Journey of a small entrepreneur
Mustafa Imrul Quayes, managing director of Versatile Attire Ltd, was all worked up over a phone conversation with a clearing and forwarding agent.
The small garments entrepreneur was concerned as the fabrics would not arrive in his factory in due time due to a long-queue at Petrapole, the Indian side of Benapole land port.
The C&F agent said it might even take 12 days to bring fabrics to the Savar-based factory from Petrapole.
A little later, he called up one of his US buyers, assuring him that he could deliver the apparel items on time despite political turbulence and frequent shutdowns across the country.
“It should hardly take three days to get the fabrics after customs from both the land ports,” said a frustrated Quayes says. He imports fabrics from India to execute orders for buyers in the US and Europe.
Such delays in customs and frequent shutdowns across Bangladesh are major glitches, he said. The list of problems in the garment business is endless, he added.
“How many problems will I tell you about? Being a small garments investor, I have to face extra hassle as have a small capacity,” he said over lunch at an interview with The Daily Star in his office in Dhanmondi.
The entrepreneur said he has to purchase diesel worth Tk 50 lakh a year to run his factory for an inadequate supply of gas and power. As a result, he has to spend an additional Tk 4 a piece to accommodate the cost of diesel.
“I wanted to talk about my business plans and achievements, but the situation is such that I must share the problems of running the business in this interview.”
Quayes exports garment products worth nearly $10 million a year, employing 900 workers at his factory at Savar. He is now planning to set up a textiles factory, but there are the problems with gas connections.
The government suspended giving new gas connections in the industrial units since July 2010 with the excuse of inadequate supplies of this natural resource.
“My expansion plans have been stopped for the government's decision,” said Quayes, who started his career as a garments maker and exporter in 2009.
Before starting his own venture, he worked at Shanin Group, another garments group, as director for operations after graduating from Dhaka University in 1992.
Among numerous problems for the small garments businessman, he said the dearth of skilled workers in the sector has posed as a major threat now.
Due to a shortage of skilled workers, the rate of internal migration is also higher in the sector, he added. “As a result, the factory owners have to suffer a lot every month.”
Quayes also shared the woes of low prices offered by the international buyers. The buyers prefer bargain on the price, although the cost of production has been increasing every year, he said.
Taking a shirt out of a rack behind him, he pointed at the price tag on a shirt that read $115; but he will receive a little over $5 for that piece. “If I could receive even $10 for a shirt, I would have been a rich man fast.”
Bangladesh has the potential to grow as work orders are shifting from China, the largest apparel supplying country worldwide, he said. “This is the time for Bangladesh. We struggled over the last three decades, and the time has come to enjoy the benefits.”
However, the bank interest rate of 18-19 percent is really higher to run business in such fierce competition, in both local and international markets. The sector will run into bigger crisis for such high and intolerable bank interest rate, he said.
He supplies garment items to Polo, C&A, Cheers, Chaps, Stylex, Karaban and Mayoran.