Dhaka, Saturday, 12 June 2021

Tahsin Khan: From Assistant Merchandiser to Industry Owner

2021-03-29
Tahsin Khan: From Assistant Merchandiser to Industry Owner

Apparel Correspondent: Tahsin Khan is a Chairman of Centro Group. He has been playing a vital role in the Bangladesh ready-made garment (RMG) industry since 2006. During this tenure, he has extended his business at home and abroad. In his Personal life, Tahsin is a committed father to his two children Afrida and Sharar and husband to his wife Maqsura. A passionate long-distance runner, the 46-year-old has completed The London Marathon in 2016 & 17 and the New York Marathon in 2019.

He is contesting for the post of Director under Forum panel in Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) election which is scheduled to be held on April 4 this year. Recently, he talked to Amit K Biswas, Editor of The Apparel News, about the RMG industry in Bangladesh.

The Apparel News: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Tahsin Khan: I was born in a middle-class family in Chattogram. Both my parents were bankers. I did my MBA from East-West University Bangladesh. Besides business and busy work life, I am also a marathon runner. Running teaches me how to manage my energy efficiency at a given speed.

The Apparel News: Please tell us something about your beginning story, how did you start? What elements inspired you to start the business?

Tahsin Khan: I started my career at a Bangladeshi buying house NG Apparels in 1997 as an Assistant Merchandiser before joining Triton Textile (a sister concern of Jebsen and Jessen GmbH & CO. KG). I was the Deputy General Manager when I left the company in 2006 to start our own company, Centro with my 4 partners. Throughout my employment career, I had a thought to develop a Bangladeshi Global brand and that thought thrives me to get involved with the business.

The Apparel News: Tell us about your organization.

Tahsin Khan: The Centro Group include Centro Tex Ltd, Manami Fashions Ltd, MIM Fashion Wear Ltd, Centro Sourcing UK Ltd, Centro International Sourcing Ltd HK, and Centro T2T Ltd HK. The Group currently has around 3,000 employees and has offices in Bangladesh, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom with a turnover above 135 million USD. The group provides multiple apparel solutions like design, sourcing, and manufacturing solutions to the global apparel trade, owning a couple of garment factories In Bangladesh and with a responsive sourcing network throughout Asia. In addition to Centro, I am also co-founder of the - Mongrel Fashion, a Belgian based retailer and home to exciting lifestyle brand Haze and Finn (www.hazefinn.com) which proudly co-sponsored the European Open Tennis in Antwerp in 2019 & 2020. I am also a director of the Sirajganj Economic Zone, one of the largest private green economic projects in Bangladesh that will facilitate local and foreign investment and creates up to 500,000 new jobs.

The Apparel News: What are your plans?

Tahsin Khan: I want to echo Albert Einstein “The future is not a gift-it is an achievement.” I have a plan to develop more reliable Bangladeshi global brands. I am a value-driven person, and my values are fastened with my future venture. One of my core values is 'Don't compete, just create' and your creativity will clinch the excellence. Climate change and environment-related crisis are gradually and inherently getting widely connected to our RMG sector. Besides, my management candidacy as an RMG personnel I do believe our industry must have a green and sustainable environmentally friendly focus, we are certainly aiming for energy-efficient development in the coming future.

The Apparel News: How do you evaluate Bangladesh RMG?

Tahsin Khan: Once Bangladesh was named as a “basket case”, but now are in a phase to be the “Next 11” emerging nations. According to the World Bank, our RMG sector helps Bangladesh to grow almost three times over the last decade and nine times since the '90s. We are the heartbeat of our Golden Bangladesh's national economy. Our RMG sector now solely contributes 84.21 per cent towards the total export earnings and this is unbelievably remarkable.

The Apparel News: How is the future of Bangladesh’s RMG industry? In your opinion, what are the challenges ahead for the industry at the post-COVID-19?

