Feb 23 - 29, 2003



YOUSUF ALI MAHMOOD has diversified experience in trading, sales and marketing, project management and education. He has an MBA with majors in marketing from IBA, Karachi, B.E. in mechanical engineering from NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi and B.Sc. with majors in Physics from University of Karachi. He is a visiting faculty member of the Textile Engineering Department of NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi

PAGE: What challenges and opportunities are there for garment manufacturers/exporters from Pakistan?

YOUSUF ALI MAHMOOD: Textile and clothing trade represents 5.7 percent of world exports. It has increased by more than 60 times during last forty years and is fast approaching US$ 500 billion mark. The labour intensive clothing sector has increased much faster than textile and represents 57 percent of world textiles and clothing trade. The growth is expected to continue. This is the opportunity. Trade liberalization adds to it. The need is to diversify, add woven and women products to already established knit and men's products. The challenge comes from the regional trade blocs and the regions that enjoy preferential trade agreements. Though, Pakistan is also member of few regional blocs but here we have joined hands with our competitors. Unless we become true trade partners we will not get much benefit from it. One key area demanding specific attention is value addition. However, this cannot be achieved without improving skills.

PAGE: What is being done to overcome this weakness?

YOUSUF: Training is being provided by a number of technical training institutes, which are managed by the trade associations. Export Promotion Bureau is playing its role as well. Few private organizations do provide these training as well but these efforts do not suffice. The bulk of operators acquire whatever skill they learn while working and this is where one should target. On job training should be focused and industrialists should hire trainers to train their operators. The institutes should prepare the trainers and these should be employed by the factories to train their operators.

PAGE: Does the curriculum of universities cover the key areas of textile industry?

YOUSUF: Experts design these, so one should not question it. However, these are frequently reviewed and updated and for that matter, NED University of Engineering and Technology can be cited as an example where need was felt for teaching Business Communication to the students. The change was incorporated last year by introducing this new course in various departments of the university.



PAGE: What new subjects/topics must be included in the curriculum?

YOUSUF: Garment is missing. Only two universities offer courses related to garments in their curriculum. If we need to remain in the run to maintain or improve our share in the global garment trade, we need to have garment technologists, marketers and merchandisers. Much of the emphasis is on the processing sector. Students too are desirous of preparing themselves for that sector. Universities have to come forward and introduce courses related to the readymade garment industry.

PAGE: Is the local industry fully prepared to face the competition once textile quota is phased out completely?

YOUSUF: Post January 1, 2005 scenario is not clear. Industrialists are planning for whatever they predict will be the outcome. But, do we have the authority to decide what will be our share in the world trade, absolutely not. The recent anti-dumping case can be considered as a glimpse of what may happen in the future. Textile quota will phase out but the swords of safeguards against sudden trade imbalances including anti dumping duty and the qualitative restraints will be there. That will be a trade free era, but who will be free is any body's guess.

PAGE: Is the local industry ready to meet the standards pertaining to environment and social compliance?

YOUSUF: Environment may be an issue but the social issues are no problem. The only factor that requires due consideration in the implementation of issues relating to social concerns is the willingness of the entrepreneurs to implement these. The entrepreneurs have their own perspective. There is definitely a cost factor. The factories don't get the right price from their buyers who ask for complete implementation of the national laws and matching their standards. The system is there but the role players are not serious. In addition, there are those who have the authority to monitor the implementation of these laws and they are those who really force the entrepreneurs to look at these issues differently. They want their share in the business as well despite knowing that the factory is serious in complying with the national laws. There are a number of codes of conduct including those of WRAP, FLA and SAI, add to it the specific codes of brands such as Levi's, Gap, Reebok etc. Consultants do not give a clear picture regarding these codes to industrialists and are more concerned towards adding a factory to their clientele. If you still doubt what has been stated, lets look at the figures. There is only one Reebok approved factory in Pakistan whereas Bangladesh has 10; India has 14 and China has 96.