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Talking Point | July 2015

Mauritian firm tides over crisis, thanks to Rieter

The Compagnie Mauricienne de Textile Ltée (CMT) is not only the largest and most successful textile and apparel company on the island of Mauritius, but also the biggest employer. It began in 1986 as a sewing company with 30 people. Today the workforce of the vertically oriented company is on the growth path and will soon total 25,000 employees.

CMT was founded in 1986 by Louis Lai Fat Fur and François Woo Shing Hai. The company history begins with the following words: ´Started with simple and humble ideals back in 1986 but lived to the vision of becoming the world´s leader in the jerseywear industry. Against the backdrop of its mission statement, drafted two decades ago, CMT has indeed come a long way to substantially achieve what it set out to accomplish. From its humble beginnings in 1986, CMT has grown to be the largest jerseywear manufacturer in Mauritius and the Sub-Saharan region.´ Nowadays CMT is the largest vertically organised knitwear manufacturer, and also the island´s largest employer.

During a recent visit in Mauritius, François Woo and his CEO Anubhava K Katiyar explained to Rieter how it all started, about their time over the first two decades and how they see the future.

Rieter: For the period from 2007 to 2008 the company history mentions ´a big hairy audacious goal set to propel CMT into the world´s top ten jerseywear manufacturers by 2008.´ What does this ´hairy audacious goal´ mean?
François Woo (Woo):
Well, I must say that when we started with our ambitious targets, we were completely ´ let´s put it this way ´ blind. We had no business plans, no so-called concept, etc. The only thing we knew was that we started with a big challenge on the way to achieving our audacious goals. You have to bear in mind that we live on an island, the only raw material or natural resource we have is sugar cane. That´s it. So there is no market as such on this island, and particularly not for textiles with one million people. And the textile markets are far away from us. The question was: would it be possible to bring the customers to this remote island? Even today, sometimes I can´t believe how far we´ve come and where we are today.

Rieter: So a dream came true?
Woo:
Yes, you may say so. We never expected to get here when I think of the somewhat naive way we started this business. And coming back to your question about the hairy situation, in 2008, as all of us know, there was a very challenging and harsh business environment. But we also mastered this situation.

Today CMT employs some 13,000 people in Mauritius. At the moment we are erecting a new plant in Bangladesh because capacity on the island is exhausted. When this new 50,000 sq m building on seven floors is finished, and it should be ready later this year, CMT will employ some 20-25,000 people.

Rieter: For a vertically integrated company creativity is one of the main success factors. Would you agree with that?
Woo:
Absolutely, our success is founded on our ability to be creative. As a producer from the yarn through to the finished garment, we depend very much on trends, colours, new yarns and fabrics. That´s why we have our own creative department here on the island, but also in London with some 10 people and in Paris with 5-6 people. Today, our customers want to see new products all the time. Therefore, we also depend very much on the best machinery to realise these new fashion products. We invest a lot of money in technology and fashion, i.e. creativity. Both sides, the machinery and the creative people work hand-in-hand to be very fast and bring the latest developments very quickly to the demanding fashion markets of the world. Today we are able to turn our ideas into products within 24 hours. To be fast is the key factor in our industry.

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