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, Abhay Kumar, business development manager at Dubai-based manufacturer Vogue and Velocity Apparelz, discusses the cost of sustainability and how his company is navigating the challenges of Covid-era production at its plants in Egypt and Ethiopia.
Name: Abhay Kumar
Title: Business development manager
Company: Vogue and Velocity Apparelz
What’s the number one question you get from your clients now that was never really a consideration before?
The impact on business in 2020 and safety of our people were the most asked questions by our clients, along with the need for huge price reductions.
Which processes have you put in place due to Covid-19 that you’d like to see continue even after the health crisis is behind us?
Wearing masks and sanitizing are two factors we would like to take forward for the general well-being of our people.
We also made production setup changes to produce smaller runs. Local fabric-based developments enable us to react quicker for instant order requirements of buyers. Also, buyers are not being so dictating in nominating fabrics, rather allowing us to find the right product for their needs.
How are you evaluating potential brand and retail partners differently now compared to before the pandemic?
The financial situation of potential buyers is checked more deeply and carefully. Their history of order cancellation and default on committed payments in case of arising lockdowns is checked as well.
What is the main thing brands and retailers could do (or stop doing) right now that would immediately improve product development?
Product raw material nomination is still a hurdle. If buyers’ or brands’ fabric sources are not restricted, it will improve product development procedure and cost.
How are you adapting your operations to support quick-turn, small-run orders?
We were already having small-run orders before the pandemic and had special lines for these orders; for this reason, this is nothing new and we could run these orders efficiently already. We have the ability to turn four weeks from purchase order to shipment. During Covid, we just expanded the capacity for accommodating these orders.
In this challenging retail environment, how are you working with clients to balance sustainability needs with cost efficiency?
Sustainability is a tag every buyer wants but does not want to pay for it. We have invested heavily in sustainability. We have a fully sustainable laundry while continuing to revamp other areas. The cost remains a challenge that for now is an investment not really supported by customers in monetary terms.
When it comes to quality and compliance, what are the biggest challenges?
Running production in the Covid situation is pretty difficult; with quarantine, absence levels, workplace arrangements, it becomes a major challenge. The garment industry is heavily dependent on a high-quality workforce. For this reason, this was a period of rising quality costs.
Third-party visits for certifications have also been a major challenge during Covid times.
How has Covid-19 enhanced your remote collaboration capabilities? Which piece of technology or innovation have you found most useful during this time, and what remaining hurdles still exist in managing projects with limited travel?
We always had overseas offices and had continuous online meetings, but like every company we also learned that much more is possible with online meetings. Video conferencing has been a great tool. Some design-based software products have also been great. However, our industry is about feel and details, which do not necessarily get across on video calls. We look forward to being face to face in the near future.
What is the best decision your company has made in the last year?
- Safety of our people was our first priority in 2020.
- Maintaining critical workforce.
- Increasing small-order run capacity.
- Keeping on improving the sustainability side even through uncertainty.
What keeps you up at night?
The low amount of research and data on the vaccine and if it works. Europe’s lower-than-planned vaccination figures are also a big concern.
What makes you most optimistic?
The world has been through a shock like none other. I feel the world is going to be better equipped to handle situations, expect the unexpected, versus being overconfident in our existence.
What’s in store for Vogue and Velocity in 2021?
Our expansion plan in Egypt to double our current capacity and cater to a variety of products. A one-stop shop is our focus.
We completed the changes in laundry for more water saving. We’re also starting investment for a solar plant.