The Denim Difference
Firemount Group is helping to drive economic diversification and spearhead sustainability in Mauritius with its premium, tasteful, tailor-made textiles
A small island state off the coast of southeast Africa that’s home to just 1.3 million inhabitants, Mauritius may not seem like much of an economic powerhouse on the face of it.
Yet a quick glance at the World Bank’s national overview will reveal a country that has made great strides since gaining independence in 1968, so much so that it now stands as one of the continent’s few upper-middle income economies.
Its ongoing success can largely be attributed to the government’s progressive efforts – efforts which include the launch of a public infrastructure programme, ongoing support to the tourism industry and a general emphasis on diversification.
As a result, a thriving private sector has emerged, with numerous businesses having come to the fore in recent years.
“This economic diversification policy has allowed Mauritius to establish itself as a manufacturing and exporting location, and maintain its image as premium tourist destination,” explains Anil Kohli.
“Although it may not seem like it at first glance, our isolated location in the Indian Ocean is often a benefit rather than a hinderance – we’re not landlocked like many other African countries.”
Kohli himself has helped to champion the national vision.
Currently standing as the Director of Firemount (FM) Group, a company that is playing a major role in putting Mauritius on the global map as a textile specialist, his team have become renowned for providing value-added, quality, authentic denim fabrics and garments to leading international brands.
“We’re proud to be helping to give this paradise island a new identity, providing a vital boost to national trade as a one-stop textiles shop and pivotal player in the international fashion supply chain,” Kohli adds.
Competing in what is undoubtedly a global fashion market does come with its challenges, however.
“The industry has experienced an acceleration of global cost competition and shrinking business margins,” Kohli explains.
“Producing for the basic mass market from Mauritius is not competitive nor viable when you’re up against the Asian giants. As a result, to sustain and remain in the industry long term, we’ve recognised that it’s highly essential to supply to high-end, niche markets.”
This in itself has been no easy task, the Director quick to cite the company’s dedicated workforce, passionate culture and premium products as key differentiators that have ensured it maintains its premium status.
“The other distinct feature of FM Group is our ability to keep pace with change,” Kohli adds. “It’s why we acquired FM Denim in mid-2010.”
Consisting of a 300,000 square metre facility that is capable of producing 12 million metres of denim fabric on an annual basis, FM Denim and its 575 employees have allowed the company to react quickly to changes in the market while maintaining cost effectiveness.
“Of course, keeping pace with change also requires timely updates to the entire production chain, from fibre to finished garment,” Kohli continues. “It’s something we acknowledge, reflected by the $95 million that we’ve spent in the last eight years on enhancing our set up, making it ultramodern.”
Moving forward, such investment levels will be sustained, Firemount Group currently gearing these towards the enhancement of its fabric finishing techniques in order to produce more eco-friendly, green products.
“Sustainable manufacturing is very much a focus for us at the moment,” Kohli affirms.
“While we’re proud that our products help to cater to the livelihood of thousands of people across the globe, we are aware that such activities have an adverse impact on the environment. Because of this, FM Group has embarked on a journey towards becoming a responsible, profitable group by helping to preserve our blue planet.”
This journey consists of three core aims, the company striving to produce every unit of fabric in a responsible and sustainable way; provide its customers with the right quality denim at the right time to help them grow their business; and adhere to initiatives which promote the efficient, sustainable use of resources.
Looking at Firemount Group’s current efforts, it’s clear to see that the firm has already made great strides down each of these avenues.
Procuring yarn made out of recycled plastic bottles and sourcing eco-friendly chemicals are two such initiatives on this eco-agenda. Meanwhile, investments have also been made into more energy efficient machinery, so much so that the FM Denim facility has managed to reduce its relative carbon emissions by more than 50 percent in the past six years.
“Innovation is finally meeting sustainability,” Kohli continues.
“Our strength lies in our ability to continuously innovate and develop the products that maximise value for customers while reducing our impact on the environment.
“In an era where saving the planet has become a global crisis, we know how important it is for our strategic approach to be focussed on developing and promoting sustainable and ecological products.”
This responsible approach equally translates into social benefit, Firemount Group readily offering attractive packages to its staff as part of its wider empowerment ethos.
Those that are first to benefit from this modus operandi are often Mauritanian nationals, owed to the firm’s policy of always looking for indigenous talent at the first instance.
“If the required skill is not available locally, we hire expatriates,” explains Kohli. “This balances the expertise required to supply for the upper end market with community upliftment, while relevant training through various modules enhances the retention of our important human resource.”
Traditional CSR is also proactively pursued by the company. Kohli continues: “CSR has always been part of our corporate agenda, and remains so to this day, with the government having structured this particular aspect of late.”
All things combined, from product excellence to sustainable investment and social empowerment, Kohli is confident that Firemount Group will continue to excel as a leading Mauritian business moving forward.
Pointing to the country’s bright future, owed to its economic diversification and increasing incorporation of best practices, the Director’s concluding statements are buoyant.
“To reiterate, we’ll continue to work towards our journey of preserving the blue planet,” he states.
“This will be coupled by clear plans for widespread cost improvement, enhancing the scale of our operations, better negotiations during purchases, investment in a modernised production setup, energy and resource conservation, reduction and reuse of process waste, as well as logical investment in equipment.
“We are very clear about our key priorities and are excited to see what the future holds.”
Writer: Jonathan Dyble | Project Manager: Callam Waller