Rehnuma Chowdhury is a visionary entrepreneur and a leading example among Bangladeshi women entrepreneurs. She has worked with many international brands and was inspired to contribute to the textile and apparel industry by the people around her. Throughout her career, she took new challenges all-time. Now she is the Director of Business Development, Fifth Alliance Ltd.
Recently she shared her dreams and passion with Textile Today. Here is a glimpse of the discussion for the readers.
Textile Today: Why have you built your career in the textile sector? And what were the inspirations brought you to this sector?
Rehnuma: We are usually inspired by the people around us, and this is no exception for me. My two uncles had two factories; I grew up watching things in factories since my childhood. Since then, many questions have arisen in my mind how many things are being made with these fabrics! So, from a young age, I was interested in what they are doing with these fabrics? So I started thinking that one day I will do something like that.
And since most of the people in my family are businessmen, I aim to be the entrepreneur for whom as a woman I have worked and learned everywhere from dyeing to washing. I always want to know something new that helps me to stay in my position.
Textile Today: What problems did you face in your entire career from the very beginning?
Rehnuma: I started my career in the textile sector as an Assistant Merchandiser at a Canadian retailer company in 2004. I worked there for 4 years and I learned a lot there. Due to the global recession, they got shut down. Then in 2008, I joined NEXT as an Assistant Merchandiser but my journey was not good. So, I switched to C&A Sourcing from there the 2nd phase of my learning in the textile sector started. They taught me a lot. C&A Sourcing was working with sportswear, at that time Bangladesh’s contribution to sportswear was very low.
Back in 2008, it was very difficult for a woman to survive in this sector and it was not easy to survive by competing with others.
After that, I switched to a Swiss company but unfortunately, they also got shut down due to financial conditions. I got upset when it closed in 2017 and I kept thinking about what should I do now? I can switch my job but I need a comfortable one to sustain. Then I thought to start my own business. As I was a well-known face in this sector and I have many colleagues in many big companies so I started my own business after talking to them.
Textile Today: How do you see the contribution of female entrepreneurs in the textile and apparel sector? What could be done to increase woman entrepreneurs in the textile and apparel sector?
Rehnuma: If I think about the global market, then I have to say that the women of Bangladesh are far ahead. According to BGMEA, we have 4000 garment factories of which around 20% of owners or decision-makers are female. When they represent their company in an international seminar or festival, a good idea is formed in the whole world about Bangladesh that there is no gender discrimination.
This idea came only for women entrepreneurs. About 85% of workers in the textile & garment sector in Bangladesh are women. Speaking of BGMEA President Rubana Huq, she is also a woman who is promoting Bangladesh’s textile sector to the whole world is a shining example of gender equity.
In Bangladesh, it’s tough for a woman to be an entrepreneur because there are many policy complexity and financial loan obstacles. I think they can overcome these obstacles if they get any financial support like a quota for women entrepreneurs to getting a loan, govt. facilities like CIP and recommendations who are doing well in this sector.
Textile Today: As we know that your company works from design to development of a product, how do you define a new design trend and what are the new designs you are making now?
Rehnuma: Designers always set the trends but based on the demands. If I talk about European Country’s they are now moving forward from using baby diapers because it’s not comfortable, and it is harmful to babies. So, it’s changing according to the requirements of people. Due to the corona pandemic, the choice of peoples has changed a lot. People are now looking for durable and sustainable products.
Now online related platforms are also influencing the trends and designs. There are various online influencers on Facebook, Instagram, Tik-Tok, etc. So, now we have to work on the new trend following the online platforms. For this reason, we have to go for a short lead-time production to grab the market.
Textile Today: As our industries aren’t established with short lead time. So how they can manage to go for a short lead-time production?
Rehnuma: In Bangladesh, we don’t have a strong backward linkage. We are working in the textile sector for almost 40 years but we couldn’t establish our backward linkage, which is the main headache now. As the world business trends are changing day by day, we need to cope up with short lead-time production to sustain in this business.
Textile Today: Online retailing is booming. How do you evaluate the marketing strategy?
Rehnuma: Factories and buying houses, support each-other is required right now to sustain. We can see that the buying houses have been ordered but the factories are on the verge of closing due to lack of orders and proper communication. So, need an active platform where the buying houses and factories can communicate with each other promptly. We can use our youths to maintain this platform. Now I heard about Alibaba.com that they are doing a great job in this phenomenon and it’s a pleasure for us knowing that Textile Today is working with them to represent our country.