To see a different face of manufacturing in Bangladesh, a country that has earned a reputation with its plants in ready-to-fact, units 25 miles north of the city of Dhaka Gazipur district.

In the middle of a predominantly industrial enclave of garmentmakers is a 24-acre site where 5,500 workers, mostly women, are busy stitching no clothes, but a range of stylish leather shoes.

This is the plant listed on the Dhaka Stock Exchange Apex Shoes, exporter of Bangladesh shoes. He began making leather shoes, more than two decades ago. Today it is one of the largest shoe manufacturers in the subcontinent, shipping 4.5 million pairs each year to 130 retail clients in 40 countries, including M -0.02% Macy’s and JC Penney States UNite, ABC Mart in Japan and Germany Deichmann.

In addition, it produces 3 million pairs for the domestic market which are sold through a chain of 550 retail outlets across the country, reports Forbes online.

Visit Apex shoe factory in Gazipur a hot and humid June morning I type faster than is sweatshop. The complex includes, among many others, an effluent treatment plant, a purification plant water, a medical clinic and a safe nursery. Workers, they say, getting an average monthly salary of $ 100, which is higher than the average $ 75 in the clothing sector. In addition, they are covered by medical insurance and life and get bonuses twice a year and a share of the profits.

Thirty years Rawshona Khatun, who works on the workshop, says these benefits and work 8 hour day drew a previous job at a clothing unit nearby, where a day shift was 12 hours standard.

“Since the shoe is a work of very high intensity and company we work in the heart of the garment manufacturing industry, we have to stay one step ahead. We see our compliance standards and benefits for workers that our advantage competitive, “said Manzur Elahi, founding president of US $ 200 million (sales) Apex Group, which in other listed entities are leather-producer Apex Tannery, mutual Trust Bank and Pioneer insurance.

Sitting in his office in the region of Dhaka Gulshan tony, Elahi proudly shows the gold certification received by Apex Shoes Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production, a social compliance monitoring organization in the United States headquartered.

A former leader of tobacco, Elahi, 71, with her son Nasim Manzur, 45, who directs operations as director, is spearheading the charge of Bangladesh in world trade of footwear. While China still has the largest footprint, with a share of 60% of the world production of shoes, rising labor costs have made major retailers to look elsewhere, in countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia.

The time has come, ‘said the father-son pair to Bangladesh, where the cost of labor in the manufacture of shoes, less than a quarter of that of China, is the lowest in Asia to win an important as a profitable manufacturing center.

Annual exports of leather in the country, including shoes, are on the rise in recent times, has doubled since 2010 to just over $ 1.1 billion, although its overall share is below 1%. The Group accounts for Apex 15% of people.

“Apex has led the way in the footwear industry and was an inspiration to others. It remains well ahead of the curve in many ways,” said Farooq Sobhan, a former diplomat who is president of the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute, an independent research outfit.

Elahi, who hails from a family of legal luminaries, stumbled in the shoe business. One of seven siblings, he grew up in Calcutta, India, where his father was a Muslim Chief Justice of the High Court and was knighted. Elahi in 1962 immigrated to Dhaka (then part of East Pakistan) to enroll in the University of Dhaka. After getting two years later, he joined the local arm of British American Tobacco in Karachi.

But Elahi, who said he admired Jamsetji Tata, the legendary founder of the Tata empire of India, was nursing a dream to start his own business. A chance meeting with a French merchant who was supplying black leather Bengal Kid semifinished Dhaka which was highly sought after by shoemakers of France, has sealed his fate.

Source: forbes.com

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