Tahsin Khan: We must remember we are one of the key players in the global supply chains and that have been disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic. I must thank the active role of the BGMEA in creating pressure on the customers to revive the cancelled orders, creating factory opening protocol, negotiating with the government on soft loans, etc. It could have been different otherwise. For example, Centro’s orders on hand on the 18th March 2020 was US$55 Million, within 5 days, it dropped down to US$17M, just imagine, if BGMEA would have not played an active role, it would have been catastrophic for Centro or any others who are in the garment industry. We are not in a situation to step backwards, challenges are known and common therefore we must come up with unique and sustainable solutions. We have efficient and hardworking human resources; we must rely on their strength. At the same time, we must be more adaptive to latter-day technology.

The Apparel News: What is your message for the new one as a successful entrepreneur?

Tahsin Khan: I believe entrepreneurs may blindly follow their passion, but certainly, they should not be taciturn. My suggestions for them would be to downplay the risks, you have to take calculative risks, and practically guesstimate your talents. Also, it is always helpful to get control over your prodigious oddity. Commitment and passion are the true difference-maker. You may figure out the big concepts are far more common than your imagination but bear in mind if you can shape your big concepts institutionally that will make you incredibly a rare breed.

The Apparel News: What is your message for policymakers?

Tahsin Khan: Kindly read our need. You can call us any time we are ready to cooperate/assist with making the policies. Our policy should thrive us to unleash the maximum capacity and capability of our entire RMG sector. I believe still we have many uncharted potentials; at the same time, a more apt and efficient economical safeguarding policy could be taken to stabilize our smooth way forward.

The Apparel News: How to make the workers feel better?

Tahsin Khan: Communication ….. some of us have a top-down internal communication approach, and that can be replaced by bottom-up communications. The workers are our colleagues and are the heart of our industry and we believe they are working with us not working for us, but this needs to be communicated. We must place a process to accumulate and transform our hardworking colleague’s knowledge and that hard-earned knowledge transformation can lead us to be more problem solving and dynamic.

The Apparel News: The government is establishing around 100 Economic Zones, (EZ). What are the challenges of getting benefit from there?

Tahsin Khan: Undoubtedly, it is a remarkable initiative of the Bangladesh government. Our country's economy is going to materialize the most effective change since its independence. Now it is high time to engage more investors to make all the EZ up and running.

The Apparel News: As a buyer and manufacturer, how can you manage?

Tahsin Khan: I always prefer to be more market-oriented and strategic to meet any challenge. I follow some basic market strategies and those strategies determine my do’s and don’ts.

The Apparel News: What measurements can be taken for the long-lasting of the company?

Tahsin Khan: A company should be value-driven and continuous improvement and adaptability should be the core of those values. Our industry has a fast-moving pace, so a constant readiness for sudden challenge and change is the only solution.

The Apparel News: What do you think of AI and automation in the RMG industry? Will it eat up jobs?

Tahsin Khan: I am a tech-savvy person. Adaptation with technology is part of a sustainable industry culture. But creating impact through AI is always a matter of time and hard for early prediction. I have learned about the Sewbot four years back but since this robot yet to reach our industry. Installation of technology could be easy but maintenance and get used to it always challenging. I don’t pet and fear facing new challenges because to be successful you must accept all challenges that come.

The Apparel News: What is your opinion regarding The Apparel News?

Tahsin Khan: Being a bilingual newspaper, The Apparel is doing well for the industry. Now we can get Bangla and English news from the same newspaper. I wish all the best for its future endeavours.

The Apparel News: What do you think about industry-based education for the sector?

Tahsin Khan: It is important to give importance to industry-based education; technology should be more integrated with our educational institution. We must have more world-class universities to serve our enormous RMG sector. The smart technique can be adopted and launched to enhance our skill and knowledge in this regard.

The Apparel News: What is your suggestion regarding professional development in this sector?

Tahsin Khan: …. Positivity and a learning mindset can be the key to every success. It is easy to find a gulf in a ship but fixing that gulf lies with the challenge. A true hero always concentrates on the solution, not on the problem. If you focus on problems only, you become a victim and when you focus on the solution you become the hero! So be a hero, not a victim.

To develop yourself as a true industry professional you shall be hardworking, adaptive and ought to open to learning and most importantly, be STREET SMART!

The Apparel News: Thank you so much for giving us your valuable time.

Tahsin Khan: I also thank you.

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