MBM Group needs no introduction in Bangladesh’s apparel manufacturing landscape. The HR-driven organisation steeped in its core values of CSR, innovation in products and processes and sustainability, has been able to forge long-term partnerships with a wide range of brands and retailers from across the globe, to help it carve a niche for itself.
Its exciting range of product offerings (denim/non-denim; woven tops and bottoms; outerwear; down and fake down jackets; workwear; seam sealed and heat-sealed products; quilted and padded jackets; raincoats; ladies’ skirts and blouses not to mention high fashion denim tops and bottoms with embellishments like embroidery and prints) coupled with its manufacturing excellence and focus on the key issue of sustainability, have helped MBM to work with names like Levi’s; H&M; G-Star RAW; American Eagle Outfitters; Lee; Wrangler; JCPenney; Kohl’s; OVS; O’Neill; Pepe Jeans; Gas, etc., and for a long, long time at that.
Apparel Resources (AR) caught up with the Deputy Managing Director of MBM Group, Mohammad Mehroz Jalil, for a freewheeling conversation to know more about the group, its products and processes, its USP as a garment manufacturer apart from few other issues that matter.
Here are the excerpts:
AR: What is it that makes MBM different from others?
Mohammad Mehroz Jalil: There are a host of factors that combine to give MBM its unique identity.
To start with, unlike many others, ours is an out-and-out HR-driven organisation, which has in place a well-defined growth path for the employees/workers as well as employee recognition programmes to recognise the contributions of those that are associated with us for long and have contributed in the organisation’s growth and development.
There are many such instances where people have risen up the ranks to touch new heights in MBM. Just to give an example, our Sr. Lady Production Manager who started off as a Helper three decades back, underwent various training and skill-development programmes over the years to become what she is today.
What’s more, MBM, despite being steeped in professionalism, is a very family-like place unlike many other companies and that is one of the reasons why people prefer to stay back. We have a lot of autonomy, the liberty to make decisions. We also make mistakes and learn from those, which is a continuous process and which has in a way helped us to evolve and grow into what we all are today.
This is also my very first job in the industry and I am with MBM for 27 years now.
Again, it is our very strong value system and ethics, which led us to partner with like-minded customers. From the very onset, we focused on clients that have high ethical values and who share similar vision like us and are committed towards the social (CSR) causes.
The sharing of such strong value system has helped us foster long-lasting relationships with a wide range of clientele (ranging from US, Europe to Japan) with whom we are working for more than decades now, which has again benefited both sides, positively.
By partnering with brands with a strong sustainable outlook, we have been able to introduce some of the best practices.
Sustainability continues to be a key element in our vision towards creating value while also taking care of our environment and ultimately our planet. Climate change wreaking havoc in most parts of the globe, we at MBM understand the importance of bringing efficiency in the use of natural resources even as we work diligently to lower our carbon footprints.
In our LEED (GOLD) certified washing facility, 90 per cent of our machines are sustainable (energy efficient) in nature and are from renowned brands of Europe. We also use the latest sustainable processes in finishing such as Laser, Ozone, Jet Dye, Core, Nano Bubbles, etc.
AR: Has denim always been the core product of MBM?
Mohammad Mehroz Jalil: No; we actually started with non-denim and this was primarily because our washing unit was pretty much a basic one then. However, when our current MD Wasim Rahman took charge, it sort of kick-started the second phase of growth and his first expansion project after taking over was acquiring another 8 lines manufacturing unit in Gazipur (the present name of the company is Cutting Edge Industries Ltd) even as in 2009, we began a new sourcing unit in order to expand our new range of products offered to customers and in early 2012 moved to the purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility set up on lean principles with 14 production lines.
From 2019 onwards, when Wasim Rahman took over the reins, we realised we wanted to do denim and outerwear as we looked to diversify our product offerings. Currently, I would say, our strength is diversified product portfolio.
Last year we invested in a very modern washing plant, which apart from our in-house requirements, caters to the washing requirements of other garment makers, who do not have such updated facilities.
Broadly speaking, bottoms would be our principal product (denim and non-denim) volume-wise even as we do significant quantities of other products as well like jackets, outerwear, performancewear, uniforms, etc.
