FROM ARMED FORCES TO APPAREL BUSINESS
ARMED PERSONNEL IN INDUSTRY SERVING BETTER…, AS USUAL
According to Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), the Bangladesh apparel industry – the world’s second biggest after China – has around 40 ventures/entities (mostly medium and large) formed over the years that are led by retired defence personnel, and their number is on the rise! On the other hand, India may not have such large number of armed personnel in garment manufacturing industry, but there are some interesting examples of people who started their journey from army and have proven themselves in apparel industry also. The first that comes to mind is Major B.P. Singh of Singh Exports, which in the early 1980s, was the only reputed buying agency serving the C&A Group of stores in Europe. Though Major Singh is way past active business, his bunch of freshers are now spread all over the industry, imbibed with a sense of purpose and dedication.
Among the more recent ones, some popular names include Major GS Madan, MD, Madan Trading Company, Delhi;
Col. K. Christopher, CEO of RB Knit Exports, Ludhiana; Captain Kavita Ahlawat, Co-Founder at EMBiQ Technovations, Gurgaon; and Group Captain Mohonto Panging of Elam Industries. Apparel Online discussed with some of them and found that specialization in managing the manpower and strong discipline is something of an advantage for armed personnel when they work in apparel sector.
Major Madan, a veteran of apparel industry and also associated with many trade associations, gave 17 years of his life to Indian army before taking premature retirement as a Major. He also served as an instructor in Gunnery School and Indian Military Academy and soon left as his father asked him to join business. Sharing his philosophy with AO, he said, “I never went after money in my life, but preferred ‘quality life’. The biggest advantage of having an army background is that we are trained to deal with people, and in garment export business also, one of the major tasks is dealing with people only. Like, in my company, I have at least 50 people who joined with me and are still on the roll even after almost 4 decades. Now I am planning to give them a ‘golden handshake’. Apart from this, ‘disciplined life’ is also one of the biggest assets.”
Not only as entrepreneurs, but some exarmed professionals are also working at top levels in some good factories. One of the best examples of the same is Col. Christopher, who is also a veteran of 1971 war. Having a strong army background, he joined RB Knit Exports, Ludhiana as CEO on the very next day of his retirement (nearly 10 years ago), and till date is managing the business very well. In fact when Christopher became Colonel, there were only 600 Colonels in the army. Very clear about his vision, he shared with AO team: “I have been managing and leading 20,000 people or even more, so for me managing a factory and its labour is a ‘left-hand job’. In army, we motivate our people to follow us, and even die for the country. So it becomes very easy in civil life or anywhere to tell them to do this job and get this (salary/award).”
Christopher further continued, “Army is a beautiful organization; it gives you not only the exposure of managing the enemy, but also teaches you how to manage civilians. And for that we had a civilian personal management school in which a total different approach and systems were taught. I was part of College of Material Management (CMM), Jabalpur where
I did my course of Civilian Personnel Management. You have to get conversant with rules and regulations, because one has to know how to govern the armed forces personnel, and for which there are set rules and regulations. Likewise, there are many acts as far as factories or civilians are concerned. I studied all things related to factories, customs and trade after I joined. So, I am managing very finely.”
He concluded by saying that whenever a problem or issue arises, one must know whom to contact. Indian Union has a beautiful system to select its officials, and they are competent enough to do their job. They are also well aware that if they will not do their job, somebody else will do it. I follow the procedure properly which I learnt from army. ‘Human touch’ is very important and one has to apply for the same, understanding their feelings and problems.