The garment sector, one of the prospective industries of Bangladesh, is now faced with increasingly emerging challenges in the changing realities of the global market economy. Tough competition and the sluggish rate of global economic growth are widely thought to be the predominant factors behind the slow but steady drop in foreign exchange earning rate made by the garments sector. Reviewing the last five years’ contribution of the garment sector to the GDP, it is seen that growth in this sector has declined by 3 per cent. According to the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), ready-made garment industries’ contribution during the fiscal year 2013-2014 was 13.53 per cent while in 2017-2018 it was 11.42 per cent.
Stiff competition, competitive market price, labour unrest, non-compliance with the order deadline, lack of product quality and diversity, inefficient management and, above all, non-competitive market strategy are among the most prominent causes that are clearly back-paddling our bright readymade garment industries silently but quite alarmingly. Along with these stumbling blocks, owners’ reluctance to fulfilling the terms and conditions of the EU and the USA have been working as a negative phenomena for garments for a pretty long time.The manufacturers of our country take the least cognizance of the unchanging reality that the buyers’ tastes and preferences are changing at a Nanno pace, not conforming to any grammar of even yesterday. Passing of just a single day makes a big difference. Since clothes are inseparably related to glamour and fashion, change and innovations regarding designs, cuttings and colours always matter the most. As far as the readymade garments are concerned, the chemistry of adding new dimensions through change and innovations has to be taken into utmost concern and consideration. In the case of dominating and capturing both local and global market the change-makers rule the roost.
A time and trend tuned market policy and strategy are obviously very important in gaining an extra edge over the market at the operational end. Market strategy needs to be updated in an endlessly continuous process with a view to customizing the policy it right in the way the end-users like it. A fittingly sustainable market strategy is a must for a wider access and exposure of the readymade garments. It is now clearly a big question that how much accurately our manufacturers can read the pulse of the consumers. Establishing garment industries is one thing and taking control of the market is a completely different thing.
The industry which was launched just with 50 garments factories back in 1980 began to flourish at an astonishing speed with around 6,000 garment factories until 2018-2019 fiscal year. This is so far the most labour-intensive industry of Bangladesh providing employment to more than 4.4 million people, the bulk of whom would remain either unemployed or engaged in low wage economic activities. Another astounding feature of this booming industry is the massive concentration of the female workers who have migrated from rural areas.
The garment sector is unquestionably the single largest sector where economic empowerment of the impoverished rural women is tangibly felt compared to other sectors. Any drop or decline in the growth rate of this sector will in turn affect the concerned beneficiaries especially those belonging to the marginalized class.
Time is fast running out for addressing and redressing the ills and the avoidable inefficiencies prevailing in this most vital sector. Being the only legitimate and authentic representative organization for the readymade garments manufacturers, BGMEA has to come forward and will have to play the pioneering role in shooting out the troubles besetting this brilliant sector. Any hasty and short-lived attempt to remove the shortcomings accumulated over the years may backfire. BGMEA has to go for an in-depth study and, if need be, overhaul the existing operational mode of this glorious sector and, upon completion of their soul-searching study, will have to come out with specific recommendations. It will be their mandatory responsibility to materialize these recommendations in a fast-track mode. Of course, the government will have to stand by their side and provide all possible financial as well as technical help and assistance.
Any sort of casual and callous attitude in dealing with the most burning issue of the economy right now may bring a serious catastrophe to our fast growing economy. Now, we have to keep in mind that there have already been a number of strong competitors who have been in the marketing operations since long. With advanced strategy and the professional knack of understanding the changing needs of the consumers, these competent competitors slowly but steadily have been capturing the global market. We have to pull through all our efforts and endeavours in facing all formidable challenges ahead of us.Unskilled and inefficient management is often said to be one of the major crippling factors working so incisively in the readymade garment sectors. In this regard, the government has a very positive role to play to make the management more dynamic and professional. For example, our government can arrange a series of management orientation courses and training sessions for boosting further the diversified managerial skills and efficacies of manufacturing management. Besides, if necessary, financial packages will have to be provided to the readymade garment manufacturers so that they can make a fresh comeback with the fullest marketing vigour and enthusiasm.
Unless the people concerned rise up from the slumber of satisfaction and self complacency, no real breakthrough will be practically made in breaking the jinx which, if allowed to continue for any longer spell, will surely cause an irreparable damage to our readymade garment sector.
The writer is an Assistant Professor of English, Bogura Cantonment Public School & College.
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