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‘As a young leader, I’m focused on bridging the gap’

Arifur Rahaman Tuhin
04 Mar 2024 18:08:16 | Update: 04 Mar 2024 18:08:53
‘As a young leader, I’m focused on bridging the gap’
Director of Sayem Fashions Ltd Abrar Hossain Sayem — Courtesy Photo

‘My contribution to policymaking will focus on bridging the gap between the traditional approaches and the innovative and dynamic strategies required for today's global challenges,’ said Sayem Fashions Ltd Director Abrar Hossain Sayem, a director candidate in the upcoming BGMEA Election 2024-26, during an interview with The Business Post’s Arifur Rahaman Tuhin. Sayem, who currently spending a busy time campaigning, is also the Founder and CEO of Merchant Bay Inc. and the President of Bangladesh Apparel Youth Leaders Association.

Why do you think the RMG sector needs young and talented entrepreneurs in leadership roles? 

The RMG sector is now at a very pivotal point with the industry moving towards LDC graduation along with multiple challenges that require us to find innovative solutions to find our strength for sustaining and get back on the growth trajectory. For this, the young entrepreneurs play a vital role in representing the industry to new markets and new high-valued categories of buyers for availing better prices, which is undeniably a core concern for manufacturers to be sustaining.

Along with it, globally a lot of young professionals and entrepreneurs are starting careers in fashion, more than ever before. This is where the young entrepreneurs of Bangladesh’s RMG industry can connect better with them and bring them to increase business with Bangladesh.

What kind of policy support does the sector need and what will be your role to bring that policy support from the government?

What the sector needs most now is stronger policy support, as several challenges cannot be resolved right away as it is a national crisis. For the industry to navigate through these national crises like fluctuation in dollar rate, energy crisis and national liquidity issues, we will need alternate policy support to fight these challenges.

The industry will eventually lose its direct incentives as the country is graduating from LDC status. Here, we need to find other ways of incentivising the manufacturing sector for it to be sustainable. For example, as a policy support, bond facilities can be made more flexible for managing cash flow better. Customs and HS code hassles can be eased as a lot of new product categories will be required to be explored by manufacturers now and we cannot afford any friction here. New product categories can be incentivised, which can bring higher order value and bring new brands to Bangladesh, opening the door for new opportunities.

Without policy support to tackle the existing challenges, this industry cannot achieve its $100 billion target, and if we want to see the industry strong and growing even in 2050, we need to prepare now and today’s youth will be the driving force of the industry then.

This is where I see myself aligning with collective youth minds and finding innovative policy suggestions that can compensate for our existing challenges and help the industry find new opportunities to grow. Here, BGMEA’s initiatives, such as the innovation centre, will play an important role and with it, the inclusivity of youth will work as a catalyst in creating a more effective and inclusive BGMEA.

How do you want to contribute to policymaking as a young leader?

As a young leader, my contribution to policymaking will focus on bridging the gap between the traditional approaches and the innovative and dynamic strategies required for today's global challenges. Recognising the importance of sustainability, digitalisation and diversification, I, along with my extremely capable colleagues, would aim to advocate for policies that not only address the immediate needs of the RMG sector but also set a foundation for long-term resilience and growth.

This includes pushing for digital transformation initiatives, fostering an environment that encourages sustainable practices, and advocating for education and training programmes that equip our workforce with the skills needed for the future. By leveraging my understanding of global trends and the unique challenges faced by our sector, I will work towards creating a collaborative platform where stakeholders can come together to formulate policies that are forward-thinking, inclusive and beneficial for all levels of the industry, particularly the SMEs as they can find their unique value proposition this way and reach bigger markets.

What should be the role of apparel makers to create a positive image of the country in the global markets?

Apparel makers should play a pivotal role. This involves not just meeting but exceeding international standards in quality, sustainability and ethical practices. By adopting transparent supply chains, investing in green manufacturing technologies and ensuring fair labour practices, we have proved our commitment to responsible production. But we still need to showcase this to the world as a significant portion of end consumers do not yet know about these developments.

Furthermore, engaging in storytelling that highlights our progress, innovations and contributions to both the local and global communities will help change perceptions and build trust with international buyers. To do this, we should work to engage with international fashion influencers and leverage the power of social media. Apparel manufacturers should also actively participate in global platforms and trade shows to communicate directly with stakeholders and demonstrate the value of our offerings. By doing so, we can position Bangladesh as a leader in sustainable and ethical apparel manufacturing.

How can local apparel exporters overcome current economic headwinds?

To navigate through the current economic headwinds, Bangladeshi apparel exporters must focus on agility, innovation and strategic market diversification. This involves enhancing operational efficiencies to reduce costs without compromising on quality, embracing technological advancements to improve productivity, and exploring new markets beyond traditional ones to reduce dependency on a few buyers or regions.

Building stronger relationships with existing clients by offering flexible solutions and tapping into niche markets with specialised products can also create new avenues for growth. Moreover, investing in skills development and adopting sustainable practices can not only reduce long-term costs but also appeal to a growing segment of consumers and buyers interested in ethical and eco-friendly products. By being proactive and adaptive to changing global demands, Bangladesh’s apparel exporters can not only survive but thrive in challenging economic times.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is reshaping the way fashion professionals work and manufacturing patterns. How can Bangladesh adopt AI in the RMG sector to compete with global players?

The adoption of AI in our RMG sector is crucial for enhancing competitiveness on the global stage. By integrating AI technologies, we can achieve significant improvements in efficiency, quality control and supply chain management. AI can enable predictive analytics for trend forecasting, optimised inventory management and personalised customer experiences, which are vital for staying ahead in the fast-paced fashion industry.

Additionally, implementing AI in manufacturing processes can lead to better resource management, waste reduction and faster turnaround times. To facilitate this transition, there must be an emphasis on building digital infrastructure, fostering partnerships with tech companies, and investing in workforce training to develop AI skills among our professionals. By embracing AI, Bangladesh can not only compete but also set new benchmarks in innovation, sustainability and efficiency in the RMG sector.