Creating a Legacy – Hasib Omar

The name ‘Omar’ is synonymous with the Apparel industry of Sri Lanka. Surprisingly, however, Hasib Omar’s career journey began in the Finance industry, where he worked as a Loan Officer while pursuing his higher studies in Adelaide, Australia. 

Returning to Sri Lanka in 2008, Hasib became a part of the family business – Brandix Lanka Limited as a Management Trainee. Over the course of the next decade, Hasib worked his way up the company’s hierarchy, ultimately becoming the Executive Director/CEO of the Moose Clothing Company. 

The grandson of M. H. Omar, the Founder of Brandix Lanka Limited, Hasib proudly bears the legacy he has inherited from his esteemed forefather. According to Hasib, his grandfather still attends to his duties at the company despite his advanced age. “There are many lessons to be learnt from him. His legacy lies in risk taking and his entrepreneurial spirit. As he migrated to Sri Lanka from India at the age of eight following the division of Pakistan and India, he never received a formal education, but his spirit and enthusiasm helped him achieve his dreams. He tried many different businesses before succeeding in the Apparel industry. Thereafter, his three sons joined the family business and further developed it into what it is today. So, the legacy to fulfill is immense, and I would also like to create my own legacy for the work I do, rather than be known for what has been accomplished by my family.”

Questioned about the foremost lessons he has learned over the course of his journey to his current position, Hasib replied, “Enthusiasm and passion for what I believe in, not accepting “no” for an answer, and commitment to hard work help me stay on course in order to achieve my goals. These are the strengths that I have developed over the years that helped pave the way for the birth of ‘Moose’, where some convincing was required to launch our own brand/label. This was a passion and dream for me.  When I was the General Manager of Operations at Brandix, I saw an opportunity to create a product during the off-peak season. I utilized a little bit of open capacity at the factory to create the product under our own label. This test project became very successful and went on to make the Moose Clothing Company what it is today.” 

Voicing his thoughts on the makings of a leader, the CEO explained, “Different situations require different types of leadership styles. Great leaders adapt to their surrounding environments and empower their teams to succeed together.” Hasib then went onto list his own leadership characteristics as: 

•             Inspiring and developing the people around me

•             Sincere enthusiasm

•             Integrity

“I was born into the family business. Something about family businesses is that at every family dinner, lunch or breakfast, this would be the primary point of discussion between my dad and uncles. Our extended family is very close knit and would meet very often for meals on a regular basis. I can still remember business and apparel discussions between my uncles and dad from my younger days,” disclosed Hasib on what brought him into the Apparel industry. 

Further elaborating on how the Moose Clothing Company came to be, Hasib stated, “When I was the General Manager at the factory, overlooking our Sewing Associates and others, I used to marvel at the level of effort put in by people to get dressed. I was always inspired by how they would dress up for special occasions and were very conscious about fashion even though they struggled to afford branded clothing. Although we were manufacturing for some of the most fashionable and reputed brands around the world, we didn’t really have anything for people in Sri Lanka to purchase and enjoy as those products did not enter the local market.  That is when it struck me to produce for the Sri Lankan market, offering high quality and affordability, resulting in the creation of the brand ‘Moose’. Naturally, the next step was to apply the same logic to the world marketplace. The idea was to create a brand from Sri Lanka for the world, using our expertise in designing and manufacturing for world class brands. The Moose Clothing Company aims to emulate what Dilmah did for the Tea industry in Sri Lanka.”

When asked what Moose’s USP was, “I would say ‘Exceptional Value for Money Clothing’. We manufacture and produce clothing of extremely high quality to provide the “perfect fit”,” responded Hasib.

Describing his vision for Moose, Hasib said, “The vision is to create a global clothing brand from Sri Lanka, and we are continuously working on making it a reality. Currently, we have launched our brand in India and the Middle East. This took place in October 2019; however, COVID-19 has brought about a delay in that part of our development, but we are working on our regional expansion plans to introduce the brand globally.”

With regards to Sustainability, Hasib stated, “The Sri Lankan Apparel industry, and particularly Brandix, has been at the forefront when it comes to adapting to sustainability standards. For example, in 2008, Brandix’s Green Factory in Seeduwa, Sri Lanka, was the world’s first Apparel Manufacturing Facility to be rated Platinum under the LEED Green Building Rating System of the US Green Building Council (USGBC), confirming our commitment towards sustainable practices and leading the way for other apparel manufacturers in Sri Lanka and beyond. Furthermore, the Apparel industry in Sri Lanka was at the forefront of launching the campaign ‘Garments without Guilt’ and continues its efforts to lead the way in sustainability.” 

“For the Moose Clothing Company, sustainability is in our DNA and we have sourced all our clothing from our own manufacturing locations, which adhere to very strict international guidelines to ensure that the impact on the environment is minimized. Furthermore, when sourcing for raw materials, we make sure that our supply chain partners adhere to the same principles we believe in. The idea behind sustainable fashion is also the continuous search for new materials that are ecological and renewable, in other words, not harmful to the environment and requiring the minimum waste of natural resources. By replacing toxic substances with more ecological alternatives, we can avoid harmful chemicals that stay in the fabrics and are not just absorbed by our bodies, but are also released into water each time the clothes are washed. Therefore, the journey towards sustainability is continuous, and we will always look into doing things better than before in order to keep ourselves ahead of the game, while also exploring the new technology available to support us in this regard,” he further added.

On the topic of how the restrictions on imports have impacted the Sri Lankan Apparel industry, Hasib stated, “The restrictions have made an impact in two ways:

1.The export-oriented sector of the industry, which is worth USD 5 Billion has not been affected by the import restrictions, as there is a 50% value addition thereby, the imports for the Apparel industry have not been restricted.

2. Sri Lanka has a USD 2 Billion domestic consumption of apparel. Of that, USD 1 Billion were imported and the remaining USD 1 Billion were manufactured locally in 2019. The impact will be in the space that has been created for the local industry and the local brands to grow due to the temporary import restrictions as it creates the space for  USD 1 Billion, and should motivate the local Apparel industry to grow, even though the overall demand is declining due to the pandemic.”

“The Sri Lankan Apparel industry was hit hard by the pandemic, but the sector has been agile-sufficient to be able to manufacture and produce accordingly to keep the industry afloat for a short-term period. For example, the production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and masks. Nevertheless, even if COVID-19 became an ongoing issue, we see a 40% reduction in the global demand for apparel. This will lead the Sri Lankan Apparel industry to re-structure and re-align to cater accordingly, countering the challenges that it will face in the future.”

Discussing the current status and future potential of antimicrobial fabric in Sri Lanka, Hasib noted, “Antimicrobial/antibacterial fabric of Sri Lanka is being used to manufacture masks and is currently being exported. The Sri Lankan mills that are manufacturing the antimicrobial/antibacterial fabric have the capacity to produce fabric for masks for local and export production. The ability to produce antimicrobial fabric has been in the industry for a few years now.”

Speaking of the role health and wellness play in his life, Hasib said, “I take my health seriously in my day-to-day life, despite hectic schedules and long working hours. I make sure to find at least half an hour a day to run a few kilometers to keep myself healthy and I watch what I eat, as a healthy diet is important for our busy bodies.”

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