A cordial relationship with the staff by celebrating their festivals and giving them something special every day ensured that there was no absenteeism. The 22nd part of a series describing the unknown triumphs and travails of doing international business
Thanks to the very extra care that we took of our staff, we had no problems whatsoever in our work. After a brief holiday in Colombo, which enabled Piyasena Perera to be with his family, and still go through the process of selecting hundreds of new workers for the factory, he returned back to the flock. Thankfully, during the period of his absence I faced no major hiccups in production.
My next few days were spent in doing the co-ordination work with the Free Zone authorities so as to ensure expeditious processing of visa applications and actually getting the visas. These had to be notified to Haji Cader, and who, in turn had to alert the successful applicant. He/she would then submit the resignation and most of the time the companies would seek help in asking for a suitable replacement. Luckily, no local company in Sri Lanka stood in the way of their staff going abroad and in many ways even assisted them in getting their passports.
On direct orders that we had negotiated in the meanwhile, Zubair took the responsibility to ensure opening of Letters of Credit for raw materials. After all we were greenhorns in the textile industry and it was a good lapse of time before we realized in the mug’s game that we were pawns. The buyer/his agent would nominate the fabric supplier for quantity and quality; likewise, we would be directed to place orders and open L/Cs for accessories on X, Y or Z, which had the materials for shipment! A certain percentage of the ordered value would be siphoned off to the buyer/agent. Likewise, we would also land up buying extra lengths of fabrics than actually required to complete the ordered quantity!
In the long run, we felt we were better off doing local contracts without having to invest money and taking risks for delays in supplies or for being ‘rejected’ for non procurement of ‘acceptable’ quality of fabric.
I think, by this time we had almost a score of manufacturers in the zone itself; the units outside the zone were multiplying; each of the Emirate was coming out with “Free Zones” and offering all kinds of services, copying the lead set up by the Jebel Ali Free Zone. If I were to hazard a wild guess, by the second year of the boom trade in the garment industry, perhaps, UAE would have issued visas for some 18,000 to 20.000 workers; a good 70% of them came from Sri Lanka.
Export from UAE to the USA was picking up at a phenomenal rate; other markets like the UK and Europe were not far behind. We also had tremendous marketing support from Hong Kong, which was the centre of activity. The other main centres of production were: India, Pakistan, China, Sri Lanka Thailand, Philippines and Bangladesh. And the competition was very, very severe.
This growth caused an unexpected bottleneck in terms of shipping space while the smaller and urgent lots were being air freighted every day. It was at this juncture, manufacturers in the Free Zone began to cultivate the fear, as to what would happen if a quota system was imposed by the USA, which was the main buyer.
Initially, we had ad hoc meetings among ourselves; ultimately, an urgent meeting of all the manufacturers in the Jebel Ali Free Zone was called, in the office of CNA, by Jamna Dattani, its chairman. After a brief discussion, in order to form an effective group to take care of the problems of the industry, Jamna, the senior most, proposed that we form an association. The association was named as JAGTA to represent Jebel Ali Garments and Textiles Association. Unanimously, Jamna was elected as its first chairman, and Fakhuruddin Amiji as the vice chairman. Proposed by Imran Khan, AK Ramdas of Finetex was elected as its secretary and spokesman.
Broadly, the factories in the Free Zone were owned and controlled by Indian or Pakistani nationals, who are even today the predominant community in the UAE, as they were at that time. It was much later we had a British company set up its plant, which had extensive interests in Sri Lanka; and a Thai unit was already operative. But, in this industry, it did not matter at all, and everyone's aim was to procure and execute the orders to the entire satisfaction of their clients.
We did not realize how fast the time flies! We were heading for the Sri Lankan New Year in the middle of April. And, we began to think the best means of celebrating the event.
