Bangladesh is the second biggest apparel exporter globally after China and today the readymade garment sector is a successful model for Bangladesh’s exports.
However, having proved their mettle already in garment making and exports, many in the sector, especially the bigger players, embraced and executed business diversification as part of strategic business moves as they ventured into other businesses to minimise risks while also grow and develop in other areas of interest.
Founded by Ahmed Sohail Fasihur Rahman and Salman Fazlur Rahman (brothers) in 1970s, BEXIMCO is one such name which has expanded to transform into the largest private sector group in the country with a presence in industry sectors that account for nearly 75 per cent of Bangladesh’s GDP.
Today, BEXIMCO is the largest employer in the private sector in Bangladesh and employs over 70,000 people worldwide and has interests spanning across pharmaceuticals, ceramics, textiles and apparel, fashion retail and counts some of the world’s best-known brands including BT, Chevron, Calvin Klein, H&M, JCPenney, Macy’s, Zara, etc., amongst its clientele.
The group encompasses one of South Asia’s largest vertically-integrated textile and garment companies with state-of-the-art manufacturing units. It is also the largest exporter of pharmaceuticals in the country with presence in 55 nations, while also being the largest ceramics exporter of Bangladesh.
YELLOW from the house of BEXIMCO with its exciting range of clothing is not only famous within Bangladesh, but has also made successful foray overseas.
In recent times, BEXIMCO has launched its newest vertical, the BEXIMCO PPE Division, catapulting the group as well as Bangladesh into the realms of global PPE market.
“In just two months, we unleashed our world-class manufacturing, technical and design talent to switch over and start making personal protection equipment and help increase the supply of PPE,” observed BEXIMCO CEO and Group Director Syed Naved Husain after the group successfully pivoted from producing garments to protective equipment within a matter of weeks at the height of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, learning the specialised fabrication techniques, setting up production lines and producing 6.5 million gowns for distribution to the United States through the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) initially.
This effort of BEXIMCO helped Bangladesh to join the select group of countries that manufacture world-class, large-scale PPE, which led the then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to laud Bangladesh’s efforts in helping USA in this crucial time.
“I join @USAmbBangladesh in congratulating Bangladesh for this significant milestone. International partnerships like these are crucial as companies focus their production on supplying the PPE needed by frontline workers around the world. #COVID19,” Pompeo said in a tweet.
Like BEXIMCO, many other big names in the apparel manufacturing and export sector of Bangladesh, have successfully transitioned into other businesses with élan.
“Our philosophy was to support another business in case one faces any issues,” explained Kutubuddin Ahmed, the Chairman of the entity as the reason behind Envoy Group’s diversification move.
Established in 1984, Envoy Group is a diversified conglomerate with primary focus on ready-made garments and textile manufacturing.
It has earned unrivalled success in the field of garments, textiles, local and international trading, freight forwarding, information technology (IT), washing plant, real estate, banking automation, financial institution, energy and power sector, hospitality service and consumer products.
As per its website, the group represents 40 business enterprises and has an annual turnover of US $ 400 million with a workforce of approximately 21,000.
Another classic case of successful diversification is the famous DBL Group, also known as Dulal Brothers Limited.
Established in 1991, DBL has diverse business interests including packaging, accessories, telecom, ceramic tiles, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, dredging, etc.
The DBL Group is also responsible for bringing the renowned sportswear brand PUMA into Bangladesh as the franchise partner with a vision to provide Bangladeshi people the real taste of a proper international sportswear brand.
“We are incredibly proud to open the first PUMA brand store for Bangladesh. We are looking at expanding our footprint in the region and what better way than launching our very own flagship store. Through our iconic flagship store, we are looking at bringing the best of PUMA experiences and products to our consumers,” said MA Jabbar, Managing Director of DBL Group at the launch of Puma in Bangladesh.
Thanks to the rising demand from the buyers, DBL Group is now set to come up with its sewing-thread manufacturing unit in Vietnam even as MA Jabbar claimed it will produce its branded sewing thread Eco-Thread in Vietnam.
“…establishing a sewing thread unit is one kind of a support for our buyers as many Western buyers are sourcing from Vietnamese garment factories,” Jabbar underlined.
The new unit in Vietnam is expected to come up in the next two years.
