Business Times

BAM Holdings looks to nanotechnology

By Natasha Gunaratne

BAM Holdings Ltd, a pioneer in the apparel sector in Sri Lanka is looking towards nanotechnology to improve the quality of its garments and is calling for nanotechnology consultants for research and development.

Experts say nanotechnology, also known as nanotech deals with structures of the size 100 nanometers or smaller in at least one dimension and involves developing materials or devices within that size.
Director of Group Human Resource and Development and Knowledge Management at BAM Holdings Pradeepa Kekulawala told the Business Times this week that the company is looking into research and development in nanotechnology for the embellishment printing side of the garments.

“We are basically looking for people who have the knowledge because nanotechnology is in a very experimental stage here but we have started this before most other countries in the region,” he said. “It is a whole new area that has limitless possibilities.”

With tight conditions in the economy, Mr. Kekulawala said the company has to give value addition to the buyer. Approximately 70% of the company’s business is exporting children’s wear to NEXT (UK) with the bulk of the other 30% exporting women’s fashion and casual wear to leading labels such as Marks & Spencer and Tesco of the UK and a few seasonal European buyers such as Needle Eye. “If GSP+ is permanently lost, we need to give value addition or the buyers will migrate to countries like India and Bangladesh where the labour is much cheaper.”

Mr. Kekulawala explained that exploring the possibilities of using nanotechnology in printing is the brainchild of Group Chairman B.A. Mahipala who is an engineer himself. With the chemicals used in placement printing, there are issues in the retention of the print and wear of the print over time.
“With nanotechnology, you are talking about more durability of the printing. At the nanotechnology level, it will blend with the fabric fibre and is bound to give the print better quality, accuracy and permanency.”

When asked about the loss of the GSP+ concessions, Mr. Kekulawala said that contrary to popular belief, the company sees it as a challenge. “It keeps us on our feet,” he said. “All of us as a country are very used to giveaways and handouts but now it is time to get our act together.” The loss of the concession adds about 10% to the landed cost of the products. Despite buyers being unwilling to absorb those costs, Mr. Kekulawala said they are working to come to a mutually beneficial agreement.

“We don’t know what the final formula will be but we are negotiating.” The 2010 theme for BAM Holdings is ‘Beyond Limits.’ The company is looking at areas of inefficiencies in terms of delivery, productivity and quality.

“For the last 25 years, we have never missed a salary date and never closed a plant putting people on the road,” Mr. Kekulawala said.“Not many companies in the apparel sector can boast of that.”

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