Growing Responsibly

In a conversation, Ajay Jaswal, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Doreen Apparels, talks about Bangladesh’s rise in the global garments industry, the importance of ensuring sustainability and what gives Doreen Apparels the edge over its peers in the industry.

Photograph: Naimul Haque Sagor

Being at Doreen Apparels must bring back many memories of your past experience in Bangladesh. What has been Bangladesh’s greatest strength in becoming one of the major manufacturing hubs in the global garment industry?

Bangladesh’s supremacy in the global garment industry was written on the wall. The pace with which it has grown over the years is unmatched by any other region in the world. More importantly, the pace of growth has been well complemented by continuous capacity building and infrastructural development. As someone who worked in various hotspots of the global apparel industry, Bangladesh’s distinct advantages in the sector are quite comprehensible to  me. In terms of infrastructure, the fact that the entire value chain of Bangladesh’s garments industry is centred around Dhaka is an enormous advantage. It allows the industry to be more efficient and cost-effective and have faster contingency measures.

Conversely, in other countries where the value chain is more decentralised, the manufacturing process is much more convoluted and prone to delays. Therefore, manufacturers in Bangladesh can reduce transportation costs and improve delivery times as goods and raw materials are moved over shorter distances. It also facilitates better communication and collaboration, leading to better coordination, faster problem-solving, and increased innovation. Additionally, manufacturers can have greater control over the supply chain, leading to better quality control, improved efficiency, and reduced risk of disruptions in the supply chain. Therefore, having a centralised value chain has been the cornerstone of Bangladesh’s rise in the global garment industry. 

Doreen Apparels is considered one of the pioneers in Bangladesh’s RMG sector. What sets the company apart?

As an apparel manufacturing unit, Doreen has a distinct advantage over its peers, allowing it to achieve a desirable growth rate over the years. It has a manageable factory size that is ideal for facilitating sharp efficiency. At the same time, it allows us to plan, manage and execute efficiently. Five years back, when drawing Doreen’s future strategy, we were very realistic about our promotion and revenue parameters. This is what sets us apart from our peers in the industry; we have always been very practical about our revenue and promotion parameters. We have been phenomenal in maintaining the balance between our investment, cost and manufacturing, allowing the company to deliver world-class output at a competitive price. Every manufacturing entity needs to create a correct recipe for expansion, investment and efficiency, which we managed incredibly well over the last five years. It has propelled us to an excellent position in the market dominated and shared by a few privileged ones in Bangladesh. 

 In terms of infrastructure, the fact that the entire value chain of Bangladesh’s garments industry is centred around Dhaka is an enormous advantage.

Speaking of being a pioneer, Doreen Apparels is also at the forefront of establishing sustainable practices in the apparel manufacturing process. Why is sustainability so crucial for Doreen?

Actually, the answer to the question lies in the word ‘sustainability’ itself. Sustainability implies stabilising or preserving and improving the future for all. The Earth’s ecosystem can only continue to function with more sustainable actions put in place. All living things depend on planet Earth’s resources to survive. If consumers, brands and businesses continue to pollute and over-use the resources available – they will be destroyed and depleted in a matter of years. 

So when we talk about sustainability in the manufacturing sphere, we think of technologies which reduce the usage of natural resources and waste. Doreen’s infrastructure is continuously being upgraded with state-of-the-art technologies that ensure maximum energy efficiency and minimum wastage. For example, we have advanced technology front-loading washing machines capable of reducing water, chemical and manpower usage to a remarkable extent. At the same time, we are shifting from tumble drying to line drying technologies which save a lot of gas, other natural resources, and electricity. Doreen is upgrading from a biochemical ETP to a biological ETP, which uses living bacteria to do the bulk of the purification rather than chemical treatments used in the biochemical process. It is a giant step for our company which embodies our perseverance in maintaining an international standard in sustainable manufacturing.

How do you envision the growth of Bangladesh’s garment industry over the next five years?

You have already mentioned my previous stint here in the early 00s. Despite being employed in other parts of the world between then and my current position, I have a unique purview of the developments. Bangladesh’s growth in the sector over the years has been nothing short of remarkable. The way things stand, the sector is on its way to establishing itself as the most lucrative one-stop destination for global apparel manufacturers. Its efficiency and competency have reached the point that the industry is able to pull buyers from places like China and India. On top of that, numerous buyers that steered away to the African markets a few years back are returning to Bangladeshi manufacturers, especially Doreen. So, for the next five to ten years, Bangladesh’s garment industry will only rise to greater heights.