It may be mentioned here that 80 per cent of 10 tonnes of sewing thread manufactured by DBL in a day is sold to other garment makers while the remaining is consumed in-house.
DBL also owns a garment manufacturing unit in Ethiopia.
“Our diversification approach comes from the trading concept that helps build a balanced business,” said Team Group Managing Director, Abdullah Hil Rakib.
Team Group started its journey in 2009 with a lone garment factory and has today diversified into sourcing, pharmaceuticals, IT, real estate and retail and boasts of a family of over 18,000 employees at its 12 units.
“We considered investment in the power sector in 2007-08 when there was a power shortage in Bangladesh. But now many have invested in this sector. We have investment plans for renewable energy in the future. Apart from this, we do not have any need to invest in any new sector. We want to do healthy business in the sectors in which we have already invested,” claimed NavidulHaq, Managing Director of Mohammadi Group, founded by the then BGMEA President and ex-Mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation Anisul Haq in 1986.
Anisul along with Habib Rahman and Faruk-Al-Nasir quit their jobs at Desh Garments and started exporting garments on their own and thus came into being Mohammadi Group, which started business diversification in the late 1990s.
It is said to have started its journey with only 52 workers only to grow into a 10,000 employee-strong entity even as over the years, it successfully moved into real estate, power generation, information technology, media and entertainment.
Today, the group is said to have investments in 21 sectors.
Renowned garment manufacturer, Ha-Meem group, is another big name in this regard, which transitioned into other businesses like labels, poly and packaging, carton, belt and tape, shipping, TV channel, newspapers, tea gardens, jute mill, chemical formulation plant, etc., with time.
Ha-Meem started its journey in the early 1980s only to diversify into other business in the 1990s and today boasts of more than 60,000 employees across different verticals.
Ha-Meem’s newspaper Daily Samakal and television channel Channel24 also hold a strong position in the media industry. However, despite diversifying business, garment and textile remain the group’s mainstay still.
Ha-Meem group owns 26 garment manufacturing units.
“A number of mega projects including the Mirsarai Economic Zone are going on in Chittagong. But the city still lags behind in the hospitality sector. That is why we are investing in this sector. I hope that global brand Marriott would also help in branding the city,” said Syed M Tanvir, Managing Director of Pacific Jeans, the renowned denim jeans manufacturer of Bangladesh.
The group has tied up with Marriott International to construct a five-star luxury business hotel in the port city (Chittagong), which is expected to start operation by the end of 2022.
“The business portfolio is being diversified with a long-term plan,” meanwhile, claimed Md Robiul Islam, Company Secretary of Paramount Textile.
Paramount Textile PLC, a listed company belonging to Paramount Group, diversified its business portfolio in the power sector after faring very well in the textile sector.
Considering business prospective, Paramount Textile has decided to invest in a solar plant by acquiring a 49 per cent stake in Dynamic Sun Energy Pvt. Ltd. in Pabna, in which Shapoorji Pallonji Infrastructure Capital Company Pvt Ltd (SP Infra), a subsidiary of Shapoorji Pallonji Group of India, also has an investment.
The two companies together will build a solar plant to supply electricity to the national grid.
Additionally, the textile company has already invested in two more power plants that have started production.
Established in 1994, Epyllion Group is one of Bangladesh’s largest manufacturers and exporters of knit apparel, and has a solid backward linkage to knit garments, textiles, wet processing and clothing-accessory products.
Over years, Epyllion has diversified into real estate (Nina Holdings Limited- NHL), food and beverage (Epyllion Food & Beverage Limited-EFBL) and retail business (Epyllion Holdings Limited-EHL).
Talking of diversification, how can one not mention about the Square Group, which has evolved into a giant multifarious business enterprise — the group having diverse business capacities pioneering in healthcare, food and beverage, cosmetics and toiletries, textiles, media and IT and beyond— from a small venture to emerge as one of the top business conglomerates in the country.
Established by visionary leader Samson H Chowdhury in 1958, as per the group’s website, Square today generates over a billion dollars in revenue with exports to over 50 countries around the globe.
So, as the big and mighty continue to spread their wings into new spheres of interest, the trend of business diversification, people in know of things, claim will only gain in momentum in the coming days as more and more up and coming players will look to follow in their footsteps to attain growth and prosperity.