Stepping Stones Behind the Epic Growth of Ranjan Mahtani’s “Epic”
Ranjan Mahtani was born and raised in Mumbai. At the age of 16, he started “cutting his teeth” in the garment industry, working as an intern at a garment export company way back in 1980, and already was learning the business for a few years in Hong Kong and Taiwan. In 1983, he set up Epic, and started the operations from scratch, in Bangladesh, where he saw an opportunity for huge growth in an emerging apparel industry powerhouse. Since then, his company created its global headquarters in Hong Kong, and four decades later, they have built a global business with operations in Bangladesh, India, the Middle East, South-East Asia, the US, and the UK. They started with a Buying Office in Bangladesh, with a vision to attain revenues of $ 100k within a four-year horizon; and today, they are one of the largest manufacturers and buying agents in Bangladesh, producing over 120 million pieces of garment per year, employing over 30,000 employees worldwide, mainly in Bangladesh. Today, they have become one of the world’s largest apparel manufacturers, partnering with some of the top global apparel retailers, including Walmart, Uniqlo, Amazon, Levi’s, and many others.
Impact of Customer Preferences on the Current Scenario of the Business
The revenue of the global apparel industry was estimated at $ 1.5 trillion in 2021 and is projected to rise to $ 2 trillion by 2026. The ecosystem of the apparel industry, including fabric and textile producers, manufacturers, retailers, and end customers, has changed dramatically over the years. For example, the entire industry focus on driving sustainability. More and more clothes are being produced with sustainable fibers, and new sustainable manufacturing practices are being incorporated into the whole manufacturing and supply chain value chain. Also, consumers want a blend of affordable active and casual wear. It is because people want to feel comfortable at home, in the office, or at their leisure. And the industry has seen a significant digitalization of its supply chain – from digital product designs to digitalized product libraries, costing, and highly automated manufacturing processes.
The Inspiration Behind the Establishment of Eric Group
In 1983, EPIC first opened offices in Bangladesh and started its operations from scratch, beginning as a small buying office.
Since then, the company has come a long way, with operations and offices throughout the world, employing over 30,000 employees and manufacturing over 120 million pieces of garment annually.
Ranjan Mahtani did his first internship in the garment industry at the age of 16. Today he is 58. It has been a professional journey of over 40 years for him. As an Entrepreneur, he feels proud of what he has contributed in the initial years and growth of the company to make it what he loves to call “the brand behind the brand”. Today, EPIC has grown substantially, and they have a talented workforce to manage it. Now he feels his key responsibilities are to mentor them, make sure that they get all the right resources, and help them to develop the vision for the future of the company. Having said that, it doesn’t stop him from learning new things. The world we live in has been continuously evolving, he needs to keep himself abreast of it because the moment one stops learning is the moment one starts getting old and he would rather keep himself young with the same energy and enthusiasm that he had 40 years before.
The Differentiating Factor Among Epic’s Competitors
State-of-the-Art garment manufacturing, apparel design & development, fabric development, pick & pack warehousing service.
Epic Group proudly partners with key global retailers such as Walmart, Amazon, Uniqlo, Levi’s, and Tesco. Together and for decades now, Epic has built with these and other customers committed, transparent, and mutually trusting long-term relationships.
They are transitioning towards Industry 4.0 and have started building their factories of the future. They lean and supplement by sustainable practices. The very first such unit, Green Textile Unit-4, was recently commissioned and is fully operational. These micro-factories will be agile production facilities with modular lines, multi-skilled operators, and advanced technology in terms of equipment and digitalization. They are built with vigor and passion to ‘cut in the morning, ship in the evening.’
They are also, investing in a new washing machine for denim that doesn’t require the use of any chemicals and much less water consumption, making it highly sustainable.
From a product point of view, they have partnered with new and innovative denim fabrics that are sustainable both from the material as well as a process point of view.
Challenges Faced By The Company In The Market
The rise in inflation has a cascading effect on the entire supply chain as raw material, freight, and energy costs have increased, resulting in higher retail prices. At the same time, the same inflation is making consumers prioritize their spending and decrease their share of their wallet for apparel. They are also seeing higher inventories as supply chains were disrupted due to COVID-19 pandemic lockdown delays, and trade issues with China. Some brands have become very aggressive on markdowns to clear their inventories as soon as possible. This might even out, and still motivate consumers to buy more. Also, the retail market seems to consolidate, resulting in unemployment. A few of the key things they see coming out of this is that brands are focusing on nearshoring to make the supply chain more resilient. They are also investing in the right technology to have clear visibility of the supply chain and be more agile and flexible in demand planning to avoid inventory issues in the future. These challenges offer tremendous opportunities for us: as in their mission statement “The Relentless Pursuit of Better”, every day, they look for new ways to innovate – to bring sustainable, affordable products which retailers and customers want – efficiently and cost-effectively. This means looking proactively at solutions with their stakeholders – whether in fabric sourcing, state-of-the-art manufacturing, or product design and development.
