Development visible in Guwahati and at FabricPlus

From the airport of Guwahati to the FabricPlus office is normally 45 minutes’ drive. Drive in India is more like floating through the traffic jam at 20km/h, and also this time it was a lot of jam when Ronald van het Hof and myself took the trip this early February. However, clear progress was visible: lot of new construction and business development. Car dealers like BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, Audi … they all set up shop here, forecasting to benefit from this development and growth. We are not so sure whether that would be good for the traffic jam, but the construction of a big fly-over at the worst traffic congestion gives us some hope.

State of the art new stitching unit
First we visited FabricPlus’ new garment stitching unit. It will offer in full production around 200 women work with state of the art equipment in a nice and clean environment. Training center for new women workers is in full swing and the first 80 women were already on board. Big impression, big compliments for what FabricPlus’ CEO and founder Dilip and his team pulled off. We radiated our expectations to the sales team to bring high value orders into the factory. No real business without real orders!

Improvements implemented
In the evening we enjoyed – as always – home cooked dishes and a great King Fisher with Dilip. The next day was also full of pleasant surprises, especially when we visited the silk spinning unit and found that multiple improvements were implemented. Bottlenecks of last visit such as the cocoon washing had been solved. That increased the speed of production and more importantly it creates a much more consistent quality of the final silk as the basic raw material is standardized. The production team has taken at heart to create transparency on targets, daily production, KPI’s and colleagues in the unit know what they need to do. Coaching of the spinning unit manager clearly paid off. While absenteeism was quite impressively improved after our last visit, still that is one of the bottlenecks and the management needs to create more rigor on engaging those who are reliable workers. Without good production employees available, it is hard to produce the targeted volume. We trained the whole team of managers and supervisors in the concept of continuous improvement and its key basic tool: root cause analysis – curious how they will use this high performance tool in the coming months.

New jobs for at least 20,000 women
The next day we discussed in the office what we saw in the two units and what we learned during the evening dinners about the organization, its leadership team and its shareholders. Dilip and the team are determined to start-up a next silk spinning unit some 350 km further in Assam, a great opportunity for another 20 to 30 thousand women. However, to be successful on that journey, most important is to understand the market, the competition and how to win in those markets. We worked with the team creating a crisp and clear budget and action plans can be defined in detail.

The why of FabricPlus
And even more important – we raised the question: why is FabricPlus anyhow in this business? With new stakeholders and new business plans the reason for being could dilute, so it’s important to raise that question every now and then. We guided the leaders through a discussion on the PURPOSE of Fabric Plus. Inspiring as such discussion always can be, the outcome was again a confirmation of my personal motivation to travel to India and share my knowledge with social enterprises: we work to improve the livelihood of women and families.

Jan Anne Schelling