Established in 1979 by Harun-Ar-Rashid (Chairman), East West Industrial Park Limited, propelled by its mission to become consumers’ number one choice by providing range of the finest quality apparels through its commitment to innovation, service and value, has made rapid progress over the years to be considered a pioneer in suit manufacturing.
A renowned manufacturer of jackets, trousers and waistcoats, the company also has a textile mill in Dhaka for polyester, poly-viscose and poly-wool suiting fabrics. While the poly-viscose fabric is manufactured using fibre-dyed imported yarn from India, the raw materials for others are secured from China and Taiwan.
Apparel Resources recently caught up with Rumana Rashid, Deputy Managing Director of East West Industrial Park Limited, to find out how the company is coping to function effectively in these changing times so as to maintain relevance in the changed world order.
How has the business been since re-opening of the industry after the pandemic-induced shutdown?
Rumana Rashid: Few inquiries have started coming in, but honestly speaking, it would be a bit early to say anything on the business front, as things are pretty much fluid currently. There is a lot of uncertainty, as you would know there is a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe as well.
So, even if retailers have started operations, there’s still some amount of doubt as to how things might shape up going forward; overall businesses are still very sceptical and in the ‘wait and watch’ mode.
In these circumstances, if there’s any change that you brought in the organisation and what necessitated those changes?
Rumana Rashid: We have worked on adding more product variations because we were more into formal suits and trousers, and sales of these products are very slow, so we had to come up with new offerings.
Customers’ purchasing behaviour has changed and they are not buying suits; besides, with the work from home culture gaining currency and lack of officials and social events, demand for formalwear like suits are also low.
Considering the existing situation, we added some new offerings in our product basket which has enabled us to give variety of options to our customers to choose from.
There were lot of apprehensions how brands/retailers would react in such circumstances. Any transformation that you might have witnessed in terms of sourcing practices?
Rumana Rashid: Buyers are still slow and very conservative in placing orders. And even when orders are placed, they are in small quantities with flexible delivery dates. There’s more! Due to the existing situation, fabric and trims suppliers also cannot give any specific time frames on delivery.
Besides, as I said, most businesses are sceptical, and in a ‘wait and watch’ mode owing to the pandemic’s resurgence in many countries and the lack of any proven antidote against COVID-19 as yet in the market. So, for the time being, things are going to be slow until some vaccine is discovered and things are brought under control where chances of any major breakout of the pandemic and the consequent restrictions that are put in place to control the same can be ruled out.
So, do you anticipate any radical shift in buyers’ sourcing strategies?
Rumana Rashid: As for how things stand now, it would be very difficult to predict if there would be any paradigm shift in buyers’ sourcing strategy or not even though we can already see various changes in how they are sourcing like smaller order volumes so as to keep the inventory low and at a manageable level, etc.
Going forward, I think, nobody would like to risk keeping all the eggs in one basket, so there could be a rejig and distribution of orders amongst manufacturing destinations to minimise the risks.
On the eve of the outbreak of the pandemic, there were massive order cancellations/hold-ups. What is the overall scenario in this respect?
Rumana Rashid: Some payments are still on hold from the US buyers, while some ready goods of Indian buyers are also being held up. We are waiting to see how things pan out in the coming days even though you can say that we are half booked for the first half of the current financial year.
There were assumptions on businesses (orders) moving out of China due to the trade war with USA and also because buyers want to reduce dependency on any particular destination. What’s your take on this?
Rumana Rashid: I don’t think it is happening and the reason behind it, for me, is the price competitiveness. Irrespective of everything else, China is still very flexible in terms of price points and quantities, and can match their offer price with the buyers’ requirements, which may not be possible for other countries to do. As such, China still has a sway over others, for sure.
How do you foresee China granting duty-free access to 97 per cent of Bangladeshi products impacting the apparel industry?
Rumana Rashid: It is definitely a very good move for Bangladesh. China has a huge domestic market for apparels and if we can gain a strong foothold there, it would be very good for us, more so considering the existing scenario the world over.
There is also a very strong possibility of investment by Chinese entrepreneurs because of the same.
Any new product category that may have emerged strongly considering there is now a lot of focus these days on protective and medical grade equipment/wearable items because of the pandemic?
Rumana Rashid: Personal protective equipment (PPE) and face masks are two very strongly emerging categories in Bangladesh. As demand for PPE is increasing globally, Bangladesh as the second largest garment exporter is doing its bit to cater to this demand.
There are different levels of PPE and many factories in Bangladesh have already started exporting PPE and also have achieved substantial success in this. These days, we have textile mills as well which can make fabrics needed for PPE manufacturing; this has given a further boost to PPE production in the country.
Going forward, I feel PPE could become a major exportable item for us.