As chief executive of MAS Intimates, Rajiv Dharmendra is continually asking himself how he can keep his company ahead of the curve. MAS is one of the biggest employers in Sri Lanka and the largest apparel and textile manufacturer in South Asia. With over $2 billion in revenue annually, the need to innovate is ever-pressing.
The intimates cluster Dharmendra heads is the largest division at MAS, manufacturing high-end lingerie for top global brands like Victoria’s Secret, Pink and Calvin Klein. The division employs over 37,000 people and operates 14 factories in Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia; and has four design offices in New York, Hong Kong, London and Sri Lanka where it collaborates with leading brands on building product and supply chain solutions around fashion trends, innovation and sustainability.
The global apparel industry is a highly scattered one, with the most significant player, China, having only a 13% share. So, instead of trying to increase volume, Dharmendra’s focus is high-value products. MAS Intimates manufactures over 200 million units a year. Its portfolio of intimate wear includes bras, briefs, and boxers, performance and sportswear, and covers wearable electronics & smart clothing.
“The right balance between opportunity and potential is the recipe for success. Making sure the organisation has that balance is my primary job.”
Dharmendra envisions that production of lower-end garments will migrate to other regions, leaving Sri Lanka as a nation with significant capabilities around value-addition. Trend cycles in the industry have also become rapidly shorter. The ability to quickly cater to the changing demand is vital. Dharmendra suggests social media drives this. “Whereas previously five trends may have developed in a year, you may see fifty today,” he says.
Being able to produce for trends will be a cornerstone for a value-added industry in the years to come. To achieve this, he says upskilling is essential, and that, together with work-force empowerment has been a long-standing thread for MAS. Adding value through the workforce is something he embraced wholeheartedly. Not only does it apply to the ability to work a machine, it includes an understanding of employee needs and enriching their lives. While growing the business no longer means adding to the workforce, he doesn’t see any reduction in it either. Instead, Dharmendra focuses on developing leaders.
He sees his role as providing guidance, leadership and support to team members, and giving them opportunities to fulfil their potential. “I believe great potential goes to waste without opportunity,” he says. “The right balance between opportunity and potential is the recipe for success. Making sure the organisation has that balance is my primary job”.