The CEO of Premier Clothing Fazul Zahir fields PATRIOT BUSINESS questions after his company received a Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS) certification – BOS ISO 9001:2015.
Discuss the significance and implications of this certificate to your business.
ZAHIR: It is very important for manufacturers and practically all businesses, but most importantly for manufacturers because it is a Quality Management System (QMS). A lot of people mistake a QMS with a product certification. This system makes sure that all your processes, administratively and technically are aligned along certain scope. It also has certain standards which qualify you to be audited. It blends the whole organisation to be of total quality oriented. This also helps when you are in a position to export; the rest of the world demands that you have this kind of certification and without it they would not even approach you. It opens doors for you.
Do you know other companies that have been awarded this certification?
ZAHIR: There is no one in Botswana who has been awarded this certification. We are the first to be awarded in the private sector and we are very proud of it.
Who is Premier Clothing, the nature of your business?
ZAHIR: Premier Clothing is a privately-owned business and we have a board of directors and shareholders. We have five shareholders at the moment and five directors including myself who is the CEO of the whole group. Our main business is on manufacturing. We manufacture work gear, corporate wear, all different types of uniforms and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). We provide a solution from head to toe for safety requirements for any customer.
How will the certification assist the business going forward?
ZAHIR: The new certification will help us in that we are looking to increase our business in exporting. Botswana is currently a saturated market and if we want to grow the only hope is outside the country. This is why I sat on the committee which develops the AGOA strategy which is before the Parliament which will entice all the manufacturers in Botswana to export to the US under that sanction. There are a lot of benefits; importers from the US do not need to pay any duty for the goods coming into Botswana. Plus an EPA was recently signed which has opened the market in Europe for manufacturers. We could have access to over 69 markets in Europe. Export is going to be our theme for the next three years.
How many employees does the company currently have?
ZAHIR: We currently employ plus or minus 230 employees. We had more but unfortunately as you know skills in this industry are very limited and every year we bring a batch of new people to replace accordingly. We train them from grass roots level which lot of other people do not do. We do believe in training as key aspect of our organisation.
What are Premier Clothing’s major achievements over the years?
ZAHIR: Premier Clothing has stood in the forefront of PPE from the time we started operating. A lot of people have come and gone but we have consistently maintained our position. Today if you want to a quality product you come to Premier Clothing. A lot of people do not understand the value for money concept. They think if you buy something cheap that is competitiveness. That is not competitiveness. Competitiveness is to buy a good product at a good price. We do not compromise quality. Anytime we upgrade the products that we have, quality is always on the back of our minds. So this is our major achievement – consistently number one in clothing.
What are the major challenges at Premier Clothing in particular and industry in general?
ZAHIR: The major challenge is skills development and getting permits for expertise which is not available here. But in many cases government has listened to us and they have been very helpful. We also try our best to maximise employment in our organization.
Who is your target market?
ZAHIR: Our target market is basically the entire country. Our main customer would be the government because they employ the largest workforce, but of course there is also the private sector. We deal with practically everyone.
How has Premier Clothing taken advantage of initiatives introduced by Govt and bilateral partners like AGOA?
ZAHIR: The initiatives have not come through yet, but if they do come through we will be the first to participate and definitely make use of them.
How is Premier Clothing giving back to the community?
ZAHIR: We are one of the companies which have never failed to uplift the lives of the employees, our stakeholders and the general public. Everyone who approaches us for a public event, we help them.
If you were to be granted a day with the President or Minister of Trade what would be your advice to them?
ZAHIR: The only advice would be for them to look at the industries, and then separate them and address their challenges. Look at specific skills and then assist because the rest of the world does assist, especially the textile industry because it is by far the largest employer in every country that I know of. If you want to increase employment, you need to support the textile and the apparel sector.