Sustainability is considered to be Sri Lanka's strength as compared to other South Asian countries. What makes sustainability possible in Sri Lanka?
I think sustainability is possible anywhere; it is a matter of commitment from industry leaders. In Sri Lanka, Hirdaramani and companies like us, took the initiative to invest and kick start the focus on sustainability by building eco-friendly factories - such as our first green factory, Mihila, which was also the first custom-built green apparel factory in the world. By taking the first step, we set the standard and led the way for other companies to follow. Then, the industry begins to almost regulate itself and these practices become norms. Another important point is that sustainability is inherent in our culture here in Sri Lanka, as we are an island with scarce resources so we do our best to conserve these.
How important is training in a work place? Can you elaborate your opinion?
Training is essential in any work place. Firstly, it is an essential part of an employer's commitment to create development opportunities for their employees. This is something we take very seriously at Hirdaramani and we run several programs that range from technical trainings to leadership development, all of which are geared to identify and develop individual capabilities and talents. By investing in training and education, we ensure that every single employee has an opportunity for advancement. Secondly, it is a key part of staying competitive, a company is only as good as the people who work in it, and as I mentioned with the rapid rate of innovation today, it is important that employees are up-to-date on the latest technology.
You have served as an analyst in investment banking in the past. How did that experience help in managing the Hirdaramani Group?
Being from a family business, in a way, the apparel industry has been part of my DNA. Stepping away from this and gaining experience in a different sector was an important part of developing a better-rounded understanding of business and corporates. By applying what I learned in investment banking to what I do today, I am able to bring a new perspective to problems and issues that crop up.
Energy efficiency is one of the major issues plaguing the South Asian textile industry. Do you agree? Do you suppose that South Asian textile industry is losing out to other countries like Vietnam and China for this reason? Please explain your stand.
I feel the issue that we face in South Asia is the relatively high cost of energy as compared to other regions. As energy is a major component in the total cost for textile mills this does put our mills at a slight disadvantage. However I know mills in Sri Lanka have worked very hard on using alternative energy sources as well as improving energy efficiency which has allowed them to remain competitive.
Which countries outsource their apparel manufacturing work to Sri Lanka majorly? What reasons do you suppose attract these countries to Sri Lanka when it comes to apparel manufacturing?
The US and Europe still remain our larger export markets. There are historical factors that do come into play here and in many cases our customers from these regions have been sourcing from Sri Lanka for years. Certain brands have remained loyal to Sri Lanka as ourselves and other leading manufacturers have provided complete supply chain solutions for them. More recently Sri Lanka has also become the destination for value-conscious brands, with our highly skilled work force, vertically integrated manufacturing and development of sustainability, we are the go-to option for brands that are conscious of these factors. With the change in market trends this continues to open up new regions for us.
Out of woven, knit, and bonded fabrics, which type is the strength of South Asian textile industry? Why do you suppose South Asia rules in this type?
I think South Asia leads in the knit and woven sectors, primarily because a legacy of manufacturing across these two verticals has led to a well-developed knowledge and skill set. The cotton industry is very strong in India and Pakistan, and when it comes to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, the knitwear Industry is well developed because of the market demands over the years, which have led to an increased number of vertical manufacturers in this category. The polyester industry unfortunately is not quite as developed. This is one area where textile mills in our region needs to develop rapidly as consumer demand for synthetic fabrics continues to grow each year.
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