Sometimes you have to learn from other people's mistakes and trust your instincts. That is what Muhammad-Farhan Aslam believed when he took over his father's business. Not only did he change the business model, but he also shelved his own plans to move to England. Instead he stayed in Bremen. And it turned out to be one of many good decisions that he made.
Aslam had learned from his father's experience: in 2002 his father founded Sigma Textil GmbH in Bremen, which imported containers of textiles from Pakistan. The fabrics were processed and sold in Bremen. "In Pakistan, a handshake is binding, but in Germany you need everything in writing," explains Aslam. "When my father ended up with the wrong business partners, he lost a lot of money."
In Germany, there is a lot of bureaucracy – but that also has many advantages because it means everything is regulated and set down in black and white.
- Muhammad-Farhan Aslam, Managing Director of Sigma Textil GmbH
Aslam came to Bremen from Pakistan in 2007 with the sole aim of winding up his father's business and moving to England. "But I really liked Germany," he says. "So I stayed in Bremen, learned German and got my driving licence – and then things got started."
Aslam kept Sigma Textil. Bremeninvest, the international brand name for Bremen's economic development agency, helped him to get settled and change his business model. Instead of focusing on large volumes in large containers, as his father had done for years, Aslam concentrated on small quantities, but offered that little bit extra. He had aprons and caps made and embroidered in Pakistan for restaurants, clubs and associations.
To start with, the company handled small batches of 100 or 200 items, and then larger orders of 20,000 pieces followed. "My focus is very much on high quality," Aslam says. "My customers know that. I now have many regular customers, including well-known clubs, breweries and restaurant chains." At the end of 2015 he closed his production facility in Pakistan. "High quality doesn't come cheap in Pakistan either. On top of that, we have to factor in the costs for air freight, as many of our customers expect fast turnarounds," he explains. In future, Aslam wants to manufacture aprons, shirts and caps in Bulgaria. The items will be sewn by workers there and then finished in Bremen.
Aslam still has his office and a small warehouse at Faulenstrasse 67 in Bremen. With the help of Bremeninvest, he has recently found a small production facility in the Vahr district. This is where the items that are sewn in Bulgaria are embroidered and printed. But Aslam has not yet achieved his goal. Ideally he would like to have a plot of land of around 1,000 to 2,000 square metres and build a factory, warehouse, office and small shop all in one. He has not yet found a suitable location. But while he looks for new premises with the help of Bremeninvest, he plans to lease another small site.
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