Apparel IndustryBusiness

The Efforts of Evince Group to Reimagine RMG in Bangladesh

As a country whose most popular claim to fame remains its RMG sector, Bangladesh is looking towards young, fresh minds that steer the industry to global recognition. One such leader, Shah Rayeed Chowdhury, the Director of Evince Group, talks to COLORS Magazine how his company rides the tumultuous waves of a new, technological world. Words by Munira Fidai

The Evince Group was established by the visionary entrepreneur, Mr. Anwar Ul Alam Chowdhury, in 1983. Within 13 years of freedom since 1971, the garment landscape was fairly green, and there was hardly much competition. From the get go, the chairperson of the company had a clear vision—evolution. Not one to shy away from change, he believed that stagnation would pull the company back and that dynamism was the only way forward. 

Keeping true to the chairperson’s thoughts, the organization has always welcomed change wholeheartedly, creating forward and backward linkages in order to entrench itself more firmly in the industry.  The group currently includes Argon Spinning, which produces threads for both Evince Textiles and Argon Denims, and Argon Denims and Textiles, which produce 100% woven and denim fabric, for the production of ready-made garments under the company’s banner. Evince has also successfully created a home-grown clothing brand in Bangladesh called Noir Clothing, and is the master franchisee for Miniso Bangladesh. The company has set up an environmentally friendly facility to tackle the concerns of climate changes, focusing on sustainable imports. “Only if you are open to growing as much as possible within your own field, is it possible to be future ready,” says the young businessman.

Shah Rayeed Chowdhury, Director, Evince Group

For any entrepreneur to thrive in their business, it is important to have a strong support system and network. Rayeed belongs to the Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO), an organization made by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs to foster collective learning and growth within diverse sectors.

“People sometimes get confused with whether EO is some kind of trade politics, but it’s not. EO is only ever a close-knit networking platform, where members get involved with their families. It does not involve any one kind of industrial trade, but a plethora of different sectors. I meet people from various industries, like the power sector, real estate, etc. and learn from them. The organization grooms my entrepreneurial thinking, rather than sector-based knowledge, and provides me with a support system of like-minded individuals.” 

Considering that EO is a global platform, Rayeed has been lucky enough to find some of his key buyers in the organization. Recently, he also had the opportunity to attend an entrepreneurial strategy program at Harvard, and impart the learnings to his factories in the country. “I can also send top level management from my establishment to attend training and seminars hosted by EO which is a perk of being a member of EO; otherwise these would cost me a lot of money in overseas travel!”

Despite the opportunities for learning and growth, the world teeters on the edge of a global recession, and inflation rises steeply. “The downward trend is the same for local and global ones,” muses Rayeed. “Fashion and clothing are the lowest priorities for households. First, they must take care of essentials such as food, rent, etc. Once these are comfortably met, a household would be in a mindset to socialize and buy clothes to look presentable.” According to the young entrepreneur, retail is an experience, and one needs a positive mindset to receive it. 

Rayeed admits that there has been a sharp fall in the purchase of clothing in the local market.  Globally, brands have enough products stocked for supply chains, which have significantly impacted the fashion sector. However, the market is predicted to recover. “While the condition of the industry seems critical in August, September, and October, a positive shift is expected by the end of this year,” Rayeed says, optimistically.

The young entrepreneur ruminates about the pandemic era and his key learnings from the dark days. Outside clothes were not the priority anymore for people anywhere in the world, but for Evince, there were still payments to make and salaries to disburse. “The best way to overcome the stagnation in orders was to diversify the product line; as people were mostly indoors, they naturally opted for loungewear and joggers. “Not only did we change our perspective, but we also brought necessary shifts in terms of machine setup and operator skill sets. We shifted, fairly quickly, from shirts to loungewear, overshirts, and ladieswear, and we are now making further investments in our factories to produce bottoms.”

Most factories with huge production capacities are dependent on a few major buyers who place orders throughout the year. “A major takeaway from COVID was that when natural events like pandemics or economic turmoil such as inflation arise, they not only affect you, but also the buyers you depend on. If 50–60% of your capacity solely relies on their orders, which for some reason plummet, you are exposed to risks too.” 

