Amongst the biggest names in textiles in India, with one of the largest spinning & fabric capacities, Vardhman Textiles has established its firm ground in Bangladesh since the last 5 years. In a candid discussion with Apparel Online, Kulbir Kundu, Country Manager – Bangladesh, unravels the company’s roller coaster journey so far to sustain amidst the stiffly competitive textile market of this country. With an initial high followed by a distinctly low phase and a gradual revival, this textile giant has rapidly modified its business strategies to carve its own niche regardless of the presence of several small- and medium-level players with the shortest lead time that have emerged in the last few years.
Highlighting the rapidly evolving Bangladesh textile industry and its increasing weaving capacity, Kulbir asserts, “Local mills have increased their capacity and product capabilities. There are also several fresh mills that have ventured in the fabric segment.” He further adds that these mills are delivering reasonable quality fabric. The challenges do not stop here. Lead time is also another constraint for this Indian textile mill as it takes 14-15 days for its trucks to cross the Benapole border successfully due to the poor infrastructure present there. This was one of the prime reasons behind Vardhman’s sluggish performance some time back, more so as the borders were overcrowded for a period of time, leading to further delays. In spite of all these challenges, Vardhman has been able to sustain its volume by adding new customers and shortening production lead time which was possible due to big in-house production capacity from yarn to fabric.
Vardhman has also bounced back significantly by diversifying into many new products which it earlier did not have, effectively recovering its lost ground. An optimistic Kulbir states, “About 3-4 years back, we started our liquid ammonia plant. Last year, we added our printing plant as we were losing orders in its absence. In terms of product basket, we diversified our mix. It is now not only in cotton. We create blends like cotton tencel stretch, cotton modal super stretch and difficult products like bi-stretch. These are the types of products which are in demand in the ladies’ wear segment.” Moreover, the country manager confirms that his company is aiming at the product qualities offered by China which is mainly polyester and polyester stretch, cotton polystretch and viscose although originally, they manufactured cotton and cotton stretch at the maximum.
With India being the hub of raw materials like tencel fibre and different types of yarn, these product variations were not difficult to be achieved by Vardhman. They are now producing 100% tencel, 100% modal and are very competitive in terms of their lead time as compared to China. Kulbir clarifies that their focus on their basics or core programs still accounts for 70-75% of their total volume as they have a huge capacity build-up. He shares, “Whatever is the quantity, we can easily deliver them provided we have the projections because we are a big mill with a huge capacity and an extensive R & D centre.” Playing at one end on niche and another on volumes, the company has devised a winning balance.
It is indeed remarkable to note the expansion that Vardhman has undergone in Bangladesh especially in the bottomwear segment despite their earlier benchmark in shirt fabrics. Explaining the factors that inspired them to go for this massive shift, Kulbir avers, “In shirts, the major component is yarn dyed varieties for which local mills are now quite capable as their prices and deliveries are good and their quality is just fine. Because of this tight competition in shirts domain, we started offering different types of blends, washes and finishes.’ Even in fabric finishes, Vardhman offers qualities like moisture management and climate control which are highly appreciated by the buyers and they hope to take it up also in their next upcoming season. Going forward, the focus for Vardhman in Bangladesh is predominantly into the bottoms business for both men and women. Even in shirting which still constitutes a big part of their product category, they have transformed to more modal and tencel based fabrics which is seeing a surge in demand in the women’s clothing section.
With fast-evolving new product categories, Kulbir predicts that though the market growth of Bangladesh is slow (2.5%) in the current year, it would bounce back and achieve the target of 10% annual growth, considering the responsiveness and capabilities of the entrepreneurs in the country. He is quick to admit that this market would never see an absolutely lull phase as it generates consistent business for those who are actively involved in this trade.
With some of the world’s leading brands as its major buyers like GAP, JCPenney, American Eagle, H &M, M & S, s.Oliver and even Inditex, Vardhman continues to prove its mettle in fabric manufacturing. With a strong belief in the concept of made to order, they endeavour to present their clients with new qualities every time by seeking inputs from their buyers and also presenting collections from their own ideas.
The strong design and product development team which creates ideas and converts them into beautiful niche fabrics is the key which gives Vardhman an edge over its competitors. Vardhman’s current strategic orientation is towards keeping the buyers’ interests alive which makes it unique and way ahead of the local mills who are still largely focused on supplying volumes to the buyers.