Md. Ruhul Amin Molla, CEO of Orion Footwear Limited By: Tauhidul Islam Apu

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Please tell us, in brief, the history of this company formation.

Md. Ruhul Amin Molla: Orion Footwear is the brainchild of our honorable Chairman. In the mid of 2014, we formed the company and came to the market on 1st January. Then we were a very little team at that time.  On 29th December 2014, we formally unveiled our logo at the Westin.  So it is a huge circulation among the industry and also this sector as well. At that ceremony, we clearly mentioned our vision that we want to no. 1 shoe brand in this country by 2020 and we used to call that ‘Mission 2020’. We are moving forward with this vision now. After the Logo unveiling, we first appear at DITF with a mini pavilion just to show our branding among the customer. And we got a huge response. We were very much excited about that. Then we got the Mini Pavilion Award for our first appearance. It was a good and prestigious honor for us. Our honorable Industry Minister handed over the trophy. We still didn’t come to commercial marketing then. 2 months later, on 16th March we opened our first two outlets at Banani and Wari. That was our journey. It can say, our beginning was 16th March 2015. Next month it will be 2 years from the company. In the meantime, we have opened our further outlets in several important divisional towns including Dhaka. Last year we closed our balance sheet with22 outlets. It all happened because of our very effective team. As a new company, we are facing numerous challenges and competitors. We have worked on narrow-segment.  We have to establish our brand position. We have targeted to work on premium and mass-premium segment. Orion is a premium shoe Brand. We’ve done Product offering, branding, interior, etc. everything in a way so that customers can perceive this is a premium shoe brand. And global shopping experience can get the customer. In the case of product selection, we always have selected one year ahead in terms of the fashion trend and color trend. Because the shoe is a part of the fashion now, isn’t it? So keeping this on the mind, we updated the shoe line. We have in house RMD dept. we don’t have the manufacturing facility yet. But we are making some local industry experts doing these works who already exported here. Engaging them and their factory facilities like our associate business unit we are working to make shoes. Customers can say our brand position though. We will be at no 3 positions by the end of this year InshaAllah.

Footwear Industry is an emerging sector, please let us know the possibility of this sector?

Md. Ruhul Amin Molla: Footwear is indeed a virgin market. According to local market consumption, it is selling 306 billion pairs a year. So locally the market size is huge. According to the global market, China is at no. 1 position, 2nd in Italy and 3rd in Vietnam. Comparing to other exporting countries, we haven’t reached that position yet. Their potentiality is huge. Bangladesh already has declared it as the 3rd sector of the country. Govt. is giving a 15% cash incentive for promoting this sector. Basically China is holding 46% of the global export market share. Italy doesn’t have value addition other than the leather. Vietnam can value add 60%-70%. 90% of value addition is possible in Bangladesh as we’re producing good quality leather. We have skilled manpower with very low wages. We are the lowest power consumption date in the Asian subcontinent. So all this abundance of skilled labor, low power consumption and where you can add value almost 90%, you can imagine this is going to be the next to the Garment Sector in a very short possible time. So we can say this will be another important export basket of Bangladesh in the coming days for sure.

What barrier do you consider to be the first in the industrial sector?

Md. Ruhul Amin Molla: If you talk about the local market, it is still dominated by the informal market. Fulbaria, Siddique Bazar, Chowk Bazaar, Elephant Road, etc. Everywhere lots of small footwear tailors can be found. And they are dominating this market which means 60% of business is coming from them. 40% is held by the structure markets like Bata, Apex, Orion, etc. the barrier is the more informal market economy will grow, this sector will grow. Here economic stimulus is the prime barrier. As we are living in a Middle-income country, our lifestyle will be changed in the coming days. It is a barrier for us as well as an opportunity too at the same time. So definitely this will grow. And second is our leather sector where we will add value that is mostly dominated by Hazaribagh. If you go to this place where all the leather raw materials-dispatch which is very health hazardous. Though Govt. has taken an initiative to shift this industry to Savar. But still, there is no sufficient logistic support. As a result total factories haven’t moved there yet. Govt. gave them an ultimatum to move there till March. If that happens, the leather sector’s export will be double within 2 years. Thus the demand for footwear will also increase in the international market. Right now, many global buyers to whom we are exporting, Japan and Italy are two of them. Most of the cases we are importing leather for value addition. Because this product doesn’t meet our compliance. If it does, then both backward and upward linkage will develop. So this barrier will be gone. Because Govt. is working and all industry experts are thinking in a positive way.

Please let us know about the possibility of footwear exporting. How much foreign remittance do we get right now?

Md. Ruhul Amin Molla: Right now we are holding less than a billion-dollar. But if you see the exponential growth in the last five years, it becomes almost double. So in the coming days, if we can fix up the barriers that I mentioned before. There will no political disturbance if we can set up the ETP (Effluents Treatment Plant) and locate all the leather industry functions from Hazaribagh to Savar. I am sure that next 5-10 years, it will be almost 20 billion dollar export.

Who is the competitor of ours in the international market? And who are the competitors of you in the local market?

Md. Ruhul Amin Molla: Well competition in the international export market, China is our main competitor. Vietnam, to some extent India and Cambodia are also growing very fast. In the local market, we don’t live in a competition. In a sense, as for the blue ocean marketing strategy, they don’t believe in competition. They think the market is like the Blue Ocean, everything is open. If you can offer the product in a way, so that if you can target your segment, narrowly and focus your offer accordingly. So you don’t need to face any competition. They are not our competitors like Bata, apex, etc. We call them the industry colleague. We don’t think that we are holding their customers, either they are taking our customers. We are getting our customers. We are trying to conveniently promote this sector.

Please let us know about the quality of your products. What technology did you introduce to make your brand an outstanding one?

Md. Ruhul Amin Molla: We are using the best quality materials. And we are applying the best suppliants who have the knowledge expertise to do that. We had a very sound RND team and we have trained them well. So we can say that our product is the best.

What plan do you undertake to face the festival season like Valentine’s Day?

Md. Ruhul Amin Molla: Valentine’s Day is very popular in urban areas, especially cities like Dhaka, Sylhet, Chittagong and so on. To share the love with all, we give a 14% discount on every product on all products that day.

What is the contribution of the Footwear industry in our GDP growth?

Md. Ruhul Amin Molla: According to the leather and footwear industry, the total GDP growth is about one billion dollars. 

Your future plan with Orion Footwear.

Md. Ruhul Amin Molla: We want to be no. 1 shoe brand in this country by 2020. This year we are planning to open 10 outlets. Next year we want to make it double. So very quickly we have to come forward to be no. 1. It is not that easy. But there are some challenges that we have to face.

Tell something inspiring for the newcomers.

Md. Ruhul Amin Molla:As a virgin market, both potentiality and complexity are there. They must be potential enough to face these challenges. They have to be with the global trend.

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