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Friday March 1st, 2024

Omega Line’s 25-Year Journey: A Global Force in Apparel Manufacturing

Felix A. Fernando – Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Omega Line

Founded in 1999 as a 100% Italian-owned company, Omega Line has evolved from humble beginnings to become a global force, leaving an indelible mark on the apparel manufacturing landscape. In this interview with Felix A. Fernando, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Omega Line, we delve into the company’s strategic expansions, investments, and pivotal moments that have defined its 25-year journey.

Can you give us an overview of Omega Line and its journey thus far?

Omega, a subsidiary of Calzedonia Finanziaria, Italy with Dott. Sandro Veronesi, at its helm, was founded in 1999. The company’s core mission revolves around the production of ladies’ underwear and lingerie, primarily catering to the fashion sector. At its inception, Omega produced two key brands: Calzedonia and Intimissimi.

Calzedonia Group, relatively a young enterprise, established in the late ‘80s was sourcing its garments from Eastern European manufacturers until it decided to produce its’ own garments by opening its first factory in Sri Lanka. Calzedonia, until then was producing only hosiery and socks in Italy and Croatia. Sri Lanka was selected by Calzedonia as the first country to produce its’ own underwear after evaluating countries such as the Philippines and Africa.

Whilst, Omega is in its 25th year, the parent company, Calzedonia has benefited significantly due to Sri Lankan success and has expanded from fewer than 300 sales outlets in 1999, concentrated in Italy, Spain, Portugal, and select European countries to over 5,500 outlets in over 55 countries, currently. Omega’s growth trajectory has been substantial, establishing a global presence and exerting a noteworthy influence on the evolution of the intimate apparel industry.

Can you elaborate on Omega’s strategic expansions and investments?

Commencing its manufacturing endeavours in Sri Lanka, the company concentrated on the commercial production of underwear. Demonstrating positive progress, Omega augmented its workforce from 600 to 1,200 machine operators in less than 2 years by expanding its existing factory.

In 2002, Omega established Sirio Limited, employing over 2,000 workers and specializing in basic underwear and beachwear. To meet demand, the company engaged in subcontracting before investing in a dedicated plant for men’s briefs in 2005 under the Omega line.

Further expansions included Alpha Apparels in 2007, specialising in Men’s briefs and t-shirts and the inception of Benji in the subsequent year for manufacturing underwear and bra cups locally. Post-war developments led to the establishment of a sizeable factory in Vavuniya in 2013, contributing to the region’s economic development.

As of today, Omega Group employs approximately 15,500 people in Sri Lanka and exported nearly 200 million garments last year, solidifying its position as a key industry player. Despite economic challenges, Omega achieved a turnover of over $600 million in the previous year, with total investments exceeding $350 million across four legal entities.

Over its 25-year journey, Omega actively engaged in social responsibility initiatives, supporting local entrepreneurs, developing infrastructure, and investing in vocational training centres. The company received awards for export excellence, promoted sports and cultural activities, and remains committed to fostering positive impacts on both economic and social fronts.

How is Omega Line adapting to industry trends like fast fashion and sustainability, while also navigating challenges in the supply chain?

In response to a notable shift in consumer behaviour towards a demand for immediacy in fashion, Omega Line, acknowledging the influence of fast fashion and smaller order quantities, adopted a standard modular system in 2004. This innovative approach, initially unique to the industry in Sri Lanka, was implemented mainly with support from Japanese Engineers and our former Chairman  Vincenzo Joppolo, enhancing efficiency and flexibility in production. This resulted in reducing production lead times from 30-45 days to 7-25 days.

Demonstrating a commitment to sustainability, Calzedonia has aligned with the “Fashion Pact” pledging to meet specific targets related to carbon output and environmental considerations and Omega group actively explores solar power options, with the main factory already utilizing solar energy. Initiatives to incorporate recycled fabric and thread into production are underway.

Addressing supply chain challenges, Omega Line focuses on enhancing local fabric manufacturing capabilities through collaborations with Sri Lankan suppliers. Despite facing disruptions and geopolitical issues, the company strengthens local partnerships for a reliable and agile supply chain.

In light of Omega Line’s technological advancements, vertical integration, and commitment to quality, how does the company plan to further leverage these strengths to stay at the forefront of the industry?

Omega Line is widely recognized among Sri Lankan manufacturers for its technologically advanced factories, a strategic focus that has significantly enhanced operational efficiencies. Through rigorous research and development, the company has modernized processes, leveraging cutting-edge machinery to replace labour-intensive tasks and achieve notable reductions in production costs.

The commitment to improvement is evident in streamlined production cycles, proactive collaborations with machinery suppliers, and the encouragement of innovative solutions. The skilled labour force, trained both locally and internationally, contributes to the company’s efficiency. Omega Line’s strengths include dedicated employees, ownership of brands like Calzedonia, Intimissimi, Tezenis and Falconeri, investments made to manufacture many components and accessories, viz., bra-cups, underwire, hooks & eyes, a dye house etc. within the Omega group providing control over the majority of the garment production.

The adoption of a robust ERP platform and technology integration across various processes further maximizes efficiency. In summary, Omega Line’s leadership in the industry is rooted in technological innovation, a skilled workforce, vertical integration, and an unwavering commitment to quality. It will continue to explore the use of technology including IoT and AI as well as up-grading the skills of the employees across Omega.

How important are people to the company’s success and future growth? Tell us about your people strategy. How do you align, motivate and reward people?

People play a vital role at Omega, and nearly 90% of the workforce are females. Training & development not only on technical matters but in areas like personal finances, personal grooming, communication skills etc. were welcomed by the staff. Omega practices the policy of internal promotions rather than hiring from outside, since it started with a very young and inexperienced workforce, both blue-collar and white-collar. A strong communication channel from bottom to top as well as top to bottom makes it easier for implementing policies, executing targets, and obtaining innovative ideas from employees. Apart from competitive salaries, many other benefits such as free food, transportation, medical, cash advances, housing loans etc., including the Ransalu Privilege Card are provided to them.

Can you briefly outline the evolution and impact of the Ransalu Privilege Programme on people and the company?

The Ransalu Privilege Programme concept emerged as a highly positive and equitable idea, ensuring equal treatment for everyone involved, without favouring specific roles such as managers or executives. The benefits extended to all, fostering a sense of fairness across the board.

Notably, during occasions like Christmas and special promotions, employees enjoy substantial benefits when shopping at establishments beyond traditional retail outlets, enhancing the programme’s impact on overall employee well-being.