Bangladesh has a unique resilience in enduring challenges. The readymade garments (RMG) industry is one good example of that. Despite a number of challenges and ups and downs, the country has positioned itself as the second largest apparel exporter just within a course of three decades.
Being a Least Developed Country we have a number of limitations. It has been a bumpy ride all through, but our dynamic and resilient entrepreneurs and talented workforce have been the key strengths that have brought the RMG industry to a $21.50bn turnover in the 2012-13 fiscal year.
Since the early days, different sources of impetus have contributed to the development of the industry at various stages. We successfully made the industry free from child labour in 1995.
The MFA (multi-fibre arrangement) quota was a blessing to our industry. While the quota was approaching the end in 2004 it was predicted by many that the phase-out would cause a massive upset to our exports.
But post-MFA is another story of success: we the people of this country proved the predictions wrong, conquered all the challenges and took RMG exports from $6.22 billion in 2004 to $21.5 billion in 2012-13; more than triple in eight years.
The recent years had been another testing period for us as global economic recession slowed down imports by the EU and USA. However, Bangladesh continued to be the favourite sourcing destination to the global apparel buyers as far as the McKinsey & Company’s latest report is concerned.
A strong textile and accessories supply base has been developed in the country to cater to the needs of the apparel industry equipped with world class technologies and state-of-the-art machinery.
Although Bangladesh has been making solid strides in different development areas, our exports are still mostly concentrated to the EU and the North America regions, which is around 86%.
However, over the last three years remarkable progress has been achieved in exports to non-traditional markets (markets other than EU, USA and Canada). Market diversification is a critical aspect of our export sustainability and we have to make all required efforts to keep this up.
Branding is a critical factor here. The share of Bangladesh in the global clothing market is 4.83% only, so there is potential to further penetrate the global market.
Moreover, Bangladesh is not a bulk RMG producing country anymore, rather preparing for a big leap forward to cater to the need of high-end and branded fashion retailers. On top of it, our entrepreneurs are now going for environment-friendly green manufacturing plants.
Globally reputed consulting firm McKinsey & Company forecasts our RMG exports to double by 2015 and triple by 2020. However, the report also mentions a few conditions to fulfill for instance power, gas, infrastructure, politics and so on.
Our competitors are watching us. Recent developments are alarming, particularly the devaluation of competitors’ currency while our taka is getting stronger day by day.
In Bangladesh, RMG has evolved from being just a commodity item to becoming lifestyle items that reflect people’s personalities. If the country is given a good image everywhere, other countries and buyers will have a positive attitude towards it.
They will become interested to know about Bangladesh first, and then they will plan to visit, and finally spend their earnings here. This is very important for instilling confidence in Bangladesh among them be they investors, development partners, or tourists.
Bangladesh has always held great promise. There are only a few countries in the world that gained freedom through war. Since its independence in 1971, despite having achievements in different fields, the country has been described through negative images, either imaginary or genuine.
Despite these limitations, we have successfully been able to maintain more than 6% GDP growth annually. Goldman Sachs recognises Bangladesh as one of the N11 (next eleven) countries, JP Morgan thinks Bangladesh is one of the Frontier Five markets.
Really, it is a country of millions of young, trainable, and hardworking people. Global competition is becoming fierce day by day. To compete and sustain in the global market, we must create and manage a strong brand image.
Brand value will become a vital factor in creating a pool of loyal customers. So, this is the need of the hour for the entire nation to come forward from individual standpoints to speak positive about our country, to uphold the developments we have achieved and to talk about the amazing people of Bangladesh at home and abroad.