Interview: Dr. Zubair Bandukda

SADAF AUARANGZAIB, Senior Correspondent
Aug 27 - Sep 02, 2007

Textile Institute of Pakistan is a purpose built institute (200,000 sq.ft. covered area) along a state of the art architectural design on 50 acres of land located on the National Highway. It was built to nourish the growing eclectic needs of the Textile industry of Pakistan. Textiles, Pakistan's largest industrial sector, generate the country's highest export earnings. We met Dr. Zubair Bandukda, the President of TIP and talked about the educational standard that TIP is following and took his comments on various dimensions of textiles industry. Dr. Zubair is a Ph.D in Textile Engineering from University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST); he returned to Pakistan in 1992 and initially worked in the family textile business for over a year, later he joined TIP and work with it till today.

PAGE: Tell me a bit about TIP, where how its conception was originated and whose pioneering effort it was? How is it funded?

ZB: Textile Institute of Pakistan or TIP as it is now known as was set-up in 1994 by a group of APTMA (All Pakistan Textile Mills Association), members with an objective of developing the human resources for this very important industrial sector of the country. The institute started its academic activities in 2004 from rented premises in the PECHS area of Karachi and at the same time plans were made for building a purpose built campus on the outskirts of Karachi. Formerly Export Promotion Bureau (EPB and TDAP) provided substantial funding through Export Development Fund (EDF) for the development of the main campus which started functioning in February 1999. TIP was awarded an independent charter by the Government of Sindh and the degrees are recognized by Higher Education Commission (HEC). APTMA continues to support the TIP to meet its running and development costs.

PAGE: How long have you been associated with TIP?

ZB: In early 1994 I was approached by some members of APTMA who were setting up an institute in Karachi and invited me to join TIP to which I have been associated since its inception in various capacities as Assistant Professor,

Academic Coordinator and the Dean. I lived in UK from 2002-05 and worked in the William Lee Innovation Centre, School of Materials, The University of Manchester as Knowledge Manager managing two EU-funded projects on training and knowledge creation.

In February 2006 I was given the charge as President of the Institute, which I am continuing to date.

PAGE: Talking of the syllabi and curricula, how do you regard TIP with the main Textile universities of the region? In which areas do you usually focus while compiling the syllabus?

ZB: TIP is the only institution in the country which offers undergraduates degrees across the complete value chain. We offer the following programmes:

BSc (Hons) Textile Science

BSc (Hons) Textile Design Technology

BBA (Hons) Textile Management & Marketing

BBA(Hons) Apparel Manufacturing & Merchandising

All our undergraduate programmes are of 4 years (8 semesters) duration and in fact, TIP was one of very institutes in 1994 who were offering 4 year degrees which have been made mandatory by HEC. This has ensured acceptability of TIP students for postgraduate courses in UK, USA and Australia.

With an independent charter granted by the Government of Sindh, TIP is authorized to award its own degrees under recognition of the Higher Education Commission (HEC). Initially, Tip's course content and syllabi were developed by faculty at the Clemson University, USA with which there was a student exchange program for the award of degrees. Credits obtained at TIP are still transferable. TIP also has a new higher educational link through the British Council, with the University of Manchester and its William lee innovation Centre (WLIC). This enables TIP to adopt and upgrade its educational standards according to the changing demands of a changing global industry and market. Two faculty members from England's universities are the external examiners to test and monitor Tip's standards of education service delivery, for both the undergraduate and graduate programs.

PAGE: How many students TIP is taking and how do you see the market response vis-a-vis competition from universities such as IBA and LUMS. What potential job security do the Tip's students have ?

ZB: TIP admits on average 120 students every year to all the four programmes, hence we are not as large as IBA or LUMS. However, our degrees are designed to cater specifically to textile and associated industry so even our BBA programme has useful input from the particular sector making it meaningful for the students. Almost 550 graduates have been graduated from TIP so far and all our graduates who seek employment are offered positions immediately (or even before graduation) by all the top textile and garment companies all over Pakistan.

PAGE: What are the main areas where you think the demand is at its most in our textile industry?

ZB: Overall there is still a huge demand for textile graduates in all the sectors. However based on our statistics, TIP graduates have mostly been employed in Wet Processing (dyeing, printing and finishing), Export Marketing, Merchandising and Apparel sectors of the industry. We can say that there is a significant shift towards the value-added sector and that is where TIP students have a future.

