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Footwear International is a multinational manufacturer and marketer of footwear. Operations span the globe and include more than eighty-three companies in seventy countries. These include shoe factories, tanneries, engineering plants producing shoe machinery and moulds, product development studios, hosiery factories, quality control laboratories, and approximately 6,300 retail stores and 50,000 independent retailers.

Footwear employs more than 67,000 people and produces and sells in excess of 270,000,000 pairs of shoes every year. Head office acts as a service center and is staffed with specialists drawn from all over the world. These specialists, in areas such as marketing, retailing, product development, communications, store design, electronic data processing and business administration, travel for much of the year to share their expertise with the various companies. Training and technical education, offered through company-run colleges and the training facility at headquarters, provide the latest skills to employees from around the world.

Although Footwear requires standardization in technology and the design of facilities, it also encourages a high degree of decentralization and autonomy in its operations. The companies are virtually self-governing, which means their allegiance belongs to the countries in which they operate. Each is answerable to a board of directors which includes representatives from the local business community. The concept of “partnership” at the local level has made the company welcome internationally and has allowed it to operate successfully in countries where other multinationals have been unable to survive.

With a population approaching 110,000,000 in an area of 143,998 square kilometers (see Figure 1), Bangladeshis the most densely populated country in the world. It is also among the most impoverished, with a 1987 per capita gross national product of U. S. $160 and a high reliance on foreign aid. More than 40% of the gross domestic product is generated by agriculture and more than 60% of its economically active population works in the agriculture sector. Although the land in Bangladesh is fertile, the country has a tropical monsoon climate and suffers from the ravages of periodic cyclones.