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Published on Friday, 22 Mar 2013
Brenda Tsang, GM of Charles Vögele’s HK office, says working in a foreign country requires an open mind.
Photo: Paul Yeung

Charles Vögele is drawing on local HK experience for South Asia push

The name Charles Vögele may not be that well known in Asia, but with over 7,300 employees and 817 fashion stores in Europe, it is one of the continent’s most distinguished fashion retailers.

Starting out as a small family business in Switzerland in 1955, the company is now publicly listed and has Asian headquarters in Hong Kong, together with branch offices in Shanghai, India and Bangladesh.

An increase in orders has prompted the company to expand its team of merchandisers and quality managers in its Dhaka office in Bangladesh. This has led to a search for an experienced senior manager – quality management, someone who perhaps built up their skills by managing factories in the Pearl River Delta.

“We control most of the steps of our supply chain, from product development to when goods get to our shops,” says Brenda Tsang, general manager of the Hong Kong office. “The position of senior manager – quality management is important because Bangladesh is still a developing country and we need someone there who is strong in production, quality and leadership.”

The successful candidate will lead a quality-control team of around 25 people and report to the general manager. The position requires them to work in harmony with other managers at the branch office and prevent or minimise any critical problems that may affect delivery.

Since Bangladesh is a Muslim country, managers have to get used to a different work schedule where time off is allotted for prayers. Other disruptions may include workers striking for an increase in the minimum wage, which is considerably lower than in China. As this year is election year, the frequency of such strikes may increase, causing disruption for production and logistics.

Another potential problem is the city’s infrastructure, which hasn’t quite caught up with the rapid pace of development.

On the other hand, Tsang says it will be rewarding to work with local staff who are humble, friendly, hard-working and keen to learn, and who respect knowledge and titles.

“It is not difficult to work with them if you are a team player, and respect the culture and people. Then they will also respect you and listen to you. It is a country with a lot of potential,” Tsang says. She adds that learning a few words in Bengali, the native language, takes you a long way, as the locals are very happy when foreigners make the effort to speak a little of the local tongue.

Leading the team will require effort as processes and procedures will need to be explained clearly and carefully. However, the senior manager will have a free hand do so and should feel a great sense of accomplishment once they have successful exercised that responsibility.

Having started out as a family business, the company focuses its values on people, including customers, team members and suppliers. It works on maintaining traditional values and adapting them to modern life as it evolves.

Teamwork is very important and the open management style allows team members to express their views with the guarantee that they are being heard.

Applicants should have good powers of observation and be good listeners as they will have to quickly understand any problems that arise. Working in a foreign country, it is best to also keep an open mind and try to understand the local culture while building bridges with suppliers and team members. Fashion industry experience is required, while applicants with additional experience in merchandising or who have worked in European companies will be at an advantage.

The successful candidate will also be required to improve the whole working system by keeping communications channels to the Hong Kong and Shanghai offices open. They will also have to visit other factories, join in on inspections and co-operate with suppliers to see how the supply chain can be improved.

Charles Vögele has a strong corporate governance programme with a clear system of responsibilities and warnings. The senior manager will be responsible for close control and monitoring of the team in these respects.

Applicants have to be open to travel to different factories within Bangladesh and to neighbouring countries, such as Pakistan, in case there is a need to help monitor production there. Regular visits to Hong Kong and Shanghai for corporate meetings, as well as trips to headquarters in Switzerland, will also be required.

The rewarding salary package includes impressive accommodation and a company car with driver.

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