Exports of the Youngone Corporation was less than USD 20 million two decades ago. The company owned by South Korean entrepreneur Sung Ki-hak had only seven warehouses in Dhaka and Chattogram back then.
The Youngone Corporation was constructing the Korean Export Processing Zone (KEPZ) on 2,492 acres of land at the time. Different companies started operations in the KEPZ in 2011 after many hurdles. Their export has been growing rapidly since then.
Sung Ki-hak had kept his focus on high-priced clothing right from the start. As a result, the company’s exports grew gradually. The South Korean company has reached the milestone of exporting RMG products of 1 billion USD in the 2022-23 fiscal. The business group is the top garments exporter from Bangladesh.
The Opex Sinha Group was the top garment exporter even two decades ago. However, the company has not been in the race for top exporters for some time now. Meanwhile, many of the companies with little export size two decades ago, have grown into big names now. One of these companies has already crossed the USD 500 million-export milestone. Several companies are near reaching the milestone.
Local Ha-Meem Group is second in the list of the top 10 garment exporters. They earned a total of USD 612.5 million from exports in the 2022-23 fiscal. The Mondal Group and The DBL Group are in third and fourth places respectively. Of them, Mondal Group’s export income was USD 430 million. The DBL group exported garments products worth USD 428.6 million in the last fiscal. Palmal Group of Companies, fifth in the list of top exporters, has exported products worth USD 413.6 million. Of the remaining five of the top 10 exporters, The Pacific Jeans Group exported apparel products worth USD 406 million, Standard Group USD 387.1million, AHK Group USD 312.6 million and Asian & DAF Group exported garments products worth USD 309.3 in the last fiscal.
Prothom Alo prepared the list of the top ten apparel exporters after analysing data and statistics obtained from the National Board of Revenue (NBR), the top trade body of garment factory owners Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), as well as the top exporting companies.
Bangladesh, according to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), exported apparel products worth USD 46.99 billion in the last fiscal. According to Mapped in Bangladesh (MiB), there are currently 3,752 export-oriented factories in the country and the top 10 exporters altogether operate 104 factories or 2.77 per cent of the total number of factories and exported garment products worth USD 4.67 billion, which is 10 per cent of total apparel export earnings. According to NBR, 4,252 companies exported apparel in the last fiscal.
President of readymade garment factory owners’ body BGMEA Faruque Hassan said, “Top apparel exporting business groups are showing us the light. They are exporting high-end apparel and investing in product diversification regularly. These are very positive signs for our garment industry.”
Youngone’s apparel priced at USD 1,888
What could be the price of an item of exported apparel? You would be surprised. Youngone exported jackets made of synthetic fabric to German brand Adidas at a price of USD 1,888 or Tk 200,000 apiece in the 2022-23 fiscal.
Youngone also exported high-end apparel with a price of USD 500-650 a piece. Youngone is the exporter of the most expensive garment products in Bangladesh. The average price of an item of apparel that Younglone exported was USD 19.
Youngone Group reached USD 1-billion milestone in combined export much earlier, but this conglomerate touched USD 1-billon mark in apparel export in the last fiscal. Youngone exported 53 million pieces of apparel during this period, and export of high-end apparel products, especially jackets, helped Youngone reached the billion-dollar milestone and most of their apparel products are made up of artificial fibres.
Mondol Group exports to 69 destinations
Mondol Group exported apparel to 69 countries across Asia, Europe, the Americas and Africa in the last fiscal. Spain was their top export destination with 60 million pieces of apparel worth USD 150 million or Tk 14.89 billion being exported to this European country. Their other export destinations are France, Italy, the UK, the US and other European countries. Mondol Group exported 174.8 million pieces of apparel worth USD 429.9 million or Tk 42.76 billion in the last fiscal.
Mondol Group mostly exports T-shirts, which brought 40 per cent of the export earnings, and the average price of a T-shirt is USD 2.5 or Tk 288.
Abdul Majid Mondol established the Mondol Group. His elder son Abdul Momim Mondol, who is a lawmaker from the Sirajganj-5 constituency, is the managing director of the group.
DBL exports 140 million pieces
Dulal Brothers Limited (DBL), currently known as DBL Group, started its business by exporting 3,000 pieces of shirts to the UK three decades ago. This business group exported 140 million pieces of apparel worth USD 428.6 million in the last fiscal. German retailer C&A is the biggest buyer of DBL. C&A accounts for 27 per cent of DBL’s exports, while H&M and Puma jointly share 37 per cent of DBL’s exports. Besides, other global brands including Hugo Boss and Marks & Spencer are also the buyers of DBL.