AR: Any imminent expansion plans going forward?
Mohammad Mehroz Jalil: Not at this point in time. In the last one-and-a-half years, despite the Covid-19 pandemic and other associated challenges, we invested substantially in the washing plant and we have a business philosophy where we follow up every investment with a consolidation period.
So, in the next two years, we would concentrate more on tying up the loose ends, work on the other key areas, be it in terms of efficiency and productivity increase as we understand unless you don’t do things right, and have the right team in place, the exercise undertaken will not yield the desired result.
AR: What are your product offerings in denim?
Mohammad Mehroz Jalil: We manufacture five-pocket denim jeans, truckers’ jackets, denim shirts, various denim items for children.
With our latest washing plant, we have been able to impart a lot of value in our denim offerings from the wash (finish) perspective, using laser technology and sustainable finishes.
We cater to a diverse segment of clientele even if our focus is more on the premium segment where opportunities are more. However, the biggest challenge for us is that even if many premium brands have now come to Bangladesh to fulfil their sourcing needs, prices offered by them are still very cheap, which is a big paradox so as to say.
But, I am hopeful, things would improve in the days to come as the earlier perception of Bangladesh as a cheap sourcing destination is changing and this has led us to focus more on the clients that are ready to pay ethical pricing for quality products.
AR: Even though outerwear is a fast-emerging product category, not many in Bangladesh seem to be keen on dealing with such a critical product category. What made you go for it?
Mohammad Mehroz Jalil: Yes, this is a special product category, which requires a very different kind of skill set. Countries like China and Vietnam are still dominating the outerwear range. However, we have an added advantage in the sense that the present unit (where we are producing outerwear) was initially a joint venture with a Vietnamese entity.
As labour and production costs are rising in Vietnam, they have been looking for a manufacturing unit in Bangladesh that they can tie up with. However, within a year, they decided to wrap things up and move back as their Vietnamese team that was expected to come to Bangladesh to take things forward, did not do so. So, eventually they had to make their move.
Subsequently, we decided to go alone and sent our unit head with some key members to Vietnam to get trained there and once they gained the required insights, they came back and successfully implemented those practices here.
Initially it was bit of a challenge but with time, we got a hold over things, which paid off ultimately.
We are also very strong in terms of product development. We have an exciting design studio and an equally dedicated design team.
The design process starts with our fabric experts who follow the latest fabric trends to come up with new innovations even as our designers pick the fashion trends every season and develop products in conjunction with our designers from Europe and USA.
This is applicable for product categories across the spectrum.
What’s more, our innovation practice permeates the processes as well. With the advent of Industry 4.0, we have generated considerable resources in automating our processes. Automation in our production process includes machinery manufactured by world-class brands like Vibemac, Morgan, Lectra and others even as to meet the changing customers’ demands, we have also converted a portion of our production lines to modular with an educated workforce in order to meet the lower MOQ requirements.
Along with machinery, automation in software including standalone software like Intellocut in the cutting room, Fast React for planning and data consolidation with our own in-house ERP system have given us a further edge.
MBM Group-An Overview
MBM Garments Ltd.
Cutting Edge Industries Ltd.
Cutting Edge Washing Plant
Absolute Quality Wear Ltd.
AR: Apart from sustainability, CSR is also emerging as a key to business growth. How is MBM aligning its business practices in line with the same?
Mohammad Mehroz Jalil: Since inception, the tenets of CSR and philanthropy are firmly rooted in our corporate DNA. We believe a responsible corporate should not just focus on commerce but on creating values through responsible actions.
We invest in adding value for our customers, associates, community and the environment by large.
Free lunch (since 1988), scholarship programmes, Hajj pilgrimage programme, eye camps and various financial assistance for education, medical and family emergencies are some of the steps that we have undertaken for workers’ well-being and community wherein we have partnered with various non-government bodies including names like Jaago Foundation while also partnering with National Youth Assembly and other community-based programmes to give shape to our various CSR endeavours.
Apart from the regular CSR activities and employee welfare, if any of our employee/worker needs any kind of financial aid, we provide the same in the form of interest-free loans.