RMG is the top export industry in Bangladesh. More than one tenth of the population is directly or indirectly related to this industry. This growing industry has still room for more expert manpower to start their careers. With over 30 years of experience in this industry, Md. Moshiul Azam Shajal, former Director of BGMEA & Managing Director of Posmi Sweaters, gives us the scoop on how rewarding this industry can be career-wise.
How did you end up in this sector?
When I was a student, I started working at my brother-in-law's office. I helped him with one of his projects, which was erecting a sweater factory. After graduating from DU, I joined a corporation. But I terribly missed working in the RMG sector so I left that job within 3 months of joining. I got back to the garments' company where I was minority shareholder. After working there for 2 years, I was hooked!
What are the most challenging aspects of your work?
There are challenges in every profession. But in our industry, the challenges are quite different. When I started working in the RMG sector, the first challenge that we faced was communication. Basically, we lacked merchandising skills. I had to enhance my skills as a merchandiser first because we lacked the required human resources. Even today, I lead the merchandising department of the business.
The next waves of challenges were the new compliance regulations imposed in Bangladesh. Dealing with child labour was a crucial aspect back in the 90s. I admit, for a country like Bangladesh, regulation is actually doing good for the business. Yes, thanks to that, all the reputed garments are more or less complying with the global standard, which in the long term is helping the industry thrive.
Another challenge is the new emerging competition. Due to political stability and human resources, countries like Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and India are becoming our competitors in this sector. Surviving tough competition is a challenge as well.
Lastly, one thing that most people in the RMG sector will admit: the scarcity of technically educated human resources in Bangladesh.
What are the qualities that you look for in people when hiring?
This varies from position to position. In case of entry level fresh grads, we want them to be creative and fast learners. In the case of mid level hires, we look for people who have worked in the industry for a certain period of time. We also take into account the time someone has worked in each particular company. The last thing we want is a job hopper. It's bad for my company as well as his/her own career. For top level positions, we generally hire people who are veterans in the field and have a keen eye for upcoming business trends.
What's the compensation package like in this industry?
Quite impressive to be honest! Fresh graduates with a technical degree in the relevant field are easily able to secure their first job for a starting monthly base salary of BDT 25,000-35,000. And if you are performing well enough then it will continue to grow at 10-15% per year. The benefits are great as well. Most importantly you get to learn a lot. Mid level managers with 6-8 years of experience draws around BDT 80,000-100,000 per month. Senior managers' with 10-12 years experience draw BDT 130,000-150,000 per month whereas top level executives draw over than BDT 250,000 per month on an average. So as you can see there are lots of perks involved.
Another interesting thing is that there is scope for career growth from the very lowest positions. In my company, we have 3 production managers all of whom started out as swing operators. And now, with over than 7-8 years of experience in production, they look after an entire floor's production. Their compensation package has grown as well; now each of them earns no less than BDT 80,000.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs in the RMG industry?
I would ask them to start by building a sustainable and compliant infrastructure for the factory. The competition is stiff now so you need to be creative and you need to be able to foresee what's coming. Be aggressive. Without aggression you won't be able to make a mark in the industry. Follow all the Accord Alliance compliance guidelines. And be good with the people you are working with. If you follow these I am sure you will be able to create a great business.
Engineer-turned-writer, Shahriar Rahman is Sub-Editor of the tech publication of The Daily Star. He is also Head of Operations at HiFi Public.