Interview with Felicia Gan

Felicia Gan
Felicia Gan
Deputy CEO
Ghimli Global Pte ltd
Ghimli Global Pte ltd

Have adapted to "hold and flow" system for customers
Ghimli is a global textile and apparel supply chain manager of casual lifestyle knitwear apparel to major US retailers. It offers a total solution package with an integrated one-stop service approach, from in-house product design and development, commercialisation of orders, material management, production planning and control, to comprehensive post manufacturing logistics solutions. In a chat with Fibre2Fashion, Felicia Gan, Deputy CEO of Ghimli Global Pte ltd, shares Ghimli's journey till now, how it is managing the current Covid crisis and future plans.

Where does Singapore stand with respect to the global textile market? Which major markets is it competing with?

Singapore is a traditional manufacturing hub of the 80s due to its quota free status. After WTO quote free in 2005, most Singaporean manufacturers have moved out to low cost countries of SEA, some even to Latin America for duty free and also as far as Africa. 

Singaporean companies have evolved to provide R&D, product development, design and our finance continues to be centered in Singapore with most manufacturing functions being pushed outside of Singapore. With trusted Singapore branding of integrity and reliability, we have fostered long lasting relationships with our customers over the years. With more and more bilateral FTA opening up in the region, this will open up new markets and customers bases for us. 

As a councilor for TAFF (Textile Apparel Fashion Federation), we are nurturing new generation of designers and assisting them to market locally and overseas. With the success of a few incubator projects, we now have a Cocoon Space in the heart of orchard road for designers to showcase their products. With rapid globalisation, more and more people are looking at local designers and we are very excited to be able to groom local designers or brands and then in future internationally.

What is the story behind Ghimli Global? What are your major achievements till date?

Ghim Li Group is a vertically integrated cut/sew knits manufacturer for over 43 years established since 1977. We are Singapore based and founded by Estina Ang who started the company with just six sewing machines as a sub-contractor. Our garment factories are located in Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, with 9,000 staff and annually producing more than 62 million pieces of garments a year. On the fabric side, we own and operate Maxim Textiles Technology in Malaysia with a manufacturing capacity of 2.5 million lbs of knitted fabric monthly. 

As result of our one-stop shop services, Ghim Li Group has been awarded 5 Star Vendor for over 28 years consecutively and work with over 10 Macys' private labels. For Walmart Canada, we have also been award Vendor of the Year (Apparel) for over 3 years in 2013, 2015, 2016. More recently, Estina Ang was named "The Emergent 25 Asia's Latest Star Businesswomen" by Forbes Asia in 2018. Ghim Li was certified as a "Women Owned Business" in 2019 by an international certification body WBENC which validates businesses that are owned, controlled, operated or managed by women.

What are the products you manufacturer under casual knitwear category?

Ghim Li Group is able to manufacture multi product types ranging from ladieswear, menswear, kidswear and sleepwear. Our current customers include a range of US and Europe specialty store retailers, major department stores and supermarket chains. We are able to provide seasonal product design services to our customers and travel to US frequently for design projects. We ship our garments on FOB and LDP basis and are able to import products directly to US with warehousing support services. We constantly drive to innovate to provide customised solutions to individual customers' demands. Further as part of vendor accreditation, we have specialised teams who are trained for self-fit, self-colour approvals and are able to conduct self-inspections.

Which markets do you cater to? Which major brands and retailers are you associated with?

Ghim Li started in 1997. We are a garment manufacturer - we moved from being an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) to being an Original Design Manufacturer (ODM). We work directly with international customers like department stores and our business mainly focuses on the US market. Not able to name our customers but there are mostly major retailers, department stores and specialty stores in the US.

What is the sourcing strategy at Ghimli? Where do you source the raw materials from?

Ghim Li is a vertical global supply chain manufacturer, which was established in Singapore for more than 45 years. Our fabric mill and production facilities are located across countries in Southeast Asia. Ghim Li is also a key apparel supplier to major US/ European and designer brands / retailers. We diversified our sourcing from several countries from china, Taiwan, Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia.

You started with your factory in Vietnam few years back. How is that going to improve your business prospects and manufacturing capability?

Vietnam is an outsource partner and we continue to partner them on products suitable for their production lines. Other than Vietnam, we do also have facilities in Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia and we allocate production based on the product types and efficiency.

What is your production capacity for knitwear products annually?

70 million pieces per year. 

Do you want to add in more manufacturing units in future? Will they be outsourced again?

Yes we have considered adding more manufacturing units and some may be under outsourced arrangement. As a group we are also exploring other countries of production. But for now we are holding any expansion plans to continue monitoring Covid- 19's global impact.

What kind of innovations are you trying to bring into your garment business?

Automation of the garment manufacturing and digitalisation of the ordering process is what we are working at.

What kind of market study do you do to understand current trends and consumer tastes?

Not applicable at this juncture as the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the trends. However, we have very close connection with our customers to understand their needs and try to change our operations to adapt to the changing environment.

How has the worldwide Covid crisis hit the Singaporean garments industry? Which are the immediate concerns?

Due to the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic, some of our customers have requested to postpone the orders and to hold the shipments. This has resulted in suspension of some of the production in our factories. As some buyers have stopped or halted developments and order placements, it has impacted our sales revenue.  

Diversification of product risk and having country flexibility are the key concerns to ensure that the supply chain is not disrupted. We can see a great shift of production bases outside of China and leveraging on lower cost countries with abundancy of labour.

Have you quantified your projected losses?

Currently we do not foresee any significant loss as a result of Covid-19. US orders are slowly resuming due to promising retail sales as stores open gradually.

What steps are you taking or have taken to face the challenges like order cancellations?

Thankfully, we did not have to deal with order cancellations and have not felt any impact in terms of ordering and delivering of goods yet. Some of our customers have asked for flexibility with their orders. As long-term partners we understand their needs and have chosen to weather the storm together with them. What we have done for our customers is to hold the shipment of goods. We have adapted to a "hold and flow" system - this means that if an order is meant to be shipped in March, but our customers do not want to receive the goods in March, we can hold on to their goods till April or May. So instead of having to face order cancellations, we have had to move delivery schedules to accommodate our customers. 

Ghim Li has offered our empathy and solidarity to the fight through against Covid-19 pandemic with our customers as partners and will continue to be their long-term partners. We believe in offering our assistance and flexibility to our customers during this unprecedented global pandemic. Within our financial means, we will have to, with good reasoning of our risk management protocols, offer assistance to our customers to support the amount of merchandise they will need in their stores when retail eventually opens especially in US.

This will help to build lasting partnerships and secure long-term relationships with our key customers amidst this crisis. It is of upmost importance that we understand the difficulties of our customers and why they need to make such difficult decisions in order to survive in the long run. Ghim Li is an old vendor for most of our key customers and this makes it even more imperative that we support them fully when they need us the most.
Published on: 08/07/2020

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of