I think sustainability is possible anywhere; it is a matter of commitment from industry leaders.
Mr. Aroon Hirdaramani discusses the Sri Lankan textile industry in comparison to other textile industries of South Asia with Mary Christine Joy.
Headquartered in Sri Lanka, the Hirdaramani Group is one of the country's largest conglomerates with interests in apparel manufacturing, hotels managed by the Hilton and Taj Group, renewable energy, IT, retail and finance. The group has a global reach, with over 40,000 employees across 6 countries and garments being sold to the world's leading brands and retailers including Marks & Spencer, Tommy Hilfiger, Levi's, Calvin Klein and Uniqlo. The group's production facilities across Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Vietnam utilize lean manufacturing and produce approximately 12 million garments each month.
Aroon Hirdaramani has served as a Director of the Hirdaramani Group since 2003. Aroon earned a bachelor's degree in Business Economics from Brown University in 2001. After graduation, he worked as an analyst in investment banking at Credit Suisse in New York. Over the past 10 years he has helped to grow the Group's turnover exponentially and make it a model for operational excellence and environmental sustainability.
Hirdaramani Group has moved from being a humble retailer to a major manufacturing and retailing group in Colombo. How would you describe the journey so far?
It has been over 100 years since Hirdaramani started and I have been part of that journey for the past 11 years. I think the best way to describe the Hirdaramani story is to say that it has been driven by the "spirit of entrepreneurship." We started with the concept of 'same day' tailoring for the ships that came into the Colombo port, then expanded to other apparel retail, and over the years have continually identified new business opportunities, constantly diversifying and growing. From one of the pioneering companies in Sri Lankan apparel export, we now have a presence in multiple industries - alternative energy, leisure, finance, retail and IT, to name a few. At Hirdaramani, we have never been satisfied with the status-quo and are always continuously looking for new opportunities.
Headquartered in Sri Lanka, how do you see the Sri Lankan textile industry as a sourcing destination in comparison to Bangladesh, Vietnam, and other Asian countries?
I think Sri Lanka is well known for its use of sustainable practices when compared to other Asian countries. This concept is prevalent across a large section of its textile and apparel manufacturing. Consumers today are more socially conscious and are looking for companies that deliver more sustainable products and Sri Lankan manufacturers are able to help our customers meet this goal.
You were featured in the Echelons 40 under 40 list. You have achieved quite a lot in a young age. What advice would you like to give to young, aspiring entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka?
I would advise young entrepreneurs to remain updated with the latest technological innovations. The world is changing at a rapid rate and in order to be competitive you need to keep at the cutting edge. Most importantly, it is important to keep learning and redirecting that knowledge back into your business. To be truly successful, you have to accept that your job is never really done, and always have an insatiable desire to learn more, do more and keep improving.
What according to you are the advantages of the Sri Lankan apparel sourcing industry in comparison to other sourcing destinations of South Asia?
The biggest advantage of the Sri Lankan apparel industry is reliability; this sector is very stable and labour relationships are very strong due to a top-down focus on working conditions and employee development. We are also very particular about environmental protection, compliance, and a high level of sustainability across the industry. In addition to this Sri Lankan manufacturers continually focus on manufacturing and product innovation. This has helped us to remain competitive and provide a one stop shop for our customers.
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