By Apparel Resources
The global leader in denim jeans automation, VI.BE.MAC needs no introduction.
Its automatic pocket hemming machines and other jeans automats are nothing short of legendary. A new dimension was added to VI.BE.MAC’s rich heritage when it decided to collaborate with JACK, the Chinese sewing technology pioneer, that eventually acquired 80 per cent stake in the company.
Ever since there’s been no looking behind for the Italian entity!
Apparel Resources (AR) manages to catch up with Ali Zain Raza, the Global Sales Director of VI.BE.MAC on the sidelines of the Garmentech Dhaka event in Dhaka, during his first-ever visit to Bangladesh, for an exclusive interaction.
Here are the excerpts.
AR: How is the market shaping up lately? Ali Zain Raza: This is a transitionary phase. The market is undergoing a paradigm shift in terms of sourcing, which is taking a toll on many. Bangladesh in comparison is not only better placed but is also going to be a rare beneficiary of the current scenario where many brands/buyers from the West are looking at shifting orders to Bangladesh from other destinations, especially China, due to various reasons.
Even though the demand for apparel is somewhat sluggish globally at this moment, it would all change in the next few months I am sure, which is going to give Bangladesh a definite boost and take the country to a different level altogether.
Nevertheless, the price pressure will continue to persist even as the growing trend of increased labour and raw material costs will also continue to weigh heavy on garment makers. Having said so, I would also like to add the growth potential for Bangladesh is still exponential and it will all depend on how the garment makers exploit the opportunities on offer.
AR: How important is Bangladesh as a market for VI.BE.MAC. and how are you positioning yourself in the changing landscape? Ali Zain Raza: Bangladesh is a very important market for us. Bangladesh’s share in VI.BE.MAC’s total business would be somewhere around 50 per cent, which I guess gives a fair idea of Bangladesh’s importance from VI.BE.MAC’s perspective.
As to the changing landscape, VI.BE.MAC. is completely in sync with the same. Our prime objective has always been to help garment makers reduce cost, increase profit margins while also live up to their sustainability goals.
We are coming up with machines that cover more and more operations even as the automats from VI.BE.MAC help lessen dependency on manpower while offering significant advantages in terms of cost-cutting.
Further, we also understand that in today’s scenario, no one is looking for just a machine supplier; they want strategic partners who can help and support them in the growth journey, someone that they can completely rely upon.
For us, the whole concept of working as a strategic partner started way back in 2018-19 with Arvind Mills Brands (in India) wherein we tied up with Arvind to act as their associate and provide solutions rather than just machines to help achieve the critical targets.
We were given three months to reach the target that they had in mind. Accordingly, we sent our experts including from Italy to put things in place, but within the first 15 days, we realised there was a massive problem in the supply chain. But once that was taken care of, within just 28 days, we not only met the target but surpassed it by a considerable percentage.
The same concept we are now trying to replicate in Bangladesh. Our Bangladesh office is closely working with some of the big names where we try to understand their key targets, analyse the bottlenecks and shortcomings towards achieving the same, work with various in-house departments, help with layouts, setting up of lines, optimising operations, increasing efficiencies and so on to help them achieve the objectives in the larger scheme of things.
Even if one is buying only machines from us, the value proposition is but guaranteed.
However, there are certain fundamental principles that we don’t compromise on, no matter what even as the quality and durability of our offerings continue to remain our biggest hallmarks.
A VI.BE.MAC.machine is going to cover at least three to four to five ROI depreciation cycles before it is decommissioned.
AR: The bandwidth for growth in Bangladesh is exponential, which conversely means good opportunities for players like VI.BE.MAC. How do you plan to capitalise on it? Ali Zain Raza: We are working on various fronts to make sure that we don’t lose out on the opportunities on offer as we partner with our clients in their growth journey.
Up until 2018, VI.BE.MAC. was the world’s leading brand in five-pocket jeans manufacturing. But we had certain limitations then too; firstly we were able to offer automatic machines for a niche section only. Secondly, we could not cover the whole range of machines even in jeans, which is a product category that happens to be our focus area.
