There perhaps are no fixed rules in business and with changing times, one has to evolve to grow, and most of the successful business entities recognise and implement the same. One such name from Bangladesh to have embraced the changes and rather successfully is Ananta. Incepted in 1991 by Late Humayun Zahir, Ananta is one of the premier denim manufacturers of the country which employs around 20,000 people across the company with an annual turnover over US $ 200 million.
“Right now, the industry is going through a very difficult phase, which is pretty much due to existing global retail scenario. The RMG sector has always been price-driven where the countries that offer the cheapest prices prevail. However, things have come to such a point where further squeeze, in terms of profit margins would sound the death knell for the manufacturers. If that was not all, we as manufacturers have not been very good, either in terms of ensuring production efficiency and cost cutting, excepting may be a few. Add to that the bank loans with high interest rates, which many have been taken for expansion, remediation or other purpose. All these factors have added up to create a very uncertain future for the industry. And now with increased wages, things would get even tougher,” maintains Sharif Zahir, Managing Director of Ananta, who is spearheading the organisation in these challenging times, while speaking to Apparel Resources.
Realising the call of the hour, more so in the light of the existing scenario, Sharif has undertaken many new steps.
“In the last couple of years, we have been concentrating on consolidating and re-structuring the organisation both in terms of operations as well as management. Even though denim continues to be our principal offering in terms of products, we have also started manufacturing other categories,” explains Sharif while maintaining that at a time when margins in regular products are on an all-time low due to the cut-throat competition, between the players, all of whom want to have a share of the pie, there’s no option but to diversify the product basket.
However, choosing the products is not an easy job! “While diversifying, the primary criterion is that of demand-supply scenario in the global perspective. Once the product has been zeroed upon, we go in for market survey and team building before we start the actual production. This is kind of a gestation period, during which we try to figure out if we can develop strategic alliances with the buyers, which could give us that extra edge,” says Sharif, who has many such alliances with the existing clients like Levis, GAP and H&M.
Suits and sweater are two main products that Ananta has started producing already, while lingerie is the latest to kick-start operations from this year. Ananta has a state-of-the-art Men’s Tailoring facility, Universal Menswear Ltd., producing 120,000 pieces of men’s formal suits and 180,000 pieces of formal trousers per month. This factory is a joint venture between Time Trading Intl. (a leading Romanian Tailoring Manufacturer) and Ananta Group. In sweaters, Ananta Huaxiang Ltd. is the new computerised knitting sweater factory, operating with fully automatic and semi-automatic machines. Its producing capacity per month is 350,000 pieces, covering both fine and coarse gauge sweaters for leading names like H&M, Next, Cubus/Varner Group, Jack & Jones, M&S, and Gary Weber, etc.
“Even in terms of markets, we have expanded; we are now catering to China and India, through our existing clients,” Sharif adds while observing that gone are the days of owner-driven businesses with traditional approach. “Today, it is all about men and technology. The best investment is in human resources and training. Training should start with the owners, be it in management best practices or man management, pricing and negotiations, etc., percolating down to the senior, middle-management, and the workers,” explicates the company’s MD.
Efficient mid-managers being in short supply in Bangladesh, Ananta prefers to have expats with proven track-records, who are provided with teams of promising management trainees cherry picked from the best of the management institutes to train them up for the future.
“For most of our ventures, we have independent CEOs now, who are running the show on their own. If one has to grow and develop in this age, business has to be handed over to the professionals, which we have started doing already. Some of these ventures are out and out profit centres and a few cost centres,” winds up Sharif, making it amply clear that the next focus area is on injecting professionalism in terms of business operation and practices.