Pakistan, Asia

PAK04 - EGM Friends Fashion Centre: Partnership Reports



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Report Date: March 21, 2016

Report from BHW Field Director Following Visit 5-8 March

 

Key person:   Edward Qasar

 

Recent Events

BHW Visits

The last visit to Lahore by BHW team members was in February 2013. Two attempts were made since then but had be aborted due to unrest and a bombing. It would be fair to say that it has been particularly difficult for BHW to get a clear awareness of the work going on in this project. The ability to communicate specific information will always be an issue without face to face communication.  

Factory 

going wellNew machines have been funded and are in full operation. It was great to see the factory operating at almost full capacity on this visit. 

They had a couple of lean months late in 2015, no one really knows what caused it, but it might be that a large Chinese buyer had enough stock on hand and didn’t have to purchase.  

Workers 

When the factory started most of the workers were skilled, they came from other factories and most of them came from outside of the local community. This surprised us a little as the vision was to start in this community so that the locals benefitted. However now only 2 people of the 40 are not locals. The other great thing is that most of them were unskilled workers and now they are very proficient at operating their machine.  

Along with this, more than 100 people that they have trained over that last few years have gone on to get other, higher paid jobs which further benefits the community. They have trained scores of people. Last year when we were expected to come but had to cancel because of a bombing of a church in the community, we were to present certificates to 55 people who had been trained in the previous few months. Most of them now have employment. Their training is good and those who complete it are sought after in the industry. Garment making has generally been on the rise with a lot of growth so people can get jobs and it’s not hard for FFC to get contracts for work.

There are around 40 people currently employed. The workers are on a production basis and get paid for the number of pieces made, this keeps them motivated and helps hugely with budgeting. 

Family  

Three of the family work in the factory. Faisal does the accounts and works on orders etc. Sobal is the production manager and father (Manzoor) is the boss. He left his job in a large factory to fulfil this position. He has a lot of experience and runs a pretty tight ship. These three have been taking small salaries, two at $US100/month and one at $US150 / month which is a lot less than the other workers receive. The total amount of the 3 is about the monthly salary of some of the workers. 

 

Personal Stories

I interviewed two of the employees from FFC to get their perspective on the place:

Nasreen Nazir 

Nasreen has worked at FFC for 2½ years. She is a machine operator and makes the front panel for the trousers. Before she came to work here she worked in a women’s sewing centre teaching for four years. She is married with one son. Her husband works for daily wages but badly damaged his finger so has not been able to work for a long time. She is able to earn $US280 - $US300 /month and sometimes gets overtime as well. She likes working at FFC. 

She is an evangelist as well and goes on trips with the team from church to rural villages with Manzoor, Faisal and Sobal. She runs women’s meetings and distributes literature and bibles. 

Shahid

Shahid (2nd from left in green) is an energetic man who is one of the two original workers are FFC. He is a Moslem but is very close to being a Christian, in fact, he gives fund for the orphans and helps with Bible distribution. 

keen workerHe is a single machine operator and bottom line stitcher. He earns around $US300/month. Before coming to FFC he worked for a large company for 30 years. But it was not a happy place. There he was earning around $US40-$US60/month in the hand, but they took a lot from his wages for superannuation and medical expenses. 

They want him to go back but this place has become like his family and he will not leave. He loves Sobal (2nd from right) as a son. He never wants to leave. He’s usually the first one to work in the morning and the last one to leave.

 

Partnership's Influence within the Community

“They treat the workers as humans, not just factory machines'". I heard more than once that it was a lot like a large family and very different to most garment manufacturers.

The influence of a business like this is hard to quantify but the number of people with jobs and a certain salary in a community like this is of real development value. 

The factory is the central part of the strategy and vision for this community. 

It makes a huge difference in the lives of those who are working. If these people were working in unskilled jobs they would be earning around $50-$120 per month. The lowest paid at the factory gets around $250 per month. Imagine what a difference that makes. When you ask them about this they just smile broadly. One family who are neighbours have two men employed in the factory. They are building a house from their income, a 3 storey house. And all the kids go to school now. 

 

Plans for the Future

They would like to expand the facility at ground level and go one level up. Possibly the greatest limiting factor in their operations and hindrance to being able to operate in profit at the present is the space required to operate. They underestimated that. Because of that they have 5 or 6 machines unable to operate. The table space required is extensive and they have had to remove some machines to accommodate this. 

They would continue with some CMT work and would be able to take on larger contracts than they currently are able to because of space restrictions. They have a business lined up who will give them local and export contracts. The key person is a long term friend of Manzoor.

But their real passion is to get into producing their own products to sell locally and to get offshore customers and develop their own brand. The expansion they propose would make all this possible. 

Without further investment the business will continue to operate. They are very committed to it staying open, even if it only just breaks even and they are not able to get much from it themselves. However they are asking for a further investment of $US15,000 as a loan. They see that this is essential to get into profit, make it self-sustaining, to be able to repay the loans and to grow the business.

 

Current Issues and Challenges

They are facing real challenges. They have been operating now for 5 years and are about breaking even. There is no profit to pay back the loan or to put enough into development and growth. But, should they discontinue when there is so much benefit for the community? They do not want to do this, in fact, they are so invested in this that they cannot imagine closing it down. It is, in their minds, the centre-piece of their vision. 

 

Prayer and Praise Points

1) That the business is still operating and family are even more committed to making it work. 
2) The number of people who have been helped because of this business operating. 
3) That we will have wisdom in decision making about how to be involved in the future.

 

Comments

The joint vision of the family for their community is comprehensive and holistic and they are very passionate about seeing it continue. When they talk about it their eyes light up, the pitch of their voices rise and they become very animated. This is not just one or two of them, it’s all four of the men.