Six years on, the joint venture between Grameen Bank Group and Japan's Fast Retailing Co. Ltd, which is operator of the UNIQLO brand, continues to steadfastly pursue business expansion by cultivating factories that share its social business ideals, developing traditional dress and other products to meet local needs and reviewing store development strategies.
Over the years the venture has overcome many difficult challenges, including ensuring high-quality procurement standards while respecting local business practices, culture, laws and the social nature of local factories, according to a statement of the company.
In Bangladesh, which is largely dependent on foreign remittance and textile exports and where the manufacturing base and infrastructure required urgent improvement, the Fast Retailing Co. Ltd. established the UNIQLO Social Business Bangladesh Ltd in 2010. In 2011 the Fast Retailing joined forces with the local social business proponent Grameen Bank Group to launch the Grameen UNIQLO Ltd.
The joint venture company has drawn on UNIQLO's unique specialty store retailer of private retail apparel (SPA) business model, which spans the entire clothes-making process from materials procurement through planning, design, manufacture and retail, to develop a social business and a more robust clothing manufacturing base in Bangladesh.
Fast Retailing makes sure that all clothing design, manufacture and retail are conducted entirely within the country and all profits reinvested.
Appointed COO of Grameen UNIQLO in 2015, Najmul Huq laid out three clear business missions, moving the company into a new stage of development: Offering all Bangladeshi people the joy and satisfaction of wearing truly good clothes, solving local social issues through business and reinvesting all profits to promote social business.
Grameen UNIQLO currently operates nine stores. It plans to open more, and is considering online sales.
"Grameen UNIQLO clothes are made by partner factories that meet our strict criteria on proper working conditions, etc. However, very few factories manufacturing clothes for the domestic market meet those criteria. The production base is struggling to keep up with growing demand, especially for women's clothing," Mr Huq explains.
"So, in addition to our existing partner factories, we are building new factories in cooperation with partner companies that share our passion for social business. Recently, we completed a new collaborative factory building that we had been involved in right from site purchase. The equipment and instruments are now being installed and closely checked to ensure they meet our SR standards before the factory starts operating," he added.
Grameen UNIQLO is committed to turning its social business into a truly sustainable operation. The key challenge is introducing forward-thinking good practice in seeking to foster rapid industrial development.