In 1984, a small Bangladeshi garment factory named NZN Fashionwear, employing only 500 people, had the audacity to export a $12,000-worth shipment of jeans to Italy. There was no washing plant in the country and the washing for that particular shipment was done in Italy. A year later, they set up a washing plant with technical support from an Italian buyer.
Now, that same factory is part of the Pacific Jeans Group, which has 12 factories and plants, with three acquired in 2021 and another under construction. It employs 35,000 workers.
The Group is set to export denim jeans worth $500 million this year, and hopes to reach the billion dollar mark in five years. It produces four million jeans a month, and by the end of 2023, expects to hit six million. It also has capacity to produce 2 million knit apparels a month.
But this is not where the story ends.
From the beginning, Pacific Jeans developed the skill and invested in technology to produce premium jeans, allowing them to offer high street clients premium quality jeans at affordable rates.
They invested so heavily in sustainable production practices that Pacific can now offer clients jeans washed with only a litre of water or no water, when a usual pair requires 55 litres in wash. Their investment in R&D, which translated to a state-of the-art design and development centre, allows them to offer every customer a custom-made collection instead of general samples.
"Under the visionary leadership of the founder and chairman of Pacific Jeans late M Nasir Uddin, we started the journey with the premium segment of an Italian brand, they supported us with their know-how and technology," said Syed Mohammad Tanvir, Managing Director of Pacific Jeans Limited, during an interview at his office at Chattogram Export Processing Zone (CEPZ).
"Thanks to continuous investment in capacity expansion and product diversification, it [the Group] has been posting a consistent growth for the last few years, which helped us to set a vision of becoming a global lifewear solutions provider," said Tanvir, also Vice President of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
"We want to produce premium quality clothes at affordable prices," he added.
Ten years after their first shipment, Nasir shifted his focus to the Chattogram Export Processing Zone (CEPZ) by establishing Pacific Jeans Ltd, which employed 1,500 people. Today, the group is the largest Bangladeshi employer and exporter in the Export Processing Zones and has been awarded the National Export Trophy 24 times by the Bangladesh government for its outstanding contribution to the country's economy.
Pacific Jeans is also the standard bearer of technology in the denim industry and often has access to prototypes of latest technologies from the world's renowned denim technology providers.
"Based on our feedback, those technologies have been updated to their commercial version," said Tanvir.
The beginning: Setting out for a bright future
Everyone generally starts by working with discount retailers but in the Pacific Jeans' case, it was the opposite. At that time, the denim maker produced jeans for the premium retailers whose retail price was $150 above.
"The beginning was like a blessing for Pacific Jeans, which helped us to set the target of providing premium segment quality to high street retailers," said Tanvir.
When asked what drove this idea, Tanvir said that it came from the mindset of the top management, which trickled down to mid-level management and workers. It was a combination of technology, sustainability, machines and people.
"We never compromise on technology, that's why we have always gone for the best possible technology in this industry. Now we have the best washing and drying process or laser technology. The same goes for cutting, stitching and finishing, in each and every department," said Tanvir.
The group's target was to produce premium quality products at high street retail price, said Tanvir, adding "we have adopted fashion aesthetic, technique and know-how from premium retailers."
And when production started in bulk it helped minimise the production cost.
"Every piece of premium jeans is like an art piece, but our idea was to produce premium jeans on a large scale to minimise the cost," said Tanvir.
The group has successfully implemented that strategy over the years.
"If you go to the premium retailers to buy the same quality denim, they will be selling at $250 to $260. Our high street customers are able to sell that at $50 to $60," said the managing director.
But this process takes more investment in new technology adaptation and technological advancement.
"We had to do a lot of process engineering and cost engineering to make this product cost-effective for the high street retailers" he added.
Pioneer of sustainable washing
Nowadays, sustainable washing has become a need of time, because the textile industry, especially the denim industry, is known for consuming too much water, too much energy, and too many natural resources.
Being a pioneer of denim washing, Pacific Jeans is also a user of sustainable technology in washing and finishing, and now has the facility to wash with zero water.
"We have the facility to wash a pair of jeans with a litre of water. Not only that, we have the facility to do the same thing without the use of any water. It depends on buyers' requirements," Tanvir added.
Generally washing a pair of jeans requires a minimum of 55 litres of water.
"There are three aspects to it - reduce consumption of water, energy and chemicals to make the industry more environmentally friendly," said Tanvir, "In line with that, we have set a target to reduce our water consumption by 50% and energy consumption by over 60%, by 2025."
The group has set a target to increase renewable energy uses to about 50% of their total consumption by 2030 and also plans to reduce water consumption by almost 70% by the same year. Currently, 10% of the total energy consumption of Pacific Jeans is provided by solar energy, which amounts to 5 MW per day.
These are part of this group's efforts on environmental sustainability and improving the working environment, as well as financial and corporate governance.
As a result, Pacific jeans is the first company in Bangladesh who had received C2C gold certification, about seven years back.
The group set some targets that are also reflected in its product price. "A sustainable product has a very unique selling proposition to brands and customers," said Tanvir.
Pacific Jean's value addition
Besides sustainability, Pacific Jeans creates value addition in various other ways.
"We have a strong design and development centre which has three divisions – fabric, design and washing. This centre helps us to offer every customer a tailor-made collection, instead of general sampling. This combination helps to do more value addition," said Tanvir.
The founder of Pacific Jeans Nasir Uddin successfully transferred his vision, ways of working and passion for business to everybody on this team.
"We, all of his students, are working on carrying out his dream forward, even though he's not here with us now. His spirit guided us to carry his legacy forward and help the company achieve different milestones," said Tanvir, crediting the gradual improvement in the overall management for the company's consistent growth.
In the last few years, the group has focused on product development, production efficiency improvement, human resources development, skill development of mid-level managers and optimum utilisation of resources.
Overall, Pacific Jeans is going through a massive growth phase.
Japan, Europe, and the US are major markets for this group, while it also focuses on exploring emerging Asian markets like China and India, besides various other markets.
The group also tied with Marriott International to construct a five-star luxury business hotel in Chattogram, which is expected to start at the end of this year.
"Nasir Uddin had invested in denim washing at a time when no one could fathom the idea of setting up a washing plant in Bangladesh," BGMEA President Faruque Hassan told The Business Standard. "Buyers have confidence to place orders in their factories as they have their own research and development, which helps them to grow faster."
"Thanks to strong marketing policy and being a high-end denim producer, Pacific Jeans gets a better price, which also creates scope for further investment in efficiency. Entrepreneurs should follow the Pacific Jeans model to gain excellence," Hassan added.