A long track record for passion of excellence keeps Adrian Ross on the knitting in Cambodia
- From: Chim <ChimS1@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 10 Dec 2008 11:10:00 -0800 (PST)
A public face for garments
Written by Michael Hayes
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
Adrian Ross, one of the garment sector's best-known figures, reflects
on his absolute love for the industry and long history of successful
You've been a very public face of the Cambodian garment industry for
many years. How did that role come about?
We have here a very successful factory. I love my work and people
always come here and say, ‘You ooze enthusiasm for it.' We've had Mr
Wolfensohn here [the former World Bank president]. We've had Mr
Zoellick come here [the current World Bank president]. ...We've had
the president of the European Parliament come here. ... We've had
practically everybody who has a camera come here, everybody who is
involved in the newspaper field, we've had interviews across a wide
People in the business community say that you've been a great diplomat
for the garment industry. Did that role come about by chance?
I've loved the industry. I've really, really loved it. I've put all my
life into it and it cost me dearly. ... I've always appreciated what
people have done on the factory floor.
I mean it's not easy to sit there all day long for nine and a half
hours and sew. The level of expertise and quality and the skill of
these people, I take my hat off to them.
I've worked in different parts of the world, I've worked with Samoans,
with Fijians, with Eastern Europeans, Western Europeans, with Chinese,
with Indians, with Moroccans, English, Irish, Scottish, I've seen them
And what has surprised me, and I didn't expect to see it, is that the
Cambodian workforce would actually end up in this factory performing
at levels close to, if not equal to, and in some case better than,
what I'd seen in the developed countries....
We can stand against anybody, anywhere in the clothing industry in
regard to the quality of our product, the manufacturing costs of that
product and the commitment to delivery. ... I'm also proud to say that
in eight-and-a-half years I've never had a bad day with the
What's the key hurdle you've faced here?
Not being able to speak Khmer. If I'd spoken Khmer, I might have
stayed on another 10 years.
What do you think the future is for your factory and the garment
industry as a whole?
The garment industry in Cambodia, and everybody is aware of it, has to
develop, has to become more cost effective. There has to be more
streamlining on the factory floor, how things are done. ...
We have to get the young people in Cambodia who are educated to see
this as a bigger picture, not something that only poor people do.
There is a career here. But the point about it is that it's not easy.
You have to deal with stress, with demands, with deadlines.
Have you been able to recruit qualified engineers to work with you?
We've been called a closed factory because we do everything in-house.
We spend a lot of time on training because we want employees to
understand our format.
Have you ever had any strikes here?
Never. I've never even had what you'd call a major dispute in this
factory. I've worked hand-in-hand with management, with the workforce
when they had big troubles or issues as individuals. I've taken on a
semi-personal role where I'm involved in solving it.
How have your relationships been with government?
We've never had any reason to complain about any of the ministries
that are involved with this factory.
We've been pretty transparent in everything we've had to do.
[The Ministry of Labour], and the hospitals have come here. We've even
had the environmental people. We even opened our doors to the Customs
and Excise officers to come here and look at how the process in this
factory worked so they can get a better understanding of what can be
We've never tried to manipulate or pull the wool over anyone's eyes
and have worked on the principle of total transparency. ...
We have not got ourselves in corruption or anything of that nature. I
mean, yes, there are small charges that occur here and there, but
nothing you could call large and excessive.
What will you miss most when you leave Cambodia?
I'm going to miss the people. I never realised how much passion I
would develop for the people I work with. ...
I'll really, really miss the people. ... I feel very empty, quite
honestly, like something has been taken from me that shouldn't have
been taken from me but life moves on.
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