Amass Footwear: Diversifying export basket with jute-made espadrilles
DOT Desk: Efforts to revive the ‘golden fibre’ of Bangladesh, jute, has been frustrating for the last few decades. The closure of state-owned jute mills, farmers being deprived of fair prices for raw jute, aggressive growth of plastic have all dealt a blow to the country’s major cash crop, reports TBS.
Yet, there are some who are finding ways to utilise this gift of nature which grows so well in the country, and is adored worldwide for its biodegradability and nature-friendliness.
Espadrilles factories are one of those entities. These companies manufacture espadrilles out of jute and export them to a number of countries in the West.
Espadrilles are a type of shoe that has a lightweight, braided sole made of a natural fibre such as jute or grass. These are basically summer footwear, with strong historical ties to some regions in southern Europe.
There are a couple of espadrilles manufacturers in Bangladesh; among them are Tropical Shoe Industries Limited, Cotheeka Jute Industry, Phulhar Footwear Limited, Amass Footwear Ltd, Golden Braid Footwear Ltd etc.
To understand the business case for jute-made footwear, we talked to the founder of Amass Footwear Ltd. Amass Footwear had a humble beginning in 2017. The same year, the first batch of espadrilles was exported.
“We founded Amass Footwear with an investment of only Tk10 lakh, and the factory was set up on my own land in Jhenidah,” Obaidul Haque Rasel, the managing director of Amass told The Business Standard.
“We are a hundred-percent export oriented jute-made shoe company. We don’t sell in the local market. Our products are going to Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Denmark, South Africa and Korea,” Rasel added.
Some products have also been exported to the US, but Rasel said they are yet to gain a strong foothold in the US market. Espadrilles are mostly hand-made. Amass Footwear engages workers, most of whom are women, in two ways: some work at the factory, and others work from home.
The sole and the upper part of the shoe, made out of leather or fabric, is made in the factory, and the parts are then sent to the workers’ homes.
Those who work from home have prior training from Amass, and they do the sewing job – joining the two parts of the shoe. “Of course, there are some buyers who want the shoes to be made inside the factory so compliance can be monitored. In these cases, we make the whole shoe inside the factory,” Rasel said.
For other buyers who do not have this requirement, the product is completed at home. “There are women who would not work in the factory for personal and family reasons, so we send the materials to their homes and they do the work in their free time,” Rasel explained.
There are 700 to 800 work-from-home employees in Amass, while there are around 100 skilled workers who work inside the factory.