Building brand value for any product in a market dominated by established global players is perhaps the most difficult task, but when the product has a legacy of excellence with long heritage, this becomes very challenging. The same is true for Amann Bangladesh, a member of Amann Group of Germany.
The credibility of the Group and its brands have survived the test of time and Amann is now known the world over for its speciality performance properties which give it an edge over many other global brands. Speaking to team Apparel Resources in an exclusive interaction, Md. Rokonuzzaman, Managing Director of Amann Bangladesh says, “The initial years after setting up the operation have been devoted to build a perception of what Amann stands for; it is now that we are reaping the benefits.”
Amann Bangladesh was set up in April 2013 and commercial production from its state-of-the-art factory in Gazipur was ready for delivery in October the same year. “Our brands were quite well known to the quality-sensitive buyers and apparel manufacturers, so it is not as if we were new to the country. But with the set-up of the manufacturing and business operation, a big fresh thrust has been given to Bangladesh,” avers Rokonuzzaman, who prior to taking up the top job, was the Finance Director of the company since its inception. The thrust became even more critical as the country is looking to expand in some key categories that are the core strength of Amann like high-value apparel, lingerie, denim, sportswear, jackets including down jackets and footwear.
In fact, Amann is the chosen partner for many global brands for their unique offering to meet the current trends in fashion which automatically make them a preferred partner when any new factory is set up. The Global Key Accounts (GKA) team works closely with the international retailers to share the new innovations, to find out the best solution for the garment and to offer value-added services to produce the garments in an efficient manner without incurring any additional cost. Retailers nominate trims & accessories manufacturers to supply for their products, and being nominated is an advantage not only in getting business from factories working with the brand, but in many other ways… “When a factory has say 10 lines, and 2 are using our threads because of nominations, the results are for all to see and the factories themselves opt Amann for the other lines, or request those buyers to consider the same,” reasons Arshad Hasan, Head of Business Development & Marketing, Amann Bangladesh.
The company firmly endorses the philosophy of ‘seeing is believing’, and in a price-sensitive market like Bangladesh, where many companies get swayed by ‘less expensive’ options, but Amann continues to propagate the concept of ‘apparent cost of thread’ vs ‘real cost of sewing’.
“We demonstrated to the factories the result on their shopfloor; there is no point just claiming benefits,” reasons Rokonuzzaman. Being a finance person with a clear market focus, he understands that being efficient to bring down the cost is very important and can be the critical decider in thread selection.
Supporting the thought process of the management is a fully trained sales team, which according to the MD and Arshad, are perhaps the best in their business category well supported by other functions and/or departments. These youngsters were handpicked from select professional institutes and trained in-house to work in a global environment. They have KPIs, and the quality of service that they provide is an example in the industry. “People are excited to work with us because of the vibrant working culture that we have. Sense of ownership and responsibility is high and we empower people to take decisions and live by it,” says Rokonuzzaman. Arshad adds that this team is the biggest strength of the company today.
Another area that Amann is very strong in, besides the quality of product and services, is sustainability with the push coming straight from the heart of Germany – the home of the concept. The efforts are multifold from factory practices to CSR initiatives. At the factory level, the company is following all global norms being implemented in Germany with matching tolerance levels. “Regular tests and compliance requirements are passé; it is about what extra one can do for the environment and people,” highlights Rokonuzzaman.
At the factory level, the company has implemented waste water management system; heat exchanger, which saves on energy, water and time; LED lights; ETP, besides other systems and technologies that are favourable to sustainable growth. “Sustainability is an investment and should be taken as such in the initial phase, but to be financially viable, it is important that after some time the investment gives monetary benefits,” reasons Rokonuzzaman. He agrees that sustainability is a long journey, but is also the future for all.
Embarking on the journey of sustainability has been a learning experience for Amann Bangladesh and Arshad shares a very interesting incident, to substantiate the point. He recalls that a few years ago, a shipment to a Scandinavian retailer from Bangladesh using their current thread was found to contain APO chemical that comes after 15 to 20 washes and is believed to have the capacity to damage earth after 20 years. Once this finding was published, Amann tested its threads and to its pleasure found that their threads were APO-free. The interesting follow-up was that the retailer developed high confidence on Amann threads to meet their Quality Manuals. “We are well ahead of others on sustainable parameters, and such incidents only increase people’s trust on us,” avers Arshad.
Having stamped its authority on the environment front, the company from this year onwards is taking up a major CSR project to adopt children for higher education. “We have a foundation called Hanns A. Pielenz Foundation to support art and culture, and science and research, as well as education. This year, we have taken up a project of sending two talented students who can’t be supported by their families to study in a German university,” shares Rokonuzzaman. “These young students will eventually be absorbed in our organization, supporting our need for fresh talent,” explains Rokonuzzaman. The company is very excited and is looking to keep the ball rolling over the years.
The passion of the company and pride in its identity is palpable. Both the MD and Arshad are confident of their growth and feel that the last three-and-a-half years of understanding the industry have been fruitful. “Lots of opportunities are there…; the target is not to grow sharply, but to consolidate our position. We believe growth will come from the increasing high value apparel sourcing from Bangladesh and also from newer categories like lingerie, denim and sportswear, though core threads will continue to hold a pride position in our basket of offerings,” signs off Rokonuzzaman.