time as it can independently project manufacturing data and address specific problems too," he added.
He believes that simple changes or modifications in business can make a big difference. Because, extraction of proper information from the large volume of data and AI can help to make timely decisions.
Beyond the business
Apart from producing geotextiles, contributing to the garment industry, or blending things with technology, DIRD is also compassionate about its workers. It employs a full-time doctor in a clinic for its workers where they can get free treatment.
It also provides daycare facilities and shortly, it will start subsidised grocery stores for its workers. DIRD believes in skilling up and promoting its workers. Someone might join DIRD as a helper, but the company will invest in him/her to make sure that he/she can climb up the career ladder.
To maintain accuracy, it introduced payroll digitisation back in 2018. And this month, it has been awarded by Bkash for its impeccable performance under the category of digital payroll solution to build a sustainable ecosystem.
"As we have a big family, keeping track of things manually is risky. So we digitised the whole system so our workforce did not fall victim to various loopholes and inefficiencies," said Nabeel, "Surprisingly, we noticed this transition had brought a change in many perspectives from women empowerment to maintaining safety in the pandemic. Moreover, putting the workers under one umbrella of digital payment methods has created opportunities for us to provide them with services like loans and insurance soon."
The company has built an art and music school too for its employees. "One might question why art and music school but our research has shown that extracurricular activities, which are not given adequate focus in traditional schooling systems, help students acquire vital life and social skills that help them excel in their respective careers," concurred Nabeel
The myriad of services and products
The textile section of DIRD provides services like knitting, dyeing, printing and embroidery, and garment manufacturing.
Under the engineering wing, it offers a comprehensive range of services in geotechnical, environmental and civil engineering sectors. Using modern technologies and ensuring safety, it produces geotextile, geobag, geotubes, and geocontainers.
And under the DIRD agro wing, DIPTA Orchids Ltd. is doing business of different types of orchids, gerberas and other ornamental plants. Though it started its journey in 2002, it is already meeting the demands of 40-50 percent of the orchid market.
In the future, DIRD wants to be recognised as an organisation where innovation is a part of its DNA.
"Technology is a way of innovation, but in our case, we want to build an innovative mindset. We are planning to integrate technology and develop a data-driven system to use AI and machine learning so that we can work and focus on the development of our workforce," said Nabeel.