Rayeed echoes the sentiments of the group chairman when he says that in order to tackle recession or inflation, one must have a large number of buyers. Any one buyer cannot have a large number of orders. Evince currently has a minimum of 20 buyers that they work closely with. “Despite experiencing a major crisis, our orders and manufacturing capacity are relatively full, and we perform well on average.”   

Addressing concerns regarding the use of technology in the RMG sector, with regards to the large supply of labor present in the country, Rayeed says that there is a limitation to using automation when it comes to manufacturing items like shirts or tops. “Garment factory owners in Cambodia or other countries have automated their processes at a time we can only dream of. But where are the orders?”

 While operations at Evince are automated, their buyers are placing orders solely due to low labor costs. Additionally, there is a dearth of operators in the country, says Rayeed. “It’s pointless filling factories with robots if the operators are not technologically sound.”

With the climate crisis being a national concern, Evince has always been a step ahead when it comes to advocating for green solutions. The company works with some of the most globally renowned buyers, so it must always be ready for the future.

Rayeed explains that factories back in the day were box-shaped, 10- to 20-story buildings. Their current green factory is two storied, complete with rainwater harvesting facility, environment friendly brick sourcing, ETPs, solar panels, natural light, and air circulation. Almost 80% of the land is empty, and filled with gardens. “The green factory established by Evince makes buyers feel at home—a direct result of the work environment.” Not only their green factory, but all their textile factories are equipped with high tech ETPs, and are environment-friendly. “We take the concept of sustainability very seriously; it is imperative if a company wishes to thrive in the future. This applies to all industries beyond RMG,” he emphasizes.  

Evince participates in a number of local and international trade fairs. Their leadership is actively involved in introducing new technology and has implemented a lot of critical, consistency-based processes at every level.  “We use the most cutting-edge technology in our production processes, and our entire retail infrastructure is based on ERP. Noir and Miniso outlets not only take customer feedback directly at their cash counters, they also take into account customer data at the root level—a buyer’s likes, dislikes, which area they are more likely to frequent, their frequency at the store, and the ticket size for each area.” 

Currently, Miniso has 26 stores across the country, and 10 more are in the pipeline. Technology allows the commodity team at each Miniso and Noir store to make better decisions about which products would sell more in which area. Similarly, Evince factories are equipped with real-time production quality tables where manufacturers and quality control teams can record defects in real time. The idea is to make the right decisions based on accurate and timely information. “Our design team for textiles and garments works directly with buyers, using 3D design and software integration.”

Reflecting on the evolution of the garment and textile industries, Rayeed shares that Bangladesh is no longer a hub for tailoring alone. Since the BGMEA has created a channel for our country’s RMG industry to cater to the world, we have slowly moved away from that mindset. “Globally, Bangladesh has been deemed important for the production of fashion articles; we are one of the key players in the fashion fraternity as we are tailoring the clothes of major brands; in fact, Evince is known for manufacturing clothes for brands like Armani!,” the entrepreneur mentions. This, perhaps, is the reason why individuals from the second generation of RMG business lines have pursued education overseas to return to their motherland and build a career in this booming sector.  

Despite its achievements in tailoring garments for the creme de la creme of the fashion industry globally, there is a lot left to be desired for the country’s homegrown brands. “Building a brand from scratch is a whole different ball game,” says Rayeed. “It is not enough to have your own manufacturing plant.” Rayeed’s experience with Noir spills over in his words, but with it comes unmatched pride. “Noir has been there since 2014 and is still standing tall. It’s not the biggest brand, but it’s a brand.” he smiles. He mentions that Bangladeshi brands are cropping up in the global market slowly, but surely, and there is nothing quite like seeing a ‘Made in Bangladesh’ label in a random store in New York. “I know my fellow RMG factory owners feel the same way. We all want this trade to have a future in retail as well, so that the upcoming generations can take it to new heights,” he concludes.

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