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Upstream Focus: Asmara’s Avdhesh Sharma on Backup Plans, Building Trust & Brand Responsibility

Upstream Focus is Sourcing Journal’s series of conversations with suppliers, associations and sourcing professionals to get their insights on the state of sourcing, innovations in manufacturing and how to improve operations. In this Q&A, Avdhesh Sharma, group CEO at sourcing firm Asmara International Limited, discusses the agility benefit of a diverse factory footprint and how collaboration can improve between supply chain partners.

Asmara International Avdhesh Sharma
Avdhesh Sharma, group CEO of Asmara International Limited. Courtesy

Name: Avdhesh Sharma

Title: Group CEO

Company: Asmara International Limited

What’s the number one question you get from your clients now that was never really a consideration before?

The burning topic today for every customer is “sustainability,” both the product and the process.

Which processes have you put in place due to Covid that you’d like to see continue even after the health crisis is behind us?

Digitalization. It helps us execute “time-bound tasks” with minimum or no disruption and without the need to be in a physical office.

How are you evaluating potential brand and retail clients differently now compared to before the pandemic?

Other than the regular checkpoints, we scrutinize how responsibly the brand navigated 2020 retail lockdowns, taking their suppliers along by openly communicating any merchandise and payment holdups or delays.

As the apparel industry tries to overcome its Covid-19 overstock issues, how can supply chain partners improve inventory management?

Associate with like-minded supply chain partners to build trust, enhancing digitalization and allowing access to inventory information among partners. This will allow them to function as one unit, instead of fighting their individual battles, resulting in quick response times to fast-changing market scenarios.

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What should be brands’ and retailers’ top lesson from the pandemic? How can they address this in their operations?

Build reliability by aligning with capable and trustworthy supply chain partners. Boost agility and efficiency by reducing duplication of work; push back decision-making to rightful owners of tasks in the supply chain.

How are you working with your factories to support quick-turn, small run orders?

We are educating the factories about irreversible changes occurring in the retail landscape. We’re also sharing with customers the practical challenges of smaller runs, and proposing alternative solutions by way of product engineering and material substitutes. Minimizing frequent machine downtime due to small order runs by accumulating small orders of similar product types in a fewer number of factories. Finally, we help to negotiate lower material and trim MOQs [minimum order quantities] with suppliers.

Which new sourcing regions are you either considering or ramping up today?

Asmara’s multinational presence in 10 countries across the whole of Asia, Turkey and the Mediterranean region renders us high agility in these uncertain times. We can very quickly switch sourcing or production, upon a customer’s request, to a lower risk country of their comfort and choice. After the customer’s indication to switch to a lower risk country, our teams collaborate seamlessly in the background to ward off potential macro-environment risks.

As you’re considering where to source, what are your top considerations today?

Having more than one “backup” sourcing solution for each product category. Our multinational sourcing presence allows us to react quickly and provide ready solutions for our customers at a short notice.

What keeps you up at night?

The well-being of our people and current imbalance of logistics and spike in freight rates.

What makes you most optimistic?

The indomitable human fighting spirit to adapt and learn from the fast, ever changing environment. History has proven it time and again, and so will the future. I am confident that we shall come out stronger and far more evolved after this storm settles down.

What’s in store for Asmara in 2021?

Enthused by the learnings of 2021, our passionate teams are raring to build even more fascinating, innovative and sustainable products for our customers.