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https://www.tbsnews.net/economy/rmg/lingerie-makers-invest-more-skills-plants-347104 Jasim Uddin 21 December, 2021, 11:30 pm Last modified: 22 December, 2021, 09:33 am Lingerie makers invest more in skills, plants High-value apparel exporters are making fresh investments in women's undergarments as part of their plan to expand their global upmarket footprint. Ananta Apparels is one of those, alone investing Tk250 crore in a sophisticated lingerie factory in Chattogram amid the pandemic last year, which created 4,500 jobs. It is going to add 20 new production lines to its lingerie factory within the next three months in the face of growing demand, Sharif Zahir, managing director at Ananta Apparels, told The Business Standard. Producing innerwear requires special skills, designs and accessories, and all these require huge investment in machines and manpower. With the scope and applications for lingerie items rising enormously across the globe, apparel manufacturers have now stepped up to invest more to enhance their capacity with a view to grabbing a bigger piece of the pie. They have also gone for establishing a strong backward linkage of synthetic fabrics to meet the demand for raw materials domestically – coming out of import dependence. The Ananta Apparels MD said, "We are planning to set up a synthetic fabric plant at the Mirsarai Economic Zone with an investment of Tk400 crore to produce fabrics and laces for our lingerie unit." Ananta Apparels is now producing 24 million pieces of bras and 12 million of panties yearly. Lingerie comprises lightweight robes, undergarments, and sleepwear. It looks good on every woman, no matter her size, shape, and proportions. Chorka Textile Ltd, a sister concern of Pran-RFL Group, has doubled its production capacity to cater to the demand for lingerie items pouring in from buyers. With the pandemic having eased recently, consumers across the globe have started releasing their pent-up demand, especially for clothing, that has resulted in a handsome volume of work orders to Bangladeshi apparel-makers. Amid the rising global demand, at least 50 apparel entrepreneurs have either set up new lingerie units or shifted to making such women's clothing. With those units, exporters hope to gain a strong foothold in the global lingerie market – a position next to China. Vietnam and Sri Lanka are now ahead of Bangladesh in supplying lingerie to the global market. Bangladesh has raked in only $518 million of the global market size to the tune of $42 billion. A year ago, the country's share stood at $350 million. The global market is estimated to reach $62 billion by 2024, according to Kenneth Research. RMG entrepreneurs say the manufacturing process of lingerie items, especially bras, is very complicated, which requires up to 25 types of accessories and sophisticated knowhow. They also invested in training workers to produce such products, they add. Sharif said, "We have invested hugely to scale up workers' efficiency in making lingerie to above 50% from 20%-30% at the beginning. "To make this segment profitable, we need workers to have a level of at least 60%." New manufacturers count losses as they are to spend a lot of money to train up workers, so the government should incentivise this promising segment, Ananta Apparels MD Sharif Zahir said. In 2008, SQ Group, a pioneer in lingerie export from Bangladesh, shifted to making the items through a joint venture with Quantum Clothing Group, a top lingerie company in the United Kingdom. Before that, it had exported sweaters. In 2010, the group took over shares of Quantum and it now has five lingerie manufacturing units. Warisul Abid, chief people officer at SQ Group, said after China, Bangladesh has a bright future in this segment. Making such clothing items requires a strong design and development team to produce such high-value products; on the other hand, workers should be more efficient. He also said raw material sourcing is one of the major challenges for this segment. Mohammad Ali Khokon, president of the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association, told TBS they are planning to set up a factory to produce lace, an essential accessory for making lingerie. Shahidullah Azim, vice-president of the BGMEA, said, "Even if we can grab a portion of the global lingerie market, our exports will go up by at least several billion US dollars."