PAGE: We are lacking in producing chemicals, dyes, colors, spindles and the textile machinery, all of the said items are used to import from various countries, when and how will this demand be met through our own potential human resource and training?

ZB: Pakistan's textile industry has always been an importer of textile machinery and dyes and chemicals. The manufacturing of these items require substantial capital investment and is only possible with government's support, which unfortunately has been lacking in the last 50 years or so. Our main competitors in textile are China and India and both the countries benefit from having well established textile machinery manufacturing capabilities giving their textile manufacturers access to indigenous technology which is cheaper both in cost and in maintenance.

PAGE: How do you see the demand of our finished value added garments in the market of Europe and America? What fashion designing efforts are being taken up in your institute in order to equip the young generation to fuel the foreign market with the desired products?

ZB: Designs, Product Development and Consistent Quality are the key factors to enter any developed market. If Pakistan is to become a global player in textile and apparel markets, it will need to focus on these issues and the only way is to train young men and women and give them the international exposure. The industry needs to come out of their conservative shell and become proactive and supporting towards institutes like TIP and gives the students and faculty an access to their manufacturing facilities. Only when the industry-academia link is developed, TIP will be able to play a more meaningful role in helping our industry become innovative and able to compete with other major players.

PAGE: In Pakistan, textile industry is said to be the backbone of our economic progress, but there aren't any efforts that have been taken towards textile engineering and technical training, how do you see this situation and what is your view on its solution?

ZB: Up until 1994, there was only one institute, National College of Textile Engineering (NCTE) in Faisalabad which was training Textile Engineers. Since then a number of other institutes like TIP and textile departments in public sector universities like NED have created opportunities for aspiring students and industry alike to follow a career in textiles. There is also a dearth of skilled technicians and the need is to establishing vocational training institutes to train lower level workers so that we can achieve maximum efficiency from our very well equipped textile industry.

PAGE: Today, while walking through a market, we can find dozens of children and gents clothes that are imported from abroad, how soon you think this trend will be changed and when will we be able to gear towards this small yes larger segment of our society?

ZB: No doubt Pakistan has a huge domestic market but in order to attract consumers, our industry has to be geared towards their need, that is, good quality at affordable prices. Just take example of our lawns (ladies summer fabric); one can purchase various qualities in different price ranges starting from Rs 300/suit to Rs1500/suit or even higher. This shows that if our local industry puts our mind to it, they can provide textile products for the domestic market, which presently is being flooded with cheaper imports.

PAGE: How hopeful are you with the government initiatives towards this industry and especially towards your institute, how do you see the future outlook of TIP, when will it be pronounced as a university?

ZB: It has now become a standard norm for our industry to expect government initiatives which are usually in the form of subsidies but unfortunately these measures in all these years have not borne any fruitful results. The main objective of any subsidy is to provide manufacturers with an additional support so that they may strengthen their weak areas. In the last fiscal year the government has introduced a R&D subsidy for textile exporters but unfortunately most of this is being passed on to the buyers as additional discount on prices rather than investing in the Research and Development, as it was intended for. So I am afraid unless we all are going to be honest with ourselves and work together from one platform to take this vital sector to new heights, we will continue to struggle to compete in the global market.

PAGE: How do you see the girls and boys % in your institute and what benefits do you think that your institute gives them the best in their lives?

ZB: Presently TIP has around 75/25 boys to girls ratio with most girls preferring to study textile design and textile marketing. It is worth mentioning that in last few years the industry has specifically been requesting for female graduates due to their keen interest and natural ability towards design and colour. I am convinced that any young women wanting to pursue a career in textiles have a lot of scope and the environment within the industry has also become very professional and conducive to work.

PAGE: Any last thing that you would like to say?

ZB: My advice to all young people is not to just link your degrees to careers. Do not go to university because you want to get a good job only. University education is about experiencing life in a totally free environment to express their views without any fear. At TIP, we allow our students to enjoy the freedom and develop themselves into responsible citizens. Students have an independent body, Textile Institute Students Forum (TISF) which is an elected body representing students at various forum within and outside TIP. I have had the opportunity of studying and working abroad and to me our higher education system is still too focused on training students on specific skills and not on life-long learning which surely should be the goal of any world class institute of higher learning.