Learn from an industry expert about managing client relationships, sourcing smarter and how to start a career in the fashion industry.
Ranjan Mahtani is the owner and chairman of Epic Group, an established apparel manufacturer headquartered in Hong Kong. Epic has factories in Ethiopia, Jordan, Vietnam, and Bangladesh and employs over 25,000 people around the world. Ranjan has personally lived in Bangladesh for about 15 years, experiencing first-hand the tremendous growth of the local manufacturing industry. Since its inception in 1971 as a buying agent, Epic has evolved into being a one stop shop for many of the clothing brands we know today through combining speed, efficiency, technology, design and innovation to meet the growing customer and market demands. Read on to find out how Epic Group is responding to some of the challenges caused by COVID-19, and learn Ranjan’s key advice for anyone looking to get started with a career in the fashion industry.
Managing customer relationships during the time of COVID is just one of the many new challenges that companies have to overcome. Ranjan mentions that Epic Group has always seen good customer relationships as a priority, maintaining transparency and consistency with all of its clients. This is why COVID-19 has only brought relationships with its customers closer. The trust has grown because companies can no longer use the physical act of visiting factories or face-to-face meetings to build accountability. Companies must directly rely on one another more than they previously have.
“There are obviously winners and losers in this situation. But I believe that this situation is enhancing our bond or goodwill with the unique brands we work with.”
As for smaller manufacturers, Ranjan offers some advice on how to deal with cancellations or other emerging problems. He says companies must plan the worst possible scenarios, accept it, and prepare for it. It’s all about acting in a way that is forward-looking. Manufacturers must take these hardships in stride and continue business with a fresh start.
“If you keep sitting on what you have done, it may not allow you the opportunity to really think about the future.”
Entering the apparel industry can be difficult even under normal circumstances. Ranjan shares some career advice to those struggling to establish themselves in the industry. The key point he makes is that you must have a passion to be part of the fashion business.
“This is a very relentless business. It’s tough but has lots of opportunities. And in our company, we say every challenge is an opportunity.”
There is so much room for young people to bring technology and innovation to this industry. Apparel sourcing is not even close to achieving its potential for technology, and especially during this pandemic when digital relationships are a necessity, this is the perfect opportunity.
Ranjan also offers insight about what large manufacturers are looking for in their teams. Epic places a lot of importance on hiring a diverse workforce. Their team includes people who have manufactured automobiles, toys, even those who have run pharmaceutical firms. This combination of unique experiences creates a blend of well-versed industry veterans and promising fresh blood.
“When you put them together you ultimately create a smart think tank. The goal is to have a high performance organization by keeping it on its toes and having smart people making those decisions.”
Smarter sourcing is a philosophy that Ranjan sees great value of incorporating into Epic Group’s strategy. Every company is different, but for Epic, smart sourcing is all about delivering the best and most versatile product.
“If everything is focused on that, the right product at the right time and value, then every other initiative and decision you make has a clearer objective.”
Another important part of smarter sourcing is managing competition. Ranjan has been in the industry for 40 years and he has always had to manage bidding with other companies.
“Price is always going to be important, but it's the value, the reliability, and the track record that you bring to the table which really matters. Therefore, I think it is going to make it so much easier for all these emerging brands to source smarter with proven track records.”
Many of the larger and more traditional brands are experiencing numbers that are unheard of. The new major players will emerge as those who are working much smarter - not harder - to source apparel and meet expectations.
One of the main reasons that Epic Group has joined Serai is to build and enhance their digital presence. Ranjan believes that there are endless opportunities in digitalisation, whether it is the way they sell products, cost products, or the way they communicate. When these functions are moved online, companies can use that extra effort to focus on improvements and creating a higher quality product.
Ranjan on his experience with Serai: “I feel that initially, the platform may look a little hazy. But when you start, it’s clear that there is tremendous potential. You will see the emergence of many new brands, e-commerce models, and fashion trends. You may have suppliers with proven track records, but how do you bring them together, how do you source smarter? To answer your question, I think Serai can be part of the equation to allow brands to be sourcing smarter.”
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