DBL exported apparel to 59 countries in the last fiscal. T-shirts account for 36 per cent (50 million pieces) of the company’s total exports. DBL also exports other apparel including underwear, shirts, jackets and trousers.
Four brothers established the DBL Group. They are Abdul Wahed, MA Jabbar, MA Rahim and MA Quader.
Palmal Group dominates in T-shirts
Though T-shirts are usually cheap, Palmal Group of Industries exports expensive T-shirts with prices ranging from USD 41-64 in the last fiscal. Old Navy, Walmart and Levies are the buyers of Palmal Group. The company exported apparel of USD 413.6 million or Tk 41.13 billion in the last fiscal and T-shirt accounts for about 50 per cent of its export earnings. Md Nurul Haque Sikder was the founder of Palmal Group. His son Nafis Sikder is the managing director of the group now.
91pc of Pacific's exports are jeans
Entrepreneur M Nasir Uddin from Chattogram was the pioneer of exporting denim from Bangladesh. Founded by Nasir Uddin, Pacific Jeans now dominate denim export from Bangladesh. The company also exports knitwear and workwear, but jeans account for 91 per cent of its exports.
Japanese retailer Uniqlo is one of the biggest buyers of Pacific Jeans. Other global brands including C&A, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, and Tom Tailor are buyers of Pacific Jeans, which exports apparel to 52 countries. Pacific Jeans earned USD 406 million or Tk 40.38 billion in the last fiscal.
Pacific Jeans managing director Syed Mohammad Tanvir said, “We as the second generation have taken the helm of the company that our father founded. Though the company started with export denim, we now have focused on manufacturing diversified products. Our main vision is to export more high-end apparel through innovating new product designs. We believe we will maintain the growth of Pacific Jeans.”
Standard Group mostly exports trousers
Standard Group exports to 32 countries and 84 per cent of its export earnings came from exporting trousers in the last fiscal. This business group exported 43.3 million pieces of apparel worth USD 387.1 million or Tk 38.50 billion in the last fiscal. Mosharrof Hossain and Atikur Rahman are the owners of this group. A fire caught a Standard Group factory in Gazipur in 2013.
Beximco exports products of 21 factories
Beximco Group exports products, which are manufactured at 21 factories, to 41 countries. Salman F Rahman, private industry and investment adviser to the prime minister, is one of the owners of this group.
Inditex is the biggest buyer of Beximco, and other brands like Marks & Spencer, Primark, Bestseller, C&A and Lands' End are also their buyers. Beximco exports high-end apparel that includes jackets and oven shirts at a price of USD 150-168 a unit. Beximco exports about 74 apparel products that include various diversified clothes like isolation gowns. The company exported 11.8 million pieces of isolation gown to the US in the last fiscal and earned USD 36.79 billion from apparel export.
Shirt main export product of AKH Group
Shirt is the main export product of AKH Group, the ninth-largest apparel exporting company in the country. This business group earned USD 312.6 million or Tk 31.09 billion from the export of apparel in the last fiscal with shirts accounting for 65 per cent of total earnings.
AKH Group also exports other products including jackets, pants and T-shirts. They exported about 65 million pieces of apparel to 46 countries in the last fiscal. H&M is the biggest buyer of AKH Group. Delwar Hossain is the chairman of AHK Group, Md Shamsul is the managing director and Md Abul Kashem is the deputy director of this group.
Walmart the biggest buyer of Asian & DAF Group
Asian & DAF Group is the tenth-largest apparel exporting company in the country. Walmart and Target are the biggest buyers of this group. These three retailers contributed 80 per cent of Asian & DAF Group’s export earnings in the last fiscal with Walmart contributing 36 per cent alone. This group earned USD 309.3 million or Tk 30.76 billion from appeal exports inlast fiscal. Former vice president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Abdus Salam is the owner of Asian & DAF Group.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director at Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said, “It is a very positive sign that high-end and mid-priced apparel are being manufactured at various factories in Bangladesh. Once the matter of our capability reaches brands and retailers, the production amount of these types of apparel will increase.”
Many companies may try to keep knowledge of producing high-end and mid-priced apparel a secret. If BGMEA and BKMEA (Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association) can present what machinery, how much investment and what skilled workforce are required to produce these apparel, aspirant investors can take this opportunity easily. Thus, the country will elevate to one more step in exporting high-end and mid-priced apparel, he added.
CORRECTION: This report originally stated that Palmal Group of Industries exported apparel of Tk 38.38 billion and ranks seventh among the top 10 apparel exporters. Following a claim from Palmal Group, a review of the data found that Palmal Group exported apparel of Tk 41.13 billion and ranked fifth among the top 10 apparel exporters. This ccorrection has been carried out on 21 September 2023.
* This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu and Hasanul Banna