50 Most Powerful Women – #2 Ranga Ranmadugala

By Echelon.

Published on December 16, 2014 with 20 Comments

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#2 RANGA RANMADUGALA

CHIEF EXECUTIVE, Brandix Apparel Solutions – Essentials & Brandix Apparel India

Crises that shape leaders

Ranga Ranmadugala has built and heads a unit at apparel manufacturer Brandix, which is for comparison almost the size of listed Hemas Holdings. However it’s the firm’s agility and innovation she is proudest of.

 

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The magnitude of the disaster was unclear because cyclone Hudhud’s 200 kilometres an hour landfall had knocked out all communication networks. Brandix India Apparel City (BIAC), a 1,000-acre, apparel- specific industrial park in the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam, was un contactable. Amongst facilities in the apparel park, Brandix Apparel India’s, two factories, employing nearly 7,000 people and making 1.5 million pieces of underwear a week, were fulfilling orders for US and UK based customers. During this time, a key customer relied on Brandix India for agility to serve their growing sales and the other had just launched a new collection that was selling well. Midday on Sunday 12 October 2014 cyclone Hudhud made landfall at Visakhapatnam. While the state government had warned people about the cyclone and evacuated those living in coastal areas, the warnings did little to prepare the population for the devastation.

The team in Sri Lanka, where Brandix is headquartered, had no information about its Associates or if their factories were still intact. “Ensuring that our people and their families were alright was our primary concern,” says Ranga Ranmadugala Chief Executive of Brandix Apparel Solutions – Essentials; “managing our customers’ requirements was a concern that followed closely with the first.”

Vizag, as Visakhapatnam is known, is on India’s East coast where Brandix built the apparel city based on its vision to have in one location as many components of an apparel supply chain. The two plants managed by Ranga are among the largest at Brandix India Apparel City. Cyclone Hudhud, not only damaged severely the port city’s infrastructure but also facilities at the apparel park, uprooted trees, telecommunication towers, power lines, damaged product, and beyond everything affected families and homes of Brandix’s large team leaving them with far greater challenges than thinking about going to work the next day. 

Vizag’s airport was reduced to a mangled wreck and roads in Vizag’s coastal areas were impassable while many inland were blocked by fallen trees and debris. The day after the Cyclone – a Monday – Ranga Ranmadugala sent a first team from Sri Lanka to the Vizag apparel park, a 15 hour road journey from Chennai, and that night she herself led a second team to Chennai, then Hyderabad and then on to a regional airport called Vijayawada. From there they travelled eight hours by road to get to Brandix’s apparel city in Vizag. 

Ranmadugala is a member of Brandix’s ten member Apparel Leadership Team and Corporate Leadership Team that is newly formed to manage the business. Ranmadugala runs one of the business units at Brandix which, at a forecast $220 million (Rs29 billion) revenue for 2014, is only a fraction smaller, simply for comparison, than listed Hemas Holding’s Rs32 billion revenue for 2014. Her business manufactures underwear like panties, vests and men’s and kids’ bottoms for some of the world’s top high-street brands. Ranmadugala was part of the initial team that built the Essentials business from ground to what it is today during her nine years at Brandix. Before that she was with MAS Holdings for eight years.

When Ranmadugala got to Vizag, the teams were already working on restoring the plants and clearing the roads leading up to them, whilst having deployed teams to look after the wellbeing of Brandix’s large team and their families in many villages. She had to stay above the emotional trauma of seeing the destruction that had crippled the operation Brandix built over the years. She had to appear strong when consoling people who had witnessed the disaster. She and the teams were determined to wipe out the gloom, the devastation around the apparel park and focus on getting the facilities up and running at the earliest. They knew that everyone was looking up to them to perform a miracle.

“Recovery is key to addressing fear and uncertainty,” she says, and a the second step was to update customers, shareholders and other stakeholders on the extent of the damage, recovery plans and safety measures put in place to build confidence about Brandix’s ability to activate the risk mitigation strategies at a time of crisis. This was done amidst the challenge of not having much
connectivity at times.

The cyclone hit Andhra Pradesh on Sunday, 12 October, and Brandix’s underwear plants were fully operational by Thursday, 16 October, a mere four days later. Due to the inability to communicate to get word out to everybody who worked there of the plan to operate plants on Thursday (since there was no connectivity), the intention was to build up attendance by word of mouth from Thursday through to Saturday.

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Ranga says the plan worked perfectly and the gradual build-up resulted in 97.5% attendance by next Monday. The rest of the plants in the park followed suit, excluding two damaged plants which took longer. “Any crisis or uncertainty can occur,” Ranga exclaims, “however due to the exceptional teams in place who are used to activating the disaster recovery plans, I’m confident of our readiness to face uncertainty.”

