Syed Mohammed Tanvir is the Director of Pacific Jeans, the pioneer and leader in premium jeans manufacturing in Bangladesh. Pacific Jeans Limited is a world class premium jeans design and manufacturing house known for its state of the art production facility and unique research and development center, based in Chittagong. Tanvir started his journey in the apparel sector in 2004 after completing his post-graduation in International Marketing from the University of Leeds, UK. He has enriched his learning curve by gaining many insights of the market dynamic of the fast fashion industry, managing the supply chain proficiently with his sound understanding of manufacturing knowhow in a broader spectrum. Tanvir has been awarded as ‘Commercially Important Person’ (CIP) by the government of Bangladesh for his contributions in the apparel sector. He is also one of the directors of BGMEA.
You have started 2017 on a great note. Pacific Jeans just won the National Export Trophy for the third consecutive time. What are your thoughts on this achievement?
Pacific Jeans has received the gold trophy of FY 2013-2014 for its outstanding contribution in the export field in the EPZ category. However, prior to this recognition, the group won gold and silver trophies. One of Pacific Jeans Group’s sister concerns, Universal Jeans Limited, became the top winner in the EPZ category. Besides this, Jeans 2000 Limited won the silver trophy, while Pacific Jeans Limited won bronze. These kinds of achievements bear testimony to the fact that all our efforts to create employment and to create positive branding for Bangladesh abroad are being recognized. We owe much to the BEPZA authority without whom this would not have been possible. We at Pacific Jeans Group have always been true to our commitments towards our buyers, never compromising when it comes to quality and delivery timings. Even after the Rana Plaza Tragedy, when the whole Bangladeshi apparel industry was walking on a tightrope, we successfully sustained the trust of our buyers with on-time shipments. We are now among the top quality jeans producing companies in the world. Soon we would like to become number one.
What is the current size of jeans exports? What enabled you to become the number one exporter?
If we look at the numbers, around 500 readymade garment factories in Bangladesh are producing 400 million pieces of garments out of which 36 million are denim pants. The latter goes mostly to countries in Europe, America, and Asia. Of this huge lot, Pacific Jeans Group produces 12% jeans. With a goal to strive further, we are going to set up two new factories in the Chittagong EPZ, which will enhance our production capacity to 60 million pieces. We produce jeans for almost all the big brands of the world, which is why we have to maintain stringent regulations in each and every step of manufacturing and quality control. There was a time when Bangladesh was known as a cheap jeans manufacturer. This impression has dissipated over the years. In the current international market, our jeans have a price range of $50 to $150. Two things have enabled our companies to work more efficiently – one is the establishment of a world-class corporate culture; the other is business process automation. Unlike other denim factories, we are spending heavily on innovation. Pacific Jeans Innovation Center paves the way for catering to the demands of renowned brands by coming up with impeccable design solutions. Around 60 foreigners are working in various positions in our company, most of whom render their services at the innovation center. However, the main credit must go to all our workers for their hard work to keep the company’s performance consistently up to the mark.
Every year hundreds of new workers are joining. Our specially designed training sessions identify the needs of those fresh workers in particular areas and train them accordingly.
How are you taking care of the human resources development in your factories?
Before going into development, I have to mention that retaining our human capital is a major challenge that we always have to tackle. Pacific Jeans has efficiency development programs that identify the root cause of deficiencies that are preventing any of our workers from realizing their true potential. However, we are proud that after a journey of more than three decades, the company now has a workforce that it can be proud of due to its skill and maturity. The best part is that their thoughts and efforts are aligned with the core strengths of the company. We are always striving to evolve and better ourselves. In pursuit of that, the company has been adding value to the products it manufactures, the processes it adopts and the people who are making all this happen. Throughout the years, we have invested heavily in remaining technically sound when it comes to production and packaging; but at the end of the day, the apparel industry is labor-intensive. Every year hundreds of new workers are joining. Our specially designed training sessions identify the needs of those fresh workers in particular areas and train them accordingly.
What are the challenges of our apparel sector right at this moment?
Chasing a $50 billion dollar goal is not an easy task. We live in a highly competitive time so complacency is not an option. We have to focus on innovation and automation but issues like workers’ compliances and environmental safety have taken the spotlight. We were able to learn a lot from the Rana Plaza tragedy and have improved ourselves based on what we learned. I am hopeful that Bangladesh is a country where all the big factories working with hundreds of renowned brands are taking good care of the aforementioned topics. The rigorous supervision from Accord and Alliance has helped companies update their safety measures to a great extent. Having said that, we still have room for improvement when it comes to infrastructural development. The government is keen to help the sector and many plans are being chalked; however, timely implementation of these plans will be essential. Last but not least, I would like to mention the issues we have regarding lead time. In this field, we ar0e 42-45 days behind the European calendar. For example, clothing produced in Turkey can be in shops within two days, which has made the country one of the most sought-after destinations for sourcing for high-fashion brands. There was a time when there were only two collections for two seasons a year. However, this has changed. We must understand that there is a shift in trends. Many of the retailers are now providing new collections every month. World famous brands can now understand the consumers better with the help of improved analytics and plan their collections accordingly. We must work hard to keep up with this fierce competition.
What is the future of retail now that Bangladeshi consumer size, as per a Boston Consulting Group study, is going to see an unprecedented increase?
The expansion of the middle class has ushered the growth of our consumer base. However, what makes me happier is that more people are now educated. Besides basic education, people, especially the youth, have become tech-savvy thanks to the advent of social media. All three previous industrial revolutions took the time to set in. However, the next one, as many people claim, would be predominantly led by Artificial Intelligence. Our policymakers need to be aware of that fact. As for the future of retail, I see almost all brands trying to embolden their digital footprint. To create better long-run mileage for themselves, brands need to make consumers aware of their products through meaningful campaigns which also have social impacts.