Since 1996, Robintex-Group has been operating in the export oriented composite knit garment industry of Bangladesh. The group has three running concerns--Robintex (Bangladesh) Ltd, Robin Knitwear Ltd and Comptex Bangladesh Ltd. In an interview with Fibre2Fashion, Robin Razon Sakhawat, Director of Robin Knitwear Ltd, discusses about the evolution of the knit sector of Bangladesh, the challenges it faces and the future trends to dominate it.
What is the market size of knitwear sector in Bangladesh at present? How has the sector evolved in the last 10 years? Going forward what factors will contribute to its growth?
According to BGMEA, Bangladesh knit sector contributes more than 16 billion USD yearly. Out of that, 11.61 billion USD in EU Countries, 1.43 billion USD in US and 2.70 million USD in other countries.
Contribution on socio-economic development
Bangladesh knitwear sector contributes to Bangladesh's economy in a distinctive manner. The last 20 years witnessed unparalleled growth in this sector, which is also the largest exporting industry in Bangladesh. It has attained top notch place in terms of foreign exchange earnings, exports, industrialisation and contribution to GDP within a short span of time. The industry plays a significant role in employment generation, women empowerment, poverty reduction, health and nutrition improvement etc.
Employment in the knitwear industry has provided direct access to cash income for the first time to many poor women. A survey conducted by the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) in 2012 showed that for 86 per cent of the female workers in the non-EPZ areas, work in the garment industry was the maiden wage employment. The survey also showed that women were taking up such roles, paying for house rents and schooling expenses for their children or brothers and sisters. Most significant change has occurred in the empowerment of women. Now women can play an important role in making decisions by their own.
It has been observed that out of 9 percentage point reduction in head-count poverty during 2000-2005, 2.5 percentage point reduction could be attributed to growth of the RMG sector. The knitwear export growth also had a positive impact on service sector which has created huge job opportunities for people. All these, amongst others, have positive impact in reducing poverty.
The effective way to reduce the poverty level is to create employment opportunities for the impoverished people. Bangladesh knitwear industry has played an important role by creating employment opportunities for the poor and uneducated people who were previously engaged with the traditional agriculture sector. BKMEA has set up a training institute and developed different short, medium and long-term courses on different issues related with knitwear production. Thousands of workers and mid-level management have got training from BKMEA. Many fresh graduates have already taken trainings from the institute and joined in the knitwear factories. The immediate result of rising knitwear sector translated into rapid urbanisation. So far the industry creates 1.6 million direct jobs and 0.5 million indirect jobs.
Improvement of Purchasing Power:
The development of knitwear sector had a huge impact on the improvement of purchasing power capacity, particularly for rural female. The purchasing power of the low-income people has increased significantly. Now people can afford more goods than before. This happens because the income level has increased considerably. The purchasing power of garment workers have increased significantly compared to the situation back in 1980s and 1990s.
Improvement in health sector:
Employment facilities in knitwear sector improves the income level as well as the purchasing power of poor people especially from the urban side. As a result, access to medicine and access to registered doctors have increased significantly. Calorie intake of the workers has increased considerably. BKMEA has set up a hospital for better treatment of the workers. BKMEA also strictly monitors the member factories so that each factory provides medical services to the workers.
Structural & social development:
The knitwear industry is contributing to a number of ways to Bangladesh's national economy with the help of poverty alleviation programmes and has helped to create an awareness of women's issues at all levels. In addition to its economic contribution, the expansion of the RMG industry has caused noticeable social changes by bringing more than 2.92 million women into the work force.
What makes Bangladesh one of the biggest knitwear exporting countries?
Low labour cost, availability of raw materials, quality products.
How was Robintex Knitwear formed? What are the major milestones achieved by it since its inception years?
Robintex-Group has three concerns--Robintex (Bangladesh) Ltd, Robin Knitwear Ltd and Comptex Bangladesh Ltd, in the composite knitwear sector and all of its factories are lavishly accommodated in a 35-acre single premise situated at Vulta, Narayanganj about 15 km to the east of Dhaka, just by the highway that connects the capital city with the country's international Port City, Chittagong.
With world leading machinery, technology and expertise from Germany, US, UK, Japan, Switzerland, Australia, Italy, Singapore and India, it has been purposefully configured to qualify to be a full-fledged vertically integrated composite knit premise. Beside all required utilities and about 0.71 million square feet of floor space for production, it has plenty of open space, lush greenery and necessary environment protection measures as well. With 1864 sewing machines, about 7500 skilled workforce members are working here in an ideal environment to produce about 0.1 million pieces of high quality and diverse types of knit garments every day.
In 2019, Robintex Group achieved turnover of $120 million. It dipped in 2020 to $105 million. We are not focused on rapid expansion anymore but intend to modernise and improve our existing manufacturing processes. Robin Knitwear was founded as a backward linkage company and situated at the same premises. Our last major milestone was in March this year when we started our new digital printing facility. We invested around $9 million and now have the biggest capacity in digital printing in Bangladesh.
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