Very few Indians have made the unique distinction of establishing their business in foreign lands, and Maqsood Ahmad, Chairman, Experience Group can proudly claim to be among those few. Originally belonging to Punjab (India), Maqsood traces his roots in the industry to a small wholesale textile business started in Manchester in 1922, by his father. The group today is a US $ 200 million company, ably guided by the vision of Maqsood, who with an experience of over four decades has successfully transitioned the family business in retailing as well as manufacturing. Recalling the yesteryears of his career, Maqsood shares, “I left Manchester in 1970 to start my own company in London, which today has over 3 garment factories in UK, along with 40 smaller factories working on CMT basis. I also have around 60 retail stores in UK, working under the name “Trechick”.
In 1991, the liquidation of BCCI bank led to the collapse of Maqsood’s empire, forcing him to move his business to more cost-effective production centres. “My first choice was Sri Lanka and I even went to see an EPZ in Colombo, however fate had other plans and there was a bomb blast in my hotel. As for India, it was not competitive, though I have plans to open up a factory in the coming future. Bangladesh was developing and in 1995 I set base in the country,” reminisces Maqsood. Today, the company has two manufacturing units in Bangladesh with 31 and 50 lines respectively, employing over 11,000 people, running over 5,000 machines. The company also has one plant for fabric manufacturing, both woven and knits.
The transition from London to Bangladesh was not easy due to infrastructure constraints as well as limited availability of trained labour. I installed the best quality of machines, emphasised less on human intervention, cleanliness, worked on layout, things which nobody cared about 18 years back,” says Maqsood. Even today, the company runs its factory with only 2 or 3 helpers per line, as 90 per cent of machines are automatic. “The company is looking at a fairly big expansion in the coming year by adding another 1000 machines to its existing capacity,” informs Maqsood.
A visionary by instinct, Maqsood is now looking at establishing his manufacturing base in Ethiopia which he feels would be the next cheapest manufacturing base for the world in coming times. He reasons, “Asia can carry on for another 15-20 years as the leader in apparel manufacturing, but as the manufacturing costs keep going up in China, India, Sri Lanka and in next five years in Bangladesh as well, the buyers would start looking at African countries. We are negotiating with the Ethiopian Government to give us land, and we will grow cotton ourselves. It is a US $ 500 million project involving cotton cultivation, ginning, spinning, weaving, dyeing and garmenting with 100 production lines.”