Her lesson from the experience was, “although everything can be lost in a split second, it’s how fast you recover that is crucial and for that to happen how important it is to build passionate, smart and hardworking teams.” It also underscores how crucial supply chains are for retail businesses. Up to 25% of Brandix’s manufacturing now happens in India and is planned to grow further, whereas there was none prior to 2006.

Brandix’s Indian apparel supply chain city investment is the first such by a Sri Lankan firm that took technology and know-how developed, overseas to benefit from the scale on offer. It’s a model western firms have used for decades by locating their manufacturing overseas. The factories at the apparel park are immediately plugged in to a world-class supply chain.

The change is the shorter lead times demanded by customers who now want clothes designed, manufactured and delivered to their stores in several days or few weeks. This helps them to respond to market demands without having to hold stocks.

Sri Lanka’s total export earnings grew 6.2% in 2013 to $10.4 billion. Apparel exports accounted for 43% of the pie, growing 13.3% from 2012 levels, the highest contributor to export earnings. Brandix an exporter of clothing, fabric and garment accessories, will have a $700 million top-line this year most of which is will be accounted for in Sri Lankan exports. The rest will be part of Indian and Bangladeshi exports.

Ranga is passionate about Sri Lanka continuing to produce apparel. “We need to have our own playground locally for experimenting with products, innovating processes and simulating business models,” she says. Ranga says it also makes sense to have a low-cost and agile business operation at scale in one location or close together encompassing the best resources rather than have dispersed manufacturing.

Ranmadugala at one stage has explored the feasibility to manufacture where consumers are located including the UK and the US. “We then realised it was premature because we didn’t have the experience to align culturally to manage such operations far away and were still understanding the dynamism in the apparel world.”
“I still feel many people want to do on-shoring (manufacture in the country where the final consumers are). While this is a good strategy, I think there are several other ways to match or better the deliverables of on-shore manufacture,” Ranmadugala says. “We went to our neighbouring country, and to date, each year Brandix has been able to collaborate with our best in class partners in the India apparel park to augment our solutions to customers.”

By November 2010 Brandix pioneered, what it called an ‘Inspired Solution’ partnering a customer in crashing lead times on orders. For years the industry’s delivery cycle was a 90-120 days from the time an order is placed to getting the stock ready for shipment. It took up to 35 days more for the goods to reach the customers distribution centre and another number of weeks to reach the stores.

Ranga was an integral part of the team at Brandix that took a step in conceptualising a faster turnaround cycle to make products in a few days.

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Brandix designed the manufacturing facilities in India to cater to this need, forming smaller production cycles and decentralised cutting and packing stations. This enabled the simultaneous production of a variety of products in different colours and sizes on one production floor. Supply chains located within walking distance to these production lines and smaller dye vessels allowed the faster turnaround of smaller  raw material batches. Shop Floor Systems were established to monitor hourly progress throughout the manufacturing process. A complete Green Channel for fast track orders was established from order taking to delivery. Brandix commenced these factories in 2007 with a vision of arriving at this solution one day and it was November 2010 when the first product with shorter lead times was shipped to a customer. Since then it has gradually grown in scale and scope.

The supply chain, from the point of order to delivery to the customer stores, has been shrunk to 14 days for some product lines. There are different models that are used now to bring agility to the rest of the product that are several weeks shorter than the previous.“Although there is a cost to this fast-tracked delivery, it is ultimately beneficial to customers as they don’t have to markdown or have the wrong product on the shelf,” she explained, adding that the next step was to scale up this operation. “Whatever solution provided becomes meaningful only if it is scalable and if it makes an impact to the customer.”

“The apparel sector is trapped in the same place – someone needs to take a leap and do something big,” she exclaims, adding that this is a main focus for Brandix.

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20 Comments

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  1. Very proud of you Ranga.

  2. Congrats, Ranga. Well deserved position. We are proud to be a part of your team.

  3. Congrats:) we are proud of you, way to go Ranga

  4. Congratulations!!!

  5. Congratulations!

  6. Congratulations!!!

  7. Congratuiations! We are very proud of you.

  8. Congratulations Madam..!!

    • Congrajulations Madam , we are very proud of work under you as a team.

  9. Congratulations.We are proud to be a part of your team.

  10. Congratuiations..! we are very proud be in your team.

  11. Congratulations!! feeling extremely proud to be part of your team @ India.

  12. Congratulations!!!

  13. Congratulations Ranga!! Proud to be part of team under you @ India.

  14. Heartfelt congratulations! Ranga.
    What an honor for you this must be and what an honor it has been for me to work for your wonderful TEAM.

  15. Congrats Ranga on this honour. It is great to be associated with you. Your presence and leadership after the cyclone and the way you got both the apparel up and running so soon, lifted the spirits all over and all units followed. Take this opportunity to wish you and your team a happy and fulfilling new year!

  16. Congratulations !!!!!!

  17. Congratulations madam!

  18. We are very proud to be a part of your team….Congratz….

  19. Congrats Ranga Madam! Proud to be a team under you.

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