UK will have same GSP rules that exist in EU
Must was founded in 1981 by the Mahtani family in Hong Kong with a single office and a handful of employees. Today, the Must Group comprises more than 30k employees supporting the business of manufacturing and supplying high-quality garments to top brands in the US and EU. Owner Sanjeev Mahtani talks about challenges, opportunities, and factors influencing the global apparel market.
What is the size of the global apparel market? What are the shares of menswear and womenswear?
The global apparel market was estimated to be worth $1.7 trillion in 2015, with China and India leading this growth. China and India's growth figures are projected to triple by 2025 with other areas such as the US and EU-28, continuing to grow at a steady rate. Womenswear and menswear make up the largest proportion of GVA within the market. While womenswear has always been the key driver in this, menswear is slowly catching up with a 14 per cent sales growth expected by 2020.
Which are your major markets for menswear and womenswear?
The US is our biggest market.
Which major brands/retailers do you supply to?
We supply to JC Penney, Walmart, Macy's, Target, Ann Taylor and Amazon.
What is your USP? Which products are your core strengths?
Bottoms - career, casualwear, activewear, woven, knits and denim are our USP.
How have global events like Brexit and Trump's presidency impacted your business?
Our business in Europe is not significant enough yet to see if Brexit has had an impact. I do think the UK will have the same GSP rules that exist in EU. We manufacture goods in Bangladesh and the Middle East. The new US policies were helpful in some ways, but not in others. In the Middle East, there are no likely TPL extensions possible; hence, the duty-free status will go away in a lot of the countries that have impacted us in Bahrain and Oman, and now we are moving to Jordan which has a more stable FTA. On the other hand, pulling out of TPP perhaps put the brakes on the possible duty-free status in Vietnam, which might assist us in the long term.
Which new regions do you plan to explore?
Japan and Europe.
How big is your design team? How do they stay abreast with international trends?
We have an international team of fashion designers, fabric specialists, print, textile & graphic artists and trend forecasters based in New York, London and Hong Kong who provide product inspiration and market intelligence to our clients.
What are the major challenges facing the global apparel industry?
In the face of inflation of wages, energy and food & commodities, automation and investment in technology has become the biggest opportunity and need of our industry considering how labour-intense our industry is. We have invested heavily in RFID production technology and nanotech and foam dyeing for our wet processing. Some of these efforts have brought about as much as 98 per cent savings in water and huge savings in energy and chemicals that are used in the production of our garments.
Do you plan to expand your product offerings? Why don't you have a unit in India?
We've already extended our product offering. We are now doing ladies' blouses too and have set up largescale embroidery, eyelet and crotchet facilities, and have received a very encouraging response in the first two years itself of this product offering. We plan to offer casual knits and dresses in the near future.
How has business been?
Our business continues to expand at a very stable annual rate of 15-20 per cent per year. We believe in building the business brick by brick and step by step, and we do not believe in sacrificing quality or management by over-extending ourselves. Our business is built on reliability and service, and we continue to enjoy the support of our clients; we would never sacrifice this reputation. We do not manufacture any goods outside of our own facilities.
Do you plan to have your own clothing line??
We do not plan to have our own clothing line. We have strong partnerships with all retail partners and we view their brands as our brands. We eat, breathe and sleep the vision of our retail partners.
What is the average wage in your segment of the textiles industry?
We are an employer of choice and our associates in Bangladesh take home in the region of $200 on an average and in Jordan $500 per month in all our facilities. We believe in being an employer of choice.
How sustainable are your manufacturing units? What steps have you taken across the value chain to ensure a smaller carbon footprint?
All our units are rated 100 per cent by the Alliance for Bangladesh Workers safety, and we were in fact three out of the very first seven units to get a 100 per cent score. We were given a gold award for our social compliance and social and environmental excellence at the three-day apparel summit by the Bangladesh authorities. aAll our units are rated 100 per cent by the Alliance for Bangladesh Workers safety, and we were in fact three out of the very first seven units to get a 100 per cent score. We were given a gold award for our social compliance and social and environmental excellence at the three-day apparel summit by the Bangladesh authorities.
What is the ratio of menswear vs womenswear in your product portfolio?
Our business is 70 per cent womenswear and 30 per cent menswear, and we are one of a handful of manufacturers that do ladies business for the US out of Bangladesh. The majority of the US business from Bangladesh is menswear.
What is the demand more for - menswear or womenswear - according to the geographies that you operate in? Where are your manufacturing units?
Our manufacturing units are based in Bangladesh, Jordan and Oman. We currently have about 30,000 associates and manufacture over 60 million pieces per year. (HO)