November 25, 2020
Continuing our global series of Serai webinars, on November 17 we welcomed a premier line up of apparel industry leaders to share their insights on how Bangladeshi manufacturers can build a strong digital presence and promote themselves to international buyers. We were honoured to receive over 300 registrations from manufacturers and buyer sourcing offices in Dhaka, and we hope that this summary provides a useful round-up of the key points discussed.
The current state of disruption in the global apparel industry presents a huge opportunity for Bangladeshi manufacturers to secure a larger share of the global RMG export market. One surefire way to attract new business is by enhancing their digital presence and effectively showcasing their products, capabilities and credentials online.
Sharing their experience and insights on this important topic were Vivek Ramachandran, CEO of Serai, Bishu Jayaram, Vice President (Footwear) at VF Corporation, Ranjan Mahtani, Owner of EPIC Group and Sharon Lim, Co-Founder and CEO of Browzwear. In their discussion, they explored what international buyers look for in a manufacturer and the latest technologies used by suppliers to digitise their business, as well as the industry solutions available to help manufacturers communicate their capabilities online.
Although the industry has a relatively low digital quotient, apparel supply chains in 2020 are changing dramatically, largely driven by a rapid acceleration of digital tools. This adoption of technology has started to influence buyers’ sourcing strategies and is changing what attributes they look for in a manufacturer. Bishu highlighted three primary considerations a buyer would have: innovation, technology and transparency.
in products is key for manufacturers to differentiate themselves, but the process is equally important. A willingness to innovate and invest in new technology to improve manufacturing processes is something buyers value highly. Furthermore, developing the technical skills of their workforce and investing in R&D are key activities that Bishu perceived to be necessary for all manufacturers to stay relevant over time.
is crucial as the enabler of enhanced collaboration and can help strengthen relationships. Bishu stated that sharing information digitally and embracing technologies such as 3D sampling is essential for manufacturers. Ranjan added that as a supplier, digital capabilities are needed to facilitate co-creation and the design of products.
Helps to showcase the capabilities, certifications and compliance of manufacturers and matches these to the needs of the buyer. Bishu and Ranjan voiced the idea of creating a degree of industry openness that will help both sides identify the right partners. Buyers are increasingly screening information on sustainability, compliance and capacity when choosing a manufacturer, and transparency on the manufacturers’ side facilitates this process.
Technology and a strong digital presence can help suppliers demonstrate their capabilities to buyers clearly. Ranjan holds the view that manufacturers looking for international buyers must make technology work for them and not the other way around. This can require a change in mindset and can be achieved by making technology extremely user-friendly and leveraging it to be agile and nimble.
Sharon agreed that digital transformation is not just about the tools but getting people to change their thinking. Part of this is understanding the unique brand-building opportunities that online methods offer to manufacturers. Ranjan gave examples of digitising and promoting a product through a high-resolution flatbed scanner to recreate fabric texture or 360-degree photography to examine a garment, both of which can be shared online.
“The brand building you do as a manufacturer in this new era is very important and only possible to do online” Ranjan Mahtani
Vivek stated that a website is not the most engaging way to share information, and that buyers are looking for ways to assess and compare a range of potential partners. Enabling them and manufacturers to access a neutral platform where all parties can showcase key information and review others at the click of a button will fundamentally streamline the previously arduous screening process.
Sharon pointed out that showcasing is the point of connection for manufacturers and buyers, and digitalising this process will help increase transparency. Even smaller manufacturers with fewer resources can professionally showcase their business and promote their products and innovations, if given access to the proper tools and the right training.
This is where neutral platforms like Serai, which was built to help suppliers build and amplify their digital presence, can help manufacturers around the world. At a time when buyers are expecting to see a full range of information to quickly gauge what a supplier can offer, Serai provides the flexibility for manufacturers to showcase their points of differentiation. In a growing number of instances such as Browzwear’s 3D sampling, Serai’s platform offers centralised access to third party solutions for a range of different business needs.
The Serai team also introduced a new initiative, which launched in Bangladesh this month. Working closely with the BGMEA to support Bangladeshi apparel manufacturers in securing a larger share of the global market, the free initiative will connect local manufacturers with digital agencies in Dhaka, who will create marketing assets to promote their businesses online. The agencies will produce promotional assets such as videos and photos of products, facilities, fabrics and other items that are crucial in building a strong online presence.
Vivek ended the event by highlighting that the current disruptions in sourcing presented an opportunity to both transform businesses and the apparel industry. All the speakers agreed that sharing information and having a strong digital presence will be fundamental to turning this into a reality.
If you’re interested in accessing the latest industry news and networking with potential business partners in the apparel industry, locally registered companies can sign up for Serai here.