In the meantime, there were a couple of things that I must tell you about what we did at Finetex, in creating extraordinary cordial relations with our staff. During my trips to Colombo, when I had the opportunity to meet a cross section of the people, I found that, like it happens in our countries like India, apples were sold definitely outside the hospitals, and this was one of the most cherished fruits that were unaffordable for the common folks. I had ensured that every day at tea break in the afternoon, every member of the Finetex staff received something special: it could be an apple today; an orange tomorrow; bananas the next day; a piece of cake, or even a packet of Horlicks or Parle’s biscuits! There was no absenteeism; our boys and girls worked efficiently and maintained good healthy. It was rarely anyone fell sick or reported sick and stayed back in the camp, unless it was real and painful, and we ensured that medical attention was given without fail.
We declared a two-day holiday for celebrating the New Year; one of which was spent in celebrating the function in the factory premises, by skits, drama, dance, music and other merry making items. The next day was for sight-seeing and market visits, with choice of food, all on the house and with full wages! This was followed by yet another paid holiday for Buddha Poornima, which was wholeheartedly welcomed by the entire staff. There were a few members of the staff for whom I had arranged for special visits to the St Mary’s church earlier for their Christmas mass.
We at Finetex had the best staff in the entire Free Zone and they had the best treatment, as well. I would be immodest in saying that there was none to match us in the zone in any way.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts. From being the advisor to exporters, he took over the mantle of a trader, travelled far and wide, and switched over to setting up garment factories and then worked in the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
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The two-member panel, which had submitted its interim report to the government last Friday, has also held that the building was not reserved for war heroes and Kargil widows.
The interim report was discussed by the Maharashtra cabinet on Tuesday, sources close to the development said, adding it is likely to be tabled in the legislature later in the day.
The commission headed by former Bombay high court judge JA Patil includes former state chief secretary P Subramanian.
The report, according to sources, has thrown light on the issues of ownership of the land on which the 31-storey high-rise stands in upscale Colaba, and if it was reserved for war heroes and Kargil conflict widows.
The allegations in the case are that the land was allotted by the state government to the Adarsh Society though it belonged to the defence ministry, and the building came up in violation of several civic and environmental norms.
The state government had approached the commission a few months ago seeking an interim report on the points of title and reservation.
The Maharashtra government had appointed the two-member panel to probe the Adarsh Society scam in January last year.
The panel has been tasked with probing all aspects of the scam, including ownership of the land and allotment, as well as alleged violations of rules in grant of various clearances to the building. The commission is also looking into violation of coastal zone regulations.
A number of top civil and Army officials and politicians, including former chief minister Ashok Chavan, are alleged to have facilitated clearances for the building and got flats in it as quid pro quo.
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In the near future one KYC with any one of the KYC Registration Authority (KRA) will suffice for all the transactions across spectrum of the financial sector
New Delhi: Aiming to ease procedural hurdles that investors face, market regulator the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) today said it was in talks with other regulators, including RBI and IRDA, for common know-your-customer norms for the financial sector.
"We are in dialogue with the banking regulator, insurance regulator. We are working towards that. In the near future one KYC with any one of the KYC Registration Authority (KRA) will suffice for all the transactions across spectrum of the financial sector, SEBI Chairman UK Sinha said at the CII's AGM.
Mr Sinha said SEBI was in talks with regulators in this regard and the common KYC may come soon. "The long-term plan, on which we have already started working, is how to ensure that for all the transactions in the financial sector...Can the same KYC suffice?" he added.
At present, there are different requirements and yardsticks for KYC in the financial sector.
However, for securities transactions SEBI already has come out with a common KYC. At present, there are three KRAs. If an investor registers with one of the KRAs, then for any other transaction in the securities market he does not need to go for another round of KYC.
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He also pointed out that in recent times, a large number of Indians have started to rely on gold as a safe asset in comparison to other financial assets.
This is primarily because investors are losing confidence in the market and there is lack of awareness about various financial assets, he said.
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"SEBI will ensure a reliable system whereby people are assured that there are uniform rules of the game and if these rules are not maintained they will be taken to task in order to increase market confidence," he said.