Born in beautiful Hanzu near Shanghi China, Anhua Qian has been working in textiles for the last 30 years. He is the owner and the president of ANTEX group. Headquartered in Shaghi, the group has investments in Vietnam, Spain, the United States and Italy and now in Ethiopia. Antex group is the first sportswear and apparel company in Adama Industrial Park. ANTEX group has created job opportunities for seven thousand people worldwide. After the company began producing apparels last October in Adama, the company exported the first batch of products to Italy worth 100 million USD. Capital got a chance to talk with the 55 year old Chinese investor about the textile business. Anhua talk to Capital about his investment in the country. Excerpts;
Capital: What got you interested in textiles?
Anhua Qian: Compared to the other businesses, textiles don’t require a huge investment. The textile industry was the basis of industrialization throughout the world. The industrial revolution that began in Britain was based in the textile industry, the same thing for China, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea, they began their industrialization through textiles. You see 34 years ago textiles made up 40 percent of China‘s exported goods. Now that figure has fallen to 20 percent.
Capital: What was your initial investment?
Anhua: I began investing in textiles with the minimum amount of capital required. When I left my job to invest in textiles, I had only USD 12,000. The most important factor is the exposure, and experience from the interpreter through the managerial level. I became involved in the state owned company Zhejiang Crafts import/export Corporation and that helped me more than the money.
Capital: What challenges the textile industry worldwide?
Anhua: The nature of textiles these days goes with fashion. This time quality, efficiency, and timeliness are highly needed in order to compete on the international market.
Capital: What is the Ethiopian investment climate like?
Anhua; Good, I came here to invest in your country because of my friend Alex, who previously worked in Ethiopia for another company. When I saw the country, I didn’t hesitate to invest in your beautiful country. A lot of opportunities occur here. The existence of competitive human power, the various international agreements signed by Ethiopia and other countries to avoid taxes make export attractive. Oh! the climate and the people are also another factor.
Capital: ANTEX recently exported its first products to Italy. What were the challenges?
Anhua: Efficiency is one of the challenges which is connected with the mindset of the employees. We exported apparel worth 100 USD using twenty five percent of our efficiency working only for 8 hours a day. We are beginners. We understand employees are new to the sector, and more training should be given.
Capital: What does textile sector looks like today?
Anhua: Like all other sectors, the textile industry is facing big changes, Internet technology means things need to be more efficient than before. Globalization and more technology are coming to the industry. As always understanding is the missing link within the industry not only understanding about new technology and new trends but understanding among the people in and outside textiles.
Capital: What challenges are you working on in Ethiopia?
Anhua: Yes challenges are there, the company began producing apparels October 12, 2018 and still there is no power supply and we are working via a generator. The problem with the generator is it doesn’t fully run the machines and it affects our efficiency. Petrol costs us a lot. Again there is no water supply still after three months. The other problem is transportation. The Adama Industrial Park is a bit far away from the city and there is no access to transportation for the 1,600 employees. They are obliged to walk more than five km every day which negatively impacts their efficiency.
For the government side the custom clearance system should be done in short period of time. Importing the raw materials from abroad take its own time.
Capital: Employees say the salaries are too low, what is the reason for this?
Anhua: Yes, I understand that, but all is connected to the company’s productivity. For the time being the company pays a basic salary of 750 birr, plus 100 birr for a new comer with no experience if they have full attendance, and 400 birr for transportation allowance and free food in the factory. Above all employees are encouraged to learn skills so they can be promoted to a higher level. We have the system of paying allowance and bonuses according to skills and efficiency.
Capital: What are your thoughts about Ethiopia?
Anhua: When was I assigned to my first job some thirty years ago, my salary was USD 5 a month. However, your people have a better start than the Chinese at that time, I fully believe in your future. Just avoid political violence, then you can achieve more within a short time.