How to Motivate and Incorporate Teamwork in the Workplace Regardless of Differences and Disagreements?
Motivation happens when everyone shares the same vision of excellence. The “Relentless Pursuit of Better” is what each and everyone at EPIC Group lives by each day. They are driven by a clear understanding of their customer’s requirements, which are then translated into clear operational Key Performance Indicators (“KPIs”) for which they are measuring constantly, and for which they link to every individual’s goals and rewards. They believe in transparency of communication and collaboration in their approach. Criticisms and disagreements are encouraged to be aired for discussion, and he enjoys reaching out to all his employees at all levels of the company so that he can hear and learn their perspectives.
Ensuring Optimum Customer Satisfaction Through Feedback
The company exists only because of the customer. In an industry that is constantly changing, we need to proactively help their customers understand these changes, how they are impacted by them, and how we provide solutions proactively to them in response. Their company communicates daily with the customers. Partnering with them along the entire apparel value chain – from design to product development, planning to production and logistics – they establish cross-functional, global teams to ensure that they are “around the clock” ensuring to meet their customers’ demands and that every order is shipped “on time in full”.
Plans Of The Epic Group
EPIC Group has numerous exciting growth initiatives in its pipeline.
- CAPACITY EXPANSION
They are expanding their manufacturing footprints in the existing as well as new geographies to ensure that they provide a wider range of product offerings, speed to market, competitive pricing with duty benefits, as well as supply chain resilience. Their expansion plans include creating factories of the future in Bangladesh, getting vertically integrated with textile/fabric mills, setting up a new manufacturing facility in Jordan for synthetics, setting up facilities in India, as well as supporting the near-shoring/on-shoring visions of their customers.
To complement their manufacturing expansion, they have Rainbow Place, an agile and nimble supply chain partner offering product diversification, flexibility, and speed to market using different geographies. It has exclusive agreements with world-class manufacturing facilities in Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Kenya, Vietnam, and Jordan.
- SUSTAINABLE MANUFACTURING
The company has a sustainability aspiration target of achieving Higg leadership by 2023. They also target to reduce their carbon footprint intensity by 20 percent by 2023 against the 2017 baseline ensuring societal responsibility.
They have been investing in carbon reduction as part of their strategy. The future factories are designed with complete solar rooftops – the first of which is being commissioned with 730 kW and the second at 1,400 kW will be commissioned in Q1 2023. They are upgrading their machinery and steam systems for energy efficiency using state-of-the-art design and optimization. Innovations in their washing – concerning advanced chemistry, machine improvements, and recipe optimization – enable them to reduce their carbon footprints.
Their water intensity reduction target of 40 percent is achieved through the washing improvements targeting low water finishing processes aided by washing machine upgrades, laser, and ozone machines. With advanced membrane technology, they can reuse up to 50 percent of water back in the process.
- SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTS
EPIC Group is increasing the use of sustainable fiber – organic cotton, recycled cotton, recycled polyester, and sustainably produced cellulosic. In 2021 they produced nearly 6,000,000 garments using sustainable cotton. Their base cotton use comes from BCI-certified cotton or equivalent.
Building on their work on low-water denim in 2021, they are working on the next generation of low-impact denim products in a scalable manner using advanced fabrics that eliminate potassium permanganate spray in finishing as well as reducing water, carbon, and chemical footprints.
- SUSTAINABLE FINANCING
HSBC has been their long-term partner and it has supported their growth since its inception. Epic Group is proud to be the bank’s partner in completing its first sustainability-linked trade transaction in Hong Kong. The proceeds will support their working capital and trade cycle, with pricing tied to their performance in greenhouse gas emissions intensity, freshwater use intensity, as well as Higg Facility Environmental Module. This facility will propel them even further to enhance their relentless mission of achieving sustainable leadership and making the world a better place. Epic Group has been awarded the ‘Best Trade Finance Solution’ under ‘ESG Solutions’ in the Asset Triple A Awards – 2022.
Advice For Young Entrepreneurs From the Master Itself
EPIC Group’s core value focus on being Customer focused – requiring each and everyone to be proactive, transparent, solutions-driven, and technology-enabled. In this new era of digitalization of the apparel “Industry 4.0”, entrepreneurs seeking careers in this business need to be innovative and look for new ways of working, new partnerships with new disruptive technologies that enable them to help retailers navigate the complex set of global supply and demand dynamics of this ever so fast-changing industry.