With COVID-19 reshaping the entire world; earlier theories like learning about customers, competitors and market conditions may not fit into tomorrow’s rapidly changing business environment. The same is true about the readymade garment sector in Bangladesh which is heading towards a major phase of turbulence. COVID-19 has catalysed significant changes in the country’s RMG business. Therefore, all those involved in this sector need to make a greater collective effort to curtail the challenges ahead:

Ensuring worker’s safety

The first and most pressing challenge for the country’s RMG industry is to ensure health and safety of workers. The industry should protect them at any cost. Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) have already issued guidelines on health and safety protocols. These guidelines are consistent with those developed by health experts and all factories have been ordered to strictly comply with them. BGMEA and the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) should ensure a proper implementation of these guidelines, close supervision and collective approach of all employers,

Operational and diversification plans

Another challenge before producers is to prepare for intense competition and formulate plans for operating at less than full capacity as order volumes will shrinkBangladesh RMG sector calls for a collective effort to deal with challenges substantially — at least for the next couple of months. They should diversify their production by exploring the PPE market that is projected to reach $92.5 billion by 2025.

Engage in constructive dialogue

All stakeholders should now take more time to proactively reconnect with one another, gather insight and engage in a constructive dialogue. Clothing manufacturers and retailers should exchange views to come to a mutual understanding about the issue.

Make contingency plans compulsory

As the sector becomes more global, and with a profound impact on it due to various national or international issues, leaders and decision-makers should make contingency planning a compulsory and a central part of their work. Everyone from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to large ones should have their own set of crisis preparedness and business continuity plans ready and tested in order to mitigate and respond to potential unexpected events.

Stakeholders should avoid pointing fingers at others and make a collective effort to deal with the situation. The Bangladesh apparel industry is closely linked to the development of the country as the largest export earner having an immediate impact on the lives of some four million workers. It must therefore, be given high priority.

While industry leaders take these initiatives, on its part the government should monitor their activities and support them at all times.