Just to give an example, if one needed 45-60 machines for making 1000 pairs of jeans, we were able to offer only 28-32 machines.
So, the first thing we did was to launch a basic line to start with.
Today, we have a complete range which means one need not depend on other machine makers as we can help give a complete VI.BE.MAC. line.
Secondly, we also realised that not all our clients have the same marketing or client mix. Also not all have the kind of capex to afford the best of VI.BE.MAC’s offerings. So, we established a manufacturing unit in China which helped us to become more cost-competitive.
We are now able to offer top-notch VI.BE.MAC. solutions in a new product line called the Silver Line, but at a much competitive price point as we are able to cut down on the production cost which is usually associated with manufacturing in Italy, including labour, energy, etc., while also maintaining very high-quality parameters.
JACK joining hands has given us a further edge. It gives us a big advantage in terms of resources; we now have massive teams of industrial engineers, which have, in a way, helped significantly towards achieving our ultimate goal of becoming the strategic partner to every big customer of VI.BE.MAC.
Besides, we are also going full steam on R&D and innovation even as our team continues to come up with some path-breaking developments on a regular basis, which put us in very good stead towards serving our clients better.
What sets our R&D apart is unlike many others, VI.BE.MAC’s exercise is entirely client-driven. We collect feedback from our customers and subsequently work on those. The changes that we incorporate in our existing machines are hence organic rather than cosmetic.
The bottom line of all our R&D endeavours is aimed at quality enhancement and towards helping apparel manufacturers better their profit margins.
We are also working with names like Siemens and others to develop technologically more advanced offerings.
The upcoming exhibitions will witness many such innovations and cutting-edge solutions from us.
AR: VI.BE.MAC’s expertise and popularity in denim are legendary. Going forward, do you have any plans to enhance your portfolio? Ali Zain Raza: Of course; even though we would continue to specialise in bottoms, especially denim, but at the same time we cannot overlook the changing requirements of our existing clients.
Every factory now has a different marketing mix; they don’t have the same product portfolios that they had five or 10 years ago and we cannot afford to ignore that. This is again one of the main reasons that I have come to Bangladesh, which happens to be my maiden visit to the country so that I am able to better understand the customers’ changing needs and requirements and incorporate those in VI.BE.MAC’s strategy.
Recently, some of our customers have started making khakis and chinos and we have to customise some of our offerings (loop setters, bottom hemmers) according to the customers’ needs and both have received tremendous response from the clients, so much so that we had to increase our capacities significantly to keep up with the growing demand for loop setters and bottom hemmers.
What makes our bottom hemmers different is we have both chain stitch and lock stitch in the same unit and shifting time between the two is very less.
AR: After-sale service, which is a very critical aspect, continues to be a big issue in the industry. What is VI.BE.MAC’s approach towards the same? Ali Zain Raza: It’s one of our core principles that when a customer decides they would take/ buy our offerings, they have to agree to our membership concept, as part of which we continue to give proactive service and preventive maintenance.
What’s more, if there is an upgrade, we aim to bring it to the customer without them asking for it. These are some of the few aspects which make VI.BE.MAC what it is today, a trendsetter in its own right.
The very same practice is prevalent in Bangladesh as well.
VI.BE.MAC also understands what is a competitive advantage today, becomes just an advantage in a few months, and then it’s a unique selling proposition and subsequently turns into an industry norm.
This is what leads us to keep reinventing ourselves continuously as our prime objective is to empower the customers, and being the first choice of all the brands globally, it is our moral responsibility to live up to the clients’ expectations.
AR: What are your growth projections for 2023? Ali Zain Raza: Globally speaking, ‘100 per cent increase’ is our target for 2023. This may look little improbable but we are hopeful of achieving the same, especially keeping in perspective our three lines of products- Made in Italy V line, Assembled/made in China S or Silver Line and the basic machine or the B Line, which are going to take care of all our clients’ requirements irrespective of their size and capacity.
The good thing is we’re so far able to meet our short-term targets and a little support from the market will definitely go a long way towards achieving the target for this year. Fingers crossed!