Dekko Legacy Group is one of the prominent names in our RMG sector, what is your opinion about the current state of the industry?
At the moment, we are going through a very challenging period, and there are various reasons behind the adversity. Multiple factors are arising and becoming an impediment to the growth of the sector. To be very clear, this my personal view only, not the standpoint of the industry itself. I am only speaking on my behalf as a stakeholder of the sector. Three significant factors are becoming obstacles to growth.
Firstly, the Rana Plaza incident was a massive blow to our RMG sector, and the industry is still bearing the damages. It has had adverse effects on the credibility and perception of Bangladesh as a manufacturing hub. Unfortunately, buyers pick on that and penalise all the manufacturers for something the entire sector had very little to do with. The negative aspects of the industry were underscored in such a way; it made the whole RMG sector look bad. Conversely, one positive that resulted from the incident is the fact the industry became much more aware of the compliance issues. However, our (Bangladesh) approach to the contingency actions was reactionary and did little mend the damages.
Secondly, the latest wage hike of workers has been another significant challenge. I agree with the sentiment that workers should be paid at an acceptable rate, but we also have to acknowledge Bangladesh’s overall wage structure. We (manufacturers) are now paying Tk 8,000 to a worker who has no previous experience and is without any skill set. In my opinion, the sharp hike from Tk 16,00 to Tk 8000 in a decade is artificial and hurting the margin of the industry, shrinking the opportunity for re-investment.
Finally, our nearest competitors have been aggressively devaluing their currencies. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Indonesia and Cambodia already devalued their respective currencies over the last couple of years intending to remain competitive in international markets. Over the last decade, we have depreciated only 23% compared to India’s 62% and Pakistan’s 84%. Therefore, in my opinion, there needs to be a re-evaluation of our exchange rate policy to ensure Bangladesh sustains the competitive advantage as a exporting hub.
I would also like to add a current problem that we are facing, the coronavirus issue. It is going to hit us badly in the coming months. Currently, most factories are producing orders that were placed before the virus became a global epidemic. We are already hearing the news of declining sales across the world; it will prompt the brands to reduce their orders significantly, it is a terrible thing to happen to a country like us which is so overwhelmingly dependent on the sector.
On the other hand, there are also a lot of things to be excited about the sector. There are little to no alternatives to Bangladesh as garments producing nation; we have to capitalise on that. In order to cope with the increased wage rate, we (DLG) are focusing on increasing productivity and efficiency by reengineering our lines to accommodate for increased automation. We are also emphasising on higher-value products and working towards diversifying our portfolio. The stakeholders, BGMEA and the government, are making a collaborative effort to sustain our market share in the global market. The silver lining is that we still have some time to get our act together.
DLG is very committed to compliance and sustainability issues, how pivotal have been its role behind the stellar rise of the company?
DLG has always been committed to compliance and sustainability issues, and we are a group that takes commitments very seriously. We have built long lasting relationships through devotion and good practice. DLG has employees who have been working for the group for four decades and buyers we have been supplying clothes to for over three decades.
We have just started a factory which is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified. There are very few gold-certified factories in Bangladesh. We are also Accord and Alliance certified.
DLG HAS ALWAYS BEEN COMMITTED TO COMPLIANCE AND SUSTAINABILITY ISSUES, AND WE ARE A GROUP THAT TAKES COMMITMENTS VERY SERIOUSLY. WE HAVE BUILT LONG LASTING RELATIONSHIPS THROUGH DEVOTION AND GOOD PRACTICE.
For sustainability, we are using state-of-the-art technology for our washing plant to ensure the risk polluted water contaminating the environment is minimised. We use software to ensure water is used effectively and efficiently, which drastically reduces the amount of water used. The gold certification acknowledges the fact that we have taken the necessary steps to minimise our energy requirements. It also includes rainwater harvesting and using solar power to a certain extent. DLG’s unrelenting pursuit of excellence in sustainability and compliance has been pivotal to establishing itself as one of the most reputed RMG producers in the world.
Bangladesh is marching ahead to become a middle-income country over the decade. How does DLG want to contribute to this journey?
Dekko Group started its journey with Roxy Paints before expanding to other sectors; you will see billboards stating that we began in 1953. Interestingly, we started in 1950, but DIT did not start keeping records until 1953.
We were one of the first few garments to be set up in Bangladesh. Later, we expanded to garments accessories and are one of the top two garments accessories producers in the country. Recently, Dekko Group divided into Dekko ISHO Group and Dekko Legacy Group.
We have always been committed to the growth of Bangladesh. Our Chairman, M Shahadat Hossain Kiron has always been very focused on growth and commitment to quality. He likes manufacturing and proudly says that he is the first merchandiser of Dekko Group. He started with a 300 sq feet office with a hundred people. Now, we have more than 20,000 people working for us.
Therefore, over the years, our company is contributing to the economy by creating employment for thousands of people. As a sector, the garments industry has been pivotal for Bangladesh’s socio-economic development. We want to continue doing that as we enter into the new threshold of economic prosperity.
What is the inspiration behind QRIUS Lifestyle?
QRIUS is the result of our chairman’s perseverance to overcome challenges. He still comes to office in the morning and leaves for home at 10 o’clock. We believe there was a gap in the market in terms of quality products, that prompted us to fill the gap. Over the years, Bangladeshi consumers have not been getting the quality products they desire, that is something we wanted to provide. Correspondingly, as a garments producer, we are very aware of what is in fashion globally, we want to bring that fashion to Bangladeshi consumers.
QRIUS has something for everyone; we wanted to provide a one-stop solution for a family. We wanted a solution where we will focus on everything a person needs to accessorize themselves. We are going to produce bags and shoes designed by more than thirty-five designers.
The prices are geared towards the aggregate consumer base; there is something for every segment of customers. We also have premium products (Heritage) where even the fabric is specially designed. Besides, we also have products that are more value for money. So we’re targeting the mass, but if you want some niche product, we also have that.
What is your style of leadership? What is the most crucial personality trait one needs to become a successful leader?
My style is not to micromanage. I allow people to figure out their own style of working. Of course I am there for trouble shooting and to give a general guideline but I like to let people find their own ways around obstacles. If you ask me what it is that makes a good leader, there is no one correct answer. I believe that the most important quality that a leader should have is the ability to identify the strength of his people and to create an environment where those strength can flourish. My father, who is probably the greatest leader I have seen, has an uncanny ability to do this. He can really bring out the best in people.
Photographs by Ashiqur Rahman Omee