Sustainable Progress

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Mohim Hassan is the CEO & Managing Director of Northern Tosrifa Group (NTG). He obtained his MSS degree from University of Dhaka in the year of 1990. During the same
year he started his business career with Northern Corporation Limited and now he is heading Tosrifa Industries Limited, Northern Corporation Limited, Fashion Asia Limited, Northern Garments Limited, Hung Tak Northern Garments Limited Enviro Pac Limited, and Printers & Printers Limited. Mohim has special interest in the areas of Organizational Behavior, Ethical Practices in Business, Human Efficiency and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). His commitment into development and improvement of the Group’s business has already seen over 27 years of success and as a sign of his commitment to CSR, he received an award for CSR activities from BGMEA in 2009.

You have garnered clients in Eastern Europe. What are the challenges in maintaining a successful relationship with these clients?
As the per capita income of most Eastern European countries are lower than Western Europe, North America, Japan, Australia, etc., Eastern European countries are usually not that focused on the Bangladeshi manufacturers. Their order volume is small and unit prices are also low. Moreover, in terms of professionalism and work ethic, they are to some extent different from their Western European counterparts. In addition, the Eastern European clothing brands are not as popular as the brands originating from the Western Europe. Due to this, the Western European brands dominate the markets in Eastern Europe. We are working with Western European brands like Lindex, KappAhl, Mango and etc. These brands have their outlets and franchising in Eastern Europe and through them we are reaching that segment of the continent. But regardless of the challenges, I think Eastern European markets can also be of importance to many manufacturers from Bangladesh in the future as their population size is similar to other parts of Europe.

The textile industry has taken the initiative to become more environmentally sustainable and energy efficient. How are your factories ensuring these innovations?
As a Garments Manufacturer, we were the first company to install LED lights on our production floors almost ten year ago. Back then we had to import them from Japan and they used to cost around Tk 3,500 per piece. Now they cost around Tk 600 taka per piece. It took some heavy investing from our part but we thought we should contribute to saving energy especially during a time when our country was in the midst of an energy crisis.
Since then we’ve continued with our Green initiatives and just two months ago we received the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification from US authorities. This certification goes to show how far we have come in being conscious about our energy efficiency and environmentally sustainable activities. To qualify for this certification, you have to be compliant in certain areas and make the appropriate efforts. For example, one of the projects we undertook involved in installing Energy Management Systems in our factories. This automated system helps us to check which machinery is consuming what level of energy, and in turn, these readings help us become more energy efficient throughout the production process.
We are working with our Swedish retail partner, Lindex, to develop this water and energy pact which is called the Sweden Textile Water Initiative. With this program installed, we have made remarkable cuts in the water usage in our dyeing unit. In the past, we used 110 liters of water to dye one kilogram of knit fabric but now we only use 65 liters.
Furthermore, we are building a new dyeing unit which will be another addition to our green initiatives. It will be the first dyeing unit in knit manufacturing which will be LEED certified in Bangladesh. In this unit the water consumption will be as low as 26 liters per kilogram and other energy consumptions will be 40% less then what are consumed at regular dyeing units. We are achieving this through a new technology called Cold Pad Batch dyeing. With this, we don’t have to heat up the water used for dyeing. The process may be a bit more time consuming but it will save a substantial amount of energy. In addition, we are also an ISO 14001 certified factory since 2014.

What is the current scenario of the Ready Made Garments (RMG) sector?
Our RMG sector is experiencing good growth and it will continue to grow despite the rising competition in the global market. India has announced extensive subsidy packages for its RMG manufacturers to further develop the sector. Vietnam is involved in the TPP agreement so they can export their products to the US markets, tariff-free, which is a huge advantage for them over us. Myanmar is also improving their garments manufacturing sector and then there’s China.
Despite the growing competition, we still have an advantage in terms of the human capital in our country. Our RMG workforce is still increasing so that’s a positive thing that we have to focus on. However, we still have to develop our mid-level and senior level managements. We need to be conscious about this and introduce training programs that will help us in the long-run.
We also need to focus on forward linkages as we’ve already improved upon our backward linkage scopes. We need to come up with our own design concepts which we can then sell locally and/or internationally. If the Bangladesh Government permits then, we can also put a step forward in owning retail brands in foreign countries. Through this we can come closer to the ultimate consumer of our garment products.

Have recent event affected your business transactions?
They have, in the sense, that now our clients are hesitant about visiting us in Bangladesh and for which we have visit our buyers’ preferred locations which may sometime be in our competitors’ countries like China, India, and Vietnam. This gives our competitors somewhat of an upper hand. But I also believe that this is a short term problem and our business will keep growing in the long run.

Could you elaborate upon the compliance specifications required for your activities?
To sustain in this ever competitive RMG business, every work place must be complaint in terms workers compensation, facilities, safety, and other ethical issues. Moreover, manufacturers all over Bangladesh have become much more compliant since the Rana Plaza incident. And to support the same, various buyers’ representatives, ILO, local labor organizations,manufacturers’ association (BGMEA, BKMEA) are working together to ensure work place compliance. All our production units go through lots of audits and surveillances from our buyers and their designated third parties. Audits are done in accordance to various buyers’ requirements like BSCI, SEDEX, and also local law. In addition, during recent times we are going through very stringent and in depth surveillance and audit from Accord. And as per their requirements, we have to take upa lot of remediation activity.

What is your vision for the future of the Northern Tosrifa Group?
At NTG, we want to be the preferred name for all our stakeholders i.e, customers, employees, suppliers, the society, and our shareholders. If we can satisfy all of them, we believe that we’ve accomplished our primary goal.
We are always expanding. Our export value is around $65 million now, but we hope to reach $150 million by 2018. Market-wise, we are focusing on the Japanese market as we want to build a long-term relationship there.

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