Opting to manufacture one of the most critical accessories in a garment – i.e. zippers, way back in 1989, Tazul Islam, a visionary and founder of Fabian Group proved his mettle and today besides producing all types of zippers… metal, nylon and plastic under the FBN branding, the group produces threads, buttons and labels along with pharmaceuticals. While Tazul is now more active in politics, being a Member of Parliament, the day-to-day affairs of the business is looked after by his enterprising son Saidul Islam, Director of the Group who met Team Apparel Online at his Chittagong zipper factory and shared the success story of the first zipper manufacturer of Bangladesh – Fabian Industries Ltd.
A deep commitment and a strong eye for opportunities have been the growth drivers for many legendary companies around the world and the same can be said for Fabian Group. With a Group turnover of US $ 40 million per annum, Fabian’s zipper company is doing a turnover of around US $ 18 million/annum, but the journey was not without its challenges. “My father used to import zippers from China and even YKK didn’t have factory here, but the industry was growing fast. Seeing the growing demand within Bangladesh for zippers, my father thought it would be a good project albeit critical as zippers have so many parts and each part has its own criticality,” shares Saidul. Today, while the major focus is still on garment zippers, Fabian also manufactures zippers for tents and luggage though the percentage share is very low.
Over the years, Fabian has acquired capabilities of being able to produce technologically sound zippers that are smooth-and-sharpness-free. No wonder, FBN metal zippers are appreciated by bottom manufacturers in Bangladesh, for applications covering trousers, formal pants, cargo shorts and denims. Having many nominations to its name, FBN zippers are extensively used by brands and retailers in Europe, UK and the US. “We are a composite zipper manufacturer with vertically integrated processes from weaving to auto-assembly, second largest in Bangladesh after YKK which is the global number one brand. I can proudly claim that our quality is comparable to YKK,” continues Saidul, who proudly shared that his zippers have nominations from Auchan, H&M, Zara, C&A, Carrefour, Kiabi to mention a few, with sole nominations from Tom Tailor and Matalan.
With strong emphasis on innovation, Fabian doesn’t hesitate to invest on research and development to launch new products at frequent intervals. “We have just introduced a Y-Type zipper, which is a new technology and gives more strength than normal metal zippers. In Bangladesh, only YKK has this technology as of now. The other interesting product launched recently is the multi-colour polyester zipper in which the teeth are in one colour, while tape and sliders are of different colours. Even in the teeth there are two-three colours and in the tape we give up to five colours. These zippers are used majorly for girls and ladies wear. This effect cannot be given on metal, it can be done only on polyester,” shares Saidul who also exports zippers to Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Very particular about quality of zippers, which cannot be compromised at any stage of manufacturing, FBN’s QC division has around 80 personnel who check each and every zipper at different stages from production floor to the packaging level. We have to be very meticulous about the metal zippers to ensure that there are no sharp or rough edges which can be fatal for the end user,” avers Saidul who claims that though the quality of FBN zippers is as good as YKK the price is 5-10% lesser than the world leader.
Unlike other zipper manufacturers, FBN is the only company in Bangladesh, besides YKK which manufactures sliders in-house. “We are producing a full product and not just a part of the product,” says Saidul. Since there are around 10-18 parts in a slider, many companies find it too technical, so they import it from China or India. “You really need very skilled people to make a puller. In a non lock puller, there are just 2-3 parts so that is not too difficult to make as there are no critical functions and it just has to go down and up, but in lock zippers there are different types of locking systems and each part is critical,” adds Saidul.
Another competitive edge which FBN boasts of is flexibility of quantities and shorter lead times. “We deliver the goods as soon as we get the LC but that’s not the case with YKK. Similarly, we also take small quantities with lesser lead time whereas YKK would take 2 months for new clients; further we have more flexibility in terms of payment and deliveries,” claims Saidul who is not deterred by growing number of zipper brands in Bangladesh especially from China and Taiwan. To combat the competition, the company is now strategically focussing on the nominated business. “Since last five years we are reducing our conventional business which is directly selling to the garment manufacturers and concentrating on nominated business, which only comes with proven credibility, which we have,” he reasons.
To keep its lead in the competition, Fabian keeps a keen eye on new upcoming technologies. Frequent visits to China and Taiwan are part of exploring newer products besides keeping track of its competitors and what they are coming up with. “We have some products which usually one doesn’t find with other manufacturers; also how smoothly the zippers work, how strong is its puller, or how good is its locking system or the teeth, are differentiators in quality of the zipper,” points out Saidul who is planning to expand in plastic and nylon zippers later this year. “Currently, we have capacity to produce 6 million pieces per day and we are looking at increasing it to 2 million pieces per day, as demand increases,” concludes Saidul.